We had the good fortune of connecting with David Sweeney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
I don’t know that I have an option but to keep going. Making things – even ugly, terrible failures – is as much compulsion as it is creative. When I was much younger, 20 years ago, I realized I had let myself forget what it was like to work. So I started again, with a sketchbook, and just set myself the task of making 10 drawings a day. Just a little sketchbook, and just little ink and wash things – nothing backbreaking. I would go to Little City on Congress Avenue in Austin and sit there for an hour or so sketching. Over time, those drawings became an established vocabulary that still informs my work today. The point is, I think, to do something. Anything. You may not have an hour. Take 5 minutes – do 1 drawing a day – one sketch, one doodle, attach one thing to another, make one stroke on a painting. It accumulates.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Project Manager by day / Artist by night (and on weekends) – I am fortunate to work for an incredible company, Indeed, whose mission is so simple and direct: We help people get jobs. My role there is working across teams to help design and facilitate strategic meetings to move us closer to accomplishing that mission for as many people as possible. Whether it is a product design sprint to evaluate and make changes to an existing system and its user experience, to large, cross-functional meetings with a tight agenda and lots of complicated logistics – I’m there. Was it easy to get there? Of course not. It started 20 years ago with Susan, Bob and Greg at UCSF. They gave me the tools and room to grow to develop the skills I use in my daily life at work. They, and my co-workers, taught me how to take risks, take criticism, how to fail and learn from failure and perhaps more importantly, to recognize my own worth. I think the single greatest lesson I have ever learned is that – usually – it’s not about me. So i try to shut up and listen and – when I talk – I do so to ask questions, and only if I haven’t tried to answer them myself. Naturally, I fail at this all the time. But I’ve gotten soooo much better.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Got your vaccines? Great – grab a mask and let’s go. We’re going to go to a lot of restaurants, First place I’ll take you is Bar Peached on West 6th. You’re going to ask the for the bar manager Kevin, and he’s going to make you a perfect cocktail. We’re gonna sit at the bar and eat, too – they’ve got a great selection of food that made the Peached Tortilla so great in the first place. They also have tables and a huge outdoor area. There’s a great place you can spend hours at – Kinda Tropical. Huge patio, great staff, everyone is super friendly and they’re dog friendly. Look – you have your choices of restaurants from affordable to expensive – you can spend as much as you want or as little and never have a bad bite of food. Suerte, Barley Swine and Emmer & Rye are three places I’ve had some extraordinary meals. The omakase at Otoko is priced for a special celebration and worth it. Friday night sake social at Uchiko is also amazing. But you also have ramen – I like Ramen Tatsuya or Michi Ramen – especially in summer, when you can get the cold noodles, great BBQ all over the place and all the taco restaurants we’ve got means you’re not going to go away hungry. Sadly, some of my favorite places have closed over the past year, so it’s going to take some time to explore more affordable options all over again. When it’s over 90 degrees, and it usually is, we can hang out at Barton Springs or any number of the nearby water holes, or we can duck inside the museums on the UT campus. The Blanton, Ransom Center, LBJ Library, Turrell Skyspace, Ellsworth Kelly installation, Natural History museum, Visual Arts Center…the list goes on and on. Go up the UT Tower. The campus is worth a tour anyway, as is the incredible State Capitol building. But we have more! The Contemporary on Congress Avenue, The Austin Botanical Gardens, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, Umlauf Sculpture Garden, Women and Their Work art gallery, the historic French Legation building, the Texas State Cemetery, football, sports bars, gay bars, lectures, live music, and shopping possibilities ranging from Uncommon Objects to everything at the Domain. And truly unique to Austin – peacefully watching the bats come out at dusk from the South Congress bridge. The Cathedral of Junk (call or email for an appointment, don’t just show up). Sitting with friends drinking Lone Star or PBR at the White Horse. I guess you can go sit outside at a bar anywhere, but somehow it’s better here.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A little credit? No – a huge amount of credit goes to Susan Kegeles, Greg Rebchook and the late Robert Hayes, all from the University of California Center for AIDS Prevention Studies. They taught me how to think, and our work together transformed my life and the lives of so many people we worked with. And of course, I would remiss to not mention my husband, Kevin. 20 years and counting.