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Balance, Harmony, and Diversity Guides Ryan Cayabyab in his Work

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  • Heidi Anderson

On a sunny Monday morning this past winter, Construction Manager Ryan Cayabyab took a few minutes out of his day to talk about his work and reflect on growing up Filipino American. Cayabyab is the Construction Manager on the SFPUC’s Biosolids Digester Facilities Project (BDFP), the SFPUC’s largest infrastructure project under the Sewer System Improvement Program. Under Cayabyab’s leadership, the BDFP is replacing and relocating the existing digester facilities at the Southeast Treatment Plant with new, expanded, reliable, and modern solids treatment facilities. 

Growing up in San Francisco
Cayabyab is a native San Franciscan. Growing up, diversity was everywhere in his life, which helped him become a successful leader, decision-maker, and team player. “I was always among different nationalities, multiple walks of life, and different beliefs,” said Cayabyab. “It gave me the perspective I need to communicate effectively with everyone on the project site.” 

Ryan Cayabyab
Ryan Cayabyab, Construction Manager on the SFPUC’s Biosolids Digester Facilities Project.

A first-generation Filipino American, he grew up in an extended, tight-knit family. “Filipino families tend to make deep roots – and that includes those who are considered part of one’s extended family.” He credits his parents, who moved to San Francisco from the Philippines in the 1970s, for setting high expectations and goals for personal and professional success in life. But they also showed understanding when he first chose to major in Art at San Jose State University.

“They were, like … 'are you sure you want to study art?'", he laughed. But they did not discourage him. While at San Jose State, Cayabyab was intrigued by other majors the University had to offer. “There were a lot of hands-on fields of study.” The Civil Engineering program caught his eye, and it appealed to him for its practical and applied approach. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and Construction Management.

Attention to the Details
Cayabyab's construction field office reflects his artistic style, attention to detail, and love for his job. His desk is situated prominently in his room, shelves display scaled die-cast construction equipment - and there is even a “construction zone” miniature Zen garden on his conference table. “I like my office to be balanced and have a flow to it,” said Cayabyab. 

Diversity is Crucial for Teamwork
That sense of flow and creativity extends throughout his work on the Biosolids Digester Facilities Project. It’s important to Cayabyab that he creates a team that is diverse and aligned with each other. “You absolutely have to bring different talents and perspectives to a project, and I love having that kind of impact on my team,” said Cayabyab. He noted that great teamwork is crucial in the Biosolids project. “This will be in construction for a while and the project will take several years to complete. We all have to work well together as a team.”

Cayabyab considers it to be a privilege to work for the SFPUC and make a difference for everyone who lives in the City.  “As a San Franciscan, born and raised, it’s special for me to work in public service. This is my City, and I hope my work can have a positive impact.”

Advice for Young Filipinos
When asked what advice he would give young Filipino American students thinking about their careers, he was very clear. “My path to this profession was not a straight one. Use your college experience to explore your talents and follow your passions,” Cayabyab explains. “The clearer you are about who you want to be and what you want to do in life, the more prepared you will be in establishing your goals and pursuing them with intention. The time you spend exploring is time well spent. If you have a true passion for what you are doing, it will show.”

Heidi Anderson