Public Works Director
City of Phoenix
Employees: 1,100-plus
Population served: 1.5 million
Budget: $250 million

A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

That famous quote is from John A. Shedd’s 1928 Salt From My Attic. John Trujillo suggests engineering and public administration graduates remember that as they compete with other talented and ambitious graduates from across the nation, and maybe the world.

“It’s no longer sufficient to hope that a degree gets you the career and lifestyle you want,” he says. “You have to be smarter, work harder, and take risks.”

He encourages young professionals to create their own paths by stepping out of their comfort zones and taking advantage of opportunities no one else wants.

“As I look back on the paths I have or could have taken, I see how my different experiences contributed to my success as a public servant,” Trujillo says. “For every job I encountered, I learned and experienced everything there was to know so it would help me grow. I also took on the jobs that no one else wanted.”

Whatever the job or program, he looked for new ways to make it more efficient and effective. “At times I failed, but I made sure that I failed forward and learned from my failures,” he says. “That made me more resilient.”

More 2015 APWA Top 10 Leaders.