Hi, I’m Josef Scarantino. Chances are you stumbled onto my site because of a similar interest we share that caught your eye, whether it be urban growth challenges, civic & technological innovation, environmental sustainability, economic development, human rights, social entrepreneurship, the global maker community, urban gardening, health & well being…the list goes on.
At the end of the day, all of those interests are about one critical element: people. Take that element out of the equation and the spark fades away. I knew quite early in life that whatever I was going to spend the rest of my life doing, it had to involve working to make people’s lives better. Simple, right? Well, it’s been one wild ride.
I went from being a small-town paper boy to a factory machinist at age 17 to volunteer work in Africa to where I currently reside as a professional in Washington, DC. I’ve happily changed careers at least three times over 20-odd years. I’ve traveled to Africa and South America. I’ve lived on both coasts of the United States, but grew up in the middle. I’ve worked for large and small organizations (both nonprofit and for-profit) in roles ranging from creative director to business developer to board member. Every place I’ve worked and lived has been a stepping stone and learning experience that shaped who I am today. And I’m just getting started.
Early in my career I was strongly attracted to giving my life over to helping people in developing countries make a better life for themselves. I was naive, attracted to the adventure, and had a lot to learn. I chased after this in any way that I could, first by offering my web development skills pro bono to any organization that would accept. Those volunteer roles opened up an incredible amount of opportunity for me later in life and I would not be where I am today had I not first volunteered. But now that I have years of perspective, I’m interested in solving broader challenges on any front, whether in the U.S. or abroad. Challenges that people face every day do not discriminate. They exist in every culture in every city. Many people are only one paycheck away from disaster. Whether we are working to create career opportunities for inner city youth or using technology to prevent poaching of animals in the savannah, we only need to pull together the will to take action and do something. The opportunities are all around us.
One of my deepest passions is encouraging people to spend their lives doing something that matters. It is with this enthusiasm that I approach my work and my life. I’m in love with adventure and the satisfaction that what I’m doing just might make a small dent in history for someone somewhere. Life is too short to live selfishly. I invite you to join me.
I currently work at United Cerebral Palsy’s Life Labs innovation initiative in Washington, DC where I get to do some really inspiring work building partnerships that benefit people living with disabilities. I also serve on the advisory board for Science, Technology, and Engineering Academy for Disabled Youth (S.T.E.A.D.Y.), an initiative of WizKidz that builds on collaborations with key universities and industry professionals to promote STEM among youth with disabilities. In the past I have served as a judge for various innovation challenges, such as the AbilityOne Design Challenge, the World CP Day ‘Invent It’ Competition, and the Global Mobile Awards. If you’re interested in my entire work history and experience, I encourage you to visit my LinkedIn profile to get the full picture.
Let’s do something together
There are myriad opportunities to work with me: speaking engagements, authoring/co-authoring articles or research, judging competitions, mentoring, consulting, entrepreneurship, or just collaborating on a project. Have something in mind? Pitch it to me.
Get in touch
If you are interested in getting in touch, visit my contact page and I’ll respond as soon as I’m able. Otherwise, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Sorry, I don’t use Facebook.
FWIW, here are 30 random factoids about me:
- I’m a huge dog lover and a believer in adoption and animal rescue.
- Yes, my name is spelled ‘Josef,’ not ‘Joseph.’ And, no, please don’t call me Joe (unless you’re my sister or my best friend).
- I have a terrible fear of open water, but I love the ocean.
- I prefer autumn over summer, cool over hot.
- I studied Arabic for a few years and became nearly proficient in writing and speaking.
- The gym is my home (nearly) every morning and I can’t see life without being active.
- I’ve been to 4 of the 7 continents. (make that 5 in July 2014)
- I chose to homeschool my last two years of high school so I could enter the work force earlier. True story.
- I started living on my own (no roomies) at age 18 in an old Victorian house.
- My first car was a 1954 Ford. I completely rebuilt the engine at age 16 (with dad’s help).
- Given sufficient money, I would probably have a dangerous Swatch watch fetish.
- I’ve eaten insects before.
- I’ve had malaria.
- I did volunteer work in South Sudan for two months before it was officially recognized as a country.
- I am an avid reader, typically reading 40-50 books per year.
- I operated my own freelance web development business for nearly 10 years, earned my bachelor’s degree, and served on a nonprofit board, all while holding full-time jobs.
- Few people know I want to someday be a beekeeper. And own a goat.
- My last name is Sicilian. No, I’m not from a mob family.
- Few people know I am a fanatical fan of Steve Vai and Trent Reznor, both who have inspired me to become a musician as a teenager.
- I once owned a 1964 Volkswagen Squareback.
- Despite being repeatedly told by teachers and fellow students at an early age that I would end up a failure, I made it through to a Master’s degree in International Education & Human Development focusing on marginalized populations.
- I was once certified as a shallow well driller for developing countries.
- I suck at Scrabble, but it’s never discouraged me from a challenge.
- Given the chance to see a mainstream movie or an independent film, I am 10x more likely to choose the independent film. Same with music.
- I am terribly allergic to cats, but I love them anyways.
- My favorite past-time as a kid was skateboarding and freestyle biking. Still love the culture.
- I ran away from home three times as a teenager, once all the way to California. Guess I’ll always have a rebellious streak in me.
- Yes, I have tattoos. (see #27 above)
- I once did a study abroad graduate class to Brazil.
- I’m not afraid to say I’ve started more things that have failed than succeeded.