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Spotlight on Women: Randa J. Coniglio

Meet the president and CEO of the Unified Port of San Diego


What is the makeup of the Port Commission?

I am the president and CEO and I report to the board of commissioners, which is composed of representatives from the five cities that surround the port. I have five vice presidents, three of whom are women who report to me.

What are the general responsibilities of the port commissioners?

We manage the bay and the waterfront, port cargo, and cruise operations. We expect a 40-percent increase in cruise ship traffic next year. Disney Cruise Line is interested in expanding their business as well.

What is your greatest challenge?

I really don’t see anything as a challenge, but as more opportunity. I need to manage the workload, make sure we see opportunity, and act on it before it gets away.

How did you begin your career?

I grew up in San Diego and got a degree in chemistry. I was in commercial real estate prior to joining the real estate department at the port 16 years ago. I built relationships with environmentalists and historians over that period of time.

Is there a typical day for you?

No two days are alike. I have a lot of meetings. If there is an urgent issue, that could change things. I try to keep an equal balance between port staff, outside community stakeholders, and the general public.

“The only way up is to get that breadth of knowledge and experience.”

How many women are on your staff?

There are 550 budgeted positions, about 45 percent of which are women. This is a male-dominated industry. Out of the 100 major seaports in America, only about 8 percent of the employees are women.

What do you do in your spare time?

I have two daughters here, and a son who is attending college in Flagstaff. Sometimes we drive over to see him. I have a vacation place in the desert and sometimes try to go there on weekends. I don’t have a lot of time to do much, but we like to hike Torrey Pines.

Have you had to overcome obstacles at the port?

I didn’t have obstacles, but I had help and support along the way. I was given a lot of opportunity and I dealt with it.

What do you do to mentor women?

I take extra time and think about ways to help our up-and-coming people, men and women. I think it’s important to provide the opportunities for people to broaden their horizons, range of experience, and their skill set connections. The only way up is to get that breadth of knowledge and experience. I speak to classes at universities and I talk to people about career choices.

What are your future goals?

We have a lot of irons in the fire. Chula Vista has a 500-acre development. The waterfront includes park land and natural resources. Seaport Village’s lease is almost up, and that’s one of the areas where we’re looking for new opportunities. We’re actively seeking proposals from developers to reimagine that piece of the waterfront. The Manchester Gateway project will have an impact on the port property, even though it’s not on our land.

What would you like for people to know about you?

Science explains everything in the world. That’s why I was driven to it. It teaches you how to solve problems. Plus, people told me I couldn’t do it.

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