From Tech to the Cloth

The ultimate disrupter? How one Silicon Valley techie traded it all in to enter the priesthood.

The usual path to self-discovery in Silicon Valley is competitive and ambitious by necessity. San Mai, S.J. ’89, MBA ’94, M.Div. ’20 followed that well-worn route for years before making a hard left in an attempt to find meaning in something bigger than himself. After years working in senior management at technology companies around the Bay Area including Hewlett-Packard and Netscape, he long felt something was missing.

On a retreat, Mai says he felt a calling from God and had “this idea of, ‘Oh, what about priesthood? [You’ve] looked at all these other careers but you’ve never looked at priesthood.’”

So he quit his tech job and underwent 10 years of training, also known as formation, and was ordained July 6, 2021, in Portland, Oregon. It was a hard process, he says, but important to learn humility and “to learn that all the things that I thought were important in the shaping of my identity, are not that important, after all,” Mai says of his work now as a Jesuit priest, providing guidance and accompaniment to those in need. “It’s not about building the next great piece of software in Silicon Valley. It’s consoling in that I’m able to meet so many wonderful people that I would never have met had I not been a Jesuit.”

San Mai Illustraion
Fr. San Mai, S.J. now serves as associate pastor at St. Aloysius Parish in Spokane, Washington. Illustration by Kyle Hilton.
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