Marci's Column - December 2017

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This year started off with unfortunate events and many challenges. In January, we lost community activist and former EDI Executive Director, Alan Sugiyama. In February, when we closed our applications for 2017, we found ourselves with our lowest enrollment since the recession, having to put our Leadership Navigation program on hold. 

The strength of our EDI community helped us turn our challenges into opportunities. We know that in order to ensure EDI’s growth, we can no longer continue doing what we’ve always done. We must think outside the box, get creative, embrace change, and step out of what’s comfortable for us. These are all the elements of leadership that we emphasize to our participants in our programs and this is what we embraced and implemented at an organizational level this year. After all, we must practice what we preach!

As I look back on 2017, I’m amazed at how much we were able to accomplish! We took so many ideas that have sat on paper for a long time and brought them to life. Here are a few examples:

  • Creating our Alumni Ambassador Board in Puget Sound & Portland and launching our Network @ Nite events.
  • Elevating our fundraising efforts through GiveBig & Inclusion Fusion: With the help of the EDI Board and the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation we were able to get donations matched and raised more money than we ever have.
  • Getting more savvy on social media: more videos, more content and going live on Facebook!  If you haven’t tuned into Mind Hack Live, check it out here. You’ll find amazing live interviews from leaders around the Pacific Northwest.
  • New sponsors & partnerships: Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola, Thrivent Financial, Zillow, Business & Professional Women (BPW) network and much more!

These are just a few highlights and we have exciting things on the horizon for 2018 that we can’t wait to share with you. This includes new offices, new program offerings, and new partnerships. We will unveil these in January/February next year, so keep an eye out for that.

Of course, the sustainability of EDI is centered on our core leadership programs. As of today we are 65% to our enrollment goal for 2018. We ask for your help in getting in applications by December 31st. We are confident that all of our programs will be up & running again next year. Thank you to everyone who has referred candidates. Keep them coming!

We are so grateful to all of YOU for your support. You stepped up in ways that we couldn’t even imagine and helped make this year a truly successful one. THANK YOU! We look forward to celebrating 25 years of EDI with you in 2018. Here’s to building a community of #DiverseGlobalLeaders.

Happy holidays!

Alumni on the Move - December 2017

Dennis Lam Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

Dennis Lam

Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

A few weeks ago in mid-November, I left Boeing to join Zillow Group as a Pricing Analyst. In this new role, I use contemporary data analytics methods to develop revenue growth strategies in the New York City region, as well as future products such as 3D real estate listings.

Since I left EDI in Nov 2016, I have made an effort to develop meaningful business relationships by reaching out to friends who I have met throughout the years. Listening to what others have to say about my career goals and expectations helped me clarify where my next career move should be. Perhaps more so than a decade or two ago and perhaps to satisfy the increasing productivity expectation from customers, companies, especially new tech startups, make an effort to hire only those who they see as the “best fit” of their professional requirements and company culture. To me, reaching out and conversing with people from a very diverse background helps me understand my strength and weakness, and understand how and where I can be a best fit.

Academically, since 2014, I had been working part-time on my master degree in physics at the University of Washington, and finally completed the degree this past summer of 2017. Working on my physics thesis was probably the toughest long-term project that I’ve ever accomplished. It has been a life-changing experience that I will be forever be thankful for.

In early 2016, my master advisers, Prof. Jeff Wilkes and Prof. Shih-Chieh Hsu, pushed me to work on developing a machine learning code base for a UW particle physics team. It was a very steep learning curve for me. I had no prior experience in machine learning, so I had spent many evenings and weekends sitting alone at my desk, trying to understand the math behind contemporary machine learning algorithms and practicing coding in Linux and Python, while working full-time in Boeing. I went through countless failures battling with gigabytes of data and meeting my professors' expectations. Nevertheless, with great challenge comes great reward. The thesis project opened my eyes and exposed me to contemporary thinking in quantitative analytics, artificial intelligence, and new professional opportunities in big data. During winter break of 2017, I had a chance to visit CERN, the European epicenter for particle physics, and worked side-by-side with some of the brightest minds. I studied physics out of pure curiosity to understand how the natural world works, but it turns out that the skills I learned in physics help land my opportunity in Zillow today.

My Takeways:

  • Don’t be afraid of challenges...they’re good for you! So listen to your heart, and actively immerse yourself in the right kind of challenges that stretch you WAY out of your comfort zone.
  • Keep picking up new skills and be flexible...this is the only way to stay relevant in this fast moving world.
  • Don’t burn bridges and keep networking to leave a good impression…you never know who you’re going to come across again in life
  • Try to shoot for having multiple sources of recurring income, so that you can be more financially flexible down the road.
  • Think about what you can offer and find opportunities to give back to society whenever you can.
  • Volunteer to meet with and reach out to people who lead very different lives from yours, (e.g., host students/travelers in your house!) Life is all about experience and good companies value and utilize people who have diverse life exposures!

Last but not least, I’d like to thank my family, friends, Boeing, EDI, and UW for their continued support of my journey such far. I'm excited to move fast, think big, and tackle new challenges in my next phase of life in Zillow.


Aimi Shukri Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

Aimi Shukri

Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

I recently accepted a position at Micronics, Inc. as a Manufacturing Engineer after six and a half years of working at Spacelabs Healthcare. In this new role, I will be overseeing manufacturing process qualification of Micronics product at the contract manufacturer, which is quite different from my previous role of performing those activities in our own factory. I look forward to working on a different type of medical device with Micronics, and exploring new possibilities with this company.

Shortly after graduating from EDI, I was looking into relocating to a different part of the world to support a contract manufacturer of my previous employer. However, after careful consideration,  I was unable to accept the relocation package. After deciding to stay, my previous employer went through a lot of organizational and management changes that allowed me to step up into a slightly different role. I took up project planning and tracking for a few critical projects that had high visibility from upper management. In addition, I was also guiding other colleagues on test system development and qualifications. After a few months in this role, I realized that in order for me to take my next leap, I had to leave my comfort zone at a place that I had been so familiar with.

It was a real challenge to juggle a full-time job, family, and finding new opportunities, but regardless, I continued my efforts. Eventually, I was contacted by a recruiter and within two days after the interview, I was offered a position at Micronics. I have to thank two individuals previously at Spacelabs. Firstly, Jan Heeg, who patiently coached me on project planning and tracking, making judgements, and how to communicate effectively to upper management. Secondly, Mike Brendel, who encouraged me to broaden my technical expertise and pursue leadership opportunities.

Attending EDI Leadership Discovery program motivated me to keep striving for growth in my career. In retrospect, I learned that no matter how challenging the situation is, being persistent and trusting my instincts were vital in making this career shift.

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

2017 Portland Discovery Class

Respect authority, don’t take risks, avoid conflict, keep your head down and work hard, and DO NOT FAIL. These are some of the early messages I received that I’ve continued to carry with me throughout my life. It wasn’t until participating in the EDI Leadership Discovery program this year that I started questioning the impact these messages and values continue to have on my behavior and how that behavior is perceived by others who make judgements based on those perceptions.

For me, this was one of the biggest takeaways from EDI. What it ultimately boils down to is that intent does not equal impact. We might have positive intent and exhibit behaviors that stem from our values and personality, but those behaviors could potentially have a negative impact on others or even ourselves. For example, not speaking up in meetings because it’s been ingrained in you to sit back and listen or because you are afraid of saying something wrong, can be perceived by others as not being interested or even knowledgeable about the subject being discussed. Or, failing to make a decision in a timely manner because you get caught in the details, don’t want to make mistake, or don’t want to upset people, can result in decreased productivity and loss in trust from others. Thinking about things in this light conflicted with my lifelong thought that as long as I’m true to myself and have positive intent, that’s all that matters.

What we learned throughout this program is that leaders at their authentic best, intentionally align intent and impact (authenticity and effectiveness). They balance being true to themselves AND flexing to meet the needs of others. In other words, they adapt to different situations while remaining authentic. This is something I know I will continue to work on throughout my career.

Another key takeaway for me from this program is the importance of giving back to the community. Giving back is one of the most important things we can do, but is often one of the most overlooked things. I’ve overlooked it for much of my life, but this program has inspired me to be more consistently involved and makes me want to instill in my children a desire to get involved as well. There are always other individuals, groups, and organizations in our community and beyond who are in need of support. As Ebony Frelix from salesforce.com described, “Volunteering in all shapes and forms strengthens our communities, brings people together and provides us with valuable experience and insight. And selfishly, when I give my time and energy to others, I just feel better — about myself and my community.” One of the projects my group, Team Moon, participated in, involved teaching cooking classes to middle schoolers, who primarily came from refugee families. Some of the kids said it was the highlight of their summer and even rated it 1000 on a scale of 1 to 10. We taught them how to cook a few dishes, had great conversations with them, and told them about our careers. What they didn’t know is that it was also one of the highlights of my summer. Plus there was the added benefit of me actually learning how to cook a few dishes too.

A third major takeaway for me is the importance of risk taking. Taking risks helps us get out of our comfort zones and grow, personally and professionally. Embracing risk also helps us overcome the fear of failure.  Even if taking a risk results in a form of failure, it usually results in a valuable learning experience as well. Speaking of risk taking, it only took me six years from first hearing about the EDI Leadership Discovery program to gather the courage to actually apply for it. Only six years. Clearly I don’t like to reach outside of my comfort zone or take risks. However, I can’t adequately describe how thankful I am that I finally decided to take that leap. While in some ways I wish I would have done it sooner so I could have applied what I learned here much earlier in my career, I am incredibly grateful that the timing worked out how it did. I cannot imagine having gone through this program with anyone else other than my incredible classmates who I truly learned so much from, in addition to our amazing instructors and program coordinators. So thank you to all of you, and also thank you to my supervisor who supported me in doing this. And a special thanks to my Team Moon for attempting to teach non-cooking Christina how to cook. I look forward to continuing to develop my authentic leadership style, including balancing my intent and impact, taking more calculated risks, and giving back to the community. I hope to keep in touch with all of my classmates and hear about how everyone’s leadership journey is going as well. 

Alumni on the Move - November 2017

Maria Abad Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

Maria Abad

Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

Maria Abad was promoted to IT Project Lead at The Boeing Company, a few months after completing EDI's Asian Discovery Leadership program, Class of 2016. Her current role in Supply Chain Logistics (SCL) at Boeing, includes managing cross-functional teams from different IT organizations and working with business partners and third-party providers to implement a software-as-a-service application across Boeing, starting with Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA). Successful onboarding of BCA production suppliers and IT integration with multiple Boeing procurement systems are her primary focus. As an IT Project Lead, many of her tasks also include business requirements gathering, project and schedule management, stakeholder and leadership communications, risks management and mitigation planning. Aside from that, she also serves on the board for two Boeing Resource Groups: Communications Chair for the Boeing Association of Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Transgender - Puget Sound Chapter, and Vice President for the Boeing Black Employee Association - North Puget Sound Chapter. This year, she was recently featured as a guest speaker on career development for a leadership program at Boeing and during pride month for the Everett Delivery Diversity Council. Needless to say, Maria has kept herself extremely busy at Boeing but enjoys having the fast-paced environment – she would not have it any other way.

When not working, Maria enjoys cooking and pushing herself at cross-fit and pilates during the week. She reserves the weekends for camping and discovering Washington, British Columbia, and Oregon.

Strong women leaders and athletes are Maria’s source of inspiration and motivation. Safra Katz, Oracle President, and Chrissie Willington, four-time World Ironman Champion are the top females she admires the most. Her personal mantra is “Keep Going,” which she developed during one of the EDI sessions. Since then, she has used and practiced her mantra to overcome obstacles that come her way.  


Reina Valdez Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

Reina Valdez

Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

It’s been seven years since I've joined the Columbia Bank family. I was recently promoted to AVP of Treasury Management Commercial Care Supervisor. This is definitely a career progression and I will continue to work towards bigger goals!

I truly believe that a good employee understands vision of the business, produces efficient results, and within the process, creates a good rapport within the team. It sounds complicated. However, I think it’s as simple as being compassionate. If I care about what I do, the quality of work will be the result.

When I work with someone, I try to be humble and get to know the person so the work will turn into a fun and enjoyable experience. According to articles, there are key components to success. Looking back, I hit all of them. They only matter if you are compassionate and learn to apply them.

I’m not much of a risk taker because I fear for the worse. But little by little, I have taken steps. By knowing the boundaries of the risk, I have been slightly comfortable in going outside of my comfort zone.

My mentors have helped me to get where I am today. As a result of my own mentorship experience, one of my favorite aspects about the job is the ability to foster talent within my employees and helping them identify areas of improvement to activate their career growth and professional potential. I enjoy helping successful people become even more successful and learn from them. I am so grateful for my own mentors!

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

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I do not like taking risks. My aversion to risk is evident in many aspects of my life.  I have worked at the same company, in the same group for almost 14 years. I like it and feel it’s a good fit, so when the thought crosses my mind of considering anything new or different, I immediately dismiss it thinking it’s not worth the risk. The risk of being wrong or offending someone often holds me back from speaking up in meetings. The risk involved with making large purchases, such as a car, stresses me out to the point where my husband “jokingly” told me he would go house shopping by himself when the time came (although we DID successfully buy a house together after this). Even though I love excitement and adventure, over the years I’ve started shifting toward avoiding activities where there’s a likelihood of me injuring myself.  In my defense, I am very accident prone. Just a few days ago, I walked into a parked car which resulted in bruises, scratches, and losing a chunk of my pants on the license plate of said parked car.

I’ve also developed a fear of heights over the years. So naturally when I found out we would be rock climbing as part of our "Nothing Risked, Nothing Gained" session last month, I had a lot of anxiety. Even though deep down I knew it was safe and that we would all be trained how to properly belay and that it would actually be really hard to fall and injure myself, I focused on the minuscule chance of something going wrong and pictured myself falling to the ground head first from way up high. Then I imagined being paralyzed and having a much more challenging time keeping up with and taking care of my children. That’s how far I take it sometimes. I become paralyzed by fear and focus on the worst possible outcome in my head at the time rather than what can be gained from the situation. When I talk about it afterwards, I usually laugh at how ridiculous my thoughts were, but in the moment they often seem very real.

At our rock climbing session, I somehow gathered the courage to give it a try and probably only made it about five feet up on my first attempt before looking down, panicking and deciding to quit. I figured I was done for the day but a few minutes later, a classmate asked if I wanted to try again and I said yes for some reason. I can’t really explain what went through my head besides some shred of determination to make it to the top. What I do remember clearly feeling is freedom and excitement (still mixed in with some fear) the first time I made it to the top, and almost an immediate addiction to those feelings the next few times I did it. Additionally, while I was initially extremely fearful of incorrectly belaying for others and causing horrendous injury to them, the more I did it, the more I started feeling more confident and proud of myself for successfully taking on that responsibility.

The experience was really eye-opening for me and a great reminder that going out of your comfort zone and taking calculated risks can be incredibly rewarding. It made me want to apply this concept to more aspects of my life where I often let fear of what can go wrong guide my decisions, rather than what can go right and what can be gained. I realize that taking risks won’t always result in the best outcome, but even when it doesn’t, it usually results in a valuable learning experience that might have not otherwise presented itself. That in itself is extremely freeing to me. I’m thankful I had this experience and that I went through it with my amazing classmates.

Alumni on the Move - October 2017

Barney Herrera Navigation, Class of 2014

Barney Herrera

Navigation, Class of 2014

I've been working at Boeing, but recently took a position with the Seattle Credit Union as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships.

As VP of Strategic Partnerships, my mission is to identify organizations in the community that would make strong partners for Seattle Credit Union – partners like the City of Seattle, El Centro de la Raza, or any of the many other Select Employer Groups the Business Development team has worked hard to cultivate.

Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union, now known as Seattle Credit Union, has not only gone through a name change but also a shift in mission and vision. The credit union has focused on serving the unbanked and the underserved, which include immigrant communities. The opportunity to not only help the Seattle Credit Union meet its mission and vision but also create positive change in the lives of the people in need was too promising to pass up.  Although I didn’t need to move companies, this job allows me to combine my passion for community development and creative solutions to some very real problems.

My biggest success, thus far, is transitioning from an everyday job to a passion. I was always told that once you find a job loving what you do, you will never work another day in your life.  I honestly believe I have found that here and am ready to build something special. My biggest failure is not finding it sooner! Not to be too cliché, but certainly, believe that everything does happen for a reason and in its own time.

I look forward to getting to know the myriad community and business leaders here in Seattle in an effort to identify and secure new partnerships. I’m especially passionate about supporting our immigrant and refugee communities, as my parents are first-generation immigrants from the Philippines. I watched them overcome many challenges to provide me opportunities – opportunities Seattle Credit Union can help provide to many families. Personally, I am inspired every day by my wife and kids. They push me to be a better person, my wife supports me at every turn and my boys are a joy to be with when they aren't driving us nuts ;)

My advice for those starting out early in their career is to master the transferable skills needed to do your current job and then don’t get comfortable and seek the next challenge. I often see too many young people jump from job-to-job without learning a thing from their previous position. Not taking the time to master those skills that you can take with you, is really doing yourself a disservice. It means that you aren’t growing at a rate that is sustainable. When you claim certain experiences on your resume, future employers will have an expectation of your capabilities. Once you try to fake that, your “Personal Brand” and reputation will suffer and your chances of accelerating and moving up may diminish severely.  So before moving on to a new job, make sure you learn and take important skills from your position in order to add to your toolbox of skills.

Journey of Three - Christina Lee

Christina and her classmates take a tour of Daimler Trucks North America post-session.

Christina and her classmates take a tour of Daimler Trucks North America post-session.

During last month’s session on "The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback" with Steve Hanamura, I was surprised with how many of my peers said they struggle with effectively providing constructive feedback when it involves negative news. I honestly did not realize it was that common and have always figured it was something I tend to struggle with primarily due to my extreme aversion to conflict. Ironically, I appreciate and prefer getting honest feedback from others, even if it’s hard to hear, because I know where I stand and what I’m doing well and what I can improve on.  It’s not as helpful if someone tells me I’m doing a great job all of the time, even when I’m not, because I don’t know how they honestly feel. Despite this, I still struggle with providing truthful feedback to other people if it’s not positive. I worry about offending others and want to avoid the uncomfortable-ness of potential conflict or retaliation.

On the other end of the spectrum, although I prefer receiving honest feedback, I sometimes take too much of it to heart, thinking I need to change everything that was just mentioned to me, so I don’t disappoint the person who just provided feedback to me. I also sometimes jump to conclusions without really making sure I understand what the person is saying.

In order to help address both giving and receiving feedback, Steve provided us with five skills for communicating with others. The fifth skill on the list was giving and receiving feedback.  However, in order to effectively do that we need to use the other four skills which include paraphrasing, behavior description, feeling description/expression, and perception check. When broken down in this way, providing and receiving feedback seems less daunting and more manageable. In the weeks since our training, I’ve practiced using these skills in various situations and found them to be useful and effective. To be completely honest I’ve had the most practice using this at home with my children, where it seems more comfortable and “safe” to try it, but as it becomes more natural, I know it will be easier to apply more consistently at work as well. I’ve practiced paraphrasing (after listening to both content and feeling) to try and make sure I understand what the other person is saying. Behavior description where I purely describe the behavior I saw has been extremely useful with my children, especially when following it with the description of the feelings it caused in me.  I can see how this will be effective at work too.  Perception check has also been helpful when trying to check if my perception of the situation is accurate since the other person can answer that with a yes or no.

As far as addressing my fear of conflict when providing feedback, Steve provided a quote from Robert Frost that really resonated with me: “The only way out of conflict is through it”.  He also suggested asking yourself what the worst thing is that could happen from providing someone with that feedback. Reminding myself of both of those things will continue to be a tremendous help in dealing with potential conflict that might result from giving truthful feedback.

Journey of Three - Katherine Martinez

Katherine and her classmates, April (L) and Yumiko (R), are ready for the EDI session!

Katherine and her classmates, April (L) and Yumiko (R), are ready for the EDI session!

The ability to give and receive feedback is not easy to master, regardless of the environment. Giving your mom feedback about how her beef noodle soup could have used a bit more salt is just as challenging as giving your boss feedback in regards to how he handled himself during a review meeting. While most understand how powerful the impact of feedback is in the workplace, the comfort level in approaching and delivering feedback can deter even the most confident and outspoken individuals.

During our most recent session titled "Powerful Feedback", Anh Vo gave an useful perspective on how to give and handle feedback. I distinctly remember getting feedback that left me confused. “Why did she just tell me that?” “What did he really mean?” “Oh I get it, she doesn’t like me.” These are just a few of the thoughts I've had when approached with feedback from others with little to no structure on the specific feedback. Getting feedback like that can be very frustrating and leave an overall negative impression. I appreciated Anh going over the types of feedback: Evaluative, Interpretive, Supportive, Probing and Understanding. That was when the light bulb went off in my head that feedback is not criticism! Asking for feedback can put a lot of pressure on people as they don’t feel it is appropriate to criticize others, however that isn’t what the intent of feedback is! The intent and impact of feedback is to motivate, enhance morale, increase performance, and produce better results.

The group was given the opportunity to practice how to give and receive feedback during our afternoon session through role-playing specific workplace scenarios. I felt the role-playing really helped myself and others become more comfortable about how to read and understand a situation before addressing the feedback that is needed. Anh really stressed the importance of giving feedback to be behaviorally specific, be aware of the impact, make the intentions clear and ask for what you want and need. It was very interesting for the group to practice both sides, it really brought perspective.

I appreciated the fact that the more effective you are at giving feedback, the better it will be received. Knowing that really helps me want to be more open to giving feedback to others besides my peers and manager. At work, my leadership is often looking for feedback and doesn’t usually receive it directly from the source. It is often brought up to them from the specific individuals’ manager. After attending Anh’s session, I will work to continue on being more direct in giving feedback personally to my leadership. The value from the feedback coming from the source is extremely powerful. A person who can take time out of their day to give feedback shows their dedication for their job and those who influence it!

Alumni on the Move - September 2017

Mark Martinez Hispanic Discovery, Class of 2013

Mark Martinez

Hispanic Discovery, Class of 2013

Mark Martinez recently stepped into a new role at ProAmpac as a CPA in Cost Accounting. 

Moving to ProAmpac was a big career step for me. Both in how I’m moving into management and, in a mid-size company like this, I’ll have a much greater personal impact on the business. It’s quite humbling having this kind of responsibility. So far, I’ve only had good successes. I left Boeing on good terms with my manager and teammates, the people at ProAmpac are welcoming and wonderful to work with, and my new team is very supportive as I learn the business. It’s not without its challenges though. I’m learning a new business, new systems, and processes while having to make decisions and drive the business.

There have been several people who’ve made this decision and transition easier.  Professionally, I received guidance from my mentors, senior co-workers, and my recruiter. My wife and family have kept me grounded at home. Their support is invaluable. I’d encourage anyone to thinking about taking the next step in their career to go for it. There will most certainly be challenges, but you prepare for and grow from them. I am glad to be part of the ProAmpac team, knowing that the work I do helps ensure the success and livelihood of all the other employees I work with.

Journey of Three - Stefanel Castro

Stefanel (R) pose

Along this journey I’ve shared many of my “aha!”… “oooh”… “aaaah” moments, but let me talk to you today about this biggest one yet…Speak to Persuade.

When I heard that our session’s name was “Speak to Persuade”, I was excited for what was coming. You see, my father – who is one of my greatest inspirations and role models – has worked on all aspects of the entertainment business for my entire life. Talk show, radio, and MCing is his forte and oh, is he good! I grew up observing and unintentionally learning how to paint pictures with words, improvise, feed off a crowd, come up with quick, witty responses, etc…in essence, how to talk my way into a desired state. As far as I knew, I was a decent public speaker and crafty persuader.

We were given 4 very simple questions. Three of these questions are part of our EDI introduction, so we say them every time we meet. We were recorded answering these 4 VERY SIMPLE questions, and then we played back the recording to assess how we did. I’ll tell you that I was disappointed at what I saw on screen. For context, the session was going great! I had been exercising my natural (inherited/learned) public speaking skills comfortably – cracking jokes and engaging in the discussion – yet what came through when I stood up to answer those questions was stiffness, over-analysis, and even defensiveness. My lively personality did not come through at all and it was not anything I said; the content was good. So…"what happened?", you may ask. My body language and tone of voice exhibited a persona that is not me. Our facilitator, Vanna Novak, looked at me and said, “I lost your personality…you were lost in your head.” Wow! This clicked in a profound way. In an instant, I started to think back at specific instances where I’ve given presentations or had to speak in public or to large groups. I was able to identify that sometimes I want to articulate ideas and thoughts so eloquently that I overthink. I was taken back to occasions where, as I talk, I am searching for fancy words to embellish my speech and end up awkwardly pausing with, I imagine, a confused look on my face until catching my train of thought. I now recognize that, in those moments, my audience did not capture the message as I intended to deliver it because I was not projecting what I wanted.  

Self-reflection on my previous experiences brought me to a bigger conclusion about public speaking and speaking to persuade. EDI’s backbone to leadership development is defined by three letters – A, E, I. Let’s talk about “A”. “A” is for authentic – a leadership characteristic that is very important to me. Whenever I don’t allow my personality to come through, it's because I’m trying to be “Mr. Eloquence” and I lose some of my authenticity. I am serious, driven, and passionate, but at the same time, I’m good humored and goofy. These sides ARE part of the PROFESSIONAL in me and need to co-exist in harmony. It does when I’m not putting extra effort into thinking about the correctness of my words; I am the most impactful because I am most comfortable, engaging, and, more importantly, genuine. I will end this with a thought/reminder mainly for myself, but I won’t be offended if you use it too: Big words don’t get the job done, connecting with people does.