CityU - Steps to Success in Public Speaking & Being Persuasive

Being Persuasive.jpg

There have been episodes in my life where I have been asked to speak in front of an audience. Although I don’t consider public speaking a favorite activity, I do tend to enjoy it, and the enjoyment factors are even better once I have had a chance to prepare for and reflect on the experience.

“Speaking to an audience can be fun. Some may not enjoy it, but it can be learned.”

Over the years, I learned that communication, patience, and emotional intelligence were important aspects in building a successful career. Persuasion, a communication trait, is the art of influencing others but there are differences between persuasion and influence. Persuading someone is more than having the ‘gift of gab.’ In my experience, when I am looking to influence another, I have to believe in what I am sharing. By being honest with myself tends to create trust with others. Trust building, to me, is central to my ethical and moral compass. 

Having held leadership positions in different parts of my career, it wasn’t until I earned my MBA in Marketing where I came to appreciate three approaches to communication. With the benefit of hindsight, it is these three approaches which helped drive my success. Knowing which form to use often depends on the audience you are trying to reach. Here’s a brief synopsis:

  • Inform: consider tactics marketers use to compare two products, like Coke and Pepsi.

  • Remind: think Coke Cola commercials that show people having fun. Do you need to be persuaded or informed? No. These commercials are reminders to drink Coke.

  • Persuade: marketers will use language that promise happiness, create anxiety, or limit availability. Which works on you?

Influence is an action designed to change people’s perception on how they may view you or a product/service. For any of these opportunities, consider the words you speak in conversations or the images you show in presentations. To change people’s perceptions, we can draw on four approaches which generate action:

  1. Get attention. Present information quickly that strikes at the heart of those in your audience. The emotion used in the story will keep a person’s attention. Do this by asking a thought question, point out a statistic and discuss the reason for it, etc.

  2. Positive perception. Perceptions are closely related with judgement, a derivative of emotions. Consider evoking a positive emotion through your tone, the words you choose, or through an image you show, such as a graphic showing an increase in revenue. Then, tie the tone to the image.

  3. Content sharing. Be deliberate in your communication. Inspire others through storytelling. Profiling people who have accomplished extraordinary feats work well. Bottom line: Emotional stories get shared.

  4. Trigger words and actions. Emotions underline decision-making, and those emotions come from experiences. Thus, persuasion comes easily when communication evokes emotions from experiences people can easily understand and associate.

Now that we have established that persuasion is best delivered through engaging an audience’s emotional response, the question becomes which of these appeal to a given audience? The answer: It depends. Consider for instance:

  • Aww…. The emotional response you get when you see a cute little puppy. The puppy evokes the ‘awe’, but putting people in the story can create a desired emotional response.

  • Resentment over injustice. You’ve seen how emotions about saving this or that can hit a nerve or trigger an action. Natural disasters prompt responses of this kind.

  • Surprise. Showing or expressing happiness can be a very powerful narrative. Working hard on a project and gaining praise for a job well done can evoke powerful human emotions of happiness.

  • Fear/Anxiety. People tend to want to be clean. So when you tell stories about how poor reactions occur to things such as bad breath, dirty hair or clothes, an unkempt yard, etc. you tend to see the images these evoke in an emotional way.

  • Self. People like to feel important. Encourage this action through your words, images, and stories.

To be persuasive means to establish common ground with your audience, bring them into your world by shaping the story you are sharing. Storytelling is a great way to bring this journey alive in a public speaking engagement. Informing the audience with visual images and auditory key words builds trust and drives the experience for your audience through connecting with their affect. When you speak, be yourself. If you’re presenting, be different. Done together, combine the two communicative methods.

Have you heard about EDI’s partnership with CityUniversity of Seattle? EDI alums are able to challenge 12 credits towards a Master's in Leadership at CityU and receive a 15% discount on tuition! ** for more information contact enrollment advisor, Melissa Myers at or call her at 253.896.3215**

Greg Price.jpg

Dr. Gregory Price is the Associate Dean in the School of Applied Leadership at City University of Seattle. Degrees in M.Ed in Instructional Design, M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, MS in Management and Leadership, and Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership.

CityU - Steps to Success - Corporate Entrepreneurial Leadership


Corporate Entrepreneurial Leadership

By Dr. Gregory Price


Got an idea for a new business, product, or service within your organization, but feel nobody is listening? Organizational leaders who are not seeing growth in their core business risk losing momentum and market share in their business. They may also observe lowered employee morale and possibly witness a brain drain. When this happens, it can be difficult to recapture a sustainable presence.  Corporate entrepreneurship can be an answer to this slide.

What is Corporate Entrepreneurial Leadership?

Corporate entrepreneurship is defined as individuals and/or teams within an established company that can leverage its assets and resources to build a new product, service, or new business that can stand alone and contribute to the organization’s market position, revenue stream, and organizational mix.  Several organizations have used different models to gain the most from the investment in their employees.  Google is probably the most talked about organization that has moved down this path. They give employees 15% of their workweek to focus on innovation such as new product development, services, brand development, and the like.

Researchers have identified four different models in use today, they are: The Opportunist Model, the Enabler Model, the Advocate Model, and the Producer Model.  Each model has specific qualities, depending on the organization’s purpose and goal.   Organizations that adopt any one of these models can position themselves as a more competitive player in their industry.

The Opportunist Model – Often individuals will get their organizations started on corporate entrepreneurship through this model.  Organizations that may find this model useful may not have any corporate entrepreneurship model in existence.  What is more, the leaders of the organization may not even be aware that they need to create one.  Yet, employees and their entrepreneurial tenacity, against all odds, may develop something and present it to leadership. The Opportunist Model is born.

The Enabler Model – The model is driven by the organization.  A process within the organization is set up allowing employees to develop new concepts should they be willing to do so and are given adequate support.  The opportunities that employees are allowed to develop must fit within the strategic direction of the organization. And, in the end, the employees will claim no stake in the outcome. The Google model discussed previously follows this path.

The Advocate Model – The model fits within the organizational structure where leaders have created a culture of innovation.  In this scenario, innovation is a staple of the organization.  The model allows for budgets and organizational structure is assigned as businesses are created. For employees, the model has depth where the organization provides support and assistance to the extent that employees can go on retreats.  The retreats are 180-day contracts where business plans are built and leadership teams review the proposals.

The Producer Model – The model exists in mostly larger corporations where funding is a function of the model.  The objective is to encourage employees to develop and innovate. One aspect of this model is to encourage cross departmental collaboration, build disruptive businesses, and create careers outside of current business units.  Internally, the organization has gone so far as to develop an Accelerator Program to support those entrepreneurially inclined.

Have you heard about EDI’s partnership with CityUniversity of Seattle? EDI alums are able to challenge 12 credits towards a Master's in Leadership at CityU and receive a 15% discount on tuition! ** for more information contact enrollment advisor, Melissa Myers at or call her at 253.896.3215**


Dr. Gregory Price

Dr. Gregory Price is the Associate Dean in the School of Applied Leadership at City University of Seattle.


Alumni On The Move - July 2019

Carmen Marttila

Puget Sound Leadership Discovery, Class of 2013

EDI: Hi Carmen! We heard about your recent career change and would love to learn more about it. Help tell our readers, what’s the recent change that happened?  

Carmen: Recently I decided to take a leap of faith and make a complete career change. After being in the banking industry for over 15 years, I accepted a position with Junior Achievement (JA) of Washington as Regional Director for their Northern Region.

EDI: How did this opportunity present itself?

Carmen: I have been a JA volunteer for many years, in addition about 4 years back I joined their Regional Board and become their Board Chair in 2017. Right about this time JA went through some Executive level leadership changes and the new JA WA State President and CEO, Natalie Vega O’Neil approached me with the opportunity to join her leadership team.

EDI: What made you decide to change from the banking industry to non-profit?

Carmen: After much thought and consideration, I decided to accept because I am at a point in my life where it has become more and more important for me to give back in more significant ways. After volunteering with a number of nonprofits, teaching financial literacy to at-risk youth and low income adults, I realized the importance of reaching individuals earlier and in my opinion, no organization does that better than Junior Achievement. With their pillars of success – Financial Education, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Readiness JA teaches K-12th grade kids the skills needed to own the economic and financial success in a global economy.

EDI: Did you face any challenges along the way? If so what?

Carmen: Many factors made this transition a challenge. Number one being the fact that I had never worked for a nonprofit organization.  

EDI: How did you overcome those challenges?

Carmen: I tapped into a lot of what I learned going through EDI- I put my Behavior Styles learning to work as I needed to understand and adapt to my new team’s diverse learning styles to be the effective communicator and leader JA hired me to be. Banding and Networking has been critical to my transition and success as I am responsible for raising the funds needed to bring JA programs to my region’s schools and youth. Speak to Persuade has been critical to my focus on bringing in new donors and supporters.   

Carmen (center) at the JA Bowling Classic fundraising event

EDI: How are you able to apply your experience from KeyBank to JA?

Carmen: I would say that my results driven mentality, my ability to adapt to change and I must thank KeyBank for giving me opportunity in 2013 to participate in EDI’s Leadership Discovery. This most of all has given me the tools to be a successful leader at KeyBank and now Junior Achievement.  

EDI: What do you hope to accomplish in your new position?

Carmen: I hope to continue to be successful in bringing awareness to the community of the value of teaching the JA curriculum at our schools to empower our youth to become the entrepreneurs and leaders we know they can be, while engaging the business community to give their financial support to a nonprofit invested in the youth that will become the workforce of the future.

EDI: If you could give one piece of advice to the 2019 EDI class what would it be?  

Carmen: Keep looking forward, learn from your mistakes and use that knowledge to propel you to becoming the leader you know in your heart is waiting to take flight.

EDI: Thank you so much for your time today, Carmen! We miss seeing you at our EDI Board Meetings!

Alumni On The Move - June 2019

Cecille & Florexis Velasco

Leadership Navigation, Class of 2012 & 2011

You’re known at EDI as the family that’s gone through the program (with both of you going through the Leadership Navigation Program & your brother Barney Herrera a graduate as well). What was it that appealed to you to go through the EDI program?

Florexis: I was looking for a leadership program tailored towards minority leaders and also saw the track record of some of the alumni.

Cecille: I noticed positive changes in Florexis' career and he was always talking about how he was applying the training in his career and personal relationships.  The training really helped him elevate his leadership and interpersonal skills.

What was it about EDI that made you think to recommend it to your brother, Barney?

Florexis: I conveyed how much the program helped me in my career and in my business ventures and how it helped me to fine tune and develop my leadership skills further. 

Cecille:  It was easy for me to recommend to Barney because the training helped me so much in having more self awareness and having awareness with others I work with in and outside of Boeing, both professionally and personally.  Plus, the people I've connected with in the program are amazing!  We still meet up every year and are known to be 'the best' class in EDI history (that was self proclaimed lol).

You’ve recently opened a gym! What made you decide to open your own gym?:

Florexis: Both of my Grandfathers were farmers and supported their families by having their own businesses, so I've always had the entrepreneur spirit.  The Anytime Fitness Franchise just made sense for us to dive into because of our passion towards fitness and since turning pro as a competitive bodybuilder and physique competitor.  I've been coaching many clients on nutrition and competition prep and I love helping people reach their health and fitness goals! 

Cecille:   I love doing group fitness and training in large groups to keep me motivated and to make connections with other fitness minded individuals.  Florexis and I researched several businesses and franchises to start and the Anytime Fitness business model made the most sense because we both love to work out and commit to a healthy overall lifestyle which includes training, flexible nutrition (we are both foodies) and sharing this passion with others.

What steps did you take (or goals did you set) to make this happen?:

Florexis: I did a lot of networking and connecting with other Anytime Fitness owners and other gym owners as well to get their feedback on the business model, understanding what it takes to start up, operate and sustain a gym business.  I did a lot of studies on the track record of the company and franchises, demographics, competition, pricing, and development plans of the cities we wanted to purchase our franchise territories in. 

Cecille: I'm very numbers oriented so I did a lot research on the Anytime Fitness' overall past performance and the how the average franchises have performed nationwide and worldwide.  I researched the revenue, expenses and profit averages to help us create our pro forma statements and to help fine tune our business plan and year to year projections.  After more due diligence the numbers and averages just made a lot of sense and we decided to move forward.

How were you able to apply your prior work experience at Boeing to going the entrepreneurial route?

Florexis: I am able to apply a lot of my experience from Boeing into our gym business.  Project management and financial management are key elements, but most importantly being able organize and prioritize what seemed to be an endless list of action items has helped to ensure we have a plan and keep things progressing.  Conflict management and problem resolution has also helped in dealing with overwhelming tasks and difficult people.

Cecille: I am able to apply my customer service and customer management skills into our gym business, especially now so as we are enrolling members and setting up personal training programs.  I also deal with a lot vendors at Boeing and I am able to apply these skills when working with our Anytime Fitness vendors.  We have several vendors we have to work with concurrently and my Boeing experience really comes in handy to stay organized

Have you faced any challenges along the way? If so, what?:

Florexis: This whole business has been a major challenge since it's been our first time setting up a franchise and there are so many steps in opening up a gym.  

Cecille: Not knowing what to expect has been very challenging and there have been many unforeseen events along the way.

How did you overcome those challenges?:

Florexis: Staying organized and knowing who to reach out to for guidance and help has really helped overcome the challenges we've faced.  The franchise has a great support system and I constantly reach to those that have already done this successfully and that have opened up several gyms. 

Cecille: We have franchise business consultant that has helped us overcome challenges but not being afraid of asking the right people for assistance also has helped overcome these challenges.  Leveraging our network and contacts has helped us deal with specific challenges and we continue to build on these relationships knowing that we will need their additional guidance.

What do you hope to accomplish on your new journey?:

Florexis: I hope to launch and operate our first gym and be able to scale all the experience and learnings into our next few gyms.  We want to build an awesome fitness community in our Lynnwood gym and help as many people as we can along their health and fitness journey! 

Cecille: I want to help women and moms find a community in our Lynnwood gym and have a place where they can connect and have fun while training.  Too often I feel like women in general are always putting others first and I want to help them make their physical and mental health a priority, so they can continue to give to others.  We're also aiming to set an example to our 3 kids to live a healthy lifestyle while also building a business you're passionate about...while helping others!  But what I'm most looking forward to is getting my parents in the gym.  With the right support and guidance, I'm ready to see my Dad running around the soccer field with all the grandkids!

Is there anything from your EDI learnings that you’re applying to your current position? (if no, that’s fine!)

Florexis: Emotional intelligence is very critical and being able to adapt to situations that are high pressure and dealing with a diverse set of people.  I am able to be self aware and approach situations with the right leadership style and continue to make progress. 

Cecille:  The skill to adapt in difficult situations and being able to deal with customers is where I apply a lot of my EDI learnings.  We are in the service and people business and having the emotional intelligence and having self awareness and awareness of others styles really helps.

If you could give one piece of advice for the 2019 EDI class what would it be?:

Florexis: Go after your passion and make a career from something you love to do and apply your EDI learnings! 

Cecille: Take a chance on yourself but continue to seek advice and guidance from those that have already accomplished what you are aiming to do.

If you’re interested in more information or applying for a membership to Florexis & Cecille’s gym, we’ve linked to their membership page in the button below.

CityU - Steps to Success - Leadership & the Importance of Saying Thanks


Leadership and the Importance of Saying Thanks

By Dr. Joel Domingo

Of the many descriptors that people associate with good leaders—proficient, charismatic, intelligent, compassionate, etc. there is one that people rarely use—thankful. When was the last time you thought of a leader who demonstrated or even led with thankfulness.

Thankfulness, which can be thought of as actions and gratitude, which is associated with attitudes are both generally understood within a context of good behavior and polite social norms. However, when put into the perspective of being an effective leader, they are powerful concepts.

Researchers of leadership have long explored the qualities of a “virtuous” or “real” leader. One approach, known as “authentic leadership” starts with questions of how can leaders be more genuine and lead from a place of conviction. A question commonly explored in this approach is, “How can leaders lead from a place that demonstrates their commitment and service to their people?”

These ideas highlight the need for leaders to be purposeful, relational, and centered on the belief of the talents and skills of others. When leaders demonstrate a belief in people, positive effects occur including employees that are more engaged and creative (Chaudhary & Panda, 2018), and are motivated to go beyond to help others (Cottrill, Lopez, & Hoffman, 2014). Central to this belief in people is developing and demonstrating thankfulness and gratitude for those in the organization.

Gratitude can be motivating, inspiring, and even empowering to others. Consider when you were personally thanked by a leader or someone you looked up to. What did that word of thanks and encouragement do for you? Did it transform or encourage you?

The way leaders demonstrate gratitude is not about simple gestures and platitudes but requires a level of intentionality (and creativity) that when practiced, can expand a leader’s ability to influence others and bring out the best in them. Leading with intentionality is something that leadership authors Kouzes and Posner (2017) call “Encouraging the Heart.” In their book, The Leadership Challenge, they outline several principles to consider when encouraging others. Each tie into gratitude. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Expect the Best. Setting high expectations for people is a good thing, so believe that people will rise to those expectations.

  • Pay Attention. Notice the little things that people do and when you mentioned that you appreciate them for the little things, watch how motivating that is!

  • Personalize Recognition. Get to know people’s likes and dislikes. People appreciate it when you take the time to know them personally and whether they like public or private recognition.

Leadership at its heart is about people and relationship. As leaders, the simple act of thanking others is something that cannot be overlooked and can be one of life’s most powerful motivators. Albert Schweitzer once said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.”


Have you heard about EDI’s partnership with CityUniversity of Seattle? EDI alums are able to challenge 12 credits towards a Master's in Leadership at CityU and receive a 15% discount on tuition! ** for more information contact enrollment advisor, Melissa Myers at or call her at 253.896.3215**

Dr. Joel Domingo

Dr. Joel Domingo is Associate Professor in the School of Applied Leadership at City University of Seattle and leads the Doctor of Education in Leadership program.



Chaudhary, R., & Panda, C. (2018). Authentic leadership and creativity. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 67(9), 2071-2088. doi:10.1108/IJPPM-02-2018-0082

Cottrill, K., Lopez, P. D., & Hoffman, C. C. (2014). How authentic leadership and inclusion benefit organizations. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 33(3), 275-292. doi: 10.1108/EDI-05-2012-0041

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2017). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations. Retrieved from


Alumni On The Move - May 2019

Jeff Racicot

Portland Leadership Discovery, Class of 2016

EDI: Hey Jeff! We heard about your recent promotion into management. CONGRATULATIONS! We would love to learn more about it. Help tell our readers, about the recent promotion.

Jeff:  As of December 2018, I began my leadership position as the manager of metering services at BPA.  This is a great opportunity to use my newly established tools recently acquired through the EDI program.  This opportunity requires the ability to provide good customer service, along with using technical skills to solve complex problems.  I’m excited!

EDI: How did this opportunity present itself?

Jeff:  I put my name in the hat when the position became available.  One thing EDI helped me with is to “put myself in the pipeline” and continue looking for opportunities to improve.  After leadership training and taking on increasingly challenging projects/roles, this was a chance to put myself out there and it worked out nicely.

EDI: Where there any intentional steps that you took to prepare yourself for a management role? If so, what where they?

Jeff:  Constantly finding opportunities to lead projects, give presentations, or take leadership training were all intentional steps that have prepared me to move forward.  In addition, while in EDI I sought the guidance of a mentor.  All of these steps helped propel me forward and gain the confidence needed to move into leadership.

EDI: Now as a manager, have there been any challenges that you’ve faced? If so, what?

Jeff:  Being a first time manager is a huge paradigm shift.  All of a sudden, you are noticed at every step.  What you say matters more.  How you act leaves stronger impressions.  These are all challenges, but I also find them as opportunities to continue using leadership skills and self-awareness to lead effectively.

EDI: How do you overcome those challenges?  

Jeff:  I like to treat challenges as opportunities.  As taught in EDI, you have to lean in.  Lean in to the hard talks, the difficult conversations, the conflicts, etc.  These all are opportunities to leave a positive outcome.

EDI: What do you hope to accomplish in your new position?

Jeff:  In my new role, I hope to make a positive difference with my staff, the organization, the agency and ultimately the Pacific Northwest.  As a manager in a large Power Marketing Agency that serves the Pacific Northwest, I hope to use all of my leadership potential to make a positive difference.

EDI: Is there anything from your EDI learnings that you’re applying to your current position or during the transition? (if no, that’s fine!)

Jeff:  Understanding behavioral styles has been a nice tool to have.  Behavioral Styles were taught in EDI, and I have embraced the fact that my personality and behavior are two different things.  You can adjust your behavior to adapt to other behavioral styles, and this has been helpful.

EDI: You balance a lot having been promoted to management, being a family man with a wife and three kids, volunteering for EDI as a program chair this year and last year…how do you ensure you have work/life balance?

Jeff:  I make it a priority to make sure I’m focusing on the right things in life.  It’s like brushing your teeth – as soon as you make all the important things in your life a priority, it becomes easier because you now know where you put your energy.  Being an EDI program chair is great by the way.

EDI: If you could give one piece of advice to the 2019 EDI class what would it be?  

Jeff:  Enjoy the ride!  Leadership and growth is a never-ending journey.  Embrace the journey and always keep learning.

EDI: Thanks so much for your time, Jeff! Congratulations again on your promotion and we can’t wait to hear more from you as your journey unfolds!

Jeff:  Thank you!


We are proud of our alums and the impact they are making around the world. Each month we feature an alum that we have heard is making waves in their company or in their communities on our Alumni On The Move series. If you’re an alum or know one that is really making a positive impact for those around them let us know! We feature anything from alums starting their own companies or side hustles, receiving a promotion, taking a risk and trying a new industry or organization within their own company, joining non-profit committees and Boards, or winning awards! Contact us at

CityU - Steps to Success in Team-building


Collaborating Across Departments

By Dr. Jan Lüdert

In order to thrive, organizations and institutions need to ensure that its various departments work together towards achieving greater goals. Leading across an organization to enhance interdepartmental collaboration is key to improve interpersonal communication and enhance innovation. In fact, effective interdepartmental collaborations are the hallmark of both cross-functional as well as organizational success.

Interpersonal and Interdepartmental Communication

To a large extent, skillful communication is the language of leadership. Most of us can recall an instance of effective and less productive interdepartmental collaboration and can appreciate how interpersonal communication often lies at the heart of success or failure. To be successful in leading collaborations across departments, two intersecting areas of communication are essential:

  • Interpersonal or face-to-face communication – the process by which individuals exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages.

  • Interdepartmental communication – the formal pathways by which an organization and its leaders facilitates interpersonal communication on specific tasks and projects.

To enhance interpersonal communication requires leaders gain insights into different ways and preferences of how people communicate and what motivates them. To improve interdepartmental communication, consider the concept of “an organization without boundaries” and the so-called “workout process” as discussed in the Harvard Business Review. Particularly helpful is the insight that leaders tend to spend too much time and effort figuring out what interdepartmental processes are at play instead of bringing people together to realize cross-functional exchange. The workout process can be helpful to bring teams together at various junctures to address interdepartmental needs. Through this process, teams realize and appreciate other department’s perspective and gain interdepartmental insights they need to thrive in pursuit of common objectives and goals.

As Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, once wrote, “The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” Certainly, and as outlined in this short post, effective collaboration across departments and between individuals is founded on open and ongoing communication.


Dr. Jan Lüdert

Dr. Jan Lüdert serves as Associate Program Director for the Leadership Training Programs in the School of Applied Leadership at City University of Seattle.

Have you heard about EDI’s partnership with CityUniversity of Seattle? EDI alums are able to challenge 12 credits towards a Master's in Leadership at CityU and receive a 15% discount on tuition! For details on the Master of Education in Leadership visit their site.

** for more information contact enrollment advisor, Melissa Myers at or call her at 253.896.3215**

Alumni On The Move - April 2019

Alisa Yannello accepts her AEA award

Portland Leadership Discovery, Class of 2011

EDI: Hi Alisa! We had a lot of Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) alums circle the new to us about you receiving the Administrator’s Excellence Award (AEA). It’s BIG NEWS! CONGRATULATIONS! We would love to learn more about the award. Can you let our readers know what the AEA is?

Alisa: Absolutely, the Administrator’s Excellence Awards (AEA) honor employees, individuals and teams whose initiative, innovation, superior service or exemplary acts have made an exceptional contribution to BPA’s mission, the electric utility industry or to the communities we serve. AEAs are the top awards at BPA. This year, there were over 100 nominations and so it was a tremendous honor to be an awardee.

EDI: Could you share with our audience why you were nominated for the award?

Alisa: I was nominated for and selected for the Meritorious Service Award, which is BPA’s highest honor award of the 12 categories. The criteria is extraordinary contribution to BPA’s mission through; unusual initiative, innovation, outstanding customer/client service, enhanced BPA relationships with customers, management and supervisory skills, devotion to duty, advancement of equal employment opportunity etc…

I was nominated for several initiatives and projects that I led over the years and the primary focus was related to the BPA-wide culture initiative to drive the development and adoption of the leadership behaviors and working side by side with the Administrator to ensure his vision for leadership at BPA came to fruition. There was a five-page write up and I was just blown away by the testimonials from my colleagues. It’s still a little bit difficult to talk about because I feel like I am tooting my own horn and feel so honored to have been selected and humbled by all of this!

EDI: Was receiving an AEA a goal or did it come to you by surprise?

Alisa: The AEA award and selection was a complete surprise!  It’s something that everyone during their career at BPA aspires to achieve, but it wasn’t something that I set out to do intentionally. My broader goal today as it’s been throughout my entire career is to provide the very best service to my customers, to be the best leader that I can be for my team and colleagues and to strive for continuous learning and to make sure that I am meeting the needs of the business and executives to achieve the mission. I really love my career here at BPA and am driven by our public stewardship and mission for the people of the pacific northwest.

EDI: You’ve made great strides in your career over the years. What has been a challenge that you’ve faced and had to overcome?

Alisa: One challenge that I faced early in my career and one that I continue to overcome is to find ways to ensure that my leadership doesn’t become invisible. It’s so easy in a large organization to work really hard, put your head down, focus on the task or project at hand and shut the rest of the world out (so you can get the work done).  When you’re in a leadership role it’s important not only for yourself, but for your team, colleagues and your bosses to always see you showing up as a strong, consistent, competent, passionate and forward thinking leader.

As an introvert I am most comfortable keeping to myself. But I have to remember to not get too caught up on my own head and to show up demonstrating my capabilities, skills every day. This means connecting with my team, talking to the customers, listening to different perspectives, valuing people, and trying to find ways to help the team, and customers achieve our goals. I find time to mentor others, to be a role model and set the tone by leading by example and lead by leaning in and showing up, thus not becoming invisible.

EDI: How do you overcome those challenges?  

Alisa: I always remember that you can’t do everything yourself.  When I am feeling challenged in my leadership role, I turn to my mentors for advice. Or I talk to a trusted colleague to get advice – typically through the lens of professional development and being a better leader.

One of the biggest take away from the EDI program was the value of networking and building collaborative relationships.  After graduating from the EDI program in 2011, that is what I set out to do and having a strong network of advocates and a strong support system is invaluable.

EDI: Is there anything from your EDI learnings that you’ve been applying in your career? (if no, that’s fine!)

Alisa: LOL, YES and I actually answered that above.  Additionally I learned that I was fairly risked adverse especially when it came to my career and so in the last 8 years I have really pushed myself to try different things, take on new jobs, new roles that I had very little experience in. By doing this, I grew professionally and technically in the HR field.  And knowing that when I failed (which happens often) that I am much better off and learn from that  experience. Because of EDI I remind myself to practice resilience.    

EDI: Since going through the program, you’ve been a huge supporter of EDI and you’ve helped to continue sending BPA employees through EDI each year. What is the biggest reason for your support?

Alisa: I will always support and sponsor the EDI programs because of how I’ve seen the program impact my own career and how I have evolved as a leader.  So many of the “a-ha” moments have really positively impacted not only who I am as a person but how I lead as a leader at BPA.  I see our up and coming emerging leaders here at BPA and I really want them to experience the EDI way and hope they will take away as much, or more than I did and apply it back to their career trajectory.

Every year we send talented employees to EDI and believe this 6-month program will make a difference for them!  And I am just so excited that they get this wonderful opportunity to explore, learn, network and make those leadership adjustment to help them get to the next phase in their career.

EDI: You’re a role model to so many people in your company (whether you acknowledge it or not 😊). What do you hope to instill in those that look up to you?

Alisa: I hope that my leadership demonstrates our core leadership behaviors at BPA. And…I am not sure if there are people who look up to me (I am not that tall ) but if they are, I hope that I instill in them a sense of purpose, and drive to be the best in whatever job they’re in. This includes taking care of the team and supporting the successes of others.

EDI: If you could give one piece of advice to the 2019 EDI class what would it be?  

Alisa: I have more than once piece of advice – I would say , be open to feedback, be resilient, and never give up! 

And, always remember to be kind and good to the people you work with. With that, here is one of my favorite quotes:  “The most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people.”  Barbara Bush

EDI: Thank you, Alisa! Congratulations again on your Administrator’s Excellence Award. It’s well deserved!

Alisa: Thank you so much and feel so fortunate to be an EDI Alum!  I have met so many amazing people through EDI and look forward to our continued partnership. Go EDI!!!

Welcome to the Class of 2019!

2019 Portland Class

Our Leadership Discovery programs launched last month with lots of energy, curiosity and self-reflection from the 50 participants.   At kick-off they shared personal stories, took part in team-building activities (Wiggle!), explored their own core values and family histories and had the opportunity to hear insights from many EDI alums.  They are already well on their way to leading at their Authentic Best and we are excited to see how this journey unfolds over the next 6 months.


2019 Puget Sound Class

This class represents 16 companies, over 20 ethnicities and includes some legacy participants (their parents were EDI alums). Check out who is in this year’s class. Thank you to our entire EDI community for referring applicants, spreading the word about our programs and ensuring we have full classes!


And a special shout out to all of our ALUMNI who contributed to this kick-off experience and played an integral role in building the foundation for the 2019 Discovery classes.  We couldn’t do any of this without you. 

The Puget Sound Class’ EDI alum volunteers May de los Reyes, Masa Lapilio, & Linda Sok gather together for their own picture while the 2019 class is taking their class photos.

 Colleen Yamaguchi ’94

May de los Reyes ‘13

Poe Wongpa ‘15

Gerald Giacchi ‘16

Melinda Pizarro ‘16

Jeff Racicot ‘16

Linda Sok ‘16

Masa Lapilio ‘17

Lynda Racicot ‘17

Ed Aguon ‘18

Mason Tabata ‘18

EDI alums Melinda Pizarro, Gerald Giacchi, & Jeffrey Racicot share stories about their own growth, development, challenges, and words of advice to the 2019 Portland class to get the most out of their EDI leadership journey experience.

Alumni On The Move - March 2019

Hong Chhuor

Puget Sound Leadership Discovery Class of 2016

My very first opera ever was La bohème. Someone from Seattle Opera came to my high school senior literature class to invite us to see a performance of one of Puccini’s most enduring favorites – for free! This last part is important to mention because I would not have been able to go otherwise.

When I was growing up, my parents worked long hours at low-paying jobs to support their five children so we could all become doctors, lawyers or engineers one day. They fled the Khmer Rouge, which means they left their country, families, and dreams behind. In the U.S., they lacked a community where they could celebrate their culture, including dance, art, and other traditions. It should come as no surprise that instilling a love of opera was not a priority for them.

And so it was that through Seattle Opera, I came to learn about an entire world of music, stories, and art beyond Wagner’s magnificent Valkyries, whom I really only knew about because I saw caricatures of them in episodes of Looney Toons as a kid. I don’t remember much about how my first opera went, but I do remember falling asleep in the cool, dark performance hall as I experienced this uniquely western art form for the first time (shhh – don’t tell my employer).

I could never have imagined that one day, I would help lead Seattle Opera’s fundraising team. Prior to my current role as Associate Director of Development, I served as the Marketing and Communications Manager at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), which is a social justice focused health and human services nonprofit that serves immigrant, refugee and native-born Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and others. You may be wondering about my transition from 1) social services to the arts 2) marketing and communications to fundraising and 3) a manager level role to a director-level role. I’ll share my thoughts on each, but to be honest, it was not a path that I could see very clearly while I was walking on it. Hindsight is 20/20, they say.

Firstly, my experience with EDI’s Leadership Discovery program at the same time that I was working at ACRS helped me to connect the dots in terms of my heritage and identity as an Asian American refugee. All of the combined learnings and insights I gained as a result of the program as well as my growth at my job helped me identify what I wanted from my career. I gained clarity about my values, which made it easier to make choices when I found myself at significant crossroads.

I realized that I found fulfillment in connecting people with causes and issues they care about and helping them to invest their time and resources in ways that are meaningful to them.

While I still care very much about advocating for and empowering AAPI immigrants and refugees, moving to Seattle Opera was about recognizing the power of stories, music, and art to change hearts and minds, and helping us find meaning in our lives. Leaving ACRS was very difficult and what helped me with the decision was the realization that I can continue to love ACRS and be a part of its strong community without working there.

My job title at ACRS hid the fact that some of my primary responsibilities included fundraising as well as managing people and processes. I was fortunate to have support from my manager and my organization to build up my professional experience through hands-on learning, formal training, and coaching and mentorship from others in my field. Attending conferences by and for professional fundraisers really helped me to learn what skills I needed and wanted to develop. It also helped me feel like I was part of a community of people with whom I shared a calling.

In more ways than one, the experiences I gained through ACRS and EDI laid the groundwork for my role at Seattle Opera – almost as if the role was written for me. My overarching goal right now is to help people connect with and find meaning and connection through opera and the community around it. This is not so different from helping people connect with their desire to be part of a larger social justice movement. Through managing people and processes (which is a central part of my role at Seattle Opera), I have an appreciation for how doing these things well contributes to the ability of an organization to achieve its mission and vision. And just like ACRS did a few months ago, Seattle Opera is about to get a new leader. That will bring a whole host of change that will need to be thoughtfully navigated. Thanks to ACRS, I have experience with that, too!

I’m excited for the challenges of my new role, which includes an expanded fundraising team doing things I really only have textbook knowledge about (like major giving, capital campaigns and planned giving). I recently earned my Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation and am thrilled to continue my journey as a professional fundraiser – not to mention all of the opera I’ll get to enjoy. Ask me about my friends and family discount – I’d love to welcome you to an upcoming opera.

If I were to leave the 2019 EDI class with some advice, it would be this: push yourself out of your comfort zone and GROW. Don’t let superficial things like job titles limit your dreams. Network, network, network. Find a mentor and serve as a mentor to others.

Hong Chhuor

EDI Class of 2016