An Interview with EDI’s Co-Founders


2013 Q&A with co-founders, Ted Yamamura & Vanna Novak

How did you two meet?

T: I met Vanna at a meeting at which she was speaking on making effective presentations. I thought she would be a good person to collaborate with for EDI. Vanna wanted to give back to the Asian American community so we started discussing collaboration on EDI.

V: If I remember correctly, Ted saw me speak at a conference for the JACL. And actually, back then, I had no connection to our Asian community. It was because of Ted, that I agreed to get involved. I had no idea that it was going to be just the beginning of a long, but fulfilling journey. I owe a lot to Ted.

Why did the two of you want to create EDI?

T: EDI originally started as a special interest group under the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce. It was created to provide leadership training specifically for Japanese Americans, then it evolved to include all Asian Americans and now Hispanic Americans. Vanna agreed to be a co-founder to develop curriculum for leadership training. We wanted to also provide role models, mentors and create a network for career development.

V: Ted recognized that there was a big gap between the numbers of highly qualified, competent, Asians within American corporations vs. Asian Americans in the executive ranks, and felt the need to do something about it. It was really his grasp of the situation and his vision, that launched plans to build a program like EDI. I happened to have the background to design our initial curriculum so when Ted asked me if I’d help to get EDI off the ground, I said yes. And the rest, as they say, is history. But people should know that EDI was Ted’s vision.

What was your vision when it first started?

T: My vision was to elevate Asian Americans into leadership positions at corporations, government, and non-profit organizations. I wanted Asian Americans to have the same opportunities as Caucasians and to level the playing field for leadership positions. I also wanted to have role models, mentors, networks, in place to provide support and encouragement to Asian Americans striving for leadership positions.

V: I would say that that’s still our vision today and we now are working toward that same goal or vision with our Hispanic program. We still have a long, long way to go.

How has its actual progress been compared to that vision?

T: There have been many improvements and an increase in role models as leaders, yet there are still no top Asian American executives at companies like Boeing. The ultimate goal is to have more people of color in executive positions. I want them to have the same opportunities to excel and have a level playing field.

V: I think that my initial vision was very narrow. What I’ve learned through having had the chance to work directly with all of our program participants over the years is that “progress” can be defined in many ways. So while we’re still far behind in seeing a significant number of Asians or Hispanics in executive positions, what I do see is our participants gaining clarity about what it takes to move into the senior ranks and making clear decisions as to whether they’re willing to do what it takes to move up. Or sometimes I see them becoming leaders within the community at large. I think that’s progress. And when their managers begin to gain an awareness and appreciation for programs like EDI and as a result, they begin to send more of their employees to our programs, well, that’s progress too.

What was the biggest obstacle you felt you had to face during your path to establish EDI? How did you overcome it?

T: The main hindrance I would say is just the administrative details of orchestrating EDI as I was doing it on the side as a service while working at Boeing. The first class was in 1994. Eleven participants registered. It was advertised by word of mouth through the JACC. It was originally for Japanese Americans but we are expanding it to all people of color as we all have the same issues.

V: It was and is 2-fold for me. One of our biggest challenges, which continues to some extent, was convincing people that this was not just another leadership program. There are hundreds of different leadership programs offered to business professionals in our area. What makes EDI different, is that our programs are culturally tailored specifically for Asians and Hispanics. The other challenge we continue to face is one that almost every non-profit faces, and that is, finding and keeping volunteers actively and meaningfully engaged and involved. Just like they say, “It takes a village.”

What would you like to see happen with EDI in the future?

T: I would like to see EDI become a preeminent leadership organization in the future. I would like to see it create connections to top leaders, celebrate achievement in the community, and help all people of color reach leadership positions.

V: Ditto! And in my wildest of dreams, I would love to see EDI do the work that it does so well, that we begin to have a global impact. I would also like to see us expanding our offerings. So maybe we’d offer our programs in different formats. More than anything, I would love to see us develop programs for other groups of color who are underrepresented.

What do you feel is the biggest change in our participants after they leave the program?

T: I see that graduates have more confidence. They are generally more strategic in developing their careers. They give back more to the community and have stronger networking skills.

V: Honestly, I have witnessed profound changes in participants’ sense of themselves. For many, there is a huge leap in their level of confidence and a greater appreciation for their own potential and self-worth. I get to do the class at the front end of their EDI experience that deals with public speaking skills which can be so revealing in terms of one’s self esteem. So I get a pretty good sense of each participant’s confidence level coming into the program. Then I get to see them at graduation, and for some, the transformation in them can bring me to tears. They find the power within themselves that they’ve had all along and just wasn’t aware of. It becomes the tipping point at which they begin to take more risks and more responsibility to build stronger organizations and healthier, happier communities. It’s not magic. It’s a process that they work hard at throughout their EDI experience.

Alumni on the Move - February 2018

  Chihao Mac   Portland Discovery, Class of 2015

Chihao Mac

Portland Discovery, Class of 2015

I was recently promoted to Senior Engineer within the Advanced Engineering team at Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). In this new role, I will be responsible for the development and implementation of various innovative designs for our trucks. Along with this promotion, I have also recently become the Chair for the Asian Resource Network (ARN), one of the many employee resource groups at DTNA. I will be utilizing the various tools that I have learned in EDI to help lead our core team for this year.

Since graduating from EDI in 2015, there have been many changes in my life both personally and professionally. On the personal side, I got married and bought my first home. On the professional side, I changed groups and have been a lot more active in ARN and in the community. One thing that stuck with me from EDI is a great leader gives back to the community. ARN helped me participate in EDI, so I believe in its cause and enjoy offering support.

There are so many tools you learn from going through EDI that will help you become a better leader and help you advance in your professional career. Here are some of them that have been keys to my success:

  • Communication, both verbally and non-verbally, is a very important skill to have. This will allow you to work effectively with others and understand each other. I have found this to be very important in my personal life as well.
  • Networking is a big deal. As you learn from EDI, it’s not who you know, but who knows you.
  • Self-awareness and the understanding of others' perceptions of me has been an eye-opener. I learned this early on at EDI and always think back to this topic. I try to stay aware of my behaviors and the impact it has on others.

 Lynda Racicot  Portland Discovery, Class of 2017

Lynda Racicot

Portland Discovery, Class of 2017

My new position is a Credit Risk Analyst at Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). I’m responsible for providing financial reviews and credit scores for customers and vendors in order to mitigate market and credit risk for BPA. This is a promotional opportunity, which has allowed me to learn about different aspects of BPA’s business. Previously I had worked in BPA’s Asset Accounting department for six (6) years and became a subject matter expert in that area. Through EDI, I realized that I was living in my comfort zone with my work in accounting and needed to push myself once again into the learning zone with a new role.

My dad ultimately inspired me to pursue a professional career in accounting and compliance. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and served as a special agent for the IRS for 20 years. He truly enjoyed his work and had great stories to tell. My favorite was one about a farmer who he investigated for submitting a fraudulent tax return for his pig, Waterhole Willie, as it was written on his tax forms! While I was working on my accounting degree, my dad and I would talk about everything I was learning and he would share his knowledge of the stock market and economy. Unfortunately, my dad passed away a few years ago, but I know he would’ve been excited to hear that I am now working in an area that we spent so much time talking about.

Goodbye, Vivian!

EDI alum, Jeff Tan, poses with the staff at 2017 Inclusion Fusion.

“Hello, EDI. Vivian speaking.”

Three years. I can’t believe time has flown by so quickly. It feels like yesterday when I walked into the EDI Office for my interview with Al and Marci.

In these past three years, I think I’ve been really lucky. I had not one, but two great bosses who have mentored and supported me. I have met and worked with many amazing people, including staff, Program Chairs, alums, board members, facilitators, and more. Though I’ve never “officially” graduated from EDI’s programs, I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to attend the class sessions, learning alongside and from participants.

I've known how it feels. I’ve struggled with speaking up at meetings. I didn't necessarily enjoy networking or working on team projects. I lacked confidence and second-guessed myself all the time. Though it was an accumulation of many factors, I came to EDI, asking myself, “What am I doing here?” Out of my comfort zone. Terrified of the unknown and averse to change.

Pha Mom, Marci Nakano, Al Sugiyama, Chan Lo, Colleen Yamaguchi, and Vanna Novak celebrated Vivian's college graduation. Vivian graduated from University of Washington, Class of 2016, majoring in Creative Writing & Communication.

Here I was, a junior in college who spent her time creating monthly newsletters for her friends, landing her first job and real work experience. I thought it was unbelievable that I would be paid to create newsletters among other things that I did as a hobby. But looking back, it wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. It didn’t come as a surprise for me or anyone who knows me that I decided to work for a non-profit organization.

Throughout high school and college, I volunteered with many non-profits. I was the lead volunteer for the summer youth program at the Chinese Information Service Center (CISC) for many years. Similar to EDI Program Chairs, I wanted to give back to the program that supported and nurtured me. I also helped coach soccer at my elementary school with Seattle Scores and worked as an office admin at International Community Health Services (ICHS). I was even a participating member of an academic club, which focused on community service.

People always ask me, “Why?” Why non-profit? Why volunteer? The answer is, “Why not?” Of my school friends, I might be the only one active in the community. But for me, there has always been a connection. With CISC, I saw myself in the children who participated in the program. I still remember the volunteers during my time, who made me feel valued and helped me.

If I'm capable and can do it, why not? Why not donate my time as a volunteer? Why not work for a non-profit? I always feel happy knowing, I'm helping someone in need. With EDI, I strongly believe in our mission and know as an organization, we are helping to develop the next generation of multi-cultural leaders like myself.

Three years. It hasn’t been that long. During my time with EDI, I've spent it telling our story and now that I’ve been asked to share my own thoughts, it’s highly uncomfortable. It’s probably cultural and most likely because I don’t enjoy talking about myself, but that’s what EDI is all about – getting out of your comfort zone. All the things I don't like and feel uncomfortable doing, is more reason for me to do it.

Now, I speak up at meetings, sharing my ideas and taking ownership of projects. For the past two years, I've been serving as a committee member for the Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration. After attending many community and social events, I always recognize a face and feel comfortable approaching people.

Change is scary, yet inevitable and necessary. I've enjoyed my comfort zone at EDI, but I believe it's time for new challenges and experiences. It's time for this sprout to grow further. So as I leave EDI, I'm packing up my toolbox. I'm ready to rotate my iceberg and seek new opportunities. I don't know what my next steps are, but I know EDI has paved the way. I'll always be grateful. Thank you, EDI.

This is goodbye, but it won't be the last you'll see of me. I guarantee. EDI is family and I know I'll always be welcomed.

“Hello, EDI. Vivian speaking." 

Marci's Column - January 2018

Save-the-Date_ EDI 25th Anniversary.png

This year, we celebrate 25 years of EDI!  Mark your calendars now for our 25th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, October 6, 2018. It will be an event you won’t want to miss.

You’ll see in this newsletter that 2018 is starting off with lots of changes for EDI. Our first major announcement is that we are moving our office from Bellevue into Seattle. Our lease ends this month and we spent the last year, exploring spaces and evaluating what options would be best for taking EDI in the direction we want. We decided on WeWork in South Lake Union. WeWork is a co-sharing space, located all around the world, and as a member, we become part of a broader network. A focus of ours has always been to build brand awareness and expand our reach of individuals and companies that know about EDI’s programs. Being in an environment that fosters creativity and networking, is something that we are looking forward to. We’d love the chance to show you the new space.  Stop by and say hello, especially all of our South Lake Union alums!!!

Our next announcement is Vivian Huang, our Marketing & Communications Coordinator, is leaving. Vivian was hired in October 2014 when she was a junior at the University of Washington. EDI has grown in so many ways because of her commitment, dedication and task-oriented mindset! Much of the social media posts, newsletter and website have been managed by Vivian and our online presence is stronger because of all that she has contributed. I want to keep her forever, but she is ready to take on a full-time position and share her talents with the rest of the world. Thank you, Vivian! We wish you the best of luck and we maybe we’ll see you as a Leadership Discovery participant in the near future.

With that being said, we are currently looking to fill a part-time Office Coordinator position.  We ask for your help in referring candidates to us.

And finally, thank you to everyone who has helped in our recruitment efforts. All of our programs will run this year.  We are 11 participants away from reaching our goal, so keep the applications coming, we’re so close!!  

We have more announcements to come in the next few months, stay tuned.

Alumni on the Move - January 2018

Nigel Lo recently stepped into the role of CEO at Kin On, a not-for-profit health and services provider for the Asian community.

  Nigel Lo   Discovery, Class of 1997

Nigel Lo

Discovery, Class of 1997

Challenge Yourself & Chase Your Dream

One of the benefits of retirement is to have the leisure of trying something new and to pursue the hobbies and work that I have always wanted to do. During my retirement, I enjoyed working on home improvement projects and playing the game of golf. I also loved teaching at the Renton library and the Chinese Information and Service Center. Believe it or not, I've also learned how to sing karaoke and perform with a live band. I was very happy to partake in all these activities, but in my heart, I always wanted to re-engage with the community in a more significant way. When the opportunity at Kin On was open, I jumped right in.

The CEO of Kin On is responsible for the overall financial and operational performance of the entire organization. Kin On has various business segments including the skilled-nursing facility, in-home care services, and Healthy Living programs. We are also building a new assisted living and adult family home apartments. There is a lot of growth opportunity to integrate these business segments seamlessly in the Kin On Continuum Care model. The challenges that I can foresee in a non-profit organization could be in the establishment and implementation of processes and procedures. A non-profit sometimes does not have the resources to develop and update processes and procedures as quickly and effectively as needed. There are state regulations to be met and complied with. So what is it that an engineer and project manager like me could do to take charge of this elder care enterprise?

Looking back, many leadership skills and philosophies that I learned throughout my career at The Boeing Company have prepared me for this role. The fundamental principles on managing a business regardless if it’s a profit or nonprofit organization are essentially the same. You must think strategically and have a strong vision.

During my preparation for the Kin On interview, I began to realize there are many similarities between working at Boeing and Kin On. Both jobs have profit and loss responsibility and strong management obligation. The leadership attributes requirements are very similar as well. The ability on charting the course, delivering results, setting high expectations, and inspiring the teams is imperative.

My time at EDI was also a rewarding professional development experience. Twenty years ago, my EDI community project was to work with Kin On. In other words, where I am at right now was because of EDI and I am very grateful for that. Through the EDI program, the leadership development learning in regards to understanding the Asian culture, its strength and challenges, and leveraging the experience is simply remarkable. It helped my career at Boeing and now I can fully utilize the leadership development at Kin On. I feel fortunate and honored to have this opportunity to lead the Kin On team.

Over the years, there are mentors and colleagues who have always stood by and supported me. They are great role models and inspiring individuals who I always learning from. I count on their honest feedback and advice. At the personal level, family and friends who understand my goals and aspiration, always encourage me to chase my dreams and offer good advice along the way. I treasure this network of mentors and supporters in my life.

Some final words:

Leadership skills are transferable. I am a living example of it. I encourage the future leaders focus on developing a set of leadership skills and gaining experiences that you can articulate when you progress in your current assignment or at your next big opportunity. These soft skills will differentiate you from another equally capable individual and open doors that you might not have thought of.

Find your passion. I have never thought that it would be possible to go from building airplanes to managing an elderly care enterprise. And here I am! When you can combine leadership skills and passion, you have a very good chance of achieving your dreams.

Think big! Stop worrying about level, rank, title, and money. Start focusing on personal and professional development. Believe in yourself and use your talents to do something that creates an impact in making the world better.

Joining Kin On as the new CEO is a wonderful opportunity to contribute and engage with the community in a meaningful way. My mother, sister, and uncle are all residing in different elderly care facilities. This opportunity cannot be more relevant to me than any other positions in my career. I am very excited to lead the teams and take Kin On to the next level and make a difference where it matters.

  Gerald Giacchi   Discovery, Class of 2016

Gerald Giacchi

Discovery, Class of 2016

My new position is Category Engineering Director for Young Athletes Footwear at Nike, Inc., managing the engineering and manufacturing strategic plan of the category and managing four engineers. I am planning to understand and master the position in the next 2-3 years.

EDI has been the trigger to build self confidence in reaching the new position. I had a chance the few months after my graduation to give a presentation about my learnings to footwear leadership; they were very impressed and felt confident to give me the new position.

The biggest challenge is the transition from managing projects to managing people, you need to develop totally different skills (EQ is the first that come to my mind). I don’t know yet about successes or failure because I am new to the position, but I will wait for the end of fiscal year to get feedback.

Definitively all the EDI training (guest speakers and EDI friends like Jeff Racicot) have inspired me. I also had few Nike mentors who inspired me. My dad is also a huge inspiration; he used to manage a factory.

My advice for others is to gain self-confidence (the most challenging person you have to deal with is…yourself!). Feel that you are ready for the next position and communicate to your managers. My main motivation is now the four engineers I manage; my goals is to have them reach their full potential and achieve their own goals.

Marci's Column - December 2017


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 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.