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!!!