Ador Yano

Marci's Column - October 2016

Congratulations to the EDI Class of 2016! Thank you for taking us on this incredible eight month leadership journey with you and we can’t wait to celebrate your accomplishments on November 10th & November 17th. We invite everyone to join us at graduation to cheer on the graduates. We have some exciting things planned that you won’t want to miss!!! 

We are now in the midst of filling our classes for 2017. This is going to be a milestone year as we will surpass the 1000 mark of participants that have been through the EDI program. What started as a class of 11 people in 1994, will now be over 1000 alums strong. That is truly amazing. Help us keep this momentum going by enrolling individuals into our 2017 program.  Application deadline is November 30th.

The last few months have been event season here in the Puget Sound area. In September we held our annual Inclusion Fusion fundraiser in which we surpassed our goals and raised over $110,000. We were overwhelmed by all the support and are already looking forward to planning 2017. We had the opportunity to attend many other galas including, Densho, ACRS, El Centro de la Raza, NW Asian Weekly and many more. We are extremely grateful to be part of this larger community and we love running into so many EDI alumni wherever we go! 

In Portland, our Executive Director Emeritus, Alan Sugiyama, put together a happy hour event and it’s great to see our Portland EDI community growing. We had over 25 in attendance including Board members, community and corporate leaders and Portland alums from the 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 classes. You can read more about this event and how Al has been doing in this newsletter. We hope to do more events like this in both Puget Sound and Portland.

See you at graduation! 

Alumni on the Move - April 2016

Gargitt Au   Asian Discovery, Class of 2014

Gargitt Au

Asian Discovery, Class of 2014

Hello, my name is Gar Au, and I graduated from an amazing EDI class in 2014. I currently work at Boeing as one of the lead design engineers for the 787-10 Flight Test 1 and 2 Linings Commodity. 

My friends and I have worked on developing a board game titled Betabotz for the better part of the past two years. We are finally ready to launch our Kickstarter campaign on May 10th, 2016. 

My current entrepreneurial interest and ambition largely stemmed from a very special panel during one of my EDI classes. I was highly inspired and motivated by many of the speakers, including Chee Chew, who at the time held the position of Vice President of Engineering for Google. I stayed in contact and sought career advice from Mr. Chew subsequent to the panels, and one quote in particular deeply impacted and stuck with me: “follow the intersection of what you are great at and what you love”. Following Mr. Chew’s advice, after some self-reflection and long discussions with those who know me best, I decided to pursue tabletop game development. 

We started the game development process by interviewing the gaming community and identifying what others look for in a tabletop game. We anchored the gameplay to the most consistent answer we received: easy to learn, hard to master. Through countless play testing, social events, and development sessions, I led a team of nine friends through the entirety of the gameplay development phase. In addition to the mechanical gameplay aspect, we found an amazing artist at a gaming convention in Columbus last June, and have collaborated with her on the card illustrations since. 

Developing a game and owning my first company (Zagar Games LLC) certainly presents many challenges and bumps in the road. Capital constraint is one of the toughest hurdles to overcome, as we have no prior published games to support our current development. We chose crowdfunding, specifically Kickstarter, both as an avenue to raise the capital and as a way to showcase our game to the public. Similar to capital constraints, as first time developers, product marketing also presented inherent difficulties. From our research within the gaming community, we realized that word of mouth is often the most time consuming, but most effective way to market new products. As such, in collaboration with our friends in different geographic regions, we hosted numerous Betabotz events in gaming stores and conventions across the country to put our product on the map. Though we have received amazing feedback from nearly everyone who played our game, we still need to reach additional potential backers and supporters to ensure that we reach our Kickstarter goal and ultimately use the funds to complete gaming production.

If you could, it would be of great help to spread the word about the game on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Our Kickstarter will launch on May 10th and run through June 22nd. Please help introduce our game to your friends and family who love board games, or just want to try something new and interactive.  Crowd funding is still a bit unfamiliar and even a bit uncomfortable to me, but every backer is valued and needed to help us achieve our dream of owning and developing our own game. If you would like and are interested to learn more, I would gladly come and demonstrate the game for you as well.  The following link directs to a preview of our current Kickstarter page!

Finally, I would like to thank EDI for such an amazing experience and for helping me find my passion.  Regardless of whether our venture succeeds, I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had and appreciate all the support I’ve received from EDI. 


Elaine Kitamura   Discovery, Class of 1996

Elaine Kitamura

Discovery, Class of 1996

I was fortunate to select positions throughout my career that highlighted my communications degree from the University of Washington. I started working at KOMO TV/Radio immediately after college. Then I continued my media career at KJR Radio and lastly, I worked at Clear Channel Outdoor.  In each role, I gained strength in techniques and developed my self-esteem every level. I was extremely shy so I had to find ways where I could comfortably find myself breaking down this negative barrier.  I knew that this was not a great leadership skill. So, I decided to work on networking. I loved being with people and found strength in networking where I was confident in interacting with others.

After my extensive years in the media/communications field, I have decided to move into the healthcare field.  I am currently the Regional Director for Multicultural Initiatives at the American Heart Association. I work with organizations with a goal to improve cardiovascular health of all Americans and decrease deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20% by 2020. 

My duties will include working with high risk communities by focusing in the areas of hypertension, nutrition, obesity and physical activity. In addition, I will work on health equity strategies that focus on development, advocacy and marketing/communications opportunities. My role will include serving as internal consultant to the region/territory on all diversity-related initiatives. The emphasis will be on diverse communities.  

Throughout my career, I had high expectations in my performance, which led to the development of strong ethics and leadership skills that came along the way. However, I had failures along the way and they helped me realize how I can make or do things better. 

In my earlier years, I was fortunate to meet a wonderful mentor that portrayed the charisma in great leadership.  He knew how to communicate and network with people.  I would watch him meet people in a room, and he was great in displaying leadership skills that I wanted to adapt to my personality.  He allowed people to show or work on their leadership skills. That person was EDI’s founder – Ted Yamamura.  I joined the former NAAAP (previously known as Asian Management Business Association). Ted helped me to grow and develop my leadership skills, and always made me feel like I could be a leader in anything I did.  When he started the EDI program in 1994, I volunteered my time with him in developing the program that has cultivated so many emerging diverse leaders since then.

Ted always surrounded himself with wonderful leaders on his team. In this respect, I also made sure that I surrounded myself with people who I appreciated and admired. Ted taught me to not hesitate to ask for help or ask for referral.  

When I went through the EDI program in 1996, I was very fortunate to have many people who helped/mentored/inspired me along the way.  Even now,  I am always inspired by my alum family.  I looked up to my EDI alums that includes many friends:  Char Grinolds, Vanna Novak, Mae Numata, Marci Nakano, Tommy Leong, Marie Chow, Darryl Hue, Dom Amor and Ador Yano. In addition, I had my wonderful family and boyfriend who always supported me in both my professional and personal life.

The most inspiring person to me is my young mentee, Julie Pham, who I decided to mentor many years ago.  She has since become a graduate of EDI in 2010. Julie wanted advice on how to succeed and network with community leaders.  I helped, guided, and inspired her along the way, but I think I was inspired by her.  I watched as she worked hard on whatever she wanted to accomplish.  However, I was the lucky one since as the mentee, she really helped her mentor.  When I needed help to start a LinkedIn profile, she did not hesitate to help me. When I sought assistance on finding my next career path, she was sending me referrals and providing inspiration to me.  As a mentor, this is the proudest moment because I am thankful that I was able to inspire and help her to succeed in whatever ways I could.  Julie was there when I needed guidance and social media assistance.  To this date, we are still both helping each other professionally and personally.

My advice for others is to ALWAYS think positive and surround yourself with good friends who can help inspire, mentor or help you when times are difficult.  Remember that it is a two way street – you need to return the favor. 

Also, network, network… and work on networking early than later.  When I made my career switch to the non-profit sector, my networking techniques really helped me to find my position. I asked for help among my colleges so I could discover my next passion, which is now at the American Heart Association.

It's also important to find or discover a non-profit organization where you can be passionate about.  The EDI program gives you an opportunity to work with a non-profit organization for your team project.  I find that volunteering at non-profits will often strengthen your potential leadership skills.

I am always motivated when I can mentor inspiring fellow Asian Pacific Islanders.  I want to share what I've learned with people who need help developing their leadership skills!

Marci's Column - October 2015

This past Friday I attended the NW Asian Weekly’s Visionary Award dinner which celebrated the achievements of the many “dreamers” that are out there. Those who are not afraid to dream big, turn their ideas into a vision and then make it a reality. We are so proud of EDI Alum, Lorraine Yu, for being honored with one of the Visionary awards this year!!

This got me thinking about how EDI began and that it took so many “dreamers” to push forward the notion that a program like EDI was needed.  Thank you to our co-founders, Ted and Vanna, and the many others who believed in EDI and helped to make sure that it kept going strong!!  Because of your tenacity, courage and inspiration, we continue to grow and are now over 800 alumni strong.

Our 2015 program year is coming to an end and it has been an incredible journey for all of our 71 graduates.  It has been a rewarding experience to learn from them, watch them in action and see them grow over the past eight months.  We’ll celebrate all of their accomplishments at our Graduation Celebrations in November.  Please join us and help to cheer them on.

As we get ready for our 2016 programs, I’d like to thank everyone who supported our annual fundraising event, Inclusion Fusion, in September.  As our only fundraiser of the year, this is an important event as the proceeds raised help to cover at least 30% of the costs it takes to run our programs.  Your support enables us to continue to offer our programs in 2016 and beyond. 

I look forward to seeing everyone at graduation!

Marci's Column - June 2015

AboveOn May 18th, over 40 people attended the Portland Meet & Greet in welcoming Marci Nakano as EDI’s new Executive Director.

I’m now into my 4th month as EDI’s Executive Director (time is flying fast!) and there is one word/topic that is at the forefront of every conversation and that is….

ALUMNI!  Did you know that with this year’s class we now have close to 900 EDI alums?  It’s truly amazing to know that there are 900 of us out there in companies and communities that all share this common thread of participating in the EDI program.  

The greatest pleasure in working for EDI is connecting with and hearing from the alums.  I want to give a shout out to all of the alumni that have been sharing with us your stories and to say please keep the stories coming.  We can feel the momentum growing with each newsletter.  In fact last month after the newsletter went out, we got an overwhelming response of alums submitting their stories to us.  We love that! 

Recently, Marci attended an alumni dinner.

Back: Sandy Hedington (EDI Board Member), Marie Chow, Joe Darza, Char Grinolds (EDI Co-Chair), Darryl Hue, and Ador Yano.

Front: Marci Nakano (EDI Executive Director), Elaine Kitamura, and Vanna Novak (EDI Board Member/Co-Founder)

As you’ll see in this month’s newsletter, we are hosting an “Alumni Open House” at our EDI office in Bellevue.  There’s no agenda or program, just a means to open our doors to all of you and to see & hear from you.  We’ll have food, prizes and you can be the first to sign our “EDI wall”.  If you don’t know what that is – you’ll just have to come and find out.

In the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to have coffee, lunch, dinners with alums and I’m so incredibly excited about all the things I’ve been hearing.   Want to meet up to share ideas, provide feedback, or just catch up?  Please email me and let’s get together!