Alumni On The Move

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.

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!!!

Alumni On The Move - February 2019

Urmi Kavi

Puget Sound Leadership Discovery, Class of 2008

I started a new leadership role at Puget Sound Energy when my manager at the time recommended EDI’s Leadership Discovery Program. In 2008, I completed the program. It was an amazing journey of several personal discoveries and insights. Reflecting back on all the things I learned, people I met and how that program has helped me is simply amazing. I acquired skills on how to be a good leader, a good presenter, how to create my own brand, build relationships, and most importantly how to distinguish myself from the rest while still being myself.

I volunteered off and on over the years and in 2018, I led the EDI Alumni Ambassador Board as EDI was celebrating its 25th year in operation. As a group of volunteers, we helped with fundraising, created awareness about EDI offerings, recruited new candidates for the programs, and volunteered at Inclusion Fusion (EDI's benefit dinner and auction). While serving as the President on the EDI Alumni Ambassador Board, I had the opportunity of working closely with the EDI Board of Directors.

During my 2018 experience, I learned that in the entire process I had received more in return than what I gave back. Patience is a key skill that I developed while working with an all-volunteer run group. This is an important skill in today’s world of real-time, all of the time 24x7 availability. Another key skill I developed was being considerate of when people are able to deliver things (since we're all working on projects at different times).

For EDI’s milestone 25th year fundraising campaign I asked alums for contributions and was surprised at the response I personally got back from people thanking me for reminding them about EDI. That was a first for me. In the process, I learned how to ask for money. Initially, I was shy when it came to asking for money. I thought it would come across pushy or something I didn't want to do because I didn't have experience in fundraising.

I also learned how to play well in the sandbox. It was a team effort; no one person could do it all. Understanding each other was critical. We were a virtual team of volunteers and we worked well to accommodate each other's ideas and thoughts. I met new people, networked, and much more.

At the volunteer celebration, EDI co-founder Vanna Novak asked me if I would consider joining the EDI Board of Directors in 2019. I instantly said yes! It is an awesome opportunity.

Why join the EDI Board of Directors? I am a believer in life long continuous learning and by joining the EDI Board I plan to keep improving and growing my skills and promoting EDI as an organization I care for. I am looking forward to a great experience this year by working on the EDI board. It is a win-win opportunity. If anyone is looking for opportunities to grow and improve their talents and skills they will benefit from volunteering on EDI’s Board. We are always recruiting and fundraising so please reach out for more information.

- Urmi Kavi

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In 2019, EDI also welcomed Barney Herrera, Kumi Baruffi, & Gina Walker to the EDI Board of Directors. For a full list of our Board members please visit Our Team page.

Alumni On The Move - August 2018

Jiangping Gu (bottom right) with fellow EDI alums Andrew Chang, Kyoo Chang Oh 

Portland Discovery, Class of 2013

I was recently promoted to the Director of Engineering for the Large Parts Campus (LPC) of PCC Structurals, Inc. LPC is the world leader in large, complex structural investment castings for aircraft engines, land-based turbines, military armament and other applications. 

I am responsible for the development of engineering, production engineering, process control, tooling and fixture engineering for both Steel and Titanium plants. I am leading a world-class engineering team of about 100 employees dedicated to developing, improving and controlling the investment casting processes of stainless steel, nickel-based superalloys, and titanium alloys. 

I moved to the US in 1995 working for the University of Iowa as a post-doctoral research associate after I graduated from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. I started my career at PCC as a modeling engineer in 1999. I transitioned to the management role in 2011 after I completed my MBA from Cornell University. I was promoted as the Steel Plant Engineering Manager in 2013 while I was attending EDI. I was promoted again in 2016 as the New Product Introduction (NPI) Engineering Manager for both Steel and Ti plants.

To me, EDI essentially is the expanded class of a typical MBA course "Leading and Managing Organizations". EDI is more insightful and yet more practical as all the instructors have tremendous executive experiences. My self-awareness enhanced through EDI classes and the skills I learned from EDI such as presentation, conflict management, and branding have benefitted me tremendously since then and will continue to help my future growth. I am so grateful!


Yanira Ramirez

Puget Sound Discovery, Class of 2015

Since graduating from EDI, I’ve worked on my confidence, being able to speak up and getting out of my comfort zone. This has helped me take on challenging projects.  I became the cost recovery focal at Boeing for the 767, Tanker and 737 programs. I’ve pushed myself to explore and learn more about what interests me, what my strengths are and where I have areas to grow. 

After analyzing this, I decided to return back to school and obtain a master’s degree. At the beginning of the year, I started my first year of graduate school at Arizona State University to pursue a Masters in Global Management. It has been a year of change with new adventures that will help me grow personally and professionally.

Shortly after starting grad school, I was offered an opportunity with Microsoft. After 3.5 years with Boeing as a Financial Analyst, in May I joined the Real Estate and Facilities Team (RE&F) as an Integrated Facilities Management Analyst at Microsoft.  In this role, I will be working with our Tier 1 suppliers in Latin America, US, and Canada. I’ll have the ability to use my bilingual skills as well as a long-time goal of working with international accounts. I’ll also be collaborating with counterparts in Asia, Europe, and India. 

I’m very excited about this new challenge and opportunity to learn a new business. I am collaborating with our partners to strategize in order to deliver the best experience to our customers. 

In this new role, I also get the opportunity to travel. I attended a year-end strategy meeting in Mexico City where we met with our partners to plan for the new year. I also had the opportunity to meet my international colleagues in Paris while sharing best practices between the regions.  Most recently I attended a working meeting in Medellin, Colombia. 

It has been a very busy year, but also a year of growth. I’m excited to see what the next few years will bring! 

Alumni On The Move - July 2018

Diana Wong (in the blue cap) with her Dragon Boat team

Puget Sound Discovery, Class of 2015

Since my journey of the Leadership Discovery Program, a lot of knowledge I learned through EDI has stuck with me. Two things that have been of focus for me are taking risks and embracing change. Growing up, I always heard about climbing the “corporate ladder” and being in management. After EDI, I’ve come to understand that it is about climbing my own ladder and being a leader for both myself and others. Leadership no longer means a title or a level of management to me. It’s about being able to make a difference, whether small or big. I have been fortunate enough to have many great people share their wisdom and experience with me, which has helped contribute to who I am. It is other’s influence, inspiration, and motivation that drive me and I want to be able to do the same for others. Being a more timid individual, EDI’s “Nothing Risked, Nothing Gained” session still resonates with me as it’s about taking risks. Along with taking risks, comes change, which I have learned to embrace. A leader has to embrace change, be willing to take risks, and learn from failures as a progression. 

After being in the same Finance function for most of my career, I finally found the courage to take a leap and make a change. I recently decided to pursue a different Finance position in Supply Chain, which is also a new division experience for me. It has completely taken me out of my comfort zone having to learn about the Supply Chain aspect. To feel like I'm starting over is a great challenge, but one that is refreshing as I learn to embrace change. As I continue to learn, I also hope that I can share and contribute knowledge I’ve gained from my previous teams.

Outside of work, I have also taken another challenge by taking a coaching role on a Dragon Boat community team. Dragon Boat is a sport promoting teamwork, communication, and health. This sport brings people of all backgrounds to come and learn to work together as one. It truly brings diversity together and teaches us how to become one team through synchronicity, focus, and teamwork. To be able to inspire, motivate, and encourage a group to work together is both challenging and rewarding. The coaching experience has not only taken me out of my comfort zone and challenged me, but also shown me where I have failed to my expectations. As I have taken the risk to take on this challenge, I have learned to embrace the failures and am currently reminding myself to use those learnings as development and growth.

I hope to pay it forward, share knowledge, and bring out the best in others. From EDI, within challenge is change, so continue to challenge and change yourself and others. Thank You, EDI!