Julie Pham

Alumni on the Move - January 2016

Amber Waisanen   Asian Discovery, Class of 2010

Amber Waisanen

Asian Discovery, Class of 2010

Amber recently joined Microsoft as a Senior Business Manager, Office RoB, with the Office Marketing Business Operations team.

Looking back over my career to date, I’ve always been in the marketing field, as I’ve enjoyed the creativity and innovation I’m able to bring to the table. I’ve worked in a variety of different industries and have been fortunate enough to continually be exposed to new cultures, experiences and leadership. A few years ago, I found myself working in the healthcare industry. I’ll openly admit this industry wasn’t my favorite, nor was it my passion, but it taught me a great deal about marketing in a heavily regulated industry and gave me a new found appreciation of the industry. As with any organization, there was a period of a tremendous amount of change, not only in leadership within marketing, but the organizational structure, team dynamics, and my role and responsibilities. At this same time, a former EDI colleague reached out to me (thanks, Julie Pham!) to share a consulting opportunity to do marketing...at Microsoft...and in Xbox. I thought to myself, this is the perfect combination: I love marketing, I’ve been wanting to work at a large organization and in the tech space, and I’m a gamer...an Xbox gamer at that. I figured what’s the worst that can happen, I apply, maybe they don’t think I’m the right fit, maybe I’m not what they’re looking for, but I knew I would face a bigger loss never knowing and not trying. Next thing I know, I’m invited in for an interview with the team, meet the hiring manager and then before I know it, I’m working at Microsoft. From there, I worked on two huge launches for the company, Xbox One and Windows 10. I had incredible opportunities to travel the world, participate in awesome industry events such as E3 and PAX, meet some smart and talented people across the company, and really make an impact with the work I was doing. You would think my career couldn’t get any better...but it could and I was anxiously awaiting to see what opportunity would present itself.

Fast forward to today, I started another consulting opportunity at Microsoft back in spring 2016, joining what I didn’t realize would be my full-time team down the road. However, this time, it wasn’t in marketing...it was business operations. Now business operations isn’t totally unfamiliar to me having gone to the UW Business School, however, I’d never been in a role or even on a team that was purely focused on business operations. Let’s be real, business operations isn’t sexy, it’s not fun and no one gets excited about implementing processes and operational infrastructure in to the organization. I was determined to make the most of it though, so I utilized it as a learning opportunity that pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to develop new skills. I learned that our team was the heartbeat of the organization, and we helped every team operate more efficiently and seamlessly as ever. As I continued working with the team, I realized I was in a unique position of learning how business gets done in a large organization such as Microsoft and what could be more valuable to someone who’s looking to become CEO of an organization one day. In addition, I was a part of an amazing team with great leadership in place and knowing that at the end of the day, my work was making a difference. Several months in to my new role, I was approached on considering full-time opportunities within Microsoft and happened to find an opportunity available on our team. I knew this was the opportunity I was waiting for, so I applied for the role, interviewed with the team, played the fun waiting game and well, the rest is history.

Reflecting back over my decision, although it was ultimately me who had to take the first step in showing interest and applying, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a wealth of mentors in my life that have helped me progress to where I am now. Every new journey I’ve embarked up in life, has been because of the tremendous support I have around me. The support comes from people who believe in my abilities to do great things and encourage me to take on challenging roles. These are people I am thankful to call my mentors, squad, A team, friends, and family, and best of all, part of my EDI family!

Here’s my advice to you, the person who is reading this, who may be looking for some words of encouragement, a sliver of hope, a little motivation to get you out of your comfort zone, and just knowing someone supports you.

  • First off, remember you’re never alone. There is always someone in your corner, rooting for you, cheering you on and supporting you every step of the way (hint: your EDI family). The decisions and actions you take, reflect on yourself and impact those around you.
  • Second, never settle. If you find yourself feeling comfortable and stagnant, do something, anything. Challenge yourself to be better than the person you were yesterday. Know that you as a single individual can help contribute to making an impact and influencing change. Keep in mind that change doesn’t always have to be big, sometimes it’s the little things that help you on the right path to lead to bigger opportunities.
  • Third (and the most important), live life intentionally because our time on Earth is shorter than we think. Your only regret in life will be wishing you had done something or thinking you had more time, because the reality is you don’t always get a second chance and time doesn’t last forever. Take advantage of the opportunities that come before you and don’t be afraid to embark in to the unknown, sometimes the most exciting part is discovering something we never knew existed or creating a solution that we didn’t think was possible.

Most importantly, have fun and take risks. Every day will bring a new challenge and a new opportunity to continuously improve and innovate yourself, your team and your organization.

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!