Students receive career mentoring through networking trek

Leslie Olson welcomes students to her office
Leslie Olson welcomes students to her office

On November 22, sixteen UW Bothell students caught a glimpse of their future. Leslie Olson, managing partner of Olson & Olson, PLLC and Chair of the IAS Advisory Board, greeted them on the 41st floor of Two Union Square in downtown Seattle. From there she led them to a conference room overlooking Puget Sound, where they found their places around a large conference table. Waiting to meet them were six colleagues of Olson, industry leaders gathered for the purpose of sharing with the students their own inspiring stories of humble beginnings and zigzag journeys to both reach their lofty career goals and make a difference in the world.

Students joined the trek for a variety of reasons, but all shared the common goal of connecting with accomplished professionals to learn from  their career navigations. The panelists -- Lauri Conner, Assistant Head of School at Seattle Academy; Roberto (Bobby) Figueroa, CEO of Gradient.io;  Jessie Harris, Managing Partner at Williams Kastner; Gary Horsfall, Photographer and M&A Advisory at Crowe; Corrinne Martin, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft; and Tadashi Shiga, Executive Director for Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, Principal of Evergreen Certified, and IAS Advisory Board member – offered much more than lessons in success.  They spoke genuinely about the challenges they’ve faced and importance of having passion in one’s work.

Bobby Figueroa’s own experience motivated him to participate. “I remember when I graduated from college and wished I had the benefit of other people, who had gone before me, to help guide my efforts through their perspectives. When I was invited to be a panelist, I had no hesitation in joining as I believe the way to change things is to start by doing them yourself.” Among his words of wisdom, Figueroa urged students to “be your biggest fan, all of the time.”

Kiana Reeves, a senior in Global Studies, was impacted by the experience. She said, “The panel shared touching moments and advice with us that you don’t always receive. I could really tell they cared about the students in that room, including myself.” On what resonated with her, she said, “Each panel member talked to us about believing in ourselves. How can I expect a future employer to believe in me, when I don’t first? Applying for jobs is stressful and you get discouraged, but this opportunity taught me that it’s ok to take a minute of defeat and be upset about a turn away, but take that ‘no’ and grow from it.” Reeves also keyed in on Lauri Connor’s advice to align with genuine people. “People who care about you will always have a seat for you at their table.”

When Olson envisioned the trek, she felt it was crucial that the students come to her Seattle high-rise office to sit at the table and know they belong there. She wants all students to know that if they can envision their dream, there are those who will meet them to help them make that dream a reality. That intention was not lost on Reeves, who felt welcomed and valued. “I just want to thank the panel for taking the time to share and speak with us,” she said. “It truly felt like they wanted us there. The words they spoke really lit a fire under me to pursue what I know I can do.”


Who were the panelists?

Lauri Conner, Ph.D. is a Cave Canem fellow whose poems have appeared in Calyx, Seattle Review, and other journals and anthologies. She holds a PhD and MFA from the University of Washington and has taught at Cornish College of the Arts, Antioch University, and Seattle Central College. She currently teaches Creative Writing at Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences where she is the Assistant Head of School.  

Roberto (Bobby) Figueroa is Founder and CEO of Gradient.io, an Intelligent Insights Platform for Amazon. Bobby has over 20 years of experience building technology for digital marketing and e-commerce platforms at places like Amazon, Google, Microsoft & Yahoo! Before founding Gradient, Bobby led Amazon’s Global Advertising Ops team, helping to build from a few hundred million to billions in advertising revenue. Bobby holds a BS in Electronics and Telecom from Tec of Monterrey and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Jessie L. Harris is Managing Director of Williams Kastner and a Member in the firm’s Seattle office. He is a trial lawyer, who concentrates his practice on civil litigation related to employment law, catastrophic and personal injury, school law, and mediations. He has an AV Preeminent rating in Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, and J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law. His media coverage includes “A 21st Century Approach to Diversity,” The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, Feb 2009.

Gary L. Horsfall is a seasoned management executive with an MBA and more than 30-years' experience leading complex IT, manufacturing and supply chain organizations in domestic and international markets. He is also a photographer embracing a theme of “unlocking what’s in plain sight.”

Corrinne Martin, CISSP, CISA, CRISC is a Senior Program Manager whose career spans twenty plus years in technology. Her focus has always been on Operations. She managed Security Incident Response Teams at Charles Schwab in San Francisco and Amazon.com in Seattle. Corrinne currently works at Microsoft as a Support Operations Program Manager. She holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University.  

Tadashi Shiga has served as a trusted advisor to developers, third-party brokers, architects, contractors and other industry experts for over three decades. He is the owner of Evergreen Certified – a leading consultancy and certifying agency for sustainable construction practices – and Ekovate, which specializes in cost-effective carbon reducing technologies for developers and builders. Shiga also serves as Executive Director to Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty’s Land Division, where he leads a team of brokers aimed at expanding the firm’s new development portfolio and introducing boutique project lines that promote affordability and sustainability. Tadashi Shiga is a third generation Seattleite with a family legacy of fostering community.