When we weren’t working in London, I, of course, spent every moment exploring the city. Stopped to say hi to Ben while on my way to the magnificent Westminster Abbey! 

As I write this, I sit in an airplane as I begin the journey home from Rotterdam. But my adventure didn’t start in the Netherlands. No, it started in London, where I spent one week with my teammates helping carry out my first of Finovate events—or “FinovateEurope” as we call it.

A month at my new job has completely flown before my eyes as I’ve navigated my way through the ins and outs of the Global Events and Marketing Assistant position. You know you are enjoying a job when you aren’t looking up at the clock counting down the minutes before you can leave the office and go back to the isolation of your own room. Instead, I continuously have to ask myself where the day has gone.

My average day has been as such: Wake up around 8:30. Make breakfast and sit in bed for about an hour as I catch up on emails. Anywhere from around 9:30-11:00am I get out of bed to clean myself up and make the 10-minute drive to the office where I sit in an open room with my Finny teammates chatting whilst working on my daily tasks. If I’m extra lucky, the sunshine fills the sky and I can look out the window to watch sailboats drifting by on Lake Union. Or if I feel like it, work from home, in a cafe or anywhere in the world for that matter.

Finovate—maybe it is implied in the name—operates in the financial tech innovation industry. What started out as solely a research company, expanded into the conference arena once the current CEO joined the team and recognized an opportunity. After growing significantly and making a rather big name for themselves in the fintech industry, Finovate has continued to maintain its casual but on-point approach to event planning.

Each year, Finovate hosts four conferences: FinovateEurope, traditionally in London; FinovateSpring, in Silicon Valley; FinovateFall, in New York; and FinovateAsia. My 4-person team works on the Spring and Asia events, but we all contribute to event days. Which is how I now find myself flying back from Europe after an exciting and equally exhausting 10-day work-and-play in England and Holland. 

Much anticipated news arrived in my email inbox last night! Made it through the preliminary rounds and I’m now on to the in-country review process. The final decision can come as early as February and as late as June. 

May hard work, self-belief and a little sprinkle of luck be on my side. ;)

You never know if you don’t try

Wednesday, January 1st 2014 

Monday (12/30/13) was my last day working in International Admissions at UW Bothell. I started as an intern in spring of this year and have been working as a student worker since. I can’t explain how grateful I am for how accommodating the Division of Enrollment Management staff has been.

In anticipation of my term ending at the close of 2013, I needed to find a job fast. So early December I challenged myself to find a job before I would soon be left unemployed. On top of this, I knew it would be particularly challenging to find a job that would meet all of my criteria. This is what I was looking for:

·         Criteria 1: Flexibility

·         Criteria 2: In line with my future goals 

·         Criteria 3: No cubicle work 

·         Criteria 4: Globally oriented

·         Criteria 5: Located in Seattle

Criteria 1: My biggest concern in finding a job was flexibility. Because of my commitment to the Japanese Queen Scholarship Organization, I needed a job that would accommodate my travels and the events I was expected to frequently attend. 

Criteria 2: I see my direction going in non-profit work. But for any organization to be successful, it needs a sustainable source of income. Fundraising and event planning is vital for that process—with that in mind, I searched for a job that would allow me to organize events on a large scale.

Criteria 3: I’m a people person. I need constant human interaction for my creative juices to flow and the thought of sitting in a cubicle sectioned off from the rest of my colleagues was a bit daunting to me. I wanted a job that would give me enough independence but would also allow me to work in a dynamic team environment.

Criteria 4: With my focus in international business and my bent towards traveling, I was looking for something that would allow me stay connected to the international community—in whatever form that might take. 

Criteria 5: After living in Mill Creek with my mom for the past 15 months, it was time for a change of scene; and that meant leaving suburbia. I wanted to live in Seattle and work in Seattle, and not have to sit through a daily traffic commute.

Okay, so as they say in a “tough job market” you can’t be picky. But you can! And you precisely should be if you are to take life by the handlebars and steer it in a clear direction towards your goal. I’m also a firm believer that by challenging yourself towards a goal that might seem unattainable, you’re able to manifest results that you never thought possible. You never know if you don’t try it.

After cracking down the whip and job hunting for approximately 2 weeks and one intense 3-and-a-half hour red robin round interview held by 11 of their employees later, I’m excited to say that I LANDED A JOB!

And want to know something crazy? It meets each and every one of my criterion.

You are now looking at, or rather reading the text of, a Global Events and Marketing Assistant at The Finovate Group—a financial and banking technology research company that not only pools together innovative research, but organizes conferences around the world. My first day begins tomorrow (1/2/14). 

Monkey-ing around in the gym

What I’ve come to find is that life is a constant battle against your inner lazy. Once you’ve graduated, every day you are faced with a decision between getting on your computer and responding to a job posting that could potentially change your life, and staying put on that couch watching a re-run of Breaking Bad. No deadline to meet, no test to study for, nothing and no one is pushing you to make your next move. Well, except for the occasional nagging parent…

I have to admit, after 17 years of my head in the books (7 of which I also spent in Japanese school), it was time to let my lazy get the better of me. So what have I been up to lately? Developing calluses on the rock climbing wall. I never thought a day would come where I would admittedly be proud of hard little skin formations on my fingers. Climbing has been my outlet, a form of meditation for me. Something to reawaken my passion for life and reinvigorate my sense of adventure. And it has done just that.

So I guess I haven’t been lazy in terms of inactivity, but in terms of job hunting I had made no headway. The thought of even entertaining the idea to fix up my LinkedIn account and hop on Indeed.com was locked away in a safe and buried deep into the depths of my mind. I do believe that it was in part due to my own fear; a fear of investing time and putting myself out there, and then being rejected. Climb up a 65-foot wall and rappel down at 25 mph? Psh, bring it on. Interview in a red robin round? Well that’s a whole other story. I’m sure we can all relate. It’s true when they say that fear is the only thing that stands between You and the You that you want to become. And it was time for me to break down that barrier.

So job hunting has begun. And it has surprisingly come to a close—but that’s for the next post. 

Two years ago to date, I spent two weeks in Indonesia where I had an experience that changed my life. Lost on a motorbike while searching for a waterfall, a boy named Hamzan took interest in my friend and I and invited us to his home where we together shared coffee and a meal of rice and pickled vegetables. He lived in a small wooden hut with a thatched roof, with eight of his family members. They didn’t have much, but he was happy.
Hamzan was a high school student who had big dreams to one day attend business school as I had been at the time. English was his favorite subject—which explained why his English was so good in a town where few spoke the language at all. Although money and institutional barriers may have stood between him and his future, he understood that an education was the vehicle to overcome these hurdles. It took meeting Hamzan for me to realize that unlike him and others in this world, education was provided to me and expected of me.

That’s when I decided that I would one day return to Indonesia to teach English. It can’t hurt that the people and culture are beautiful. Don’t get me started on the beaches…oh, the beaches. In any case, back to the story: I applied to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Program. After an interview with the UW Fulbright review committee and submitting the final version of my application in early October, I now embark on a 6-9 month journey of well, waiting.

Two years ago to date, I spent two weeks in Indonesia where I had an experience that changed my life. Lost on a motorbike while searching for a waterfall, a boy named Hamzan took interest in my friend and I and invited us to his home where we together shared coffee and a meal of rice and pickled vegetables. He lived in a small wooden hut with a thatched roof, with eight of his family members. They didn’t have much, but he was happy.

Hamzan was a high school student who had big dreams to one day attend business school as I had been at the time. English was his favorite subject—which explained why his English was so good in a town where few spoke the language at all. Although money and institutional barriers may have stood between him and his future, he understood that an education was the vehicle to overcome these hurdles. It took meeting Hamzan for me to realize that unlike him and others in this world, education was provided to me and expected of me.

That’s when I decided that I would one day return to Indonesia to teach English. It can’t hurt that the people and culture are beautiful. Don’t get me started on the beaches…oh, the beaches. In any case, back to the story: I applied to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Program. After an interview with the UW Fulbright review committee and submitting the final version of my application in early October, I now embark on a 6-9 month journey of well, waiting.

My sweet ride through the Chinatown Parade

For the past 11 months, much of my time has been dedicated to the Japanese Queen Scholarship Organization of Washington (JQSOW).

Let me guess, you’re stuck on the word “queen.” Yes, there is a pageant involved. Yes, the whole crown and sash deal. In some circles, I’m known as Princess Aspasea McKenna. Laugh all you want.

For those of my readers who know me, you know that the pageantry is not what reeled me in to begin with. More than just another coronation event, the JQSOW is a scholarship program dedicated to empowering young Japanese-American women through professional development, cultural appreciation and community involvement.

Returning to Seattle after spending a year in Japan, I was looking for a way to re-connect to my roots. JQSOW presented me with an opportunity to do just that. Until the end of my reign next May, I have the amazing opportunity to act as a goodwill ambassador to the Japanese community here in Seattle, by bridging the gap between Americans and Japanese-Americans.   

So what does that entail exactly? Some of the more memorable experiences have included sitting on stage at the Capitol Building in Olympia alongside Jay Inslee and Toshizo Ido, the governor of Hyogo Prefecture; showing 300 visitors from the Hyogo cultural delegation around Seattle; and sitting on the back of a Mazda Miata—top down—in the Chinatown Parade, waving to hundreds of children as they called out my name. I think at one point I heard someone call “ASPARAGUS!”  

For me, it’s been a strange dichotomy between being a post-grad adult and holding a title that I so closely relate to my childhood dreams. Putting on the crown and sash with full makeup and hair, posing for photos with little girls as they look up at me wide-eyed and awe-struck. At the same time, in this role I have the ability to turn that same moment into an opportunity to inspire youth. Just yesterday, I gave a talk to a group of Seattle Buddhist Church Campfire Girls about our program and encouraged them to find ways to embrace their heritage and get involved on campus.

That is what I think is so rewarding about this program. Sure, as a participant I get to network with business professionals and people in the public eye. But at the same time I am also in a unique position to actively engage with the Japanese community while using the crown as a tool to empower young girls. 

It’s funny that when you tell people you’re going to Colombia, they get this intensely worried look on their face. And then those couple words they manage to utter: “be careful.” Followed by, “Isn’t Medellin run by a drug cartel?” and “Americans are kidnapped every day for ransom!” Take everything you’ve heard about Colombia, and erase it.

But then again, maybe my experience of Medellin was colored by the walls of the plush, downtown flat lifestyle I was fortunate enough to be hosted in. But in reality, although the city is nowhere near the state is was 20 years ago, the wealthy and the poor are still harshly divided, merely linked by a cable car track. Riding the cable above Santo Domingo—the area made famous by the even more famous Pablo Escobar—what struck me was the massive dark grey, rock-like structure that didn’t seem to fit in with its surroundings. Lo and behold, this building was a library donated by Spain as part of a series of urban and social projects dedicated to cleaning up the streets. Because I am no expert and don’t plan on getting into the political and social aspects of Colombia in this post, please read about the city’s transformation from someone who is well-versed in this subject—it’s well worth the read: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/09/medellin-colombia-worlds-most-dangerous-city