Profiles by M. Susan Wilson
Photography by Brian Francis
When they’re inside the Club, WAC members work out, share stories and enjoy the comforts of their home away from home. For many, the Club is that third place—somewhere they enjoy spending time but that’s neither home nor work. This month, we caught up with four members and asked them to take us outside the Club, to the places they consider themselves “on duty.” We toured their offices, Googled their names and searched through their trash … maybe. What we found was that the career paths of a former Air Force colonel, a global logistics pro, a hoopster turned entrepreneur, and an actuarial leader have one thing in common: hard work.
—Darrick Meneken, Managing Editor
Carol Kijac is on the phone, graciously apologizing for calling a few minutes later than expected.
“I’m working in the Chicago office this week,” she explains. “I had to make my way across the building, and, of course, I got stopped by 30 people.”
No surprise Kijac is known—and liked—around the halls of Expeditors International. The 47-year-old, who serves as the company’s vice president of sales & marketing for the Americas, has been with the firm for 16 years, and her passion for her work is evident.
Expeditors, a global logistics company headquartered in Seattle, does it all, from “moving cargo to customs clearance to distribution services,” Kijac says. “We’re like FedEx but for larger cargo.”
She’s joking, but the metaphor works.
International trade is no small job, especially in these tight economic and security-conscious times. Large manufacturers may need to send parts and products across multiple borders. Complying with each nation’s regulations throughout the manufacturing and distribution process can be complicated and costly.
“Since 9/11, a number of supply-chain security initiatives and programs have been implemented for goods being imported into the United States and many other countries,” Kijac says. “A great deal of data has to be communicated to the countries’ customs authorities prior to importation.”
As Kijac points out, plenty of companies can move cargo internationally. The trick is to do so seamlessly and efficiently.
“We try to look at how materials, money and information move through the customer’s supply chain,” she says. “If there are any gaps or constraints in their internal processes, we want to understand if there’s a tool, service or knowledge we can offer that will support them.”
Staying on top of this task requires a lot of travel. In fact, for years Kijac has spent 90 percent of her time on the move, visiting Expeditors’ offices throughout the Americas, and, occasionally, Europe and Asia.
This year, however, she hopes to curb her travel and expects to spend 10 days each month in Seattle, where she resides just a short walk from Expeditors’ headquarters and the WAC. During those days, you’ll regularly find her at the Club at 5 am, working out with personal trainer Will Hicks.
Kijac loves the WAC’s early opening hours, which allow her to get to her desk in time to sync up with her East Coast contacts. Though she initially joined to work out, she values the sense of community she’s encountered at the Club. A member since last August, Kijac attended last September’s inaugural WAC Link.
“It gave me the opportunity to meet people with very different business backgrounds,” she says. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the relationships I’ve formed [at the WAC]. I’m there early in the morning, and there’s a comfort there. I look forward to seeing the same people every morning.
“It’s a great way to start off the day.”
At 33 years old, Tim Wang, a bespectacled former college basketball player, looks younger than his years. His achievements, however, resemble those of someone a decade older.
Wang is the founder of the T.D. Wang Advertising Group, a fast-growing ad agency in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District that specializes in reaching Asian-American, Hispanic and other multicultural communities.
Following graduation from Pacific Lutheran University in 2000, Wang moved to Seattle, where he landed a job at an internet start-up specializing in online continuing education. Like so many new graduates at that time, he was laid off when the dot-com boom became dot-bomb.
He landed on his feet, though, with a job in Starbucks’ human resources department, followed by a second tech start-up, which he quickly realized was another no-go. Eventually, he sold women’s shoes at Nordstrom to make ends meet—the toughest job he’s ever had, he says.
Around this time, Wang began soul searching. “I said, ‘I need to find something that is meaningful to me,’” he recalls. Eager to dive into Seattle’s cultural diversity, he found the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (BIA) online and emailed. As it turned out, the BIA needed help with local neighborhood business marketing and with promoting its annual tourism festivals.
“I went in for what I thought was an informational interview,” Wang says, “and they offered me a part-time job.”
That was 2002. By 2004, Wang had become the BIA’s executive director. It was then that he started noticing a pattern.
“Lots of outside organizations, including ad agencies, were calling my office to see how to reach the [Asian-American] community,” he recalls.
Wang quickly saw a niche.
“Asian-Americans have high disposable incomes, indicate rapid population growth, and are heavily concentrated in key demographic areas,” Wang says. “They are well-educated, brand-conscious and brand-loyal consumers.” In other words, a market companies are keen to tap.
In 2004, Wang started his agency with a laptop, a printer, a business license and a $50 business checking account.
Two years of 100-hour work weeks followed. But the sacrifice paid off. In 2007, Wang left the BIA to run his firm full time, and he now employs 10 people. In 2010, the agency saw a 325 percent jump in revenue.
“[Tim] has been an essential partner to us,” says David Kinard of Community Health Plan of Washington. Wang’s company has helped the nonprofit health plan establish a multicultural marketing and outreach program, has created partnerships with community-based organizations, and has implemented statewide advertising campaigns.
With his agency on its feet, Wang has recaptured the physical fitness lost during the ramp-up years. Back then, he says, he was in the worst shape of his life. Now, however, you’ll find him at the WAC four to five days a week for weight training and basketball with the Club’s traveling team.
“It’s been an amazing experience here at the WAC, building great relationships with teammates,” he says. He’s also done some business networking at the Club and hopes to do even more.
“I’m very grateful to belong to the WAC,” Wang says. “It’s a good place to be.”
Andrew Naugle has a rare talent: making the health insurance business sound interesting. The 36-year-old easily infuses the subject with enthusiasm and adroitly breaks down the big questions arising from the federal health legislation of 2010.
As a principal at Milliman, a consulting and actuarial firm, Naugle works on the 37th floor of Rainier Tower in downtown Seattle. The company was founded in Seattle in 1947 and boasts more than 50 offices worldwide.
In a spacious office overlooking Elliott Bay and the drowsy light of a winter afternoon, Naugle discusses his job and the serendipitous event that led him to it. “There’s a bright line between one major decision I made as an undergraduate and where I sit today,” he says, recalling his origins in Indiana and move to Seattle in 2000.
“My mother always emphasized the value of working when school was out,” Naugle recalls. After his freshman year, he worked in a grocery store doing third-shift stocking.
“That experience taught me many lessons,” he says. “But I thought, ‘Surely there’s an easier way to get through the summer.’”
After his sophomore year, he took a job as a typist for Humana, a health insurer. A year later, the group offered him a six-month position working on a large military contract. Seeing an opportunity, Naugle struck a deal: He’d work six months as an editor if they’d employ him for another six—giving him a wider view of the industry.
The deal paid off. After graduation, Humana offered him a full-time job.
“I was able to actually know something about insurance as a 22-year-old,” he says of his pivotal choice.
At Milliman since his move to Seattle, Naugle now helps health insurance companies and states comply with the new federal health care law.
“His intelligence and diligence are balanced by his sense of humor and ability to encourage and inspire others,” says colleague Patricia Jones, also a WAC member. “He has a real knack for communicating the ever-changing complexities of health care business concerns in a down-to-earth and understandable manner.”
It’s a job that comes with plenty of variety. As a consultant for a wide range of clients, Naugle works hard to understand the unique situations of each. He drives multiple projects at the same time and strives to make each client feel as if they’re his sole priority.
All that consulting means lots of travel—200,000 miles in 2011 alone. For Naugle, it also means the connections of home are more important than ever. That’s why he joined the WAC the same year he moved to Seattle.
“I wanted to be part of something,” he says. Since joining, Naugle has served on several WAC programming committees and the Program Board. The Club also provides professional benefits.
“We use the WAC for company meetings, take guests to Torchy’s and Hagerty’s for lunch, and direct all of our out-of-town visitors to the Inn at the WAC,” he says.
That the Club is so close to his office is a big draw. But that’s not all.
“The WAC’s physical plant is amazing,” he says. “And the people who work there are top-notch.” People who Naugle helps look after: He currently serves on the Club’s HR & Benefits Committee.
With his energy and expertise, he’s a perfect fit.
Forty-six-year-old Jennifer Cushion is at an interesting stage in her career, a place she describes as “halfway through but starting over again.”
In 2008, after 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, Cushion retired from the military a lieutenant colonel and headed to Seattle to start a new adventure in the private sector. Exiting a life that had sent her around the country and abroad to Japan and Korea, she boldly came to town without a job—but with plenty of expertise.
It wasn’t long before Cushion took a position with Booz Allen Hamilton, a nearly 100-year-old strategy- and technology-consulting firm that provides support to the Department of Defense (DOD), among other clients.
“It was a combination of looking at where in the military I was going and wanting to be successful in the commercial world,” Cushion says of her decision to make the change. “Getting out at my age was better than if I had stayed in and made full colonel. I would have been seven years older. I had a better opportunity to establish myself [in the commercial world] relatively young and get further.”
Today, Cushion helps Department of Homeland Security clients with acquisition and program management. Currently, her team is providing records management and metrics analysis for a new boat being designed for the Coast Guard.
In some ways, Cushion says, her new job is like her old life in the military.
“We have a task, we need to get it done, and we make sure we get it done for the client,” she says. “There’s a sense of teamwork, no matter how much you have to put in. It’s the same thing I saw on active duty. You have a mission; sometimes, somebody needs help in your area, or it may not be yours, but you lend a hand to get it done.”
Of course, as in any business, there are challenges. Meeting the needs of her clients while also building new relationships and business is a big one. To that end Cushion sees the WAC as a valuable aid. In fact, two of her reasons for joining the Club were professional development and networking.
“Getting out of the military, I missed that officers’ club environment,” Cushion says. “On Friday night and Saturday night, you’d let off steam and enjoy the company of people doing what you do. You got some business done. … It was a nice subculture within the Air Force. It was nice to be able to say, ‘Let’s go to the pub and chat about it.’”
At the WAC, Cushion has found a proxy for that officer-club experience. Most recently, she’s attended WAC Link and Jubilee. Though she looks forward to more events, the thing she’s most excited about is paying it all forward.
“I’m looking forward to how I can meld [my background] with the WAC,” she says. With two decades of military experience, she’d love to help others trying to break into the DOD market and to talk to kids interested in the military. “I can tell them what to expect, what not to. It’s a great opportunity.”
Cushion is living proof of that.
— M. Susan Wilson is a freelance writer based in Seattle.