Ascend is a national business development organization aimed at developing the coming generation of Asian leaders in business. Nationally it has 11 professional chapters, 16 student chapters, and over 4,500 members. In Seattle, its chapter formed in September 2009 with 41 members and they had more than tripled their numbers within the last 8 months. In a brief interview, chapter President Alice Matsuoka and Marketing Chair Diana Nguyen enthusiastically explained what Ascend has to offer.
Even considering the membership growth, Matsuoka is humble about Ascend’s Seattle Chapter. In terms of projects and events, she said "the chapter is still in its infancy phase” and that they will be patient for more to come. Even so, there had been events on a nearly monthly basis in 2010, including a communication workshop and a leadership workshop.
Their events are primarily professional seminars and business networking sessions, with emphasis on these events being meaningful and beneficial to its members. To that end, the themes of Ascend’s events are based on member demands, and the speakers are invited based on accomplishment and credibility. Matsuoka values Ascend’s members as customers, and tailors the group’s activities according to feedbacks.
With the 41 original chapter members being friends of the board and its reliance on word-of-the-mouth marketing, about 80% of its current members have at least 5 years of experience in the workforce. In the future, Ascend Seattle will aim to have 40% students, and it may be sooner rather than later with its student chapter in the works between Seattle University and University of Washington. With its open-minded and learning friendly environment, many of its more experienced members are finding plenty to learn about – for example, generation differences in culture and communication style.
Ascend also foster mentor-mentee relationships. With today’s quick technological advances and diverse cultures, there’s always something to learn from another person. Although mentoring is not required, Matsuoka described Ascend’s members as "genuine, caring, and open-minded.” They make sure everyone feel welcomed while encouraging newer members to reach out and get to know everyone in this casual yet supportive atmosphere.
The next opportunity to check out Ascend will be on June 17th – called "Fine Art of Networking and Wine Tasting.” The event is quite self-explanatory by its title, which will involve a wine expert to provide wine tasting and pairing tips as well as opportunities to practice networking skills.
In the closing comments, Matsuoka and Nguyen expressed their "satisfaction comes from feeling that [they] are helping someone else to achieve,” with no other reward or compensation. For more information about Ascend, please visitwww.ascendleadership.org/Seattle/index.htmand contact their board of directors.
Q & A with Ascend Seattle Chapter President – Alice Matsuoka
What is Ascend to me?
Ascend represents many things to me. It represents hope, guidance, opportunities and much more. It gives hopes because there are other professionals who are there to share their learning with you and there is a plan to grow if you choose to. There are others who are willing and ready to lend a helping hand and to mentor someone so that they can success without having to repeat their mistakes. There are countless possibilities for career success, friendship and other discoveries.
What is Ascend’s mission?
Ascend’s vision and strategies are to -
-Mentor across multiple generations.
-Incubate the next generation of leaders.
-Recruit experienced leaders to both learn and serve as mentors.
-Create a safe forum to share, discuss and resolve career barriers and workplace challenges unique to our culture.
Our Mission is to become the premier professional organization dedicated to enabling its members, business partners and the community to leverage the leadership and global business potential of Pan-Asians.
We are committed to help grow and develop future leaders without sacrificing their Culture.
-Ascend will focus on inspiring people to achieve their aspirations to be a leader – both professionally and personally without compromising their culture.
-Ascend will provide a collective voice for the community, a community of understanding and a community to hold on to our values and culture while excelling in our professional fields.
-Ascend will call upon those who have succeeded in reaching their goals to consider giving back to the society and especially to Ascend Membership. Successful leaders can help by reflecting on how they succeeded and impart their wisdom, knowledge, and experience by mentoring others while giving back to the Asian community.
How will Ascend differentiate itself with other professional organizations in the nation?
Ascend will differentiate itself from other professional affinity groups by listening to our members and to understand the members’ concerns and issues, to continue to provide the premier professional development programs and to be flexible and adaptive in addressing the members’ needs and concerns.
Who are Ascend’s ideal members?
Anyone who aspires to becomes a leader and is committed to continual learning and growth.
Why is Ascend so important to business professionals?
Ascend is important to business professionals because we live in a very fast paced environment and technology is rapidly changing in our diverse world. Ascend’s development program is not industry specific and the knowledge is transferrable to any professional role.
How can Ascend help a local business?
Local businesses can benefit from supporting Ascend as our program will result in more qualified professionals, strong leaders, as well as students who are ready to enter the workforce with a well informed developed skill set.
How will Ascend help students who have already developed career goals?
Ascend provides the opportunity where students can form a mentor / mentee relationship that will provide guidance when necessary. Students will also benefit from our development programs as it offers a wide range of diverse topics. They will also be exposed to senior executives from various corporations so that they may learn from their experiences.
How will Ascend help students who are still searching for their directions at school?
Networking and personal mentorship are critical when students are still finding their ways at school. It is important for them to be partnered with a mentor; someone who can share their own trial and trepidations and their career tracks so that the students can be exposed to different professionals.
What are some upcoming Ascend events?
On June 17 we have an event titled "The Fine Art of Networking and Wine Tasting”
On July 16 we have an event titled "Executive Presence”
On September 10 we will be holding our First Annual Conference along with a Career Expos
We will also be holding an Entrepreneur session in November (Date TBD)
How will the events help students and business professionals?
The June event provides an overview of meal etiquette for folks who may not be comfortable over meetings that take place over lunch or dinner.
The July event will consists of a panel of senior executives who will be sharing their insights with participants.
The Annual Conference will consist of speakers in addressing topics requested by members. The career expos allow members who wish to connect with employers to do so.
The events will always have a networking component so that it allows the members to learn about each other.
Where do you see Ascend (Seattle Chapter) 5 years from now?
In five years, Ascend will have multiple development program tracks. Our sponsor partners will include a wide range of industries and our membership base will be close to 500 members.
What are some of the strengths of Ascend?
The board members all share the same passion and vision for the chapter. They are energetic, dedicated, creative and strong contributors.
What are some of the weaknesses of Ascend?
We have so much that we want to accomplish and we have limited resources (people, time and funds).
With the current economy, a lot of recent graduates are not able to find jobs.
a) How would you suggest them to approach Ascend?
It is easier say than done but I would encourage the new graduate to maintain a positive outlook and continue his / her learning and development both in their field of study as well as their soft skills. I would encourage him / her to become a member where he / she would be able to connect with others professionals and fellow students. This will allow him / her to receive mentoring from the experienced members and to learn from students who have successfully secured employment. Ascend offers the necessary networking opportunities, support, development and guidance.
b) And what would their membership status be since they aren't exactly professionals nor are they students?
Since they have not yet entered the professional arena their membership status would be "Student Members.” Professional members are defined as anyone who is employed full time.