Victor Mizumori (Class of 1995) delivers the keynote speech at the EDI Annual Graduation Ceremony and 20th Anniversary Celebration • Photo by James Tabafunda
Victor Mizumori (Class of 1995) delivers the keynote speech at the EDI Annual Graduation Ceremony and 20th Anniversary Celebration • Photo by James Tabafunda

Seventy-nine people of Asian and Hispanic descent graduated from the Executive Development Institute (EDI) in November. They’re moving on with their careers, but staying close to people who have become much more than just their classmates and trainers.

For 20 years, EDI has been helping multicultural leaders reach higher positions of influence across the public and private sectors. EDI partners with more than 50 Northwest corporations to provide businesses relevant leadership programs to Asians and Hispanic people.

The Annual Graduation Ceremony and 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Hilton Bellevue on November 14 celebrated the end of EDI’s Leadership Discovery program and Leadership Navigation program. The Leadership Discovery program is aimed at building culturally diverse leaders over a period of eight months. The Leadership Navigation program, now in its fifth year, is for developing minority middle- and senior-level managers.

“As the year progressed, the EDI gathering soon became a family gathering, the EDI family, where we came together and shared our personal and professional experiences in life,” said Srini Pendikatla, a 2013 graduate and a Puget Sound Energy design engineer. Pendikatla was one of the evening’s class speakers.

Pendikatla joined EDI to develop his leadership skills but discovered how important it was to grow and forge bonds with his peers.

“I’ve learned more about myself as an Asian American and what it means to be a leader, a leader in business, a leader in the community, and a leader in life,” Pendikatla said. “I’ve also gained my EDI family to support me on the journey into the future as I pursue my dreams.”

Based in Bellevue, EDI held its graduation just one week after 19 other individuals graduated at the Embassy Suites Portland (Oregon), making the Class of 2013 the largest EDI class in the organization’s 20-year history. A total of over 700 graduates provide what EDI describes as “culturally diverse leadership essential to organizations competing in the global marketplace.”

Mistress-of-ceremonies Carmelita Kimball (EDI Class of 2008) and master-of-ceremonies Roy Slack (EDI Class of 2010) welcomed the 280 people who attended the occasion.

The late Ted Yamamura, who passed away three months ago, and Vanna Novak, president of Speak to Persuade, founded EDI in 1994 to develop Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders and help promote them. Under the direction of the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce, EDI was originally formed to address the underrepresentation of Japanese Americans “in corporate America’s key leadership positions.”

Pendikatla told the audience: “Vanna [Novak] considers each and every one of us as a member of her own personal family, and that family continues to grow.”

Charlene Grinolds, alumna of the EDI class of 1996 and co-chair of EDI’s board of directors, introduced Ted Yamamura’s wife Lilly Yamamura and their sons, Brandon and Peter, to the audience. She then introduced Al Sugiyama, who became the organization’s executive director last January.

“We were very fortunate to find Al [Sugiyama] during our community-wide search,” Grinolds said.

Sugiyama spoke about a similarity between the class of 2013 and the characters in the 1939 classic movie The Wizard of Oz.

“Some of them came in, thinking they didn’t have that leadership ability,” Sugiyama said. “What is so nice is that they had that specialness of finding out that they were bright, they were smart, and they were talented. And that is just what we wanted them to do.”

Sugiyama also asked the graduates to remember to give back to their respective communities.

Victor Mizumori, alumnus of the EDI class of 1995, is a senior vice president at Washington Federal. He delivered the keynote speech on specific qualities he gained from his EDI training. It was after his first weekend in the program that he said he developed the “confidence to meet folks, speak up, (and) ask questions.”

“You have met individuals that you never knew before, but now, you have a brand new network of folks,” Mizumori told the graduates. “And what I ask is that you continue those networks. Even today, I meet with some of my [fellow] graduates and, actually, graduates from multiple classes. We meet on a regular basis.”

Pendikatla already follows that advice, meeting with his classmates once every month.

“During the course of the year, one of my colleagues unexpectedly lost her job,” Pendikatla said. “My EDI family came together, not only to provide her support, but also to offer their own professional networks to aid in her job search. And I’m happy to say that as of just a few weeks ago, she is once again gainfully employed.”

For additional information about the Executive Development Institute, visit

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