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AI and Leadership: Embracing the Digital Shift

Summary Keywords

ability, ai, business, company, create, email, gpt, human, implement, leaders, leadership, learn, listeners, people, person, sanitize, teach, team, tools, training

Speakers

Paul Hylenski, Narrator, Melissa Aarskaug

Show Notes

Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, where today we’re exploring the intersection of leadership and cutting-edge technologies by diving deep into the realm of artificial intelligence and its impact on leadership practices. Our guest, Paul Hylenski, a seasoned operations leader in the aerospace industry and an AI enthusiast, shared his insights on integrating AI into leadership, overcoming challenges, and shaping the future of business management.

Topics included:

  • Exploring AI Integration in Leadership Practices: Understanding the nuanced process of integrating artificial intelligence seamlessly into leadership practices, unlocking its potential to streamline administrative tasks, enhance decision-making, and foster more human-centric leadership approaches.
  • Overcoming Resistance and Challenges: How to navigate the multifaceted landscape of resistance and challenges encountered when implementing AI in business environments, ranging from misconceptions about AI’s role to concerns regarding job displacement and the need for extensive education and exposure to AI tools to cultivate an AI-ready team.
  • The Future Landscape of Leadership with AI: We discussed the transformative possibilities of AI in reshaping the future of leadership dynamics, where AI serves as a powerful tool to augment rather than replace human leaders, enabling them to allocate more time and focus to interpersonal connections, strategic initiatives, and employee development.
  • Ethical Considerations and Risk Mitigation: What about the ethical complexities and inherent risks associated with AI integration in business operations? These includes concerns related to data privacy, bias in AI algorithms, and the imperative to establish robust safeguards and regulatory frameworks to mitigate potential harms.
  • Importance of Continuous Learning and Adaptation: We also spoke about the critical importance of continuous learning and adaptation for leaders in navigating the ever-evolving landscape of technological innovation, fostering a culture of curiosity, experimentation, and proactive engagement with AI-driven advancements to drive organizational growth and resilience.

It’s clear that the integration of AI into leadership practices isn’t just a trend: it’s a necessity for staying competitive in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape. Paul shed light on the opportunities and challenges of leveraging AI to augment human leadership, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning, ethical considerations, and creating AI-ready teams. The future of leadership lies in embracing innovation and leading with agility.

Thank you for joining us on the Executive Connect Podcast, where powerful stories shape meaningful connections!

If you have any questions about today’s show or have a topic you’d like us to cover, reach out to me at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com.

Please subscribe so you can catch all our future episodes.

About today’s guest:

Paul G. Hylenski Jr. is an operations leader in the aerospace industry and a respected figure in the business world. He is also widely known as an AI leader due to his ability to teach and harness the power of AI for business operations. He is passionate about transforming leadership to make it more human-centric and improving leaders so that they can improve the lives of those around them.

​Paul is the author of four business books and a dynamic speaker, known for the ability to inspire and motivate audiences. He is a previous TEDx Speaker and has a thriving LinkedIn newsletter The AI Leader where he teaches leaders how to harness the power of AI in bite size videos.

​In December 2023 he founded an AI Academy called Quantum Leap AI Academy. Additionally, he is the host of the podcast The Leadership Alchemist which dives into the science and psychology behind leadership and teams.

www.linkedin.com/in/paul-hylenski

About me:

I’m an energetic executive with 15+ years of experience steering companies to new heights of growth and scale. An engineer at heart (I started my career as an engineering manager on one of the world’s largest concrete bridges), I’ve become a trusted leader and business builder in the technology and cybersecurity space.

www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-aarskaug

Transcript

Narrator 00:08
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, a show for the new generation of leaders. Join Melissa Aarskaug as she speaks to a wide variety of guests that bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth. While no one has all the answers, by building a community of open minded and engaged leaders, we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.

Melissa Aarskaug 00:38
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast. I’m excited to have Paul Hylenski here with us today to talk about AI. Paul is an operations leader in the aerospace industry. And he is also known as an AI leader due to his ability to teach and harness the power of AI for business operations. He’s passionate about leadership, the author of four books, and a two time TEDx speaker. Welcome, Paul.

Paul Hylenski 01:10
Hey, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:14
We’re excited to have you and I love these two. These are my two top subjects to talk about these days AI and leadership. So from your perspective, can you share your journey of integrating AI into leadership practices?

Paul Hylenski 01:31
Absolutely. So I’ve been really focused on trying to change culture in leadership and try to make leadership more human. Now at first glance, AI and human leadership. They don’t really match, but there’s an undertone there. So as I kept going through and trying to transform leadership to actually make it more human, one of the things that I realize is why do leaders not really spend time with their teams? And the answer is the administrative minutia that we have to do every day. I mean, we’re doing reports and statuses and strategy and all these things. But could we possibly have AI do? And that led me into this journey of how do I implement AI to take care of the administrative jobs and the administrative burden of leadership so that we, as leaders could spend more time with our people, which is where our time needs to be.

Melissa Aarskaug 02:32
And how does one do that? How does one leverage these AI tools to streamline their day and help with all these tasks that you were mentioning?

Paul Hylenski 02:43
So it’s not going to be easy, let me preface that, when you first bring up, hey, I’m going to put AI into our environment, you will get a myriad of resistance and a myriad of responses. They may call you a robot, they may call you, the AI leader, right? That people don’t understand the power of AI, especially in business. Now, many business environments fear AI, because of the negative things that are happening in the news. But AI and just implementing simple AI tools, has the ability to increase your productivity from anywhere from 20 to 40%. So the first thing you have to do is creating an AI ready team. That’s actually a team that’s agile enough to try AI. So first thing there is education. Most people don’t know the first thing about AI, if you tell them ChatGPT there’s a fair amount of people that have never even opened up the site. And ChatGPT is actually one of the best tools for a business or a leader. And in ChatGPT, you can do from everything from writing emails, to policies to procedures to asking for help in decisions. And this gives us the ability to literally have another expert in the room with us, as we try as a leader to change our environments and change our culture and really change our leadership. So we have to develop an AI ready team, which is all about training. And then we have to give them exposure and show them how to use it. Because if you just tell somebody, Hey, go on to ChatGPT and play around. They don’t know the basics of actually how to implement using AI into business. And I bring up ChatGPT only because it’s the mere simplest tool that you can use. But now there are so many platforms for businesses to use. IBM Watson is a large one If you want to create a PowerPoint in less than three minutes, gamma.app exists, there’s just endless amounts of opportunity for us to actually use AI. To minimize the amount of administrative burden we have.

Melissa Aarskaug 05:16
Well said, I love it, I ready for 40% of my administrative data disappear. I’m so ready for these days. And I love that you mentioned 40%. Because I think a lot of times we forget how many layers of administrative tasks we do, like you mentioned, in our normal day to day and going from task to task, it affects our focus as well, you know, people can pivot one or two tasks a day, but when you’re leading big teams of people and big projects, and you come from the aerospace industry, which is tons of projects, tons of tasks. So I love that you mentioned the 40%. From your perspective, how have some leaders maybe struggled with implementing AI in their organizations?

Paul Hylenski 06:06
I think what I’ve seen, and even in our own implementation, you know, throughout the aerospace industry, is this large resistance on doing something new. So because AI isn’t fully understand by or understood by the majority of people in leadership, we resist it. Right. And that’s human nature. I mean, I often tell the story, when I was prepping my team about the seatbelt, when the seatbelt first came out, people resisted it, people said it would make them worse drivers, it would, you know, it was demeaning towards them, because, you know, I’m a great driver, I don’t need a seatbelt. While we’re seeing the same resistance at particularly from leaders on AI, you know, it’s going to make me less human, it’s going to take jobs away. All of these different resistant statements, really hurt teams, when they’re trying to implement AI. And, you know, proprietary data and the fine line between what’s you know, what is, you know, exposable on the internet, you always want to keep your data and your proprietary data safe. So, you know, the ability to actually sanitize your data to use AI so that, you know, none of your proprietary data could be exposed out in the free world is another huge thing that business leaders today are grappling with. And there’s so many options now that, you know, help us to sanitize the data. And there’s even platforms arising that are ISO certified and, and meant for proprietary data. So even the free market is starting to adjust and say, Hey, this is a reason why we’re not getting implementation. So let’s create something to implement.

Melissa Aarskaug 08:01
Yeah, I loved I love that you mentioned ISO certified. From a cybersecurity standpoint, I think, you know, working in that field, I hear a lot of people ask a lot of times, is it safe? Should we use it? Should we let people use it? And I think just like you mentioned, it’s like any other tool or the seat belts or anything new, we need to put controls in place, and policies in place to allow these tools because from my perspective, I don’t think they’re going away, I think it’s going to be something that is going to be the new norm. At just like I believe the pandemic has brought upon remote employees, and we’re seeing them migrate back to the office with some resistance, but they’re, they’re still people that are working remotely in this space. So I think it’s here to stay. So. So looking ahead, what do you envision the future of AI, you know, from a leadership perspective, and its impact on the work dynamics.

Paul Hylenski 09:07
I mean, where I’m trying to honestly push us and part of the reason why I’m training on it, and I’ve implemented it in the aerospace, is because I believe that AI will not replace us as humans, but augment us as humans. And I believe as a leader if I didn’t have to do all of the administrative paperwork. And, you know, I could set up AI and allow it to actually do some of the things that are precluding me from actually talking to my team and spending time with my team. I could change my own leadership, and that’s what I’ve really seen with implementing it. You know, it’s giving me the extra time to go spend time with the people that matter the most in my company, and that’s the employees. And I think that is the true you know, evolution of leadership. And, you know, I wrote a book called The Evolution of Leadership. And the whole point of the book was, that is how leadership is going to evolve, when we will be able to use technology to do the things that aren’t really value added, right. And I say value added, because sometimes our administrative paperwork and our administrative duties are value added to the business, but they’re not value added to our team. And that is where leaders need to spend time because truly human leadership and truly servant leadership focuses around the person, not the tasks of leadership. So I really think that’s the future of using AI, where it is implemented in the very fabric of leadership, where reports are done and processes and standard processes are all created using AI. So that, you know, a person doesn’t have to spend three, three hours or eight hours creating these things. We can do them in 10 minutes, and then go spend the rest of the time training our teams on these things, right. And when we have hard decisions to make, we can literally use AI to help us see the entire landscape. Because as leaders, that’s one of the things that we as humans lack, right, we have blind spots, and we rely on our teams to help us with the blind spots. So if we can have our teams helping us and now a digital AI helping us with our blind spots, I truly believe it’s going to reshape the total landscape of leadership.

Melissa Aarskaug 11:46
Yeah, well said. I absolutely agree. I think the AI tools, you’re able to review and analyze a large amount of data that in a very quick, like you mentioned, three minutes to put a PowerPoint together. I know, as a person that’s put together hundreds of PowerPoints, it’s taken me hours and hours of time to put a PowerPoint together. And like you said, taking back those hours and applying it to other areas, whether it be strategy or with the people or training, I think it’s you make some fantastic points. And I think that like you mentioned earlier, there’s there’s a lot of press about, you know, we’re going to be taken over by the robots, and you know, everybody’s job’s going to disappear. But I absolutely agree with you, I think it’s going to give people more insight to be better leaders, better managers, better businesses, when it’s properly used. And remember, the tool needs people to input the information to get the output. And I think a lot of times, they’re still humans putting the information in and asking the right questions, to get the information from the tools. And so I think it’s a lot of education, would you say just teaching people not to be scared from AI? And how to use it?

Paul Hylenski 13:06
Yep, absolutely. I mean, and that’s, that is the biggest thing that, you know, I think all of us are trying to do in the leadership space now, especially around AI is just to educate people of the benefits to educate people of the risks. I mean, we need to know that there are some innate risks with, you know, AI and, and as with anything in the world, right, if some people can use it for harm, they will, that is human nature, there’s a certain subset of people that will always turn every invention or technology, you know, into a negative thing. But there are far more positive, you know, aspects to AI that we really have to embrace as leaders. And we, you know, hopefully we can regulate and put safeguards against the negative parts, but we really have to try to embrace it. And if you’re not willing to change, you normally die in business, right? The the people who are willing to change and adapt constantly to the environment, are the companies and leaders that succeed. So I think we just have to embrace this together as an entire leadership culture and, and really try to drive it and normalize it with our teams.

Melissa Aarskaug 14:25
Yeah, absolutely. And I think of it kind of like when I go and download a new app on my iPhone, and I’ve never heard of it. Someone said, you should try this app on that app. It gives you ratings, how many people rated it, whether it was good or bad. And I think it’s the same thing with some of these AI tools or using other people’s GPT. GPT is that they’re creating there’s, you know, people give reviews on some of these tools. They give feedback. So it gives the user or the person attempting to use these tools, you know, information on whether it’s something you want to download or doesn’t have any reviews. And maybe you’re more cautious. So similar to the apps that we’re using now, I think there is, you know, we should be cautious still on what we’re putting into these tools. And, you know, you know, I think it would be common sense that you wouldn’t want to put your name and your socials and your addresses and all your PII data in it. But I have heard stories from colleagues of mine that are in the hotel industry, where they will copy and paste the person’s information in ChatGPT and help me write an apology to Sue Smith at 123 Main Street about, you know, her stay day and so I think we have to use some common sense with these tools, as well as view, you know, the feedback that they’ve gotten and how we need to use them. Right. So like Grammarly, for example. You know, a lot of times when I’m writing, I need help making sure I’m punctuating correctly or using things correctly. So I plug my articles and things into tools to make sure it’s written correctly. And I’m not, you know, you know, I don’t have run on sentences, or it makes sense what I’m trying to say. And so I think we all should be using these to come some capacity now, for efficiency purposes, and to make our day easier, like you mentioned.

Paul Hylenski 16:26
And if I could just for one second, you brought up a fantastic point about, you know, the hotel, you know, example, right, so I’m writing an email, and this is where people can sanitize the data that they put in, right, instead of putting the person’s name and address, you can put Sue Smith and a fake address into it. And then you know, craft an email, an apology email, because of a late checkout or something, right, and it will write the email. And then you can simply change the name and the address. And you know, when you’re generating the real email, but that 15 to 20 minutes that you would have taken generating that email is all gone now. Right, and it might take you 30 seconds to just copy and paste the the real data in, you know, into the actual email. So there’s endless opportunities to actually sanitize data and, you know, still use it. So businesses, you know, don’t have to be afraid to use it.

Melissa Aarskaug 17:27
Yeah, well said, and I haven’t tried this yet, Paul, but it’s on my list to try using AI for professional headshots. So I’ve always used photographers for professional headshots. But if you think about the process of taking a headshot, you got to get ready, you got to drive to the location, you got to take the pictures, you got to drive back, you got to review the headshot, that whole process can be anywhere from two to five hours, let’s say, on average, and with some of these new AI tools, it’s uploading a picture and it’s minutes to get these things done. So that is still on my personal to do list to get an AI picture of myself.

Paul Hylenski 18:07
There are some amazing tools too, like Canva. So if you can use Canva, you can literally take your headshot picture, and they have a magic edit feature. So you can change the color of your suit or or you know, clothing. And literally in 30 seconds, you have a different and entirely different color scheme that you’re wearing, just simply by you know, brushing over top of your picture. So these tools that are coming out now, you know, like you said, and I love that you added the headshot thing, because it’s something that people wouldn’t know, you can take selfies of yourself, and literally put them in this software, and it’ll show you in a library in a fancy suit. And all of a sudden you have you know, marketing so for companies and even for building your own brand, it’s so simple now.

Melissa Aarskaug 19:06
Yeah, and that’s a that’s a good point. So typically, you know, people that are starting off and building a business, hiring a marketing agency and hiring, you know, an attorney company or financial company some of these tools, you can ask basic questions and get your business ready to go developing one pagers and PowerPoints and, you know, now you’re armed with a lot of tools to start your business from the ground up without having to spend large sums of money and not that you know, not that people in marketing and branding aren’t fabulous because I’ve used them my whole career but when you’re trying to start a business, it’s a low cost of entry into some of these businesses when you’re using tools that are either free like chat GPT and, and others that are out there.

Paul Hylenski 19:59
You hit it on the head. And the amount of learning that this has given us we can learn things at an exponential rate now, a personal thing. I didn’t ever know what a SAAS was a software as a service, I didn’t know how to start one. I didn’t know how, what anything about it, I had ChatGPT actually teach me about creating a SAAS. And then I knew there was a market for creating an AI Academy. So I founded an AI Academy, and I learned everything I needed to know from AI. And then I was able to actually, you know, hire people to, to contract the coursework out and, and do all this stuff. But it taught me everything I needed to know about starting it, about running it about marketing it. And it was just fantastic. Because it took me a Saturday afternoon to learn all of that, and it would have never been possible before.

Melissa Aarskaug 21:02
Yup. And I think that’s, that’s the message we’re trying to send here with the listeners is, you know, I have a degree in civil engineering and I spent four years getting a degree in civil engineering now, could I, you know, learn about structural steel design from ChatGPT, possibly some of it, I can read books faster, I could do things that, you know, I spent, you know, 40 years and a lot of time getting these degrees. So I think, you know, no matter what it is you want to learn or do or what your passions are in your life, you can, you can, like you mentioned, take a Saturday, learn something you know nothing about, and tailor it to what you need to know, because a lot of training gives you everything, and you might know 50% have a training. Now with some of these AI tools, you can focus in on the areas that you don’t understand and get answers in a very quick manner. So I think it’s I’m so excited and so passionate about AI and our world. And I think it’s going to do great things for all industries.

Paul Hylenski 22:08
It’s reshaping to how we how we actually teach our teams. So something that most people don’t know you can do. The new generation that’s in the workforce responds very well to gamification of work. So you can use ChatGPT, and actually create a prompt to say, teach me excel and create it into a game where I actually have to achieve levels. And as I achieve levels that will give me different designations, right, like the Excel wizard, or the Excel master or whatever. And it literally will create a game where you can send that prompt to your team, and then create a leaderboard based on their levels. And instantly, you’re literally teaching with AI being the game show host. And these things are engaging people in different ways than we ever were able to do. You know, I’m so excited about that ability, even in its own. And I’ve seen huge success, where if you gamify the workplace, by utilizing AI, people learn at such an exponential rate, it becomes fun, it creates collaboration in the work environment. And it’s just these little simple tools that most people don’t even know exist.

Melissa Aarskaug 23:32
Yep, absolutely. I think of another example, recently, you know, I had to call my insurance company. And if you’ve ever called your insurance, it’s a long process on the phone on hold, transfer this division, transfer that division. And so I decided I was going to use their chat bot, I needed a very simple form. So I had been on hold for 45 minutes to different divisions all over. And I just happened to go back on their website and say, Hey, can you point me into this form, it took me the Chatbot two seconds to give me the the form that I needed. And I had been on hold for 45 minutes. So and I am working in AI I should have known to do that first but I think to get information we need quicker whether it’s you know, a form to open another banking account or whoever you’re calling it’s it’s other you know, I would also suggests looking at the website you’re visiting like your bank, they have a lot of these chat features to get you what you need. If you have a quick question versus sitting on hold trying to get to a person that understands what you’re asking. So I think I love how how much more efficient it is with businesses that I work with weekly.

Paul Hylenski 24:52
Yep, that’s a fantastic point. And that’s, you know, a lot of people are looking at things like that now and saying, Oh, well, we won’t need the humans. But the beauty part of that is if you can go on and find all of these little things that were wasting the human’s times on. Now, imagine that person that would have helped you right? As you were waiting in that queue. Now, when you have a real problem, like maybe an accident happens or you need to help with a claim or something else, right? That really requires customer relations and customer interaction. That person has more time and freedom to go help the real people that need help, you know, on things that AI won’t be able to solve, right? So it’s not going to replace us, it’s going to augment us and give us the ability to actually be maybe proactive instead of reactive.

Melissa Aarskaug 25:45
Yeah, well said, that was exactly what I was trying to say. You said it so eloquently. Um, I think the other thing I wanted to jump back into your book, The Evolution of Leadership, and talk a little bit more about the intersection of humans and AI, and maybe you can share a little bit, you know, like a couple of top insights from that book, that would prompt our listeners to go read it.

Paul Hylenski 26:12
That’s awesome. Well, I’m excited that I have to start with the entire undertone of the book is that leadership is changing at such a rapid pace. But AI will not replace the leader, it will augment the leader, and it will allow us to become a more human leader, rather than just this robot that most people think you become when you start using AI. So one of the things that I really talk in the book is the ethics of AI in business, because the book is focused on how do we put it in any type of business, right? How do we integrate it? So as I talked about already, we have to train our teams, we have to build an AI ready team? And then we have to understand part of that is the ethics behind it. What material can we release? What material can’t we release? What should we be worried about with bias in the answers that we’re getting? And I think that’s so critical, then the risks that come with it, right, there was a, an actual article that a company in Hong Kong had an employee who transferred $25 million to a foreign entity. And it was because they had a deep fake video that even included the CFO of the company. So as you’re preparing your teams to, you know, enter into this, there has to be checks and balances, there has to be known risks. And training is a huge part of this. You know, we’ve set up yearly trainings, monthly trainings, when we institute a new type of AI technology, or we’re going to use it for a certain thing will actually train everybody on. And that’s one of the things that’s really critical is understanding the risk level of what you’re doing. So you look at a tool like chat GPT, there might not be the largest risk level except for sanitizing data, right? You don’t want to put any proprietary. But when you’re using a software like IBM Watson, that’s forecasting your entire demand for your supply chain, there’s a large risk there if you get something wrong, or if something goes badly in that system. So it’s setting up the checks and balances, depending on the risk level of the system you’re putting in play.

Melissa Aarskaug 28:43
Yeah, absolutely. I love that similar to the cybersecurity elearning tools, right, that are teaching you to catch phishing emails not to click on your you know, the latest patch for Microsoft or whatever I like I love that you mentioned you got to train it’s constant training and teaching, and enabling your people to use it and feel safe using it and understand how to use it as the company sees fit through policies and procedures. So in closing, Paul, I want to just kind of closing I know you’ve given so many good nuggets of information and takeaways that I know our listeners were appreciate any closing thoughts or anything, maybe top three things you want to leave with the listeners before we finish here?

Paul Hylenski 29:36
Well, I think the first is, you know, just be agile, right? So we as leaders focus a lot on the people in our environments, right? But we don’t focus on the environment that we’re creating. So I think as a leader, we have to adjust and change the environment that we’re in, so that we can be be profitable, but also be human leaders. You know, and you brought up about training, part of my passion behind founding an AI Academy. It was because I believed people didn’t have enough resources to them to go train. You know, some people didn’t want to be in classrooms where maybe they just didn’t understand, because it’s a new topic. So, learn, learn, learn, right? We are in this innovative, you know, skyrocket right now. Things are happening daily, new platforms are coming out daily. Just focus on learning, learn one, then teach one to your team learn another than teach one to your team. It’s so critical that we as leaders show that growth comes and starts with us. If our teams think that we’re not willing to grow, or we’re not willing to adapt, then they’re not going to adapt, we have to realize that we have to lead by example on this. Right?

Melissa Aarskaug 31:08
Yeah, absolutely. I absolutely agree. Thank you so much for being here. Paul. I love everything you shared. Now, how can our listeners connect with you keep in touch with you learn about your TED talks, and your books and all the great things that you are doing?

Paul Hylenski 31:26
Well, and I would love if everyone came and visited me and follow me on LinkedIn, I have a fantastic network on LinkedIn, I post almost daily leadership and AI, you know, just to try how do we do the intersection better? I have an Instagram channel at Paul Hylenski. And then, you know, I really would entice the listeners, if you’re, if you’re listening to this and you’re saying, I don’t know where to start. I don’t know where to start learning AI, I don’t know the slightest thing about it. I would, you know, entice them to go to Quantum Leap AI Academy, which was, you know, founded by me and my team. And it’s all about how to get smart and boost your skills with AI. And were recognized by LinkedIn. So you can post your certificates and all the certifications you get, and really boost your profile and your resume. And I think that as we keep going, building your profile and your resume to include AI will prep you for the future. Like I said, it shows growth and it shows adaptation. And that’s what companies want now.

Melissa Aarskaug 32:38
Yep, absolutely. Thank you so much for being here today. Paul on the Executive Connect Podcast. Have a great day.

Paul Hylenski 32:47
Thank you so much. Have a great day.

Narrator 32:51
You’ve been listening to the Executive Connect Podcast. If you have questions or ideas on how to bring leadership to the next level. Email us at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com Don’t forget to subscribe so you can catch every new episode. Until next time.

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Bryan Hancock Headshot — Founder of Integrity Development

Bryan Hancock

Founder of Integrity Development

Integrity Development

Executive Biography

Bryan Hancock has been managing real estate investments—and overseeing development and construction projects—for nearly two decades. He has deep roots in Austin, Texas, and comprehensive knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in this fast-growing market.

Through his development and syndication companies, which he built from the ground up, Bryan has developed 50+ urban infill projects and managed $25M in real estate sales with approximately 35% return on investment at the project level. He also co-founded two private equity funds.

Bryan brings in-depth industry awareness, sharp business acumen, and extensive in-the-trenches experience to his work as co-founder and principal of Integrity Development. He partners with a team of professionals and industry experts (many have been involved in Austin real estate for 40+ years) to identify value-added and opportunistic investments that protect capital and reduce risk for lenders—while delivering outsized returns for investors.

Earlier, Bryan founded and directed Inner 10 Development, a residential development firm focused on Austin’s top zip codes and surrounding communities, and H2i, LLC, a real estate syndication company. He steered these organizations for 17+ years, overseeing the acquisition, buildout, and sale of single-family and multifamily properties, including a 350-unit urban infill joint-venture project.

Bryan was successful in delivering strong returns while minimizing risk for bankers and investors by taking a targeted, data-driven approach to opportunity analysis, due diligence, and strategic decision-making. He zeroed in on potential risks and developed proactive mitigation strategies to protect and grow investments.

Concurrent with his work at Inner 10 Development and H2i, Bryan established Gentry Lending Group, a private-equity debt fund. He also served on the board of Bullseye Capital Real Property Opportunity Fund. These experiences provided Bryan with a grasp of both investor and banker viewpoints, including an understanding of risk and liability on the lending side. This aspect of his background continues to shape his real estate decisions to this day.

There is another unique aspect to Bryan’s career—a corporate history that differentiates him from other investors and developers in this field. Bryan has built organizations, controlled multimillion-dollar projects, and supported billion-dollar programs for some of the world’s largest companies: Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Dell, CACI, and Charles Schwab. He managed teams and vendors in the US, China, France, and India, and often balanced up to 10 projects at a time. He was trusted with a Top Secret Security Clearance from the United States government.

A business-savvy leader and lifelong learner, Bryan holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Texas Christian University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bryan founded the Wealth Investment Network, co-founded RealStarter (a crowdfunding platform for real estate investors), and was a member of the Urban Land Institute and Central Texas Angel Network. He has been a guest speaker at 20+ national events, including conferences and meetups through the Information Management Network (IMN), SXSW, Rice University, Bay Area Real Estate Summit, Soho Loft Conference, Texas Entrepreneur Network, and many others.

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Melissa Aarskaug Headshot — Founder of Executive Connect

Melissa Aarskaug

Founder of Executive Connect

Senior Executive, Board Member & Advisor

Vice President of Business Development
Bulletproof, a GLI company

Executive Biography

Melissa Aarskaug is a global executive and business leader at the forefront of the technology/cybersecurity industry. She shapes strategy, leads teams, and partners with Fortune 500 companies and other enterprise clients to protect their organizations from risk and noncompliance—while improving operations and accelerating growth.

For 15+ years, Melissa has taken the reins to propel organizations to the next level of performance. By combining business acumen and revenue optimization with the sharp mind of an engineer, she uncovers and seizes opportunities for profitable growth in the US and around the world.

Melissa has established a distinguished career with Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), where she is a key member of the senior executive team. Throughout her tenure, she has assembled teams, developed new markets, and influenced P&L impact, ultimately positioning GLI as the #1 provider of testing, certification, and cybersecurity services to the global gaming and lottery space.

After achieving this feat—a big win for GLI and game-changer for clients worldwide—Melissa steered both GLI and Bulletproof (acquired by GLI in 2016) into untapped verticals: finance, government, healthcare, higher education, hospitality, and retail. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable growth driver who cultivates partnerships and rallies teams, she led GLI/Bulletproof to dominate these markets as well.

Before joining GLI, Melissa shaped and executed strategy as Vice President of Business Operations for LV Investments, where she built and optimized a portfolio of commercial and industrial properties. Earlier, in a very different role as Project Engineering Manager for Fisher Industries, she directed and mobilized a team of 550 employees and contractors to develop the world’s largest concrete bridge. Previously, she headed a major engineering project for Pacific Mechanical Corporation.

A curious, lifelong learner, Melissa holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering with minors including Business and Mathematics. She is a Karrass Master Negotiator and C4 Executive Coach who actively pursues ongoing education and inspiration as a member of Chief, Austin Technology Council, Austin Women in Technology, and Toastmasters International. In addition to her own personal and professional development, Melissa is committed to helping other people thrive both inside and outside of the workplace. She actively mentors and empowers team members at GLI/Bulletproof, and is an executive leader and coach for Global Gaming Women. She founded Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Austin and is a current or past board member of many organizations, including Emerging Leaders in Gaming, Ballet Austin, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, the Society of Women Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has been a Junior League volunteer in Austin, Las Vegas, and Reno for 15+ years.

Throughout her career, Melissa has inspired individuals, teams, and entire organizations to think differently about innovation, cybersecurity, leadership, and business development. She was honored as one of the “Emerging Leaders in Gaming: 40 Under 40” and she continues to share her ideas and expertise through publications, podcasts, webinars, and presentations.

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This is the Executive Connect

A show for the new generation of leaders. Join us as we discover unconventional leadership strategies not traditionally associated with executive roles. Our guests include upper-level C-Suite executives charting new ways to grow their organizations, successful entrepreneurs changing the way the world does business, and experts and thought leaders from fields outside of Corporate America that can bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth – all while connecting on a human level. No one has all the answers – but by building a community of open-minded and engaged leaders we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.