Executive Connect Logo
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Learn How to Invest in Yourself Your Business Your Executive Connections

Learn How to Invest in Yourself!

From Olympics to Organizations: The Impact of Storytelling in Business

Summary Keywords

answer, association, connection, doha, experience, harvard business review, interesting, international olympic committee, interview, knowledge, life, listening, organization, people, question, share, stories, storytelling, talk, working

Speakers

Narrator, Christian Napier, Melissa Aarskaug

Show Notes

Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast! In today’s episode, I spoke with Christian Napier, the Knowledge Management Advisor for the International Olympic Committee, who shares insights into the power of storytelling in business.

Christian highlights the often-overlooked stories of behind-the-scenes heroes in major events. He also discusses the impact of stories on changing minds and building connections, drawing from personal experiences.

Our conversation then touches on the evolving landscape of storytelling in organizations, with a focus on harnessing the untapped knowledge of employees at all levels. Christian introduces the concept of “scalably harvesting contextual knowledge” for broader organizational benefit.

We explore practical applications of storytelling, from LinkedIn posts to strategic shifts in hiring practices. Christian also encourages listeners to capture and share their own stories while preserving the narratives of loved ones.

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:

Christian Napier is the Founder and CEO of Rakonto Inc., which provides a Software-as-a-Service online oral history engine designed to help people and organizations request, record, compile and share their most important stories. He is also the Founder and Principal of GPFour Inc., a boutique knowledge management consultancy specializing in helping clients in the major event industry harvest knowledge through storytelling, direct observation data capture and content collection and curation.

Since 2015 Christian has served as a Knowledge Management Advisor to the International Olympic Committee. In that role, Christian has interviewed more than 1,200 people involved in planning and delivering the Olympic and Paralympic Games, from Salt Lake 2002 through Los Angeles 2028, serving as the lead consultant on the International Olympic Committee’s Structured Interview Project, envisioned as a 10-year longitudinal study of the Games. Christian also hosted the Salt Lake 2002 Retrospective podcast, a historical podcast looking back at the Games through interviews with 98 Games organizers.

www.linkedin.com/in/christiannapier

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
Good afternoon, and welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast. Today I have Christian Napier here with me today. Christian, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Christian Napier 00:49
So I reside in Salt Lake City, Utah, in a suburb Sandy, with my wife, Lynn. We’ve been married for 33 years, we have four grown children. So we’re empty nesters. And, you know, life is good in terms of the professional side of things, I’ve been in, I guess, the confluence of technology, learning and major events for more than 20 years, primarily Olympic Games. And so I’m the International Olympic Committee’s knowledge management advisor. I have served in that role since 2015, and in that role, I’ve had a great opportunity to focus on storytelling as a way of sharing knowledge, and have had the great honor to interview more than 1200 people who’ve organized the games on behalf of the International Olympic Committee. And it’s really ignited in me in a passion with a this this passion for storytelling, to build community, and connection, and understanding.

Melissa Aarskaug 02:00
So the passion came from actually working with the US Olympic athletes?

Christian Napier 02:07
Not athletes, it’s the people behind the scenes. And so, you know, the stories of the athletes are fantastic, and that’s what garners a lot of attention, but nobody has the story of the head of transportation, or security, or accommodation, or technology. And, and so you know, capturing those stories and understanding the challenges that they’ve faced has been, it’s been awesome. And you know, capturing that in a way through video through conversation so that future host cities can learn from the experiences of the past host cities, by consuming these stories, whether reading them or watching them on video, seeing what their predecessors did, to overcome challenges. It’s been, it’s been really, really cool. I’ve I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

Melissa Aarskaug 02:59
That’s great! So why do you think that stories are so powerful these days?

Christian Napier 03:07
Stories have the ability to change people’s minds. It happened to me. I remember, in this event space working in Doha, in the Middle East in 2006. At first, my wife was really reticent. I didn’t really want to go. I mean, at the at that time, you know, that the whole Iraq thing was going on, and, and if you look, listen to the news reports, I mean, it seemed like a dangerous place to go, you know, go to the Middle East. The Asian Games were being held in Doha, Qatar in 2006. And I was asked to do some consulting there. And so I went, not ashamed to save primarily for the money. You know, it was it was good money to go over there. But what happened was I you know, here I am an American in this country, and I meet this woman who was a refugee from Baghdad. When the invasion happened, she fled with her children, and settled in Doha, she was working for the Organizing Committee. And one evening, she invited me and some of our co workers over to her home for dinner. And she cooked this amazing meal and we’re sitting around this table and we’re eating this food and, and she starts telling stories about growing up in Baghdad, and her family and this little garden they had and they had pomegranates and they were her favorite food. And as she’s telling me these stories, you know, all the stuff that I considered differences that just melted away, because we were from like different hemispheres and different religions and spoke different languages and cultures are very different and on the opposite sides of an armed conflict. But at that moment, I realized you know, we have a lot more in common than we actually have differences. And, and her story just it just melted me. And since then, you know, I’ve been, I’ve been really intrigued by the power of story to change people’s mind. You know, it’s interesting. I was I saw this article, it was a long time ago, it was in Harvard Business Review. It’s been so long, I had to pull it up again, I couldn’t remember it, but there was authored by a person named Carmine Gallo. And what he did is he analyzed the top 500 TED talks, in terms of viewers to see what’s the content of these talks. And he used the, oh, what is Aristotle’s method and now it’s, it’s, it’s escaping my brain, I should have written this down. But what he discovered was that approximately 10% of the content of these talks, over 500 talks 10% focused on credibility. So it’s really just people telling everybody about their experience, so that people would believe what they had to say and think they were important. 25% was focused on data, you know, figures, statistics, and things like that. But 65% of the content of these talks, the top 500 TED talks are stories. Why is that? Because stories resonate with us, you know, there’s research that’s been done that, that shows how, when you’re engaged in the story, you’re listening to a story, your brain patterns start to change, your chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine and stuff, they all start elevating, and you, you have an increased amount of empathy. And in fact, you know, one study was done, that was also, I also read about it in the Harvard Business Review, showed that when they did MRI scans of people who are telling stories and listening to stories, that their brainwaves start synchronizing. So, you know, story is incredibly powerful. And I experienced that and I imagine that you’ve probably experience that too. Other people that you know, have experienced that when you when you when you listen, or you tell an engaging story, you can see you can feel this connection that you have with other people, whatever you’re saying is resonating with them and vice versa, you know, whatever they’re saying is resonating with you and, and you all come away more edified. And, and so I’ve been really, really intrigued by by this concept of, of storytelling to build as I said before community connection and understanding.

Melissa Aarskaug 07:58
I love that. I watch you mentioned how you around a table and you guys your differences melted you know, woman, man, different countries, different races. I love storytelling because it’s a way to bring people closer together and commonalities connections. You know, talking with people that have kids, we can talk about kids we have that similarity talking about you know, sports, I played sports growing up, you have commonalities and things and it brings you closer to people so you can be completely different religions, completely different countries, completely different races, and because you like pizza, and they like pizza, now you’re friends, right? And you can you can create meaningful relationships quicker when you understand people through storytelling. If you know nothing about you know, brain surgery, or you know, your Wi Fi connection at your home, or how to make your plants green, but you can tell stories with other people that have had better experiences doing those things. It’s like you said it, your wave patterns, seeing and you can learn something from their experiences that can help you in your life. And I know in all the technical fields I’ve been in in my life, I’ve always used storytelling to speak to people that were non technical, technical things and those people may not understand how to build a bridge or how to keep their you know, casinos safe from security breaches, but if I tell stories about what happens if you know the bridge is not structurally safe, or what happens is to similar casinos that I’ve seen a breach recently we this week, we saw MGM their casinos were shut down, right and all of these things were bring us closer together. And I love it. So I know right now, we’re seeing a lot of coaching around tell your story, tell your story tell you tell what’s going on in your life. What are you doing that is a bit different or unique about your approach to storytelling?

Christian Napier 10:23
It’s a great question. I mean, the cats out of the bag, I think to a certain extent, when it comes to storytelling, everybody really understands how important it is to build a company’s brand, how important it is for company culture, how it is from a leadership perspective, to engage with the people that you serve. But what I feel is personally, what I personally feel is missing is getting the stories back from everybody else. So storytelling has really kind of taken a more top down approach where you’ve got someone who is considered, quote, unquote, a thought leader, or an executive, you know, and they are, they are spending time and money to hone their craft to share stories. But I, I have found through my own experience with the International Olympic Committee, that there are fascinating stories, not just intellectually interesting, but but really helpful stories that come from the bottom up, as I mentioned, you know, okay, this is the person that runs accommodation, or the person that runs medical services, or the person that runs food and beverage, or the person that runs spectator services, or the the person that runs language services, they all have interesting stories in that context. And I think every organization, the employees have an incredible wealth of institutional knowledge, and the easiest most natural way for them to share that, is to just talk, because this is how we’ve been doing it for 1000s of years. You know, people just tell stories, this is a natural way of communicating. And, you know, because of because of technological necessity for us to, for us to share knowledge, broadly, you know, it takes time and, you know, we we would write reports, you you do a big project, you have a debrief, you would write these reports, and you would submit these reports. And it takes a long time, I discovered working with the International Olympic Committee that sitting down with someone and having a conversation for an hour, they could share the same volume of content than they would if they spent 30 hours writing. And so my, my approach or the approach that our company Rakonto is taking, is finding ways to scalably harvest this contextual knowledge from the people who are in the back of the house just, you know, cooking in the kitchen, doing their thing is just the, the, the, you know, probably lying to middle managers do interview some executives, but, but giving them a simple way to share knowledge and then to make that knowledge available throughout an organization. So that’s kind of where that’s kind of where our secret sauce lies.

Melissa Aarskaug 13:43
I love that you make me think, you know, a lot of times people jump into careers because something’s happened in their life. Like, maybe they’re a family member was diagnosed with something and they were trying to find solutions on how to heal whatever their ailment was. And they all of a sudden go into the medical field. I’ve seen a lot of people because of stories or situations have have literally pivoted their lives, because of stories they’ve heard or trying to nonprofits that were started because of something. So there is a lot to be said about that. And it’s a total different way of thinking. So, what are some of the impacts you have seen as a result from this type of work for the people that you’re in, you’re interviewing?

Christian Napier 14:33
Well, you know, when it comes to when it comes to impacts, you know, I mentioned this phrase, and I use it all the time that, you know, stories have the power to build community, connection and understanding. It sounds like marketing speak, but I really believe this, right? So I’ve seen that in organizations that I’ve worked with, and you know, some interesting things that, that have come out of this is if you set the table properly, what I mean by that is, is you ask people questions that they want to answer. So they feel interested where they feel like they can add some value, and you make it comfortable for them to answer. So, you know, providing questions ahead of time and, and asking questions. You know, using specific language that doesn’t make people feel defensive, but gives them license to open up. When you do that, all kinds of interesting things happen. So I’ll take an association for an example. So we did some work with an association, and associations as you know, they are very driven to, to retain their existing members and to recruit new ones. Right! So member engagements really important for associations and, and, you know, many people, including myself belong to associations, because of the learning opportunities that it provides, you know, being able to have conversations with peers, etc. So, an association that we were working with had a conference. And at the conference, they thought, Oh, well, you know, this will be fun, we can use Rakonto, to create QR codes, and we can have those QR codes around the venue, and people can scan those, and they can record little videos and send them to us to share their experience. And as it turns out, not very many people do that. I mean, and think about your own experience, I mean, the QR codes all over the place, like what why do you want to scan a QR code? So we had a conversation with the association afterwards. So well, we didn’t get a lot of uptake on that. And fundamentally, I think it’s because we didn’t ask a question that was interesting. So the next one, which was a very small conference, we decided to ask a different question. And that question was, what three pieces of advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter this profession that you are in now? 40 of the attendees, recorded videos and submitted them because they’re like, you know what, I consider myself fairly knowledgeable in this field. I got something to say about that. And the hilarious thing about that was the number one answer that was given was, you should join this association. Wow. So the association ended up getting a ton of testimonials without asking for testimonials, because they just asked questions that people wanted to answer. I got an opinion on that. And, and so you know, that’s just that’s just a simple, that’s a simple anecdote. But it underscores the power of getting other people to share stories with you without asking, hey, fill out this survey, or go to Google and leave a review, because people will do that. And it’s important, and you need to do that. But if you can think about how you’re asking questions and giving them an easy way to do that, oh, I just scan this code. And I just, I just tuck in my phone, and I hit a button and sends it to you, and then that’s it. Easy. And so, you know, that’s, that’s a small that’s a small example of of impact in larger examples of impact, are, you know, one client that we that we worked with, we asked them this question. This was not in a conference, it was not an association, it was a private enterprise. We asked, I think about 75 people, we we conducted these virtual interviews with about 75 people. And their number one advice, or they’re the number one thing that they mentioned, it was absolutely important was to hire experienced people. And this is very interesting, because the organization was not doing that, right? They to save money, on salary. They were like, well, we were gonna hire more junior people. But what happened was that the more junior people were making a lot of mistakes, which ended up costing the organization even more money. And so to have that come from, from a middle to senior layer, saying, you know, the most important thing I would I would recommend is, is to hire experienced people, I think was it was quite illuminating. And so anyway, those are just a couple of examples. I hope that answers your question.

Melissa Aarskaug 19:53
Yeah. You know, it’s funny, because when I had my son, I wasn’t part I wasn’t a mom before, right and then minute that I had a child, I became part of this, like secret group of women that were moms. And they would all tell me their stories about don’t do this. And don’t do that. And make sure you get this and make sure you get that. And I think it kind of pops in my head, I had so many do this and don’t do that, that it helped me sift through all like the Amazon read stuff that maybe people got, you know, five star ratings, but it was like a one star product, from real moms that were using things. So I think about you make me think about how can I better use stories in my own life? So for the listener, is there any suggestions you would share with people on how they could use their stories? And their current life?

Christian Napier 20:52
Wow. Any number of ways? Fundamentally, as you’ve already mentioned, if you want to establish connection with a person share a story with them. I don’t know, you probably you see a lot of posts on LinkedIn right in there. Yeah, there are a lot of posts on there, where people are just pretty much hocking their product or service. And there are some saying, well, this is what I did, I attended, you know, such a session, and these are all fine. And, but the stories that that get a lot of engagement are, you know, stories where people or posts, excuse me, where people share stories, and they, they allow themselves to be perhaps a little bit vulnerable, and, and then you can like, hey, this is a real person, and they’re authentic. I really think that when it comes to us as individuals, there are two ways that we can establish credibility, you know, one is through accreditation or certification where, okay, well, we attended an educational institution, we achieve this level of education from this university and in the industry that we’re in we, you know, we’ve taken a lot of tests, and we’ve taken a lot of courses, and we’ve got a lot of letters following our name. And so that’s one way to establish credibility. But the other way to establish credibility is to have other people vouch for you. And you know, if you’ve got another person that says, yeah, well, this, this person was awesome, and I work with this person. Just the other day, I had a person reached out to me, she was an interpreter. And she asked for a recommendation, and in my recommendation, I didn’t just say, well, she’s highly skilled, and whatever. Well, of course, I said that, but I said, she served as an interpreter during the Tokyo 2020 games remotely. And it was the first time it had ever been done remotely, in the history of the games. And so we were in uncharted territory, using technology that was not really familiar to anybody interpreting, you know, press conferences, online, to journalists around the world, and in different time zones in the middle of the night, and none of that fazed her. She was awesome. You know, so sharing a little story about your experience working with this person. So I think, even more powerful than just saying, well, yeah, she’s she’s awesome, and I’d worked with her again, you know, tell the story about why she’s awesome. And so that’s, that’s, that’s what I would do. And I guess coming back to your question, if I was thinking about storytelling, the very simple formula for stories to be effective, and this is really oversimplifying it, but it’s struggling solution. I love it struggling solution. Just you talk about the struggle, you focus on a solution. If all you do is talk about struggle, then you’re just complaining, if all you’re doing is talking about solutions, and you’re just bragging, but if you bring struggle and solution together, then you can establish that connection. Hope. That’s fabulous.

Melissa Aarskaug 24:15
That’s fabulous. It makes me think, you know, I have a couple of upcoming speaking engagements. I’m like, I should tell a story to start in really engage with the audience. And that’s brilliant. Being mindful of time Christian, tell me any closing thoughts that you have that you want to share with our listeners and then tell us how we can connect with you, get in touch with you, leverage your organization, and any kind of final thoughts.

Christian Napier 24:47
My final thought would be this which may seem like a bit of a curveball. In the midst of doing all of this work with the International Olympic Committee and other clients and interviewing people and gathering stories. I realized Is that I’ve never even captured my own mother’s story, and ultimately, the stories of the people that you love, are the most important stories. And so my encouragement to anyone who is listening, would be to capture your own story, to record it. But also, if it’s not been done yet, take the time to, to sit down with a parent or a grandparent, or a sibling, whoever it might be, and get them to share some stories with you. You will not regret it. You’ll have it for the rest of your life. And it will be one of your most treasured treasured possessions. So I would encourage anyone who is listening, you know, even though I’m talking about stories from a business perspective, to think about the really important stories in your life, and that’s important, those are the stories about the people that you love and care about the most.

Melissa Aarskaug 26:06
Oh, absolutely. Right, because you generations of knowledge, and knowledge, and knowledge that your family has his health, and how they got here and what they did. And, you know, I wonder if I have all those stories, too.

Christian Napier 26:23
And, you know, sometimes people think, well, you know, I just had an average life, I didn’t do anything special in my life. And it’s garbage. It’s not true. I mean, I’ve, I’ve talked with people, and they’re like, you know, there’s nothing interesting about me, not nothing that anybody would want to know. And then they start sharing some stories when they let their guard down. You’re like, holy smokes. Yeah. I had no idea. You know, so. Yeah, just don’t delay. Just start it. Just start recording a story record in a journal, record it on a laptop, just talk. I mean, that’s the fastest way to do it. Just start talking. Right? People think, Oh, well shoot. I mean, if I record myself, I don’t like the sound of my voice, or I don’t like the way that I look on camera. And the fact of the matter is, everybody else on the planet, hears your voice and sees how you look. You know, by having it on camera, it isn’t gonna make a lick of difference. Right? Just you, it’s just your own, you know, it’s your own fear. So it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. It’s alright. Don’t worry about like, oh, I don’t think I look very good on camera or whatever. The way you see yourself on cameras, what everybody else in the world sees you. So you know, don’t stress too much about that. Anyway.

Melissa Aarskaug 27:46
I love it. Now, how do we get in touch with you? Where should we connect with you, Christian?

Christian Napier 27:51
Just look me up on LinkedIn. Just look for Christian Napier on LinkedIn and check me out there and you can always visit our website Rakonto.io, R A K O N T O.io and email christian@rakonto.io as well. And we’re happy to connect with anybody.

Melissa Aarskaug 28:11
Thank you so much for for being here today, for sharing your story, sharing a little bit about your company and challenging all of us to tell our story. Thank you again. Have a great day.

Christian Napier 28:26
Thank you, Melissa. I really appreciate the opportunity to do this with you.

Narrator 28:33
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 And don’t forget to subscribe so you can catch every new episode. Until next time.

Executive Connect Podcast Guest Release Form

This guest release is entered into between Stronger to the Executive Connect Podcast, “Podcaster” and “You”, “Guest” or individually “Party”.

As a Guest of the Exeuctive Connect Podcast (“Podcast”), I consent to the audio and video recording of my voice, name, and image as part of my appearance on the Podcast. I further consent to the distribution and broadcast of my appearance, including any information and content I provide, by Teri Schmidt (“Podcaster”) in audio, video, or text form without restriction.

I further acknowledge and agree:

  1. I will receive no monetary compensation for my appearance. The consideration I receive for executing this release shall be the exposure I receive to the audience of the Podcast.
  2. I am granting the Podcaster a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide license to publish any copyrighted work I supply as part of my appearance on the Podcast.
  3. I am waiving any intellectual property claims including, but not limited to, trademark and copyright infringement claims, associated with personal or business interests discussed during my appearance on the Podcast.
  4. I am waiving any right to publicity and privacy claims, and agree my name, likeness, and business information may be used by Podcaster in the episode in which I appear and future reproductions as well as the marketing materials supporting the Podcast in general.
  5. That Podcaster is the sole owner of any and all rights to the Podcast, including the episode in which I appear. I further acknowledge and agree that Podcaster has the right to edit the content of my appearance and publish the same in any media now and in the future without first obtaining my approval.
  6. I am releasing and discharging Podcaster together along with all of the Podcaster’s principals, shareholders, officers, employees, agents, successors, and assigns from any and all liability arising out of or in connection with my appearance on the Podcast or the subsequent reproduction and distribution of the episode in which I appear in any medium.
  7. Execution of this Agreement does not obligate Stronger to Serve Coaching and Teambuilding, LLC to publish your presentation or other materials.

Podcaster grants Guest a royalty-free, worldwide, license and right to publish the Podcast episode in which Guest appears on Guest’s website or app and promote said episode in all of Guest’s social media accounts.

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.

Featured In

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.

Featured In

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.