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In the Grey Zone: Embracing Ambiguity for Growth

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Show Notes

In this episode of the Executive Connect Podcast, Melissa Aarskaug and Kinga Vajda discussed the importance of embracing the “grey zone” in personal and professional growth. Together, they explored the importance of navigating uncertainty, overcoming challenges, and embracing personal growth and professional development in the face of ambiguity. They also shared insights from their own journeys and offered valuable tools and practices for thriving in life’s grey areas.

Key Takeaways

0:00 – Introduction

02:09 – Defining the Grey Zone

  • The grey zone encompasses uncertainty, ambiguity, and adversity, where decisions aren’t always clear-cut.

03:59 – Challenges in the Grey Zone

  • Individuals face challenges like uncertainty, lack of direction, and conflicting advice from well-meaning sources.
  • Navigating ambiguity requires introspection, decisiveness, and the ability to filter advice effectively.
  • Embracing ambiguity involves exploration, curiosity, and adapting based on personal values and goals.

09:29 – Positive Outcomes of Embracing the Grey Zone

  • Embracing ambiguity can lead to unexpected opportunities and personal growth beyond predefined paths.

13:36 – Shifting Mindsets to Embrace Ambiguity

  • Strategic planning, alignment, and communication are crucial for navigating ambiguity effectively.
  • Understanding individual preferences and fostering a supportive community can help individuals thrive in the grey zone.

17:18 – Adversity and Resilience

  • Resilience requires acknowledging discomfort and fostering growth, rather than merely toughening up in the face of challenges.
  • Advocating for a trauma-informed approach emphasizes understanding and supporting individuals through their challenges.

22:51 – Coaching in the Grey Zone

  • Effective coaching involves understanding clients’ unique circumstances and co-creating personalized plans.
  • Prioritizing clients’ goals, fostering conscious decision-making, and valuing community support are essential for effective coaching in the grey zone.

27:41 – Project Management Approach to Personal Growth

  • Applying project management principles to personal development involves constant reprioritization, strategic planning, and leveraging community support.
  • A structured approach helps individuals navigate uncertainty and achieve their goals with clarity and focus.

32:21 – Top Tools for Navigating the Grey Zone

  • Constant reprioritization: Being conscious of strategic goals while adapting to changing circumstances.
  • Conscious decision-making: Making informed choices aligned with personal values and aspirations.
  • Valuing community support: Building a supportive network to provide guidance and encouragement during challenging times.

Guest Bio:

As the founder of Execute Your Intentions, LLC, Kinga Vajda is renowned for guiding visionary leaders and innovators on transformative journeys. With a passion for strategic innovation and a commitment to empowering others, Kinga has dedicated her career to helping individuals and teams turn bold intentions into impactful realities.

About Melissa Aarskaug:

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.

Transcript

Kinga Vajda 00:00
Resilience can also mean that we accept that bad things happen, trauma happens, adversity happens just even within ourselves within relationships. It is just part of life. And so there’s a healthy amount of disruption and repair that needs to happen. And it’s how we navigate that that healthy amount that we need to get a little bit more comfortable with. It’s that discomfort that we need to get a little bit more comfortable with in order for us to make real progression.

Narrator 00:41
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, and we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:12
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast. I’m excited to have Kinga Vajda here today to speak with us on living life in the gray zone. She is the founder of Execute your Intentions that focuses on empowering others and turning bold intentions into impactful realities. She’s a new author of the book Beyond Boundaries, thriving in life’s gray zones. Welcome, Kinga.

Kinga Vajda 01:36
Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here. And I’d have to say that this is actually an anthology, it was a group effort. And I have a part of 27 authors. So I am just one chapter amongst many great talented people. So we’re excited about it.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:56
I love it. So let’s start. Let’s jump right in and talk to me. So what it means to live life in the gray zone, and why is it important to navigate life and the gray zone?

Kinga Vajda 02:08
Yeah, so the gray zone, you know, when I was approached about participating in this anthology, I was thinking, Well, what exactly is the gray zone? How are we defining that, and I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the Myers Briggs test, but I took it, I think it was only my 20s. And I was defined as a ES TJ. And as soon as I saw what the definition of an J was, it’s this black or white, we see things and, again, that fits me. And and then really, I started thinking, well, things are not always black and white, although I’m a pretty decisive person, and how does it fit when things are a struggle when we’re facing adversity? Or when we’re not sure what to do? And so when I was approached with writing this book, how will we all interpret what that gray zone really means. And so Dr. Constance Leland had approached many of us is that, you know, we’re all going through some type of adversity within our lives. And we want to write a survival guide for others. We want to take a time in our lives, when we have struggled and survive and think about our legacy that we want to leave and share with others around. How did you get through that now really become passionate that we want to give people an opportunity to not have to struggle in the way that we have, and to give them that survival guide. So that’s what it’s all about for all of these authors that participated.

Melissa Aarskaug 03:45
I love it. Now, what are you from the women that have contributed to the book? What are some common challenges that people have in dealing with life and uncertainty in the gray zone?

Kinga Vajda 03:58
Oh, gosh, I mean, I don’t know about you. But I know that personally, whenever I have not known how to face a challenge, it’s, oftentimes you’re not sure where to start. And you also don’t even know, who do I go to? Who do I trust? And I think that we have oftentimes really well intentioned people, but they don’t necessarily understand what your needs are. And so unless we have it within us to really understand what our current state is, and how do we check in with ourselves, and have a good sense of where we want to go, like where we’re trying to go? I think that so often, we have a little bit of this ambiguity again. And so that’s the real challenge is this transformation and struggling with what no one else can define that for us. And so these well intentioned people that giving us advice, really things like, how are they going to help you get there? And so we get all this information, all this advice coming at us. And, gosh, they don’t know. Only we can really look within ourselves to figure that out. I don’t know if that’s happened to you.

Melissa Aarskaug 05:18
I know definitely I think, you know, if I’m going from Texas to California, I need to figure out which way I’m, I’m not just gonna get in the car and drive and figure out, you know, is it do I turn left here or right here for me, I like to know what’s at the end and work my way backwards. Now I my head through, you know, Arizona, through New Mexico through Marfa. But it’s the gray zone along the way, but I need to know a direction where I’m landing where I’m expecting to be at the other end. And similar, I’m similar personality to where I’m kind of at black and white. You know, things are black and white. But I think living in the gray. From my perspective, it’s a place of creativity, you’re able to create different things or new experiences. So whether I go through Marfa or skip Marfa, I’m still creating with the end goal in mind. Yeah. So when you think of like, uncertainty like the gray, I think a gray is like an uncertainty area. How do you correlate it back to personal growth and professional development?

Kinga Vajda 06:27
Yeah. So really, when we’re trying to figure out? How do I want to just like what you’re talking about, we want to figure out where through creativity, what’s right for us? So to me it is that exploration, it is that real exploration around. Alright, I’m going to try something I’m going to seek through curiosity lens, I want to understand, does this feel good? No, it doesn’t. All right, well, then let me take a little turn, right. And so it’s that decisiveness and being okay, with being decisive. And then it’s also okay, for me to hone in on what feels right for me this general vision that I have, you know, you’re heading towards California, and you know, you’re going there, but it’s okay for me to accept that, my path might look a little bit different. And to reach my vision, and I might not land exactly, but today, I have the, the least information about where I’m going to end up, but I do have a vision, and I just need to hone in on that plan as I get there. And I need to honor myself, I need to really tap into who I am. And the kind of people that I want to support me the kind of people and and the only way that we can do that is to be curious to build the type of support network that we want, and to feel out what feels good and right, and really kind of pivot along the way. So, to me, that’s what it’s all about.

Melissa Aarskaug 06:28
Yeah, I think, you know, to your point, there’s no book to life that says you have to do A and then B and then see, sometimes people go from A to Z. And they’re like, What was I thinking I need to go back to, you know, to see. And so I think there is in that gray area that you’re talking about. It’s kind of like a mice mindset as well, like being okay, with things not being black and not being white there, you’re in between. So like, if you’re pivoting from one career to another, there’s gonna be some gray areas where you’re uncertain, and you don’t know and you’re uneasy. And so I think it’s, you know, I think like, kind of what you’re saying is to lean into this gray side of yourself. And like you said, sometimes you’re gonna need a fire some of the people that are along the way, right, they’re not adding value to your life, they might be subtracting value, and sometimes you need to hire some new people. Right, and they’re going to help you along your professional journey. Absolutely. So have you experienced like, just from your personal experience? Have you had an experience where you leaning into this gray zone has become positive for you? Or there’s been a positive outcome?

Kinga Vajda 09:29
Yes, absolutely. And you know, when it happens, there’s often times and it feels very cliche to say that so I’m just going to go ahead and put that out there. But when you least expect it up, I hate saying it because it feels so cliche, but honestly, when you feel that, hey, I’m being pushed, that might be your biggest opportunity. So I for so long had been I’m daydreaming about leaving my corporate career. Because as I was navigating my, my corporate journey, I just saw so many roadblocks for me to be able to make the impact that I wanted to make. And I realized that there were things that I could make a difference in the way that we’ve worked together is as communities. And I felt that, you know, if I were able to leverage the communities that are out there, the resources that are out there and bring leaders together from all kinds of different backgrounds together, what kind of how could we solve some real problems. And so, in early 2023, I started my own business and decided to make that jump from corporate into building my own business. And that is a major gray zone for me, and I had no idea, quite frankly, what what my business is really going to shape into. And it’s taken a while and, and a lot of people are like, what exactly do you do? And at first, I was like, maybe consulting, maybe, because it was kind of just really for me, and, and I was a VP of program management. And, you know, it’s your kind introduction. And yeah, I didn’t quite know, because I hadn’t had that experience, yet. I’ve been in corporate for so long. And so I was like, Well, I need to figure out how what I’ve learned over these years can transfer into just life into how can I help with this greater purpose that I’m feeling. And so I had to spend a good year, really getting to know communities, community, leaders, industries, people that I wanted to, so I had to lead through my curiosity, I had to understand how can I leverage what I’ve learned over the past? You know, many years, through my agile coaching, how can I bring people together? How can I identify the kind of the the communities and partnerships that I want, so that I can figure out how I can best serve the type of people that I want to serve?

Melissa Aarskaug 12:28
I love what you said, I, you know, I’ve had to teach myself to be like, I’m a very a plus the person I start my day at this time, these are my meetings, they’re lined up. And I to your point, I know that sometimes you have to retrain yourself how to do things like I’ve been riding a bike my whole life. And, you know, it’s it’s comfortable, it’s natural. I’m a W two employee, I know how to work through corporate America. But when you shift like you mentioned from being a W two employee to owning your own business, it’s a whole different mindset shift. And your, your entire day is gray. Right? Like, where do you spend your time? How do I move through my day? And so how do you how do you any suggestions for people, like you mentioned beginning that are black and white, very type A, that, you know, when they plan a trip, they plan it six months in advance? They know exactly what they’re doing? They know what they’re taking, they’re very organized, how do we shift those people’s minds to going from black and white, you know, normal, normal to, you know, experience a little bit of the gray zone?

Kinga Vajda 13:37
Yeah, I think that it is a delicate balance of strategic planning, being okay with it, having your eye on the prize, thinking about accepting all the people around us. And that, that saying, we have to take into account where everybody is where they’re at with their, their risk tolerance, I think really understanding the people that we want to have on our journey with us what they can, what they can kind of, you know, understanding their their preferences, their preferences, accepting them for what they need. And, and people’s non negotiables having that conversation upfront is so important, aligning around that. And so, honing in on your plans and saying, okay, you know, let’s paint that vision together. Let’s create something together and make sure that we’re really aligned a lot around that in the same way. And as long as we’re communicating effectively, and keeping that alignment. I think that it’s so it’s so helpful for everybody to really go on that journey together. And when we have journeys that we can experience together, then we really feel that force that momentum, and we’re able to accomplish so much more than we ever thought that we were able to. And the momentum is just really powerful.

Melissa Aarskaug 15:13
Yeah, I think back to when, you know, the very big gray part of my life was when I left engineering and went into the casino gaming industry, I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know the industry, it was all gray for me. And it was a lot of like, you mentioned the beginning, I had to connect with people understand the industry, do my own research, get out to see other clients, and I really had to lean in, you know, to starting over and starting starting fresh and new, and I took a substantial pay cut, to leave engineering to go into gaming. And, you know, that was great for me, you know, I’d build a certain way. And so I think, you know, one of the things I think that a word that comes to mind is resiliency, and, and giving yourself time and grace to get through, you know, a change in your life, whatever the gray part of your life is, leaving corporate America or having a baby or getting married are all these things that are not new and big changes in our life. And you, you hit on a good point, like connecting with people and, and communicating with people that have been through what you’ve been through. So people that have transitioned from a W two job to a self employed, being self employed through their business. And so I think, to your point, like connecting and creating that community, they’re able to give you strength when you’re uncertain and kind of living in that gray zone. I know, there are people along my my way, in gaming, where they’re like, Oh, you’ll figure it out. And I’m like, Okay, I’ll figure it out. I don’t, you know, I’ve had to use that boost of confidence from other people, when I wasn’t confident about knowing, and that new space. So what do you think, for people that are going through a gray part of their life, you know, as adversity and resilience tie in to that any thoughts on maybe how people can adapt to that?

Kinga Vajda 17:19
Yeah. And so resilience in itself, I think is just is an important word for us to break down for a second. And and I’d love your thoughts on this. Resilience, I think that I think in the in general, this word is is used to so often were, personally, I felt that, we are living in a really high changing time. And there’s a lot of trauma that’s happening. And I don’t want to, I don’t want to ignore that, right. And so we’re going through tremendous change just as a society. And there’s so much trauma that is happening across generations and within the work industry. And when we talk about that, I hear resilience getting used in a very loose way where people might feel like they just have to kind of toughen up in certain ways. And that, I think it’d be dangerous because we’re, we’re expecting people to maybe just have coping skills around things that potentially are dangerous if we ignore the root cause of the problem. And that scares me. It scares me if we have decided that as a society, that we become more resilient, rather than informed around the traumas that we might be causing. And so I have a friend, Stephanie Lemak, who is very big advocate and introducing a trauma informed society. And I think that that is one way that we can work towards understanding how to as a more educated society, how we can help each other. So I think that’s one way to look at it is how can we all become better partners, towards helping each other and then I think the other way to kind of look at this is that, that resilience can also mean that we accept that bad things happen. trauma happens, you know, adversity happens, just even within ourselves within relationships. It Is life, right? It is just part of life. And so there’s a healthy amount of disruption and repair that needs to happen. And it’s how we navigate that. So that’s a healthy amount that we need to get a little bit more comfortable with. It’s that discomfort that we need to get a little bit more comfortable with in order for us to make real progression within ourselves within our relationships within our organizations, or our communities. And that might be its work that I think that we need to do. But I think that we need to take a harder look at that. So I’d love to know your thoughts on that. Because I think we’re both passionate people in this area.

Melissa Aarskaug 20:48
No, I think, you know, when I think of resilience, I don’t mean resilience without empathy. Like, I don’t think any of us get out of a life without some form of trauma, or struggle, or issue or problem, like we’re all dealing with, you know, when you’re younger, you have different issues, different traumas, different struggles, and as you get older, and I think the difference, which as I get older, is I’ve gone through things, which has boosted my confidence with cope, and how to respond and react to things and I think, but still, to your point, like, you know, not discounting people’s emotion and say, Oh, toughen up, you should not act like this, or, you know, definitely, why are they acting that way? And what can we you know, understanding why people are responding a certain way to things, or maybe I’ll use the word trigger triggered for different comments or different things and understanding and appreciate when they are, their life. And, you know, saying things in a way that’s respectful, like, yes, like human decency and respect whether, you know, face it, we all were inside our home, not communicating with our immediate family. And so for the younger generations, I would say some of their communication skills are a little bit behind, right, they last a year. And so when I think of resiliency, I don’t mean resiliency and adapting without empathy and understanding, I think they go very close to each other. Because, you know, I’ve been through different things in my life. And, you know, someone said, Oh, you’re just got to toughen up. And, you know, I’m like, okay, but then when you tell people to toughen up, they don’t deal with stuff, right? They toughen up, you don’t communicate they. So it, it triggers different behaviors to right, so like, and that can carry through your life.

Kinga Vajda 22:51
And I’m so passionate about this, because and I’ll, I’ll tell you why. Because I think with the emergence of the layoffs, there was the emergence of coaching. And I’m calling it somewhat of a coaching crisis. And, and myself included that I wanted to, you know, start with a new career, I am so passionate about becoming an advisor to others. And so we have this, these coaches that are very well intentioned, but they don’t necessarily take the time to truly understand someone’s current state, and what they need before they say, Oh, I know how to help you, this is what you need, they identify a target market, bucket, you as a target market, and then say, I know how to fix your problem. And so because of that, I’m I’m concerned that there is a certain amount of, you know, trauma that people could go through and say, All right, well, you need coaching for this. And because of that, they the they’re pulling them into some kind of program that that person doesn’t actually need. And it doesn’t actually solve that person’s problem. And because that coach only understands how to solve one problem, and so they’re getting pulled into different directions, because they don’t know how to navigate their ambiguity. And so I think that that is, that’s what I’m seeing happen a lot is that people are going through this ambiguity of their life. I’m not sure where I want to go, a well intentioned coach who understands how to solve a problem sees a need, of, hey, there’s somebody going through this ambiguity in life. And so I’m going to pull you in this direction. And so they’re kind of going and then that person ends up somewhere and goes, Well, wait, that’s not exactly where I wanted to end up. And so Oh, well, I led you here and you said you wanted this. Yeah. So for doesn’t quite look where I wanted to end up. And so we’re having we’re getting a lot of polls. And so, in the end, we’re not really tapping into allowing that person who originally was struggling with something ambiguous to build their own personalized plan.

Melissa Aarskaug 25:10
It’s a good point. So I, first of all, I love coaches, I don’t think I’ve done. I’ve, from a young age, I’ve had coaches, starting with my parents, athletic coaches, teacher coaches, I’m a big fan of coaches, mentor, mentors, as many different words for them gurus. But I think, now my opinion, we’ve we’ve migrated to a place where everybody wants everything, immediately, I want my dry cleaning, I want my food, my Amazon package at my doorstep. And so coaches really have to make progress quick for people. Otherwise, people get lost in the process. And I think, you know, no coach, you’re gonna sign up and in one session, you’re gonna hammer out all your details, you’re gonna have this dream, like it takes time and work. And, and I think the, the one thing I see with people in the coaching space is, they do run through it quick, they run through it quick, because they have to, because their clients want all their problems to be solved, just like, you know, we see on social media, this one pills is going to make everybody their ideal weight overnight. And so I think we’ve become a society that wants everything today without the actual work. And if you’ve had some challenges in your life, it may take time to go through and sort through it, and you’re going to need a coach that can, you know, pull back those layers. Coaching is about pulling back layers, right? And people are not going to show up to their first day with a coach and say, Here’s my whole life story. Now tell me how to fix my life, because that’s not coaching. That’s telling people what to do with their life, people need to lead themselves to their answers. And and I think that is the key part is listening to your clients and understanding. You know, why is there objection? Only money? Why is their objection? Only a title? Why is their objection? Whatever their objections are understanding why why do they want money, maybe it’s a sense of security for them, because their whole life, they’ve never had security, maybe they were homeless, and we don’t know what people’s situations are. And so I would agree that coaching is coach, if a coach gets on a phone and says, hey, you need to do step one, and then step two, and then step two, and then three, and then you tell your boss, you know this, that might not be the right thing for them, like you said.

Kinga Vajda 27:42
Right. And I think for me, and what I’m hoping that my clients would see that’s different about what I’m offering is that it’s so important that upfront, we talk about your current state, but also the transformation that you are really hoping to achieve. And also acknowledging that you know, the least amount of information today, and that we have just a vision. And let’s continue to keep that vision very clear and aligned. And then build. And this is where my project management background comes into help in use is that we build that vision. So we keep our eye on the prize that I am the target, but that we build an actionable plan that we can continue to refine and iterate as we go and you learn more about yourself. And you learn more about you know, the skills that you want to develop and you learn more about the communities that you want to engage with. And as you refine and go, you’re honing in. And so you’re getting closer and closer to your vision. You’re getting closer and closer to the transformation that you genuinely want for yourself. So you’re literally creating what you want.

Melissa Aarskaug 29:03
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, I was just thinking when you were mentioning that I’m like, what is my longest coach I’ve had, and I was thinking back to my childhood, I had a coach for three years, I saw this man, every week for three years to get better at a sport I was playing and constant work cause they work and the minute that I fixed whatever I was working on, then something else popped up that I go switch strategies that work on that. And so I think to your point is really, you know, the PAM role I have to imagine is fantastic and coaching because you’re dealing with a lot of different pieces and a lot of different goals. And, you know, I think like we can all be coaches and mentors to other people for certain aspects of our life, right. If you’ve raised kids, you can be a mentor, raising kids. If you’ve, you know, gone through a divorce, you could be a mentor on divorce and if you’ve transitioned from being a W two employee to being a, you know, having your own business. So we can all be coaches, but I do like what you said that you listen and understand your clients, because that is key to really good relationships with people is non transactional? It is it is a understanding of both ways, right? You have to understand what the client expectations are, they need to understand what you can deliver and realize that we’re all a work in progress. We’re all working towards different things at any given time. And, and understanding that it takes time is key, right?

Kinga Vajda 30:39
Yeah, absolutely. It is. Like, I can’t even imagine the number of times where and and this is what I loved about being a project manager was, and I told my team this all the time, and my boss and everybody in the entire organization was my job is to keep an eye on the prize, which is nickels, the vision and the people. That’s it. Right? It’s to be an unbiased, completely unbiased perspective, so that I’m protecting everybody and what we’re trying to do. And when I could take that lens, then I’m so focused on the interactions, the success of everybody and everything. And so I was very protective. And I took this kind of protective role, where I wanted to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard the right people are in the room, you know, that kind of thing. And so I have a trained eye, for, for protecting what people are actually looking for, what they’re trying to achieve, what they what they’re trying to get out of things. I know how to ask those provocative questions, to make sure that we’re honing in on what they really want. So it’s, I love it, because it’s really exciting.

Melissa Aarskaug 32:01
You just shine through with it. So I just kind of a couple things. Maybe one last question, maybe your top three specific tools or practices that people can embrace when living their life through the gray zone and finding whatever it is they’re looking to find.

Kinga Vajda 32:21
I think in the moment, constantly reprioritize. So be very conscious of the fact that you’re doing strategic planning. So keeping your focus on what you overall really want to do, but also taking that actionable, like things and so you want to be prioritizing and in weighing the priorities between those two activities, and but being very conscious. And so I guess that third element is like conscious decision making. Be very conscious that you are doing an iterative planning against strategy, tactical, and being conscious and your prioritization. Value your community, make sure you have the right resources and people supporting you along the way, because we can’t do it alone.

Melissa Aarskaug 33:11
Absolutely. Thank you so much, my friend for all your fabulous insights. I’m so excited about your book. I’m so excited for you and your new business, tell our listeners how they can connect with you and learn more about what you’re doing.

Kinga Vajda 33:26
Well, I made some great updates on my website. So I’m so excited about that. It’s on execute your intentions.com and I’m very active on LinkedIn. So please connect with me. I would love to have some more friends.

Melissa Aarskaug 33:39
Thank you so much for being here today and that the Executive Connect Podcast.

Narrator 33:48
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.

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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.