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The Art of Transparent Leadership: Strategies for Success

Summary Keywords

building, challenge, conflict, day, drive, ensure, feel, lead, leader, leadership, love, manage, manager, pause, people, responsibilities, role, talking, team, understand

Speakers

Avni Trivedi, Melissa Aarskaug, Narrator

Show Notes

Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, where Melissa Aarskaug engages in insightful conversations with a diverse array of guests, exploring leadership, prosperity, and personal growth for the new generation of leaders.

In this episode, Melissa sat down with Avni Trivedi, a seasoned leadership professional with over 17 years of experience in technology sales and operations. Avni shared valuable insights on leadership challenges, decision-making, conflict resolution, and the importance of empowering teams.

Topics included:

  • Cultivating Trust: How to unpack the challenge of trust-building in leadership, highlighting the time, and humility it demands—crucial for those stepping into new leadership roles.
  • Decoding Data-Driven Decisions: Why you should push for a meticulous, data-driven decision-making process. Avni shared a concrete example from her stint at Lucien, stressing the significance of data analysis for effective decision-making.
  • Proactively Navigating Conflicts: Learn about strategies for conflict resolution, emphasizing proactive relationship management. How to encourage team members to build collaborative bonds and prevent conflicts, with transparent communication as the linchpin.
  • Strategies for Balance: Melissa and Avni discussed the imperative of pauses in the whirlwind of business. They spoke about how to understand the team’s core values, foster stability amidst chaos, and champion a healthy work-life balance.
  • Empowerment in Action: Avni shared insights into recognizing and empowering team members, and how to advocate for transparent, authentic leadership that fosters a psychologically safe environment, coupled with an innovative approach to succession planning.

In closing, Avni emphasized the infinite game of leadership, encouraging leaders to invest in people, culture, and long-term goals. She underscored the importance of transparency and authenticity in leadership, promoting an environment where individuals feel seen, heard, and empowered.

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:

Avni Trivedi was most recently the VP of Global Solutions Consulting at Ellucian, an ed tech B2B SaaS company, where she led a large global team. Prior to that she was the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Americas region at Intel Corp, driving over $10B in revenue for the company and their key OEM customer.

Avni is from Mumbai, India and a graduate of University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Business. She is currently building her Sales consulting and Fractional CRO business and is heavily involved with professional networks such as Austin Women in Tech, Social Venture Partners, and Executive council network.

www.linkedin.com/in/avni-trivedi-a58a311

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
I’m here today with my dear friend Avni, who has more than 17 years of experience in technology, sales, and operations. She was most recently the VP of Global Solutions Consulting at Ellucian, an Ed Tech B2B SaaS company, where she led a large global team. Prior to that she was the Director of Sales and Marketing, for the Americas region at Intel Corporation, driving over $10 billion in revenue for the company, and their key OEM customers. Avni is from Mumbai, India, and a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Business. She is currently building her sales, consulting and fractional CRO business and is heavily involved with professional networks, such as Austin Women in Tech, Social Ventures Partners, and Executive Council Network. She lives in Austin, with her two little girls, ages eight and 11. She’s an avid dancer, who her also enjoys traveling, golf, and exotic fruits. Welcome so much Avni. I’m so happy to have you here with us today.

Avni Trivedi 01:49
Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to chat with you.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:53
So today, we chose some really fun topics, challenges and empowerment. So jumping right in Avni, can you share a personal experience or story that illustrates a significant leadership challenge you faced in your personal career?

Avni Trivedi 02:09
Yeah, for sure. So I’ve been a been a leader manager for about 10 years or so. And I was thinking about this question really deeply. And I said, you know, the biggest challenge I always face when I go into a role is trust. You know, building trust takes takes time. And most of my leadership career, I’ve always been plucked, and put into a leadership position or you know, pulled up to a sponsor or mentor. And I always feel like when you get into the role, it’s almost like everybody looks at you going in. Okay, so, okay, so she’s here, but do I trust her. And I think that’s the biggest challenge any leader should think about when they really get into whether it’s their first management role, whether a leadership role, whatever it is, that the building trust aspect is huge. I remember I was part of this, this group of people that were brought to Taiwan as expats in my Intel career. And you know, imagine Taiwan, managing Taiwanese engineers, Taiwanese OEMs, and you go in and you’re like, Who is this foreign person? You know, are you do I really trust her. So I really think it’s important to take time to build that trust, whether it’s with your team, you know, I had one on ones every week in every of my leadership positions, to start. And I think it starts with, you know, I don’t know what you know, you know, better than me in a lot of ways they did, I’m here to remove roadblocks, and I’m here to coach you, in the areas where you’re not seeing some of the more strategic imperatives or vision or whatever have you, right, but it’s more about that humility, that I think that really builds trust. And you know, we need to come with that to the table. Versus Hey, I’m just I’m your manager now. And, you know, this is what I do. So I think that’s, that’s, I really do think everybody needs to think about that, as a first step.

Melissa Aarskaug 03:55
That’s a great point. Trust is everything, I think when building teams and getting people to do things that they might not want to do. So as a new boss, you have new viewpoints, new ideas that the previous manager didn’t, you would approach decisions differently. And so in thinking about taking on a new role, and how you approach difficult decision making as a leader, what strategies have you found in coming in and making decisions and building that trust?

Avni Trivedi 04:30
Yeah, so I was when I was brought into Ellucian the the diff, the most difficult decision making to me as a leader is when you’re given the least amount of information, and yet you have to make decisions about people. Let’s just say I had to let go people and had to figure out a way to do it, with the least amount of, you know, information on you know, what, how I had a budget, but that’s it right? Like, here’s your budget. Here’s what you do. Now. Go do it. And to me, it’s really hard because as a new leader, I’m like, okay, I’m gonna come in, I’m going to drive this operational excellence without any information from leadership as to, as to what, why, how, so. I can’t be transparent, obviously. So I think that those are the difficult decision, I really thought about it as a data driven decision. So instead of just saying, okay, this is the number, here are the people, I put an entire plan based on data saying this is our attrition base, our attrition alone, we should be able to achieve our target in four months, and then put an entire plan that was a year out. And I said, I’m not doing it under a year, people need time to move on, people need time to find new jobs. And we need time, frankly, to train new people to take on the responsibilities of who’s being let go. So it’s a very, very meticulous analytical journey that I took on versus emotional. And I said, it’s going to be a year out.  We’re going to offshore certain roles, but it’s going to happen on this timeline, which gives everybody time to find what they need to do, and also achieve the target that was put in front of me. So I think that’s, that’s kind of the approach I take is just keep an analytical, ensure you understand what people would want and need and your people, especially when you’re making these difficult decisions, and then convince your you know, your powers to be, that you will get there. And this is the journey you’re taking to get there. And this is the best way to do it.

Melissa Aarskaug 06:22
I love it. I like that you mentioned data. Data is key to making decisions. I think sometimes in our fast paced world, people make quick decisions with no information on gut and and it poses a lot of conflict in organization. So letting people go is something I would consider a challenge, like a common challenge conflict resolution and letting people go. So in your experience, in dealing with conflict in the workplace, can you share a way that you effectively resolve conflicts within your team or workplace, especially like you mentioned, starting a new job? And, you know, people have opinions, there’s probably a lot of conflict, you know, how did you go about resolving that to your new assigned team?

Avni Trivedi 07:14
Well, I just threw them all in a room and let them hash it out. No, I’m kidding. I wish I could do that, in our in our fast pace, Zoom environments, now that’s that’s getting a little bit tougher, just throw people in a room. I do think that proactively managing the relationships is what I would call conflict resolution methodology that I use, right. So usually, I think conflict occurs definitely within the team. But I’ve seen it more like cross team, you know, when you’re cross collaborating, whether it’s product with r&d, whether it’s, you know, other sales organizations that you’re dealing with, right, the conflicts arise when you’re, you know, your vision or your team, or what they’re driving is not an exact alignment with what product wants to say. So I tell the team, as soon as I come in, I said, you know, start building those relationships of who exactly influences your day to day activity, or at least some part of your activity, and build those relationships to start, so that when it comes to the conflict, it’s not like, I’ve just seen you for the first time, or I’m talking to the first time and I’m not in an agreement. Because again, it’s a part of trust. I mean, if I know you, you and I have a conflict, but I’ve known you, and we’ve talked and we’ve hung out together, and we’ve really worked together, then, you know, it really doesn’t matter whether I have conflict. I can resolve it pretty easily just through communication. And you know, and doing that. So that’s like proactive, you know, ensuring you’re building the cross collaborative culture, from the start as a leader so that when it comes to managing a lot of these conflicts outside of your team, it’s a little bit easier. Second, I do say, you know, when my senior directors had, you know, one of my senior directors had a conflict with a pretty senior sales leader, you know, and I said, the only way to, for you to resolve this actually have a one on one, outline both your issues, and if you can’t do it, involve me, and I will ensure I come in and give you air cover. But I think I would empower my people to be like, just have that talk, just have that transparent conversation, and let’s move forward. Sometimes those conversations will agree to disagree and commit. And that’s when I usually help give some air cover or give some perspective. So it’s, it’s, you know, we’re gonna have to ensure we communicate over communicate sometimes, especially in the Zoom world where we’re not face to face having a coffee, just, you know, over index on those one on ones is what I would say the best way.

Melissa Aarskaug 09:34
And I love that, I think making people accountable to communicate and delegating that to them versus, you know, mom and dad can play in the kids against each other. Right. And I think, I love that I think accountability is significant responsibility for leaders. So in that situation, how you handle the accountability and have them  go figure it out themselves first and giving them the opportunity to sort things through themselves. And figuring it out is really key, I think in, in leadership and always doing it for everybody. I think the analogy, like give a man a fish he eats for a day you teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime. So you’re really teaching your people to handle their own problems and bring back solutions to you, versus giving them the answers on all their problems. I love it. I love it. I think it’s brilliant.

Avni Trivedi 10:35
Yeah, and I think it’s all about silos, right? I mean, the conflicts arise because of silos. So the more we break them down, daily, weekly, whatever, right in person on Zoom, the better we will communicate, the better. We’ll work together as a team. Yep.

Melissa Aarskaug 10:50
Love it. I think like, another challenge to me in the leadership space these days is how fast everything is evolving. I feel like time is moving so fast. We don’t have patience. We need things yesterday or tomorrow. It’s so fast that expectations are so quick, like you could start a job and they expect you to drive X revenue in a very short period of time with a small staff. So as a leader, what advice can you share to others facing similar challenges in a rapidly changing business environment?

Avni Trivedi 11:28
I really do think pauses are important. I know it’s everything’s moving fast all the time. The first thing I always do as a leader, you know, coming in, right, but you know, all my leadership roles, I would say, let’s, let’s take two days to figure out who we are. Like, I don’t even know who we are. A lot of the time most most of the teams don’t even know what their mission is, what their values are, what we stand for. And I think it’s really important to start with that anchor always. And maybe it’s, you know, a couple hours pause or you know, half a day and say, Okay, what do we really stand for? And what are we what are we together as a team, as a culture. And I’ve always, in my experience, felt like that anchor point can last for a long time, you can have some evolving, charters, so to speak, but your vision, mission culture stay very, very, very stable. And that really anchors you throughout your journey as a team together. And I think that’s, that’s really, really important. And I think as a team, as a team leader, you have to drive you have to walk the walk and pauses, you have to say, okay, I’m going to pause, and I’m going to get us all together, whether it’s a two day face to face a three day Strategy Session, two day training, I’ve done all of that. And those pauses drive so much creativity. And when we go into the volatile business environment, right after everybody’s motivated, everybody knows what they’re saying everybody understands their vision and mission. It’s almost like we’re singing from the same song book, because we pause together, figured it out together, and then we’re launching, right, it’s almost like that kind of a cape of a capability to build on your team. So I really think as a leader, you shouldn’t think that you can just get in and get a deal going, you have to pause, you have to pause and really get everybody on the same page.

Melissa Aarskaug 13:15
I love that well said I think, you know, we all have our expertise in areas but in a team environment, everybody brings different solutions and, and ideas that maybe as a leader we don’t think about so I love that you said bringing everybody together, getting their feedback on how we’re attacking whatever the goal is as a team versus as an individual person or in silos. I think I love it. I I think I need to take that one too and do more pausing myself. And cuz I’m guilty of this fast paced environment, moving fast, doing things fast and being mindful. I love that word these days being mindful on what we’re driving for and why and making sure everybody involved understands what that is, is really key.

Avni Trivedi 14:12
Yeah. Yeah, I agree.

Melissa Aarskaug 14:15
And then just another kind of challenge. I think when we talk about like, rapidly changing environments, fast paced industry, technology, stress and burnout has become so common with people or they, I hear zoom fatigue a lot and people not being able to take care of their health or not getting up from their desk. Any suggestions to our listeners on what self care practices that you recommend to manage burnout and stress?

Avni Trivedi 14:48
Yeah, I think the biggest one, there’s a lesson as leaders, we have to listen for those signs and cues. Most of my leadership, you know, I would say okay, you’ve been traveling nonstop for X amount of weeks. You know, have you taken the time off? Like, I would prompt that question, have you taken a day off? And just recuperated? Have you, you know, taken some time with your family, like, it’s almost like as leaders, we have to press on that. Being a pre sales leader, we’re there, we’re constantly doing demos, talking to customers, my team was, you know, every day all day traveling on Sunday, it was very important for me to ensure that that question is posed almost weekly, if not daily, and I had, I had my door open to most people to be like, you know, you can reach out to me whenever you want, if you feel like things are not working the way that you want to. So I definitely think that as leaders, we need to put keep a pulse on that, because it is real, you know, Zoom fatigue is real. I ran my own business for four or five years, and I’m going to tell you like, being a business owner, there’s no more fatigue, because it’s a 24/7 role. So I understand what it is to just keep going and going. And, you know, I’ve learned with my kids, you know, kids kind of ground you and your work life balance, you know, because you have to go pick them up, and you have to go do their activities. So I think I you know, it’s almost like a forced, I gotta shut down for two hours. And I’ll be online after if I need to. But I usually tell people, you know, unless you really have to, just take time with your family, right? Whether it’s weekends, whether it’s in a Friday afternoon, just take time. And as a leader, I walk the walk, right, I do the same thing. When I go on vacation, I’m off. There’s no one reaching me. For the most part right now, if there’s an urgent, I will be looking at messages. But my point is, it’s you have to walk the walk, you cannot be the leader send Sunday messages and be like, oh, can you be off on Sunday? I don’t think it works that way. I think you have to, you have to show what it is to have work life balance and how you manage your stress. And I think my team really valued that. They felt like they didn’t need permission to balance lives, as long as they could see I’m doing the same thing.

Melissa Aarskaug 16:54
So yeah, what I hear you saying is lead from the front and do what you say, right? So if you’re expecting your team to have balance, and you know, spend time with their family, and be aware of how they’re feeling, and you want to make sure you’re doing that as well, I love it. So switching gears a little bit talking about challenges. Now talking more about empowerment, once you have the team organized, they’re working towards a common solution. They’re adapting to change they’re making, they’re being accountable, they’re managing burnout, how do you keep them empowered? How do you keep people motivated and empowered?

Avni Trivedi 17:38
I think the big people just want to be seen and heard, I think that I’ve seen a lot of the times I’m not even talking about like people report to you. But you know, Hey, I see you, you did this great job, right? I don’t I don’t wait for a performance review. You know, if a call if a colleague of mine will say hey, Brian on your team did a great job, immediately in sending that note saying that was amazing, you did great, thanks for taking that risk. And I allow them to take risks, I’m okay if they if they take a risk and it doesn’t work out, right. So it’s almost like empowering them to be responsible for their own little world, and be able to take risks without any repercussions. So it’s like a psychologically safe place to be. And I think that really empowers people to be like, okay, this is my business, so to speak, quote, unquote, and I can go lead it, whether it’s, I’m a pre sales architect, or I’m a technical salesperson, I’m given this, this portfolio, and I’m gonna go drive it. And I know, she’s got my back. And no, she’s got my back. And sometimes, you know, it’s all about ensuring that they understand their r&r, like the roles and responsibilities, you know, in a very clear manner. But once that’s done, it’s almost like, okay, take your risks, you know, fail forward, if you must, you know, be ready for the next chapter. So showing them career progression is very important for me as well, like, hey, you did a great job, you know, in two years, I’m going to ensure that you get this other role, or you get your promotion or whatever. And I do and I guess that I do, definitely walk the walk, when I say I’m gonna get you something. And I give you a KPIs and you meet it. I make it happen. It’s not it’s not a, you know, one of my students, my directors, he said he had not had a promotion in 13 years. He said, not a single manager, had pushed him for promotion. And he had been at the company for 26 years. He was amazing at what he did. He led the team well, and I said, you know what, Brent, if you achieve these things that I’m telling you to do, I will ensure you get it. So he achieved it, and he got it. I didn’t ensure you got it after 13 years. So to me, it’s almost like I have to walk the walk and ensure they get their accolades recognition, whether it’s real time or on a yearly performance, and then I want to ensure that they feel like they can take risks within their role without you know, in a in a psychologically safe place. And both of that really allows people do feel empowered and motivated in my experience.

Melissa Aarskaug 20:03
So how do you tie in career planning or succession planning in that? So do you map it out? Like you said two yours? Do you suggest training to them? Do you do cross training with them? How does that look like from a career?

Avni Trivedi 20:23
All of that is mapped out. So whether it’s, so succession planning is one thing, which is like, okay, now I have, so my team had seven directors, and they never left. So most of them were there for 13, 14 years. So everybody underneath them was like, okay, now where do I go, because I’ve been here for another 11 years. So I can’t be this role, because it’s still, you know, filled, and they’re not moving. So I created this entire team lead concept where I’m like, Okay, we’re going to create leads on the team, that are kind of successors to the directors, but they have responsibilities to manage and lead their small group of people. So that they have, you know, they have KPIs, they have financial rewards every year that there’ll be given, if they meet those KPIs. It’s almost like creating sub layers, but without really a layer, it’s almost like having people step up and figure out how they can lead, without actually being in that actual position, which is not open yet. Right. So I think just getting innovative and trying to give people the platform to showcase other talents than they, they usually get. And it really helps, it’s part of career progression, I think it’s just part of, can we get innovative as leaders to give people a way to see their careers or their own talents being displayed in a different format than it’s what’s just, you know, normal HR, numbers and games, right. So it’s just a different way of thinking.

Melissa Aarskaug 21:50
Yeah, and you’re truly being a champion for your people, you’re, you know, championing and delegating, so delegating responsibility, and championing that with them. So they feel that, okay, you know, Johnny’s been here for 12 years, he’s not leaving, but I’m going to be responsible for these two tasks. And I’m going to be the best at these two tasks. And they’re my two tasks to be responsible for. I love that that’s a great idea for the people that have been at companies for a long time. And they’re looking to manage people, but the people manager of have been there for a while. And sometimes managing people is a tough thing. And people get into that role and say, whoa, I thought I wanted to manage people. Now that I’m doing this task that Avni has suggested I do maybe I’m not wanting to be in the people management space. So I think that’s another good point is sometimes people go into that space, where they’re managing tasks and people and they decide, wow, I like to be an individual contributor, better than I do a manager of people, which are to kind of separate hats to wear when you work in a day to day.

Avni Trivedi 23:04
For sure. First, and I know a lot of ICs, who said, you know, I? I can’t do it. And they could do and they were better at it than they thought. And a lot of them would say, oh, wait, I’m not in the limelight anymore. Well, yeah, as a people manager, you are not, you are pushing your people up more than yourself. So it’s a different mindset.

Melissa Aarskaug 23:22
Totally, absolutely. I agree with that. So any final thoughts on challenges with being a leader or maybe a couple, maybe like two of each top top things to pay attention to? And how people can better empower their staff?

Avni Trivedi 23:44
I think that right now, the environment is very strange, in my opinion, where you know, people are or are feeling less loyal, I’m going to just use the word because it’s just churn, whether it’s economic, macro, economic churn, churn within organizations, you know, there’s a lot of leadership misconceptions around, you know, leadership has to be, you know, hey, we’ve met our KPIs on leadership. And I do believe in Simon Sinek, 100%, that leadership is not a finite game, you have to be in it for the long term, that you’re investing in people, you’re investing in culture, and you’re investing in something that can be built up and maintained and scalable, and repeatable, versus just a one, you know, short term thinking. So I think that’s, I don’t know if we all have it yet. But I definitely think that that’s the leadership mindset that I come with, you know, and I still keep my relationships with my other employees, you know, whether it moved jobs or not, because I think it’s really important to have that kind of mindset that I’m always here as a mentor and a guide, whether I’m your manager leader or not, and that’s the longevity that’s the infinite game. And that’s why it’s a slam I’m just reading his book. So it’s kind of top of mind for me. So I love you know, I really do believe in It is an infinite game. And second, I think as leaders right now, with the volatility, how transparent can you be? How authentic can you be? How, whether it’s your decision or not, whether it’s, you know, it’s within your control or not. I think transparency and authenticity are really, really underrated skills. And I think we need to highlight them as being very important.

Melissa Aarskaug 25:25
Oh, yeah, I, you nailed it, I think transparency. I know. You know, I’ve been a manager and of people for a large majority of my career, and I’ve had some feedback personally, were people like, you’re too transparent with your team. And, and I always feel like authenticity and transparency is the only way I really know how to manage. But I’ve been made, and I don’t know if that’s because I’ve been always managed by non transparent people. So maybe that’s what drove me to be more of a transparent leader. But I think, I think that’s the best way to be is transparent and open. Where you’re able to be and make sure that, you know, your people understand what you’re dealing with what you’re up against, what’s expected of you, and, and let them feel the same way and let them communicate their feelings. And hey, you know, I don’t like this about you as a manager. And then I challenge people who are managed by people share with your manager, if there’s something they’re doing that, you know, maybe you don’t like, or you don’t agree with, find a way to talk to them about it. Because sometimes as managers, we’re not necessarily not interested in it, we just were blinded, we don’t realize that we’re doing something a certain way. Or maybe you have to take your kids to school at a certain time. But your team meeting is every week at that time, maybe tell your manager, hey, do you mind pushing, and I’d really love to take my kid to school. And, and be, you know, transparent, authentic with that ask. And I think when we lead, like you said, with authenticity, real authenticity, like really caring about people, understanding, you know, culturally, right now, politically, right now is really important to understand. You mentioned the beginning working with different cultures, I think, you know, for me, I had to learn that myself. I didn’t understand certain cultures, I engaged a certain way and was thankful people came to me and said, hey, Melissa, this is how you should engage these type of people and that are in this business. And I am grateful for those people because I was blinded by that. And so I love that you mentioned leading with that, because it’s key. Any final thoughts?

Avni Trivedi 28:04
I love. This was fun. Thanks for having me.

Melissa Aarskaug 28:07
Time flies, it flies.

Avni Trivedi 28:09
I love talking to this topic so,I could talk forever. So I need women as leaders and all that. But you know, I think I’m glad we kept it as you know, leadership as a whole because I think all these challenges are faced by everyone.

Melissa Aarskaug 28:23
Absolutely. And I think we get so mission focus that we forget about the human factor of things. I think we all get so focused and we’re all not AI bots yet. Right. But I think we get so focused on our tasks meeting to meeting that we forget how’s, you know, how’s your day? How’s your kids? How’s your life? What’s new? That goes a far away when leading people and being authentic with it is something we need a lot of.

Avni Trivedi 28:54
Yeah, I agree.

Melissa Aarskaug 28:57
Thank you so much for being here today. I appreciate you Avni, and I look forward to connecting again on more leadership topics.

Narrator 29:06
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 executive connect podcast@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.