By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
His friends call him an idea generator, a go-getter, and even a machine. His name is Ted Yamamura, and he was the visionary for the Executive Development Institute (EDI).
Yamamura started working at the Boeing Company 30 years ago. He is now the regional manager for the Asian Pacific accounts.
Yamamura is a sansei, a third generation Japanese American. He grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautics/astronautics engineering. After graduation, he moved to Sunnyvale, Calif. He lived there for seven years but decided to return to his hometown to work for Boeing.
Because Yamamura didn’t think that there were many Asian American role models in those days, he saw it as an opportunity for him to improve that problem, especially for young Asian American employees so that they would have the same opportunities to rise above everyone else.
“I have a strong passion to mentor and help other young employees rise in their companies and provide leadership opportunities for them and advise them as a mentor,” he said.
Yamamura realized that his passion was leadership development, so he recruited Vanna Novak as a co-founder. They both started the EDI together in 1994.
“If it wasn’t for Ted and his ability to think big, EDI would not nearly have the kind of visibility that we have today in the community. You can just hear the excitement and enthusiasm in his voice,” Novak said.
The EDI program is open to anyone who is Asian American or Latino and wants to improve on their professional skills and learn more about leadership.
The mentorship aspect is meant to “help participants rise to provide upward mobility for them in their companies.”
The program accepts about 50 to 70 participants annually and is split into three to four groups.
There are two types of programs, which include EDI leadership discovery and EDI navigation, which is a mid-level management program.
“Ted has got this incredibly contagious energy and when he gets hold of an idea that he really believes, he is a man of action. He will immediately start rallying the troops,” Novak said.
“Ted has stayed passionate and dedicated to the mission, and he likes to strategize about opportunities for EDI,” Starr McDonald, executive director of EDI, said of Yamamura.
In the organization’s 17th year, there have been more than 500 alumni, and close to 150 of them are Boeing employees that have gone through the program.
“Because of Ted’s passion and dedication, he has promoted that within Boeing and brought all these people to EDI,” McDonald said.
“I think the EDI is my legacy, starting that and have it still going on,” Yamamura said of his proudest accomplishment.
Yamamura recently completed his two-year presidency of the Boeing Asian American Professional Association, in which he brought together about 700 employees to participate in the program. Its purpose was to bring the Asian American employees together to network with each other. He also created a language matrix within the company so that people could find out which employees speak foreign languages. In addition, he taught some cultural classes to Boeing employees, covering such topics as how to interface and conduct business with other Asian cultures.
Yamamura is also a former president of the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) in Seattle. He is credited with steering NAAAP away from being a vehicle for Asian Americans to find dates and with making volunteerism a priority. He continues to help as an adviser and mentor for members. He is still on the EDI advisory board, helping with organizational strategy and fundraising.
In addition to his busy schedule helping Asian American professionals rise and succeed, at the end of the day, Yamamura just wants to be able to spend more time with his family. ♦
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.