Skip to main content
Vanna Novak stands before Youth Summit attendees at JANM, where she offered life and career tips to young professionals.


Japanese American leaders, young professionals, volunteers and a speech and presentation consultant met on April 25 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles to discuss critical issues on business networking and the influence of cultural heritage.

The youth summit, organized by Kristy Ishii, Pacific Southwest District JACL youth representative, and Ryan Taketomo, JANM YPN board member, also welcomed JACL National President David Lin, as well as keynote speaker Vanna Novak, CEO and owner of Speak to Persuade.

Participants traci kato-kiriyama and Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks

Participants traci kato-kiriyama and Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks

Novak, who has more than 20 years of consulting experience and is a nationally recognized trainer based in Seattle, gave a presentation on speaking and networking in which she spoke about persuasive presentation skills and offered tips on how to build quality work relationships.

Novak’s presentation, titled “Art of Influence” and “It’s What You Don’t Say That Counts,” involved audience engagement on examples of workplace dynamics and relationships. The presentation also touched on cultural heritage and confidence in these spaces as well.

State Farm’s Sean Cheng followed Novak’s presentation, where he delivered a speech on financial responsibility. In today’s economic landscape, Cheng advised the young professional attendees to investigate financial planning programs.

A panel discussion was held afterward, in which panelists navigated through various aspects of their careers while acknowledging their unique identities and cultural backgrounds. Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks gave insight from his time on the Gate Millennium Scholar Program Advisory Council, and he shared his thoughts on balancing family, community involvement and professional career in academia.

Nationally recognized writer/actor/artist/educator traci kato-kiriyama spoke on the significance of staying true to one’s self and how every interaction is an opportunity. Other panelists included Craig Tomiyoshi, vice president at IW Group and Nikki Kodama, manager of systems engineering and integration at Northrop Grumman Corp.

The event aimed to provide young professionals an opportunity to learn about networking strategies as well as life tools to better themselves and the community.