By Kate Forster

decorative image

Image by Julianne Medenblik

Telling stories about robotics and artificial intelligence in an engaging and attention-grabbing manner is a rare talent. Chris Stetkiewicz, 2A Embedded Consultant (EC), has been applying this talent for the past two years as a writer and editor at Microsoft Research—one of only a few computer science research centers outside academia.

2A’s ECs are highly skilled and experienced professionals who function as contracted members of our clients’ teams, and Chris is one of our most accomplished. He and I recently sat down to talk about writing contests, robotics, and dog parks. Here’s a snippet from our conversation.

Kate: With all the groundbreaking work going on, Microsoft Research sounds like an incredible place to work.

Chris: It really is. I feel lucky to get to work with some of the most accomplished people in technology and science. I learn from them every day, and it makes my job interesting. I also work alongside some very talented writers and content creators, and I learn a lot from them too.

Kate: Working with some of the most renowned computer scientists in the world must be exciting, and slightly intimidating I imagine. How do you see your role?

Chris: I find it inspiring. For my part, I bring an external perspective and an appreciation for how people think about technology outside the company, which the researchers don’t always have. I help them understand what they’re doing in the larger context.

Sometimes I craft a story that isn’t exactly the story we were initially setting out to tell, but it’s an effective story to tell for our audience.

Kate: Can you share an interesting story you’ve worked on?

Chris: I recently completed a story on robotics. It’s about a technology called MoCapAct, which is a dataset intended to make it easier for robots to physically move the way people do.

There’s an existing database called MoCap, which stands for motion capture, in which technology is used to track and record people’s physical motions. It’s used to create animated films or computer-generated imagery (CGI). But it’s a lot harder to get robots to move in precisely the same way that people do. MoCapAct—motion capture in action—solves this problem.

Kate: You’ve been writing and reporting in some form or another over your entire career. What first drew you to writing?

Chris: Oh, I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, and I always enjoyed it. In elementary school, I would enter every writing contest and always win. When I took a high school journalism class, I had a letter to the editor published by a local newspaper. After that I was hooked! I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I would read three of our local newspapers every day, cover to cover.

Kate: Seems like news and writing are in your DNA. I understand you started your career as a journalist for news organizations. Now you’re writing for a tech company. What connections do you see between the two?

Chris: A good story is a good story, no matter who’s telling it. The only difference is how the content is delivered. At Microsoft Research, the biggest part of my job entails writing and editing blog posts and social media content, but I’ve also written video scripts, built newsletters, and launched new content programs.

Kate: Sounds like you need to be pretty versatile. On a different note, I know you‘re a dog owner. In fact, your dog has made some cameos in video meetings we’ve both been in.

Chris: Heh. It’s as if he arrives on cue. He knows when it’s a bad time to come and interrupt me, and there he is.

Kate: Ha ha. As a new dog owner, I can relate. Do you have any recommendations for good dog parks in the area?

Chris: I recommend the dog park at Marymoor Park in Redmond. It’s near the Microsoft campus, and it’s got great swimming options. There are multiple spots where you can go on down to the Sammamish River and let your dog take a dunk or get a drink.

Kate: Hmm. I’ve yet to discover if my dog likes the water. Sounds like there’s a good opportunity to find out. Thanks.

Chris: You’re welcome. This park has a way of turning unsuspecting canines into water-loving dogs. Watch out.

Interested in becoming an EC? Check out our open roles, or submit a General Job Inquiry if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for.

Want to hire an Embedded Consultant? Learn more here.

By BB Bickel

Decorative image

Image by Thad Allen

When asked what he does, our motion designer Brian Dionisi very simply says, “I make videos of complicated concepts and use shapes and colors to make them understandable and easy to follow.” That is Brian’s approach in a nutshell. He gets to the very essence of a topic so anyone can understand it. 

But this isn’t surprising from someone who has two degrees and a storied career. Brian is well versed in picking up new skills and applying them to his day-to-day work. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Drawing and Printmaking from the University of Central Florida, he went on to teach English as a second language in Italy. Then he came back to the U.S. to teach Italian and later graduated from the University of Washington with a Master of Arts in Italian studies. All mixed in were his stints as a customer service representative, a quality rater for Google, and a translator for a startup. 

Having drawn all his life, Brian became a freelance illustrator. He got into the Seattle arts scene by participating in a comics collective where a group of cartoonists self-published and distributed a quarterly anthology around the Pacific Northwest. It was then he decided he wanted a career in illustration, design, and animation, where he could develop characters for TV shows. So he went back to school for digital media-animation at Otis College of Art and Design in California. But his love of moving from one adventure to the next led him to a new opportunity—a design internship at an aerospace company. 

When Brian saw 2A’s job posting for a motion designer, his eyes lit up. Here was a creative agency that was neither a startup nor a big, faceless corporation. His hunch was validated during the interview process, where it was clear that 2A’s welcoming atmosphere meant he could be a vital part of the team. 

Outside of work, Brian draws fantastical and whimsical characters and environments, influenced greatly by 70s French sci-fi cartoonists. He’s singularly drawn to the aesthetic shape of the egg because of its fluid curves, and this shape informs his endless fussing over home décor decisions. Brian is also extremely meticulous and detailed, a trait that bodes well for developing tricky motion videos. 

When asked what he’d like to be known for the most, he replied, “I want to be that approachable person you can easily talk to about anything while also putting a smile on your face.” Having already won the hearts of 2A clients—and staff—we think his hopes have already been set in motion. 

By BB Bickel

decorative image

Image by Emily Zheng

Being an anthropologist makes for a great consultant. What’s that again? Yes, when it comes to Olivia Witt, 2A consultant extraordinaire, her years spent learning why people are the way they are now helps her wow 2A clients. Adding to her expertise on the science of humanity, her previous tenure at boutique marketing and advertising agencies revealed her love for producing content that best reflects a brand’s vision.

While studying anthropology, Olivia became a real coffee nerd. During college she helped the Husky Grind, the school’s only student-led specialty coffee shop. For three years she worked with farmers and roasters all over the world to learn about the roasting process, ordered coffees for the shop, and attended cuppings (coffee tastings). Ask her what a double espresso with three ounces of seltzer water—a drink known as espressoda—tastes like, and she’ll swoon!

Olivia is also a photography buff, a passion that stemmed from an anthropology course taught by a National Geographic photographer. She got the picture-taking bug so intensely that when she traveled to India for her honors thesis, half of the 90-page paper featured her ethnographic photos, which captured the textile industry in South India. During her senior year in college, Olivia served as a photography intern at the Seattle Met, honing her skills on depicting people in their everyday lives. Because Olivia finds snapping shots of people in their own element fascinating, she always wears her Nikon camera around her neck when she is out and about—she never knows when she’ll see the perfect human tableau.

One thing that likely no one else but Olivia can say is that they have 16 pets, which includes two dogs, a bearded dragon, and a giant green iguana. Yes, they all live inside and yes, she loves them all equally.

Olivia, who firmly believes that 2A is the unicorn of all companies, adds to its uniqueness with her ability to be a welcoming resource from coffee to copy—and we know clients will appreciate her distinct perspective on every project.

By Forsyth Alexander

decorative image of Richa with a paisley pattern

Image by Thad Allen

“Let’s focus on the gaming chair in this animation. Let’s give it wings. Or, wait, let’s show it supported by a strong security posture and low latency! Or maybe we can make it wobble and fix itself…” and off she goes, in search of the perfect idea for the perfect script. 

This is Richa Dubey, former school-aged newspaper titan and grown-up entrepreneur—and current 2A storyteller. And it’s just one example of how she brings light, charm, wit, and knowledge to all kinds of marketing content. 

Do you need a snappy headline? She’s on it. Would some rhymes spruce up your blog? She’s your poet in residence. Do you want an eBook that speaks to a skeptical, tech-savvy audience? Go find Richa—she’ll make them all believers. Writing creative and convincing content is in her blood. 

“I think I’ve always been a writer.” 

Richa can’t really remember a time when she wasn’t a writer. Growing up with a father in the Indian army, she moved more times as a child than many of us do in a lifetime. This honed her ability not only to communicate but also to tell stories—some of which she sold to the army base weekly for pocket money when she was a child. 

As an adult, she learned that it was important to her to be her authentic, original self, while doing what she loved. So, she launched headfirst into being a writer. She perfected her talent as a journalist, publicist, social advocate, magazine publisher, media professional, and more. A lot of this work involved the Indian fashion world.

Because I’m fascinated with world fashion, I asked her what that was like. “It was grueling,” she said. But she also told me it gave her a lifetime’s worth of appreciation for the designs in the beautiful textiles woven in her beloved homeland of India. “Paisley! Oh, I could rapturize for days about Paisley!” she added. 

From India to the U.S.: A “never met a stranger” in a strange land 

In 2015, Richa and her family embarked on her latest adventure: a move to the U.S. It wasn’t long before she had set up a business—in her very own “she shed.”  

Richa “never met a stranger”—which is what we in the southern U.S. states say about someone who is friendly with everyone—so she quickly embraced her new home and its citizens. She made friends, carved out a space for herself in the Seattle area, and dedicated countless hours to advocating for the rights of marginalized humans to be heard.  

From blog posts to Bollywood  

Now, more than seven years later, her shed is a modern-day writer’s bungalow. This is where you can find her virtually penning all kinds of content, like case studies about Nasdaq and eBooks that squeeze information about 20 brands in just a few pages. You might also catch her leading a Bollywood dance session for 2A employees. 

Outside her bungalow, she attends karate lessons, participates in community affairs, takes care of her family, and tries as many new experiences as she can. 

“I’m determined to do things people don’t think I should. It’s why I took up scuba diving a few years ago. Sky diving’s next,” she confided. 

It’s all one magnificent textile threaded with gold, storytelling, and passion—it’s the Richa tapestry of life. 

By Richa Dubey

decorative image of sanaz surrounded by skis, a note book, a laptop, running shoes, a calendar, and a dutch oven

Image by Brandon Conboy

When Sanaz is in a meeting, it’s quite simply brighter. Brimming with energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to jump in and make mistakes, Sanaz, in her own words, is “not afraid to experiment” if it means she’ll learn or contribute to the process.

“Sanaz” means grace in Persian, which is fitting, because she rarely messes up. She’s a great consultant who fields tight deadlines and busy schedules, then delivers what clients need and want.

Sanaz regularly whips up fabulous Persian meals for her family and shepherds three teenagers through everything (including setting up their own nonprofit that was featured on the local news). Then she hits the gym. She’s a pro at juggling a busy life and multiple projects all at once.

Insert classic question that successful women professionals get asked: How do you do it all? “I am a bundle of energy, and any physical activity—cue skiing, walking the dog—helps.”

After a decade of teaching middle- and high-schoolers math and science she quit because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I missed the human connection and couldn’t handle remote teaching.” 

Sanaz then took a leap of faith and switched to a project management role at a telecommunications consultancy. She ended up being so good at it that she went from being a project manager to VP in under a year. But this is Sanaz we’re talking about, and she wanted to learn more, “I was at the level of a VP, running the company alongside the president, but felt I could grow so much more. What I needed was to move on and be better so when I met a friend (at the gym, of course) who works at Microsoft, and she recommended I try technology marketing, I jumped at it.” 

The rest, as they say, is history—just like her brush with the Iranian morality police in her youth. 

The first time Sanaz had a run-in with the morality police, she was barely 15 and not wearing the “right kind” of hijab. Picked up from her neighborhood and dumped in the back of a van along with her friends and cousin, she was luckily able to attract the attention of her parents who were just outside and got off with a warning and having to write a promissory note. 

But we carry our history with us, and Sanaz remains an outspoken advocate for gender equity in Iran besides actively volunteering in her local community. No surprises there, because beyond being all brain, this former biomedical engineering PhD candidate is also full of heart, fun, bravery, empathy, and always… grace.  

By Jane Dornemann

Julianne lands in the 2A shop with some eye-catching pop

Image by Brandon Conboy

Before Julianne Medenblik, one of 2A’s newest designers, found herself jazzing up eBooks and PowerPoint presentations that would keep anyone’s attention, she was memorizing monologues.

Starting out as an acting major in Chicago, Julianne eventually became disenchanted with the stage when auditions became draining and long-term career options seemed too few.

To find her path forward, she decided to return to her roots: she moved back home to Michigan and started taking art classes such as drawing and photography, something she remembered enjoying in high school.

“I call it the year of finding myself as an adult,” Julianne recalled.

Rediscovering her passion for creating art, and inspired by friends who had pursued graphic design, Julianne enrolled in graphic design school. “It felt like where I was supposed to be all along,” she said.

She did the intern thing, designing marketing materials, social media posts, and infographics for a small web development company–until they hired her full-time and she found herself frying bigger fish like designing entire apps and websites. From there, the pandemic landed her in a contractor role for a package design firm, where she tackled projects for big names like Mr. Coffee and Sunbeam. (Work perk: she got to see her stuff come to life on store shelves across the country.)

“While that experience was more corporate than my previous work, I learned a lot about the legal side of design—for example, did you know that any product sold in Canada is required to have both French and English on the packaging? And the font for each language must be the exact same size?” (No, we didn’t know that Julianne, but we will be using it to fill the void of small talk silences at some point!)

Julianne was crafting designs for a real estate company when she stumbled on a 2A job post, and the rest is history. These days she’s thinking of ways to add visual dazzle to our storytellers’ words, whether it’s for an animation or a product one-pager.

As a remote worker, her only home office companion is Louis, her Pomeranian. When she’s not impressing 2A clients, she is ingesting all things pop culture, listening to Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, playing Animal Crossing, or indulging in “awful reality TV dating shows.” And the more she delves into design, the more she realizes that her penchant for mystery novels has boosted her creative process at work.

“Those books are about finding a solution, putting information together until it fits,” she said. “Sometimes, thinking about how to select visuals that make sense, and have them work together in one space, is like being the Nancy Drew of graphic design.”

Oh, and if you like stickers, check out Julianne’s designs on her Etsy shop. If you’re not a sticker hound, you can also peruse her portfolio.

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image around a headshot of BB

Image by Brandon Conboy

When BB Bickel was 8 years old, she established a neighborhood newspaper called The Daily Blab—and while it was an adorable examination of items like the neighbor’s newest garden addition, it was also a discovery of her love for communicating information.

Today, BB writes marketing content from her sunny Florida home as a storyteller for 2A. Her ability to write about anything for anyone stems from a longtime career as a PR professional, which began with her position at a leading global PR agency, where she became a senior vice president.

Eventually, she left agency life to practice as a communications solopreneur, serving clients like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Sun Microsystems.

“Every project I took on was brand new, and I’d have to learn about a lot of topics. Clients would ask, ‘Can you write about non-small cell lung carcinoma? Can you write about liquid regasification?’ Sure!” she said.

Not only does BB have a talent for learning about any topic enough to write about it, but she also helps clients consider a different approach when it makes sense. One client was interested in producing thought leadership content and had recruited BB to write whitepapers.

“But they weren’t whitepapers. So, I said, let’s publish a set of vision papers—a term I had coined—because that’s really what they were,” BB said. The client loved it, and so did the client’s audience.

BB relays her enthusiasm for storytelling to any tale, even if the topic is on the dry side. Once, she had to interview a librarian about the software that ensured a university library’s printers were full of paper.

“Boring, right?” BB said. “But this was a really exciting topic for the librarian, and for the people who were going to read it, and I was able to bring that through in my writing.”

As a discerning communications professional, BB knows a good thing when she sees it, which is why she came to 2A. While running a freelance practice was a great experience, she is happy to work with a team again and learn about the newest developments in technology.

Her personal interests are as varied as her industry knowledge. She’s a cook, an avid reader, and a coffee aficionado who drinks black coffee with every meal. And she puts as much effort into exercising as she does into her presentation.

“I have to admit, I own 76 makeup brushes,” she laughs. “In another life, I would have been a makeup artist.”

By Kimberly Mass

decorative image of Alyson baking

Image by Julianne Medenblik

This is a story about cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes—the kind covered with frosting, crowned with sprinkles, and filled to bursting with even more frosting. In this case, the frosting is comedy, the filling is a deep sense of community, and the sprinkles are the spark Alyson Stoner-Rhoades brings to her role as 2A’s operations manager.

Like the first bite of a cupcake—from the side? from the top?—this story could start just about anywhere and still end up somewhere delicious. Let’s eat!

Goodness baked right in

While Alyson grew up cooking for her family, she learned to bake from scratch (croissants and cookies and yes, cupcakes) at her first job at Specialty’s Café and Bakery. She also learned about the food supply chain, sustainable farming, and the joy that comes from sharing quality food carefully made with the wider community.

Alyson’s experience at Specialty’s prepared her for her next position: store manager at Cupcake Royale. There she learned to do, as she put it, “just about everything,” including baking the store’s signature cupcakes. With its focus on sourcing sustainable ingredients, giving back through donation matching, and serving as a community gathering place, Cupcake Royale was a perfect match for Alyson’s growing skills in operations management and community building.

The perfect mix

Following a brief stint with the Seattle Storm where she further flexed her community building muscles (a job she got in part due to her work with the Storm while at Cupcake Royale), Alyson landed at 2A as operations manager. While she makes sure the computers work and the bills get paid, where she really shines is in our company’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) efforts. “I never want people to feel that they’re not supported,” she shared. “Whatever I can do to help people who need a boost is something I’m going to do.”

In the kitsch-en

Baked into everything Alyson does is her wicked sense of humor and love of comedy. From intellectual humor to observational humor to potty humor, she loves it all. In fact, her husband proposed to her right before going to see John Mulaney at the Paramount here in Seattle and a couple of years later surprised her with a signed copy of an album from that tour. “I know it’s cliché, but laughter really is the best medicine,” Alyson said. “There’s magic in humor, and just being silly is beautiful.”

She makes it look like a cakewalk

While there’s also magic and beauty in a perfectly crafted cupcake, it’s the kind of beauty that lasts only for a moment. For Alyson, the operations management work she does at 2A has a much greater and more meaningful impact on her and the team: “Operations just kind of fell into my lap, but it comes naturally to me. I really like helping people and leaving situations better than I found them. People are what make a business, and it gives me real joy to take care of the things they need.”

By Kimberly Mass

Image of Madeline Sy on an opera program

Image by Brandon Conboy

What do you get when you combine a passion for opera, an affinity for processes and patterns, and a love for solving complex problems? In 2A’s case, the answer is Madeline Sy, opera aficionado and marketing consultant extraordinaire.

“I’ve loved opera for as long as I can remember,” said Madeline. “While it has a reputation for being inaccessible, it’s actually the opposite—it taps into our instinct to tell stories through music, stories that explore these big emotions that reflect the universal experience of being human.” A case in point: Madeline’s favorite opera, Bluebeard’s Castle by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, is based on a French fairy tale and follows Judith, Bluebeard’s latest wife, as she defies her husband’s request and opens one door after another in a misguided—and ultimately tragic—quest to uncover the castle’s secrets. “At its heart, it’s a story most of us can relate to, about the desire for knowledge even when it isn’t in our best interests. Like any great story, it invites imagination—every time I see it, I connect to something different, and there’s space for everyone who sees the opera to do that.”

Driven by a desire to share their passion with a broader audience, Madeline began volunteering with the Los Angeles Opera’s community engagement programs. There they saw firsthand how the dedication of a small group of people and the power of a solid marketing message could be used in outreach efforts to bring the arts to underserved communities. From there, it was natural step to apply for the Watson Fellowship, a one-year grant that funds independent research and exploration outside the United States, which Madeline used to travel to South Africa, Australia, and Canada. “I wanted to explore how opera—and other artforms in general—can be accessible to people who experience and navigate through the world differently. I started with opera but by the end of the year had expanded to other art forms including a fully accessible music festival and a new opera produced entirely in ASL about deaf culture.”

As they worked to understand these challenges and find workable solutions, Madeline was drawn to HR and the ability of HR professionals to discover patterns, solve complex problems, and improve people’s daily work life. After completing their Master of Human Resource degree at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, Madeline joined bp as a People Advisor, where, in addition to day-to-day HR responsibilities, they worked on special projects that involved building relationships with internal clients and telling stories with data to develop, lead, and launch employee-based initiatives. “While I loved the combination of people and processes that HR involved, I realized I craved collaborating on projects and missed the camaraderie of working with a core team in a creative environment,” Madeline said. “I wanted to find a way to bring everything together.”

Enter 2A stage right: with its focus on building strong relationships and helping clients solve complex marketing challenges—and love of all things creative—2A struck just the right chord with Madeline. And while we don’t always know our aria from our overture, we feel exactly the same!

By Mai Sennaar

Kimberly found her voice early on—now she’s helping clients discover theirs

As our resident voice chameleon, Kimberly has the writing dexterity to perfectly capture any client voice. Her journey as a distinguished marketing writer began years ago following a move to Japan. Once back in the United States, Kimberly honed her skills for delivering rich and impactful assets, eventually building a stellar reputation as a writer and a diverse portfolio of work across a wide range of industries.

She honed her marketing writing skills over many years, and at this point, Kimberly’s knack for embodying brand voices comes naturally. Her ear is so keen that she can’t listen to too much radio in the car before the voices begin to pile up in her mind! And reading too many British spy novels have her adopting cheeky slang.

Behold the power of words

She attributes her inclination toward writing to an early awareness of the power of words. A funny story goes that perusing her grandfather’s bookshelf as a kid led her to pick up a Harold Robbins novel. Kimberly’s mother was scandalized at the discovery of her young daughter’s choice in fiction and the extreme reaction made Kimberly note the peculiar power of language and fictional worlds for the first time.

Kimberly’s pursuit of a college education was unconventional in the eyes of many in the rural Michigan town where she grew up, and literature served as a catalyst in her courage to cultivate her own perspective on the world. She cites To Kill a Mockingbird as a particularly transformative book when it came to her understanding of diversity and the broader humanity of people across cultural and religious lines. Gaining academic accolades for a feminist-leaning essay at her conservative high school was the moment when Kimberly first discovered a talent for persuasion that would later make her marketing work so impactful for clients.

From infographics to animations—giving life to a brand voice

For one of her first assignments at 2A, Kimberly used her chameleon-like skills to deliver an illuminating animation. While adept at shifting between distinct voices, she also helps clients discover and develop new brand voices to take their marketing approach to the next level. With an equal aptitude for persuasion, infographics and animations remain some of Kimberly’s favorite assets.

Kimberly has a long history of volunteer work that’s just as diverse as her writing portfolio. From working with hospice patients to coaching youth flag football, Kimberly has done it all. Perhaps most notably, she founded a longstanding Play in the Park program at her son’s former elementary school. The program is designed to foster community by helping students stay in touch over the summer. Her son is now 23 and the program is still going strong!

Kimberly says that her favorite thing about her volunteer work and her work at 2A is using her skills to enrich the lives of others.

If client feedback is any indication, she’s meeting her goal so far!