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! 

By Katy Nally

Meet Liz, your source for viral content 

Image by Guangyi Li

As a marketer, having your work go viral is like chasing down the double rainbow, discovering its pot of gold, and diving in as if you were Scrouge McDuck. Few have felt that glorious feeling, but those who do will never forget it. Liz Mangini is in that select group.

A lifelong writer turned 2A marketing consultant, Liz not only lends her viral magic to our clients, but she also delivers a consulting experience as thrilling as a DuckTales adventure. She provides a Huey-Dewey-and-Louie trifecta that can’t miss. Here’s what it’s like to work with Liz:

Huey—the brave one with panache

Liz is fearless. She’s always up to try something new, which is why she’s dabbled in real estate, construction, higher education, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, and finally technology. Throughout her long career, writing and marketing has been the common thread. After graduating with a degree in communications, Liz went on to support marketing at a hospital and later founded the Body Image Blog where she wrote posts related to body positivity and self-esteem. No matter what she’s focused on, Liz is driven to help other people succeed. It’s what motivated her to ghost write for c-suite executives at Microsoft and promote small businesses as a writer for Fidalgo Living Magazine.

Dewey—the clever one with great ideas

While running the Body Image Blog, Liz perfected the art of turning great ideas into viral content. Within just one year, the blog reached over one million viewers, as several posts took off and racked up the views. Her Q&A post with model Lizzie Miller quickly spread throughout the blogosphere. She also interviewed big names like Laurel Touby and was invited to Leeza Gibbons’ radio show, Hollywood Confidential to discuss her blog. As attention from the press mounted, Redbook even reached out to see if Liz would write an article for the magazine.

After the University of Washington caught word of her popularity, the school asked if Liz would lead a social media workshop to teach students how to spread their content. She was such a hit that the UW also asked her to serve as an advisory board member for the editing program.

Louie—the charismatic one you can’t get enough of

By the time she landed at Inviso, Liz had so many varied experiences under her belt that she could connect with just about anyone. In that role she also moved away from writing toward marketing consulting. As a natural-born people person, Liz felt right at home helping clients achieve their goals and supporting new hires to build their skills.

It takes a trifecta of elements—a Huey, Dewey, and Louie, if you will—to create the perfect consultant. With Liz at 2A, clients get a fearless writer, creative thinker, and relationship builder bent on success.

Work with Liz to see how she can help you make your next blog, eBook, and case study go viral!

By Jane Dornemann

Tammy, the air traffic controller of content

Image by Thad Allen

Being a program manager is a lot like being an air traffic controller (but in this case, the planes are ebooks, animations, case studies, and decks). It can be a high-stress job that requires a laundry list of essential skills—communication, organization, and maintaining a cool-as-a-cucumber disposition chief among them.

That’s why we were so psyched that Tammy Monson joined 2A as our newest control tower extraordinaire, a.k.a. program manager. Her personal and professional experiences have provided Tammy plenty of opportunities to sharpen her skills.

There’s nothing Tammy can’t do

She started out as a first-grade teacher (how many of us are so brave?). Then she had children of her own—and THEN took on a new job while chairing events like charitable auctions on the side. Which is to say, Tammy walked (or ran) a pretty solid path to mastering the art of juggling it all.

For more than a decade she was a consultant who contracted with tech companies, primarily Microsoft. That meant each year she had to enter a new logistics-centered role with new processes and new team members. Sometimes it was business management or executive administration, other times it was strictly program management. Some people would bristle at having to relearn much of their job every year, but not Tammy. She saw the challenge as a growing experience.

“Doing something different each year made me realize I can learn anything if I put my mind to it. You start to realize you can do whatever you dig your heels into,” Tammy said.

Since that’s exactly how we feel at 2A, we hired her when her contract with Microsoft ended. It was a match made in technology-marketing heaven.

“2A is always trying new ways of doing things. The agency is all about discovering how to do better work, and that means not doing the same thing every time,” Tammy said. “How can we be more creative? How can we elevate our work? You can never ask a dumb question at 2A, and I love that freedom to be curious. It’s how we develop.”

Overseeing every day at 50,000 feet

In her day to day, Tammy is the control tower for our workflow management, operating with a 360-degree, bird’s-eye view of projects coming into and out of 2A. She’s the liaison that coordinates client work requests with consultant workflow management. She knows how to quickly learn the details of what each client needs, communicate that effectively to the team, set up meetings, and coordinate deadlines—conducting all the moving parts needed to ferry projects from initial request to a finished product.

When she’s not directing our projects’ take-offs and landings, she’s spending quality time with her college-aged daughters, binge watching her favorite TV shows, and exploring the great outdoors. It’s no surprise with her ability to take on challenges that she loves adventures. While the pandemic has paused those activities, she plays tourist in her hometown of Seattle, exploring Pike Place and taking long walks.

We’re so grateful that this talented woman has joined our group of high-flying marketers!

By Katy Nally

Mai oh my what a writer! 

Have you ever met a playwright? I hear there aren’t as many as there used to be. So, if you’re fortunate enough to cross paths with one, consider carving out a moment to chat. If Mai Sennaar is any indication, they’re fascinating.

At 2A we’re always looking to grow our crew of creative minds, so we jumped at the chance to add Mai’s talent to the mix. Mai wowed us with the fact that she ran her own production company and wrote, directed, and produced several plays. Her first production, The Broken Window Theory, starred a Tony Award winner. In addition, her play The Arsonist was performed at both the Smithsonian Affiliate Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and the Berkeley Art Museum.

A natural-born creative with an immense ability to wield words, Mai takes the storyteller position to new heights. Much like one of her plays, Mai’s work at 2A builds the story arc, pulls the audience in, and influences the reader’s point of view.

Building the story arc

Mai comes from a creative household. Her mother was a founding member of Sweet Honey in the Rock and went on to compose music for the Broadway show, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf. While at Howard Community College, Mai started channeling her creative streak into theater and even picked up an award for one of her early works. By then she’d caught the playwrighting bug and applied to NYU Tisch School of the Arts to study with the greats.

At Tisch she learned the ancient art of storytelling and practiced building stories to follow a narrative arc. Euripides and Sophocles taught her the origins of dramatic writing, and mentors like Richard Wesley encouraged her own burgeoning voice. After graduating, Mai wrote The Fall of the Kings, which debuted at the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx.

Pulling the audience in

Mai knows how to expertly uncover cherished soundbites so characters can woo an audience and marketers can connect with customers. Just before joining 2A, Mai worked for the U.S. Senate democrats as a digital creative director, writing commercials to promote mid-term election candidates. In that role she faced a new challenge of marrying scripted and unscripted moments into a piece that won over viewers. Today, she uses those same skills to write compelling blogs and build customer-evidence videos.

Mai also has a knack for interviewing, which she honed through her work for the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) in Washington DC. She interviewed dozens of high-profile individuals and published the conversations in the CLEO Edge magazine to attract more people of color to the legal profession. At 2A she puts her Q-and-A skills to use during customer interviews for case studies.

Influencing your point of view

No matter what she pens, Mai shines when she’s tasked with influencing the audience. Her plays have a way of making you pause and evaluate, while her case studies and videos compel customers to act. Wherever she goes, Mai lets her values lead her. Her most fulfilling experiences have been when her writing has mobilized people who were disenfranchised. When her work was performed for a New York City high school group, they told Mai how they’d connected with her characters, especially around issues like gentrification and displaced families. Seeing those students relate to her work was one of her high points as a writer.

At 2A she’s found a place where she can tackle new writing challenges and push the boundaries of storytelling. We can’t wait to see where she’ll take us next.

By Mai Sennaar

Nora blends creativity & people skills for the ultimate mix of marketing magic!

At 2A Nora Bright has found a place where her prodigious people skills and acuity for creative approaches to business problems work in tandem. Her knack for the arts, culture, and imaginative business strategies lead to the surprising and innovative approaches to marketing that her clients can’t get enough of. 

Nora first explored her creativity as a multi-instrumentalist musician. Before killing it on the drums as part of the opening act for some major artists (Ty Segall!) on campus at Scripps College, Nora was already uncovering her knack for leadership. She worked in the non-profit sector at several prominent arts and culture organizations in Los Angeles including the Colburn School, a music conservatory where she studied clarinet with world-class instructors. She impressed the leadership of Colburn, eventually following the director to New Roads School, where she had her first formal position as a Development Assistant. 

But Nora truly discovered the extent of her talent for people management when she served as a 23-year-old co-owner of her family’s recruiting business. Instead of taking a backseat to more seasoned team members or sticking close to the script of how things had always been, Nora immediately took on the challenges of leadership, managing the day-to-day operations of the company with an eye on growth. She sought one-on-ones with colleagues and clients with a sincere interest in gaining a more nuanced understanding of their challenges. She understood that her greatest strength as a leader would lie in her ability to empathize with and understand the perspectives of her collaborators. It was the beginning of Nora honing what she refers to as “servant-leadership”, an approach that allows her to see her role as one of service, even when it comes to employees. 

Through a commitment to gaining greater awareness of the needs of her customers and team, Nora managed to quickly build a positive rapport with the company’s clients. She supercharged the work culture, successfully diffused internal conflicts, and brought new creative strategies to the company’s marketing challenges. Her hard work paid off, ultimately propelling the company into a new era, with a 47% increase in revenue. As a testament to her people skills, many of the new clients under her tenure at the recruiting firm were former employers, including the Colburn School, where she successfully placed several key roles, including a Deputy Director. 

Following a transformative experience with her family business, Nora was inspired by the depth of her impact on people. She was excited by her ability to help others realize their strengths and was prepared to take her leadership and marketing skills to new dimensions. She decided on an MBA at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. 

It may have been the oysters that first attracted Nora to 2A’s on-campus recruitment happy hour, but the more she learned about the company’s reputation for combining creativity with marketing expertise, the more she wanted to know. Once she had an opportunity to personally meet with several members of the 2A team, things really clicked for Nora. She found the culture extraordinarily creative, welcoming, dynamic, and nourishing.  

When she’s not brainstorming fresh marketing strategies for her clients at 2A, Nora’s grooving to Yo La Tengo, Riot Grrrl, and honing her own electric guitar skills. 

By Kelly Schermer

Image of a row of records. A hand pulls out one record from the pile that reads

Image by Brandon Conboy

You know who gets one big name? Rockstars get one big name. We’re talking show-stopping, stage-rocking, mind-blowing rockstars that know how to shake up their genre and make audiences think and feel in new ways. These are the stars that possess so much raw talent and energy they only need the one name to stake a claim in the hearts and minds of everyone they meet. Think Beyonce, Lizzo, Eminem. Forsyth.

For those of you who haven’t met Forsyth Alexander yet, you’re in for a treat! Forsyth approaches storytelling for business with a fun, can-do attitude that gives her platinum-artist status at 2A. She’s a whirlwind of smooth jazz, bubbly pop, and marimba beats wrapped up as a storyteller extraordinaire. Thinking that sounds eclectic and interesting? That’s not even half of it!

DJ of technical writing

From a young age, Forsyth knew she wanted to be a music DJ and a writer—in that order. She got her degree in radio/television and motion pictures at University of North Carolina while working as a DJ at night and taking as many creative writing classes as she could. After graduation, Forsyth landed a job at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (now called the Horton Museum), where she became the go-to person for IT, editing, and design questions.

These experiences helped her realize her love for learning about new technologies, and her gift for editing other people’s writing to help them sound like the best version of themselves. Armed with this newfound awareness, Forsyth went on to build a vibrant career as a one-of-a-kind tech savant and writer, working for organizations across industries—from an engineering group to a home furnishing catalog company to a tech startup.

Today, Forsyth offers 2A clients her expertise in explaining different technologies as well as skillful guidance on positioning emerging capabilities. Like a rockstar DJ, who knows how to appeal to the audience in the club, Forsyth uses playful words and smart metaphors to draw in her reader and make new ideas stick like fresh melodies.

Spoken word poet

All great artists attribute stars that came before them, for Forsyth there’s no one main influence. “My music playlist looks like I blew up a record store, and it landed on my Spotify account,” she likes to say. But given her time as a DJ and her ability to transition seamlessly between industries, organizations, and writing voices, it’s no surprise that she thrives in variety. From Rolling Stones to Talking Heads to REM, Forsyth’s got great tunes to share, but my favorite Forsyth original is the song she sings about her home.

If you haven’t heard it yet, just ask her where she lives. In her smooth southern accent, she’ll tell you, “I live with eight cats, three dogs, two chickens, two ducks, and a bunny in a big old stone house on an acre of land.” There’s no pear tree in this version, but the rhythm sticks with you all the same.

Forsyth. The woman. The storyteller. The legend. Let her shine for you!

By Katy Nally

Meet Brandon, our very own Picasso of PowerPoint

Image by Guangyi Li

What do Hawaii, Gears of War, and PowerPoint all have in common? They’ve shaped Brandon Conboy into the designer he is today.

Though he’s a Seattle native, Brandon grew up with close ties to both Hawaii and Guam. As a kid, he flew to Oahu several times each year to visit his grandparents. It’s where he learned to keep a mellow head— as his dad calls it—and the value of being calm and collected. That cool, island attitude would come in handy as Brandon carved out his fast-paced, multi-faceted design career.

At Washington State University, Brandon earned his first bachelor’s degree, this one in fine arts, allowing him to continue dabbling in all things design—from photography to illustration. When he graduated, Brandon landed a dream gig doing quality control for the Xbox game Gears of War. As a game tester, he honed his eye for graphical issues like incorrect textures in backgrounds. While the job satisfied his love of video games, it didn’t push his design skills as much as he had hoped.

Brandon made the courageous move to return to WSU for a second bachelor’s degree—this time in digital technology and culture. He even asked the dean to overload his schedule so he could graduate faster. After graduation, Brandon landed at Silver Fox and got his first glimpse into the world of corporate presentations.

When his colleague—who went on to design Satya Nadella’s presentations—showed him the possibilities of PowerPoint, “it was like watching someone play piano,” he said. In no time, his own PowerPoint skills went from zero to 60, as he provided round-the-clock design support at Microsoft conferences. Brandon loved the life of an event-bound designer, traveling once a month to work on-site and cashing in on perks like front-row seats to see Macklemore.

By the time he reached 2A, Brandon was a PowerPoint pro with a sharp eye for design and the ability to stay cool while juggling multiple projects. When asked what are his favorite kinds of assets to work on, Brandon reflects, “I enjoy projects that allow me to create custom graphics, such as key art and cover images; decks and blog posts give me a chance to create something interesting.”

These days, you can find Brandon lending his creative eye to projects ranging from everything to social cards and eBooks as well as PowerPoint and blog posts. Looking for a design experience that brings calm to the chaotic, look no further than Brandon Conboy!

By Forsyth Alexander

Image of Ryan with a mountain and cruise ship in the background

Image by Brandon Conboy

“I didn’t want to get complacent.”

Ryan Walsh was working as a client services analyst for a financial firm in 2014. He enjoyed asset management and helping customers, his earnings statements were solid, and he had plenty of time off. Many financial analysts in his position would have cruised along, enjoying the good life. But not Ryan. It was time to change things up before complacency set in.

And that’s how he and his wife ended up in Seattle, he as an MBA student and she in the speech pathology program, all part of a new adventure that would eventually lead him to 2A.

Choose your own adventure

Ryan comes by this sense of adventure naturally. When he was young, his mother struck out on a new path with her own medical transcription company, and Ryan learned a lot from her. His love of new and daring experiences plays out in every aspect of his life. It includes enjoying video games full of quests and excursions, and not only trying the different foods available in Seattle with his wife, but also introducing some of it to his two-year-old son. He and his family also take walks all around Seattle just to see what’s out there. Then, there’s his excitement over cutting-edge technology like IoT, digital twinning, and augmented reality (AR).

But his interest in technology is focused on how it can help people and customers. For example, he recently told me, “IoT is an incredibly exciting field – the use cases I’ve seen in my short time here have been incredibly varied, seemingly limitless, and have the potential to solve so many problems and improve people’s health, experiences, and lives.”

“Don’t just stand there, say nice things to me”

This quote from “Push,” by Matchbox Twenty, one of Ryan’s favorite bands, sums up how Ryan took his innate ability to relate to customers and their problems and applied it to his career. With MBA in hand, he embarked on a great adventure with a cruise line. He helped with the launches of the line’s iOS and Android mobile apps, co-branded credit card, gift card program, flight sales tool, and immersive cruises. He also designed and implemented organization-wide customer feedback management capabilities, including improving a web feedback program so that they could research and adjust ways of working based on customer expectations and needs.

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Ryan led a cross-functional voice of the customer (VoC) team to understand how COVID-19 affected customer behavior and sentiment. This included researching booking, purchase behavior and willingness to travel. He also examined pain points, trends, opportunities, and potential business drivers. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic eventually became too much for the cruise industry.

Welcome aboard, Ryan!

You can’t keep an adventure seeker like Ryan down. In June 2020, he said bon voyage to the cruise line and joined 2A as an embedded consultant, serving as the business manager for two different sales teams in the Microsoft IoT organization. He’s thriving in this role. “I’m assisting the field with reporting and insights, helping drive process and organizational transformation, documenting and communicating best practices so we can better serve our partners, and identifying compelling ways to tell our IoT story. Most of the time, we’re working on 20 different things, and I have to ruthlessly prioritize. I get to identify what’s most impactful and work on that.”

At 2A, we’re glad to have our modern-day Indiana Jones aboard as he designs great adventures for his IoT teams at Microsoft.