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Laura turns your don’ts into do-si-dos

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By Katy Nally

Laura turns your don’ts into do-si-dos

A square dance can’t happen without a caller to guide couples through upcoming do-si-dos and allemande lefts. With Laura at the mic, the dance goes off without a hitch. Keeping partners moving isn’t just her specialty on the dancefloor—it’s been the cornerstone of her career. Laura’s knack for keeping everyone in sync and her commitment to helping others is what makes her an extraordinary project manager.

Partner dedication

After college, Laura opted for two years in the Peace Corps, teaching English in a 3,000-person village in Thailand. Little did she know her role would open doors for her in the corporate world—helping companies cultivate their partnerships with Microsoft. Attracted by a dot.com boom, Laura parlayed her teaching experience in Thailand into a position at Microsoft where she managed an online training program for partners. Two decades later she’s still dedicated to partner marketing, and today serves as an adviser on the subject.

Altruistic motivation

If she could stay in Thailand, she would. It’s where she fell in love with papaya salad and tropical beaches. It’s also the place that ignited her lifelong passion for helping people that fuels her to this day. In between traveling abroad, square dancing, paddle boarding and partner marketing, Laura still manages to carve out time for nonprofit pursuits. In the past she’s helped Big Brothers and Big Sisters fine tune their marketing strategy, and these days she’s on the board of the World Association for Children and Parents.

Career circulation

Ending up at 2A was a bit of a do-si-do in itself. While working at Microsoft, Laura hired a few content experts who went on to establish 2A. She liked them so much she kept in touch, and later accepted a job at the budding agency when 2A needed someone with deep expertise in partner marketing.


In need of a caller to choreograph your marketing moves? Laura can lead your partners in the right direction.


Broaden your horizons with 2A’s reading list

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By Carolyn Lange

Image features three rows of books with different book covers on a hot pink background.

Image by Julianne Medenblik

Book out your next few months. 2A is filling your TBR (to-be-read) list with fantastical fiction, memorable memoirs, tearjerker tales, and nail-biting novels. 

When I asked the team at 2A for their fiction and non-fiction recommendations, I should have known the suggestions would be as creative, diverse, and thoughtful as our talented team. And also, sometimes, really weird. (Okay, fine. Guilty.) So no matter what you’re into, we’ve probably got it. Cooking? Check. Video games? Yep. Mortality and existential dread? Um, sure, if that’s what you’re into. The concept of grief as explored by a robotic hive mind from the distant future researching human emotion? You get the picture. Enjoy! 

P.S. Consider buying from your local bookseller. With Libro.fm (for audiobooks) and Bookshop.org (for physical copies) you can find a comprehensive selection of books—and the profits go to a bookstore of your choice. Find a bookstore near you, or filter your search results by BIPOC-owned, queer-owned, and more. 

Fiction faves 

Dead in Long Beach, California – Venita Blackburn 
Psychological fiction 
A bestselling sci-fi writer discovers her brother’s body following his suicide and, in the thick of grief, begins texting people from his phone, pretending to be him. A raw, heartfelt, and often very funny story that made me think in completely new ways about how we grieve and remember. Also, the book is narrated by a robotic hive mind from the distant future researching human emotion, so.
-Jack Foraker

Binge: 60 stories to make your brain feel different – Douglas Coupland 
Short stories 
I’ve been a fan of Douglas Coupland since Generation X, and I find myself referencing and re-reading Binge again and again. It’s funny and smart, and the short stories are the perfect low-commitment reading snack. This book makes me laugh out loud, and I can guarantee you’ll never look at a car’s rooftop cargo carrier the same way again… -Andrea Swangard 

Heaven No Hell – Michael DeForge 
Comic anthology 
This collection captures some of Michael DeForge’s best work yet. His writing makes me laugh in a way few writers can, and I’m always surprised how his evolving illustrative style still manages to challenge me. (His drawings have evolved dramatically over the last decade.) Michael DeForge continues to push what is possible in the genre, reveling in the vulgar without ever seeming crude, and exploring complex themes (identity, class, sex) without feeling pedantic. -Brian Dionisi 

White Noise – Don DeLillo 
Postmodern literature 
Ever found yourself zoning out in front of a toothpaste section at the neighborhood CVS wondering why any of this matters? I’m doing it right now. This story takes a deep dive into the heart of our consumer-crazed, media-drenched world, mixing existential dread with the constant hum of the capitalist machine. This is the perfect read for your hipster pal or near-burn-out fintech bud questioning the sales-pitch reality and the layers of our buy-now culture. Therapy not included.
-Felip Ballesteros 

Maame – Jessica George 
Contemporary fiction 
This book reminded me of my early 20s, discovering the world and who I am in it. I see myself, my girlfriends, and so many of my life experiences in the protagonist. It’s hilarious, heartbreaking, silly, and most of all honest. -Sal Hill 

Demon Copperhead – Barbara Kingsolver 
Literary fiction 
Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver is my favorite book of all time, but I have to say that this one was almost as engrossing and had a less tragic ending (the tragic part is in the middle). Based on David Copperfield, this is a story about a really blighted area of the South where North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee all meet. Industries have left and drug addiction is high due to despair. This is a long sad book that’s uplifting at the end, and I loved every word because I could hear the accent of the narrator throughout the whole story. -Forsyth Alexander 

The House in the Cerulean Sea – T.J. Klune 
Contemporary fantasy 
I was charmed, outraged, and completely rooting for all the beautifully developed protagonists from Linus, the curmudgeon with a heart of gold to the charming unidentifiable green blob. Best of all, the sequel is coming out this year! -Annie Wegrich 

The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories – Jamil Jan Kochai 
Short stories 
A short story collection with the cohesiveness of a well-executed concept album. Pure perfection from the opening sequence to the final note. And in the predictable midsection where the bridge tends to sway? Only depth and dimension. This book set a new bar for the possibilities of storytelling. -Madeline Sy 

Chain-Gang All-Stars – Nana Kwawe Adjei-Brenyah 
Dystopian fiction 
No words. Go read it. And know I cried like a li’l baby at the end. -Ashley JoEtta 

The Three Body Problem (trilogy) – Cixin Liu 
Science fiction 
[Forgive me Timothée Chalamet *prayer hand lipstick emoji*] Forget about Dune for a minute and dive into something truly out of this world with Chinese sci-fi legend and Hugo Award winner, Cixin Liu. The story takes you from the Red Revolution straight into the next 400 years, an upgrade on the Western-styled space drama. It’s thought-provoking and made me question: Will we ever be ready for what’s out there? -Felip Ballesteros 

The Tatami Time Machine Blues – Tomihiko Morimi and Emily Balistrieri (Translator) 
Science fiction 
When our unnamed protagonist finds a time machine, it’s clear what he must do: Go back in time 24 hours to heroically prevent his “worst friend” (a brilliant descriptor) from spilling Coke on his dorm’s AC remote control. Nothing hits quite like weird fiction, and thankfully, Morimi’s unusual story elements and out-there humor are captured perfectly in Balistrieri’s translation. -Carolyn Lange 

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting – Clare Pooley  
Contemporary fiction 
I read another Clare Pooley book first, The Authenticity Project, which I enjoyed because of the characters and their struggles to be authentic in a book where authenticity was key. So, when Annie recommended this one, I ordered it right away. It’s a wonderful redemption tale for a cast of characters who become unlikely friends on a commuter train with a poignant twist at the end.
Forsyth Alexander 

Black Sun – Rebecca Roanhorse 
What does it mean to be a hero? What does it mean to be a villain? Are you good? Are you bad? Are you an outsider or an insider? Generational trauma? Bisexual mermaid/siren/sea-captain? When you open your eyes, maybe you’ll be a god. -Ashley JoEtta 

Remarkably Bright Creatures – Shelby Van Pelt 
Contemporary fiction 
I was not prepared to fall so deeply in love with an octopus. -Annie Wegrich 

Non-fiction picks 

Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and the Quest to Belong Anywhere – Maria Bamford 
Maria Bamford’s book plays cleverly with the memoir format while talking us through her mental health challenges and the many “cults” she’s joined over the years: 12-step programs, public speaking courses, and even, as she says, her own family. As with her comedy, I love Maria’s empathy and willingness to let her freak flag fly. Also, it’s funny as hell. -Nora Bright 

The Kindness Challenge: Thirty Days to Improve Any Relationship – Shaunti Feldhahn 
Do you want to feel at peace and happy? Who doesn’t!? The Kindness Challenge covers how you can transform your heart and any relationship through kindness. It also explains the eight types of kindness and seven ways you may be unkind and never realize it. I challenge you to do the 30-Day Kindness Challenge! -Liz Mangini 

Being Mortal – Atul Gawande  
Health & wellbeing 
This is a must-read if you plan on getting older. It explains how the body changes as you age and examines the options when you can no longer take care of yourself. -Laura Templeton 

The Many Lives of Mama Love – Lara Love Hardin 
You know those books where y’know it’s gonna be good from the first sentence? This is one of those books. The real-life story of PTA mom turned inmate turned ghostwriter. “Escape was always my real addiction, the one true high. Books were just my gateway drug.” -Madeline Sy 

Doppelganger – Naomi Klein 
Social & political analysis 
This book got me thinking a lot about twins, doubles, and the hidden versions of ourselves. Not really sure how Klein jumped from COVID conspiracies to fitness influencers to WWII history, but she did, and I loved it. -Jack Foraker 

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture – David Kushner 
History & Industry 
Centering on the scrappy development of Doom in the 90s, Kushner weaves together the stories of two tech whiz-kids: analytical programmer John Carmack and charismatic software designer John Romero. A fascinating, fun, and in-depth look at creativity, teamwork, and the swift advancement of technology that’s thoroughly entertaining far beyond “how they made one game.” -Thad Allen 

Gender Magic – Rae McDaniel 
Therapist Rae McDaniel guides readers through various gender journeys with a gender-expansive, queer-supportive approach. They provide therapeutic exercises, offer actionable advice, and define key terms for transition, gender exploration, and trans and gender-nonconforming freedom. -Ren Iris 

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon – Julie Phillips 
This biography was mesmerizing. Alice wrote science fiction in the 70s. She couldn’t get her work published as a woman, so she created the pen name, James Tiptree, Jr., then submitted and published the same stories. James was hailed as “a brilliant writer with a deep sympathy for his female characters.” Alice’s cover was blown at age 61. She was an artist, chicken farmer, WWII intelligence officer, CIA agent, experimental psychologist, and more! -Liz Mangini 

How to Taste – Becky Selengut 
Perhaps the only cookbook that you will laugh your way through. And the only chef who admits that Doritos are perfectly flavored. Becky walks through the 6 different tastes and when and how to best use them, with a big side dish of humor. -Laura Templeton 


2A’s favorite albums of 2021

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By Nora Bright

collage of album covers

Image by Thad Allen

Whenever I read a best-of list of music albums published at the end of the year, I often think about how critics decide what to include. Do they focus on the albums that pushed a genre’s boundaries, that encapsulated the year for critics, or something else? 

When I was in high school, I was an avid reader of Pitchfork and loved how the popular music blog rated albums on a scale of 0–10. It felt so clean to assign numbers—so black and white. 

As I got exposed to more music genres and subcultures in college, I began to feel strongly that the quality of a song or album (and all art, for that matter) is in the eye of the beholder. Trying to assign a definitive number began to feel silly. I went to concerts with bands that I adored but critics didn’t. They were criticized for riffing on old garage rock tropes that weren’t relevant anymore; or maybe they weren’t so good at their instruments, but damn were their live shows fun; or their music meant everything in the world to a small group of people. 

So what makes an album worthy of an annual roundup? I’d argue it’s different for everyone at 2A who chose an album for this list. For some of us it was the music that gave us the strength to keep going amid another year of the pandemic. It made us feel cozy at home, or represented our values.  

I can’t resist making a marketing metaphor here—at the end of the day, it’s about what matters to the customer. 

I hope you give some of these tracks a listen, and that the reasons behind our choices give a tiny window into what matters to each of us.  

Emile Mosseri  Minari Soundtrack  

Favorite song: Big Country 

Emile Mosseri soundtracks have landed in my regular rotation the past couple years, and especially 2021, as the warm and dreamy sounds of Minari were great company while hanging around at 3am with a newborn. – Aaron Wendel 

Adele  30 

Favorite song: Easy on Me 

This album captures the longing, melancholy an uncertainty of a COVID year. – Laura Templeton 

Her music has an ability to pierce the soul and reminds me I can conquer any mountain I face. 30 is a masterpiece in storytelling. – Tammy Monson 

Chromeo  Date Night: Chromeo Live! 

Favorite song: Don’t Sleep 

Electro-funk duo Chromeo has a playful retro style that I’ve enjoyed for years, and their 2019 tour was one of the last live shows I went to before the pandemic shut everything down. Chromeo approached the situation with typical good humor—recording a Quarantine Casanova EP and releasing a “2020 tour” shirt with a blank list of shows on the back, both sending proceeds to support those in need. The release of the live album was another joyful counterpoint to a year-plus of no live shows—delightful to revisit their funky sound boosted by a full backing band. – Thad Allen 

Lil Nas X – Montero 

Favorite song: That’s What I Want 

My favorite album of the year has to be Montero by Lil Nas X. All of the music videos from this album are amazing, and really fully celebrate his Blackness and queerness. It’s been the bright point of my year. My friends and I anticipate and text each other about every new music video drop. He really commands social media well and sets the conversation. – Annie Unruh 

Sophia Kennedy – Monsters 

Favorite song: Orange Tic Tac 

Monsters has 13 unique tracks that take you into the mysterious mind of Sophia Kennedy. The flow of the album is interesting to say the least. Beats Per Minute put it best, “Sophia Kennedy hops between styles on each track as if she’s escaping what’s come prior.” Monsters is an album that I kept revisiting through a year that sometimes had a similar feeling.  Mitchell Thompson 

The National  The National (re-release) 

Favorite song: American Mary 

If nothing else The National’s band-titled album, remastered in 2021, is reminder of just how much this band has grown. Best saved for writers who are editing (not creating), the track list sounds like Bruce Springsteen was run through a country washer and finished off in an indie dryer. “American Mary” is the best song on there, mostly because it carries the sounds of the better band The National became. –  Jane Dornemann 

Japanese Breakfast  Jubilee 

Favorite song: Paprika 

I’ve dug Japanese Breakfast’s punk-ish earlier releases and love how Jubilee layers funky basslines and gorgeous strings on top of her already stellar songwriting. It’s been fun to see her music explode in popularity this year including late night appearances, her Be Sweet Video for the Sims in Simlish, and of course her bestselling book Crying in H Mart. It’s J Brekkie’s world, we’re just living in it.  Nora Bright 

Whitney K  Two Years 

Favorite song: Last Night #2 

Two Years is the kind of album that makes me want to abandon all responsibilities and travel around the country hopping trains. But I’m definitely not going to do that. I’ll just listen to this album. Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and plenty of country/folk influences ring out on this, scratchy, rambling 10-song LP – Mike Lahoda 

Taylor Swift  Red (Taylor’s version) 

Favorite song: Babe 

Red is perfect to put on while I’m doing work, making dinner, or driving in the car. Something about the updated songs takes me back to years past and is just so good. I can’t help but sing along. – Rachel Adams 

Sun June – Somewhere  

Favorite song: Singing 

Somewhere by Sun June was my 2021 soundtrack for when I wanted to bob my shoulders and focus on the beauty and intimacy of regular life. Even without the words—which are engaging—the music tells a floaty, deep-breath-inducing story. – Abby Breckenridge 


Back to the future, Part Lin

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By Forsyth Alexander

Back to the future, Part Lin

Image by Rachel Adams

2A embedded consultant Lin Martinez’s three favorite movies are Back to the Future, Parts 1, 2, and 3. How she ended up at 2A has an intriguingly similar storyline. Lin came to the U.S. from Colombia when she was 27. In 2008, she started working for a Microsoft vendor, happily collaborating with clients on clear scopes of work and then focusing on projects. In an interesting twist of fate, she met Renato Agrella, future 2A founder and partner. They bonded over their shared Latin American connection and established a friendly, professional relationship because they kept bumping into each other at events.

During this time, she also met Laura Templeton. Laura is now an ace 2A consultant, but in those days, she was a Microsoft consultant. Laura hired Lin for her contracts, and Lin switched projects. Little did Renato, Lin, or Laura know at the time what this would mean for Lin’s future.

Time for dancing in the streets—or the YMCA

Lin loves music, especially Juanes, Shakira, and Carlos Diva, and she also loves dancing. In a recent conversation, she told me about how, in Colombia, every holiday is celebrated with dancing and music. “In Colombia, we start the party in the day, and before long, everyone is dancing—sometimes in the street—and it doesn’t stop until very early in the next morning, after people run out of energy,” she told me.

So, when a move to California offered an opportunity to use her love of music and dancing in her career, she grabbed it. As a wellness coach in Redwood City, she learned Zumba, became an instructor, threw her heart and soul into healthy living, and began teaching senior fitness classes. This path led her to a role at the YMCA of Silicon Valley, which took her right back to Washington. There she became the Healthy Living supervisor in 2017 and the Director of Health and Wellness at the Greater Seattle YMCA in August 2020. Then, COVID-19 hit.

Making her way back to you, 2A

Running a health and wellness program during a pandemic became pretty much impossible, and the YMCA cut back on staff. But nothing keeps Lin down for long. Throughout her career changes, she had kept in touch with Renato. When he learned she was in the job market again, he offered her a position at 2A. That’s how she ended up back with Laura and back at Microsoft, helping its Dynamics 365 partner team tell stories through customer successes.

“It was amazing. I didn’t meet anyone in person, and I still haven’t, but we get things done anyway,” she says.

Her positive attitude: Es más fuerte, es más fuerte

In Juanes’s hit, Me Enamora, he sings, “Es más fuerte, es más fuerte,” which translates as “it’s much stronger, it’s much stronger.” This describes Lin’s positive attitude perfectly. When the pandemic kept her from her usual health and wellness routine, she found new joy in walking her dogs, Pinky and Hannah, on a trail near her house. Pinky and Hannah are never far from her side—sometimes you can see them in conference calls—and they keep her grounded and smiling.

“You never know what the future might hold. But if you work hard, help people, and enjoy what you do, something good will always be waiting around the corner,” Lin says. 2A couldn’t agree more—it was great that Lin was waiting around the corner to come “back to the future” and join us right when we needed her.


Fill critical gaps in your project teams with an embedded consultant from 2A

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By Kelly Schermer

Fill critical gaps in your project teams with an embedded consultant from 2A

We’ve all been there before: spread too thin at work, in desperate need of a specific skillset, without the time or open seats to hire. Considering it takes more than 40 days to fill an open position and costs 75 percent of the employee’s salary just to get them started, lobbying for additional headcount at the moment you’re most vulnerable can feel like a tragic plot twist. Suddenly, the solution to your biggest challenge has just become your new biggest challenge.

That’s where 2A embedded consultants (EC) come onto the scene! We handle the legwork of sourcing someone who can hit the ground running in the role you need, saving you the time and money that goes into it. 2A ECs act as temporary teammates who provide support and subject matter expertise. From junior to senior, left brained to right, and everything in between—our ECs complement your team’s existing skills to help you tackle your gnarliest challenges.

Whether you start off thinking of our ECs as project or program managers, in no time at all you’ll see they’re really the number cruncher, go-to-market guru, or channel whisperer your team needed all along:

Number cruncher—This all-around business manager makes sense of IOs, POs, SOWs, and more to prevent your team’s expenses from going MIA. See how 2A finds teammates, like Amy, to talk some dollars and sense into your budget.

GTM guru—Need someone to help you identify new market opportunities, develop partner and sales programs, and drive revenue growth? 2A marketing masterminds, like Kyle, are ready to help.

Channel whisperer—If you’re looking to increase partner engagement through program planning, training, and recruitment, we’ve got seasoned channel captains, like Laura, who can rally the troops.

Tell us what you’re looking for, and we’ll help you make a match. A few weeks with a 2A EC and you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them.