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Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day with the Women of OED

Since 1995, employers across the country have celebrated Employee Appreciation Day as an opportunity to give extra recognition and appreciation to colleagues who are making a difference. Today, in honor of Employee Appreciation Day, and Women’s History Month, the Office of Economic Development celebrates the women of our office that are leading, innovating, and serving, so everyone can enjoy quality jobs at growing businesses in vibrant neighborhoods in Seattle. We connected with some of the women of OED who shared their stories, motivations, hobbies, dreams, how they practice self-care, and find balance in their lives! Get to know the amazing women of our office as they share their unique perspectives.

What is your role at OED?

Preeti Shridhar: Interim Deputy Director
Karissa Braxton: Director of Communications
Theresa Barreras: Director of Business Districts
Adriana Vining: Senior Grants & Contracts Specialist
Hannah Tyo: Special Events Permit Specialist
Mishka Morgan: Digital Media Specialist

Graphic collage of the Women of OED Spotlight participants.
Graphic collage of the Women of OED Spotlight participants.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Adriana Vining: I was born and raised in South Seattle. There aren’t a lot of us left! I studied Informatics at the University of Washington in hopes of working in the tech industry. Throughout my academic career, I constantly gravitated towards youth work, mentorship programs, and special interest groups—places where I felt like I was giving back to my community. After UW, I got a taste of youth work by leading youth programs under Seattle Parks and Rec and realized tech just wasn’t for me. Shortly after my job with Parks, I fully committed to the work by facilitating and managing youth programs in South Seattle schools. I worked with Filipino and migrant youth for years, focusing on civic engagement, ethnic studies, and community organizing.

Mishka Morgan: I grew up in in San Francisco, CA as the only child of a Chinese immigrant mother and American father. I spoke both languages at home, so my whole life has been a balancing act as the bridge between two cultures. I have always been extremely creative—my youth was filled with art, guitar, and dance lessons. I recently graduated with from Seattle University, where I studied Marketing, and soon I will be on my way to NYU for a Master’s in Interactive Media Arts. Nowadays, I find my creative outlets in media, illustration, and design work; DIY home improvement projects; and as a hobbyist DJ. I’ve always been a bit rebellious, so finding joy and mastery in my creative pursuits has given me the freedom to become whoever I want.

What brought you to work at OED?

Preeti Shridhar: I was drawn to OED to work on the Future of Seattle’s Economy. This is a very exciting project at a very important time, and I had the opportunity to manage it. Our city and region are just coming out of the pandemic and yet there are several unknown factors and economic uncertainties. Shaping this economic future with our community with a focus on equity and inclusion is very important to me.

Theresa Barreras: I came to the City working as a temp/intern while in grad school, working on the light rail planning and design project. I shifted to working for OED and did my thesis research with the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund as the City formulated its $50 million investment to prevent displacement of businesses in the Rainier Valley. I left for a couple of years and came back to support the launch of the lending program at RVCDF. Working to overcome the harms and disinvestment in communities of color caused by redlining and other structural racism is what brought me to OED.

OED staff at the office retreat in 2022.
OED staff at the office retreat in 2022.

Tell us about something you are proud of or have accomplished in your work at OED.

Theresa Barreras: I have been fortunate to work on several different programs, always in support of community-driven dreams. Each one had its constant challenges, ups and downs, but in the end we put money in the community where it was needed. I think my longevity and dedication at OED has ensured the preservation of the Only in Seattle program’s funding and the capacity we have supported in communities.

What are your values and how do you live them out in your work at OED?

Karissa Braxton: Some of my core values are integrity, relationship, respect, and love. When you are in public service, I think it is critical for you to be clear on your values and hold yourself accountable to living by them, especially when the work gets hard, the challenges seem too daunting, and fatigue sets in. At OED, I work to live out these values in my interactions with my colleagues and community members. I strive to have integrity in everything that I do, and how I show up with people, regardless of title, who you are connected to, or what power you possess, or influence you have.

Adriana Vining: A big value of mine is community. At OED, I’m fortunate to work with many BIPOC and woman-identifying entrepreneurs that are growing their businesses through commercial space. Some business owners are returning to communities they have been displaced from while others are fighting to stay in the communities they call home. With all of the drastic changes happening around Seattle, displacement of homes and business has been tearing communities apart. It’s an honor to assist businesses in accessing City resources and to further bridge the gap between the City and its marginalized communities. Uplifting these businesses through commercial affordability fights displacement and keeps communities together.

Mishka Morgan: My biggest value is to bring creativity into everything I do. I think being able to think outside the box when faced with various projects or big-picture goals at OED is extremely necessary to drive our office into a brighter future. Bringing that spark of creativity into our media and communication with the public humanizes the work we are doing and helps us establish trust with the communities we support. People love creative storytelling and visual content, and I hope that through my role as the Digital Media Specialist I’m able to honor the stories in our community or bring a smile to people’s faces when they see the interesting designs I create.

What challenges have you faced and how do you overcome?

Preeti Shridhar: Life in general comes with plenty of challenges, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You wouldn’t want to turn the pages of the book without these challenges. It would be too easy and boring. A single woman of color with a disability, in a non-traditional career, coming from an immigrant, male-dominant world—that itself is the walking definition of challenge. But outside of that OED has its own challenges. The institution is in a state of transition—we can work through this, but it takes time and hard work.

Theresa Barreras: The constant changes at the City and OED has required adaptability and humility in hearing feedback and making constant improvements to our work, while holding the line on what is most important and valuable.

Karissa Braxton: One of the biggest challenges I have faced is being a young, Black, woman in leadership in such a big institution like the City, and in my field as a Communications Director. I have had several roles at the city since joining in 2017 at 24 years old, and in April 2020 at 27 years old I was promoted to one of my most significant and challenging roles yet. I have had my share of experiences with people that did not see my value, questioned my experience and expertise, and thought I was too young and undeserving to be in my role. Although frustrating and hurtful, I have also found many other people that give me encouragement, mentorship, value my ideas and my voice, and trust my leadership. In the three years I’ve been in this role, the growth is unbelievable, especially given the circumstances (there’s not playbook for leading and serving through a pandemic). The only way(s) I have been able to overcome is to lean on my community for wisdom, strength, encouragement, and guidance; stay open to learning , remain curious, and remain teachable; fail fast and get back up to try again, trust my instincts and my capabilities, prioritize my mental, emotional and physical health, and have fun. The work is hard enough. You have to find joy!

OED staff sit down for lunch after a walking tour of Pioneer Square.
OED staff sit down for lunch after a walking tour of Pioneer Square.

What is something you look forward to in your role at OED in 2023?

Adriana Vining: The Tenant Improvement Fund projects. I’m excited to see all of our awardees open their doors to updated spaces.

Hannah Tyo: I’m working with IT right now on some exciting projects that will hopefully support the Special Events Program for years to come. I’m excited to see the result of this project with IT and utilizing these new tools as we look to improve our program both internally and for our customers.

Karissa Braxton: I’m looking forward to telling the stories of so many investments, programs and ideas that are really taking root in our community. Seattle is home to some of the most creative and innovative people, and the things folks are doing should be elevated. I also look forward to supporting the strategic work happening that may take a few years to fully manifest but will be a huge benefit to our city and our communities in the future. I love being able to amplify what is happening right now and lending my strategic skills to the efforts underway to build Seattle’s future! Oh, and I’m really looking forward to MLB all-star week. I can’t wait!

What does self-care look like for you?

Preeti Shridhar: I light some candles, look out of my window to see the water view, and try to relax.

Adriana Vining: Throughout the past few years, I’ve done a lot of somatic work, which has really deepened my understanding of how I store difficult emotions in my body. Whether it be reading a book, going for a run, eating takeout in my bed, or taking 8 seconds to pause, breathe, and unclench my jaw, self-care for me looks like listening to my body and its needs. A big tub of ice cream is also nice!

Karissa Braxton: As I get older, I’m learning that self-care looks like being present and listening to my body and responding to what it needs in that moment. Daily, I try to give myself at least 30 minutes in the morning to complete my devotional and have time for reflection and prayer, which is very important to my overall wellbeing. I also like to work out and go to boxing or the gym 3-4 times a week. Self-care also looks like enjoying experiences that make life worth living—going to a concert, taking a trip, walking the Seward Park loop with my dog, trying a new restaurant, going to a comedy show, going to brunch with my friends. Allowing myself to find balance between my responsibilities and doing things that bring me joy with the people I love are self-care to me. And finally…sleep! I love a good nap.

OED staff pose for a silly Holiday photobooth picture with props.
OED staff pose with props for a silly Holiday photobooth selfie.

Do you have any hobbies or passion projects?

Hannah Tyo: My passion is costuming and sewing. I have a BA in Apparel Design and continue my creative endeavors outside of work. I worked professionally in alterations, apparel manufacturing, and theater costuming, now I take the occasional commission but mostly sew for fun! I also attend conventions and costume events with friends and speak about my experience on panels.

Adriana Vining: I love to read! A goal of mine is to have a personal home library with over 1000 books. In the summertime, I am an avid hammocker, but it’s even better when I have a book on me. I also love craft cocktails, learning magic tricks, traveling, finding new music, and working out.

Karissa Braxton: Two of my favorite things to do are travel and sing. My friends will tell you that I keep a travel suitcase packed and am always ready to go! Last year I had the chance to visit Costa Rica, Belize, Aruba and Colombia. This year I am organizing a trip for my mom’s 60th birthday to Panama City, going to New Orleans for the first time to celebrate a close friend’s wedding, heading to Vancouver Canada to see Beyonce, and may add a few smaller trips throughout the year as I can! I sing regularly at my church, at community events, and I’m excited to participate in the choir for the Songs of Black Folks that will be returning to Seattle for the second year! Last year we packed out Benaroya Hall for the inaugural concert, and it was a groundbreaking artistic event unlike anything Seattle has seen. I can’t wait to see what this year’s production will bring.

If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?

Preeti: A friend.

Adriana: Campaigner.

Mishka: Visionary.

Karissa: Dreamer.