Look for details about Comm Lead Connects 2021 – COMING SOON!

Navigating tomorrow’s workplace

March 5th, 2020 – UW Center for Urban Horticulture

On the eve of Comm Lead Connects 2020, King County Public Health issued a recommendation against large events as a precaution against the Coronavirus. Our leadership team responded decisively, shifting to an all virtual format, aided by some of the very tools that we’d planned to discuss at the conference; video conferencing via Zoom, remote conversation via Thoughtexchange, and a professional livestream produced by Comm Lead student Richard McLean. Please enjoy the full video of the livestream above.

What is Comm Lead Connects? 

Comm Lead Connects is the UW Communication Leadership graduate program’s premier public event. For the last four years, professionals, advocates, and graduate students have gathered at the annual day-long event to engage around a pressing issue of global consequence.

This year’s topic: The Future of Work

Emerging technologies such as next-level automation, artificial intelligence, and an expanded internet of things promise to recast our work-lives. Many see great opportunities for increased creativity, collaboration, and efficiency. They talk of liberation from the mundane, global connection, and productivity that could exponentially raise standards of living and wellness levels. They point to potentially revolutionary advances already being made in collaborative technology, robotic process automation, and workplace efficiency.

On the other hand, each advance brings grave concerns. There are difficult conversations coming about the structure of work, and who gets to participate in defining its future. Further, how can we stop replicating in our workplaces the systemic inequities in our societies? How can we best imagine more collaborative workplaces?

We invite you to join this year’s Comm Lead Connects learning and networking event, where we will collectively and critically imagine what these tensions and opportunities mean for our region.

Structure of the day:

Session I: Communication Tools of The Future

Session II: Work Culture Reimagined + The Future for Communities

Session III: A Conversation about the Future of Leadership

What you’ll learn:

After attending Comm Lead Connects: Future of Work, you’ll return to your present-day job ready to speak and act persuasively on of the emerging technologies and culture dynamics that will shape the workplace of the future. You’ll be ready to lead from any level on the challenges and opportunities ahead for your specific industry and company.

These learnings will be applicable for those in any professional communication field, including storytelling, branding, marketing, public relations, content strategy, user experience design, employee engagement, leadership, people management, and more.

You’ll be energized with new knowledge, deeper insights, and wider networks, including connections to thought leaders and experts. The event will feature a unique set of speakers, including (1) professionals who design and build emerging technologies, (2) analysts of the evolving workplace experience, and (3) advocates and researchers who are exploring tech and work-related topics.


Ekin Yasin, Ph.D.


Hanson Hosein

Event Schedule

Full videos of each of these talks are available by clicking the speaker’s name, or in the playlist at the top of the page.

Opening Remarks

 Ekin Yasin, Ph.D. –  UW Communication Leadership

Pt 1: Tools of the Future 

David Evans, Ph.D. – Microsoft

Malavika Rewari – Microsoft

Michael Tjalve, Ph.D. – Microsoft

William Du – Agora.IO

Marissa Coughlin – Textio

Lea Scherck – Thoughtexchange

Pt. 2: Communities and Culture

Andrés Monroy-Hernández, Ph.D. – Snap

Rachel Lauter – Working Washington

Akhtar Badshah, Ph.D. – Catalytic Innovators Group

Nandini Ranganathan, Ph.D. – CETI

Jodi-Ann Burey

Ruchika Tulshyan – Candor

Closing Reflections

Venue & Directions

The idyllic 90-acre UW Center for Urban Horticulture pairs landscaped gardens and wild areas with comfortable, fully wired, conference spaces. Parking is complimentary, and the center is easily accessible by bus or light rail. Full directions here.


Akhtar Badshah, Ph.D. – Catalytic Innovators Group

“How storytelling and communication will increase the power of moving from me to we”

Akhtar Badshah is a seasoned executive with over 30 years of experience in international development, managing a corporate philanthropic program and co-founding a global nonprofit for social enterprise. As the Chief Catalyst at Catalytic Innovators Group he is advising individuals and organizations to catalyze their social and philanthropic investments.


Jodi-Ann Burey 

“The future of work and showing up authentically”

Jodi-Ann Burey (she/her) is a Seattle-based thought leader who disrupts “business as usual” on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion. She is currently writing her first memoir on identity and cancer survivorship.


Marissa Coughlin – Textio

“How AI-powered language can help us create the future we want”

Marissa Coughlin (she/her) is Senior Director of Communications & Data Insights at Textio, the inventors of augmented writing technology. Her team uses customer and industry data to build focused storytelling initiatives that foster social conversations around language, culture, and the future of work.


William Du — Agora.IO

“The new era of real-time communication”

William Du is a Developer Community Manager at Agora.io, the Engagement Platform as a Service (EPaaS) vendor. He is also a Comm Lead Alumni, Cohort 17. During the time at Agora.io, he’s led Agora.io’s international developer community programs.


David Evans, Ph.D. – Microsoft

“The imminent science fiction of ‘Project Cortex'”

David holds a Ph.D. in social psychology and is a Senior Manager of Customer Research at Microsoft. There he influences the design and brand strategy for Microsoft 365 and the Microsoft Graph. He is a proud Senior Affiliate Lecturer with the Comm Lead program since 2010 and the author of Bottlenecks: Aligning UX Design with User Psychology.


Rachel Lauter – Working Washington

“How to build power for future workers”

Rachel Lauter is the Executive Director of Working Washington/Fair Work Center, a Seattle-based multi-industry workers’ rights organization that wins new rights for workers and makes those rights real through community-based outreach, education, and legal services, while building a powerful grassroots movement to change the conversation about work and income inequality. Under Lauter’s leadership, Working Washington/Fair Work Center has emerged as a national leader in organizing workers in the gig economy and in the effort to expand overtime protections.


Lea Scherck – Thoughtexchange

“Bugs Bunny, margaritas and the magic of crowdsourcing”

Lea is a seasoned leader with a background in collaboration, research, and technology. She obtained her Master’s in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability in Sweden, where collaboration was an integral part of all learning outcomes. Joining Thoughtexchange as the first facilitator, Lea went on to grow and lead the Service team before taking on her current role. She is fascinated by group dynamics, change management and innovation and the application of technology to improve them. She considers herself a world traveler and often be found planning her next trip!


Andrés Monroy-Hernández, Ph.D. – Snap, Inc

“Technology’s role in redefining organizations, tasks, and places”

Andrés Monroy-Hernández is a lead research scientist at Snap Inc, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. His work focuses on the design and study of social computing technologies that help people connect and collaborate


Nandini Ranganathan, Ph.D. – Creative and Emergent Technology Institute

“Preparing thoughtful and intentional creators and leaders”

Nandini Ranganathan is the founder of CETI (a Creative and Emergent Technology Institute).  She designs and leads interdisciplinary, participatory cross-sector education, research, projects, and convenings, preparing professionals and leaders, and engaging communities to collaboratively create imaginative responses, actions, and solutions to urgent social, environmental, and technological challenges.


Malavika Rewari – Microsoft

“Reimagining productivity with Everyday AI in Microsoft 365”

Malavika is a Senior Product Marketing Manager who shapes and evangelizes the work Microsoft is doing to empower people and organizations with intelligent technologies such as Cortana in Microsoft 365. With an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and honors degrees in Engineering from National University of Singapore and Northwestern University, she offers expertise to help Microsoft Office, Outlook and Teams leverage AI to amplify human ingenuity and raises awareness of transformative AI-powered productivity experiences via strategic marketing campaigns.


Michael Tjalve, Ph.D. – Microsoft

“Conversational AI: a Partner in the Future of Work”

Michael is a Principal Program Manager at Microsoft and Assistant Professor at University of Washington. He’s working on language as an interface and on bringing AI to a broader audience through the no-code Power Virtual Agents experience. He is actively engaged in initiatives to develop AI for social good and raise awareness of AI and its role in society.


Ruchika Tulshyan – Candour

“Why inclusion is a leadership trait”

Ruchika Tulshyan is an author, speaker and founder of Candour, an inclusion strategy firm. She is also Distinguished Professional-in-Residence at Seattle University’s Communication Department.

Get tickets here:


Is the event cancelled because of Coronavirus?

In light of new recommendations from King County to avoid large public gatherings, we’re shifting to a virtual format. The event will be livestreaming with the same lineup, on a compressed timeline, from 10am – 3pm. 

How can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Please contact Liyao Zhao at liyaoz1@uw.edu with questions.

Is there certification or accreditation tied to this event?

You’re invited add this event as a “master class” to the education section of your LinkedIn profile

Connects 2019 Recap Video

At last year’s Comm Lead Connects, industry experts, students, and community members came together for a candid conversation about artificial intelligence.

We learned that AI and other “futuristic” tech is already here, and has great potential to improve lives. But if deployed carelessly, it will instead amplify historic biases and inequity.

Alex StonehillComm Lead Connects 2020