After the year we’ve had, we’re thrilled to finally be able to celebrate the 30 Under 30 Class of 2020, powered by Cornerstone Advisors. This cohort of young innovators is our most generationally diverse class yet, with more than 20 percent of honorees belonging to Gen Z, the group of individuals born between the mid 1990s and the late aughts. The oldest of the group will celebrate his 30th birthday just four days after this publication hits newsstands. The youngest member, born in 2008, already is making waves in her industry at just 11 years old. As in previous years, the esteemed professionals, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists you will meet actively eschew any negative generational archetypes. But don’t take our word for it: take a gander for yourself.

By Zoe Branch, Lauren Gallup, Marsia Johnson, Joanna Kresge, Madison Miller, and John Stearns

All photos courtesy each individual.

JUMP TO: A-C | D-J | K-R | S-Z


 

Photo by Briana Jarret

Aleah Donner, 27

Chef at Della Terra Catering and Vice President of Product at Five Stones Coffee Co.

Residence: Newcastle

Hometown: Bothell

Education: Seattle Culinary Academy

First job: Paper scanner at Michael’s Toyota of Bellevue

Favorite podcast: Food 360 with Marc Murphy and How I Built This with Guy Raz

Book currently reading: Good to Great by Jim Collins

Hobbies: Hiking, wakeboarding, CrossFit, and running

Before the age of 40, I want to: Own a restaurant that supports local farms and educates the community about how to take actionable steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

As a young girl, Aleah Donner wanted to be a baker because she “wanted to always smell like cookies after work.” Today, Donner doesn’t always smell like cookies, but she does prepare yummy-smelling dishes daily as the chef for Della Terra. When she isn’t making delicious meals or working as vice president of product at Five Stones Coffee Co., the 27-year-old continues perfecting her skills, techniques, and recipes. Throughout her career, she said she’s been fortunate to learn from chefs who influenced her passion for local, sustainable, and farm-fresh foods. Her interest in this style of cooking has given her the opportunity to play integral roles at several Eastside restaurants, including the development of menus at three local restaurants. Outside the kitchen, Donner enjoys engaging in outdoor activities. — MM


Alec MountainAlec Mountain, 22

Founder of Product Blitz

Residence: Bellevue

Hometown: Sammamish

Education: University of Washington

First job: Childcare counselor at the Boys & Girls Clubs

Favorite podcast: None

Book currently reading: The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

Hobbies: Reading, meditating, running, yoga, and watching documentaries

Before the age of 40, I want to: Do my best to be present and authentic, while living every moment to the fullest — for the rest of my life.

Alec Mountain has been drawn to entrepreneurship — and the opportunity and personal growth that come with it — since he was a teenager. Mountain, who said he was the youngest business graduate in his class at the University of Washington, afterward “went all in on entrepreneurship” and built an advertising company called Product Blitz. The company helps multimillion-dollar e-commerce companies boost revenue online using social ads. He also recently created a training program, Expert Incubator, to help entrepreneurs build successful online coaching practices. In his free time, he likes long walks, yoga, reading, plotting the future with friends, and spending time with family. “I don’t aspire to live a normal life, but to embark on an exciting, rewarding journey that encapsulates my fullest potential as a human being,” he said. — JS


Ali SamaelAli Samael, 28

Real Estate Broker and Influencer at Catalyst Investments, Inc.

Residence: Kent

Hometown: Seattle

Education: Highline College

First job: Employee at a frozen yogurt shop

Favorite podcast: Topic of Discussion

Book currently reading: Unshakeable by Tony Robbins and Peter Mallouk

Hobbies: Podcasting, mentoring young entrepreneurs, and traveling

Before the age of 40, I want to: Be married, have kids, own a home in three different countries, and have started a capital venture group.

“Anyone that knows anyone will know who Ali is,” said Raymond Armani, Ali Samael’s former coworker and one of the many individuals who nominated him as a potential 30 Under 30 honoree. This second-generation American first broke into the business world at 19, when he dropped out of college and bootstrapped a hookah lounge. Later, Samael sold that business and transformed himself into a local influencer who uses this business aptitude in his role as real estate broker for the Bellevue branch of Catalyst Investments, Inc. In addition to this profession, Samael also hosts a health and fitness podcast with his friends called Topic of Discussion. Samael said he’s learned many lessons in his young career. “The biggest lesson was learning when to fold,” he said. Samael continues to share his lessons any chance he gets through mentoring young entrepreneurs. — MJ


Angela Suresh

Photo by Davey King

Angela Suresh, 27

Communications & Branding Specialist at The Boeing Co.

Residence: Auburn

Hometown: Auburn

Education: University of Washington Tacoma and John Hopkins University

First job: Social Media Intern at Movin’ 92.5 for the Brooke & Jubal Show

Favorite podcast: The On
Purpose Podcast

Book currently reading: HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership (Vol. 2) by Daniel Goleman

Hobbies: Dancing, graphic design, event planning, networking, and writing

Before the age of 40, I want to: Start a foundation for the people/children in Kerala.

Angela Suresh considers herself a “multipotentialite” — someone with many interests and creative pursuits. And that she is. Alongside her career as a communications and branding specialist for The Boeing Co., Suresh is a dancer trained in Bharatanatyam. She also writes “rants and rambles” on her blog, Voice of an ABPD (American Born Proud Desi). In whatever she does, Suresh’s lifelong aspiration has been to help others. “As a community-obsessed and purpose-driven leader, my approach always revolves around the needs of others,” Suresh said. As a volunteer with Federations of Malayalee Associations of Americas, or FOMAA, Suresh raised more than $20,000 in less than three weeks for the construction of 11 homes for the FOMAA Kerala Village Project. — LG


Ash Schoos

Photo by Skyler Shoos

Ash Schoos, 28

Systems Administrator at BitTitan

Residence: Bellevue

Hometown: Escondido, California

Education: University of Washington, Portland Community College, and Palomar College

First job: Sales and merchandising associate at San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park

Favorite podcast: Within the Wires

Book currently reading: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter

Hobbies: Writing a technical blog, writing for a self-published Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, playing D&D, pressing flowers, and caring for her plants

Before the age of 40, I want to: Start a foundation to teach young women computer hardware skills, and home and small-business network skills.

Ash Schoos, or Ash Karczag until she married last month, likes to solve problems creatively and sustainably, and said she hates doing the same thing twice. At BitTitan, where she’s a systems administrator, Schoos recently began company-wide trainings called “Tech Titans” to educate employees on using technology and maintaining security, according to her manager, Nik Thumma. “Ash hopes to help BitTitan employees become the most security-savvy professionals in their field,” Thumma wrote. She’s also taking a certification program through the University of Washington in ethical hacking. Eventually, Schoos would like to start a local chapter of Girls Who Code to encourage young women to pursue computer science as a career and also envisions one day serving on the board for Seattle’s annual GeekGirlCon, which celebrates women in science, tech, gaming, and comics. Outside work, Schoos distributes her love evenly among her husband, the couple’s 1-year-old Boston terrier, and their 200 (yes, 200!) houseplants. — JS


Ben MatteucciBen Matteucci, 26

CO-founder of ZIMA Marketing

Residence: Bellevue

Hometown: Bellevue

Education: Bellevue College

First job: Landscaping and yard work

Favorite podcast: REAL AF with Andy Frisella

Book currently reading: Sell Like Crazy by Sabri Suby

Hobbies: Fitness, travel, volunteer work, and building business

Before the age of 40, I want to: Travel the world.

Bellevue native Ben Matteucci always wanted to own a business. He grew up in a strong business community, he said, and always aspired to start his own company and create impact in the community. After an unexpected accident derailed his career selling door to door — he was hit as a pedestrian by a drunk driver — he reached out to his high school friend Brennan Zielinksi to come up with ideas. And so the duo launched ZIMA, a marketing agency that has clients across the country. “Being in the marketing space has been a perfect fit,” said Matteucci, who admitted that he never really knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. “We get to work with companies to take in person sales systems and bring them online.” — ZB


Blake Jones, 26

Sales/Marketing Specialist at Pot O’ Gold Coffee Services

Residence: Kirkland

Hometown: Bellevue

Education: University of Oregon

First job: Co-founder of Medine Milfoil Cleaners

Favorite podcast: The CrabFeast with Ryan Sickler and Jay Larson

Book currently reading: The Tao of Bill Murray by Gavin Edwards

Hobbies: Wake surfing, jet skiing, lacrosse, fishing, and drinking coffee

Before the age of 40, I want to: Grow Pot O’ Gold into one or two more cities outside Washington.

The aspiration to own a business came at very young age for Blake Jones, as he watched his father do so. After he graduated from the University of Oregon, Jones worked full-time in sales at his uncle’s office coffee business, Pot O’ Gold, which provides hot beverage products to corporate offices. Before ascending to his current role in the family business, Jones had worn every hat in office coffee industry from warehouse employee to delivery driver, eventually helping the business to grow to be the largest independent office coffee service in Washington state. In the past year, Jones became a member of Starbucks’ Workplace Advisory Council and is one of the few professionals to receive the Automatic Merchandiser’s “Pros to Know” award. When he’s not thinking about, or drinking, a cup of Joe, Jones might be found wake surfing, or at home with his girlfriend and two dogs bingeing episodes of Succession. — MJ


Chris Alden

Photo by Amanda Mayo

Chris Alden, 29

Senior Sales Manager at Synology

Residence: Seattle

Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin

Education: Full Sail University, The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School, and New England School of Communications

First job: Mowed lawns

Favorite podcast: Chapo Trap House

Book currently reading: The Money and the Power by Sally Denton and Roger Morris

Hobbies: Gardening, photography, and picking up new hobbies every month

Before the age of 40, I want to: Become fluent in two different languages.

Though Chris Alden has a burgeoning interest in technology — fitting for the senior sales manager at Synology, a corporation that specializes in network-attached data and storage appliances — he originally had a different career in mind. “When I was 8, I wanted to be a mailman,” he recalled. “I really liked the mailman I had when I was kid … and for some reason, I had the impression that they had to skydive to certain areas in order to deliver mail.” Aside from his interest in technology (and mail delivery), Alden holds a passion for music. He has been in several bands and currently writes songs under CosmiCosmo, which has allowed him to travel the world. Alden’s hobbies are diverse, and he said he picks up a new hobby every month. So, by the time this magazine hits newsstands, he’ll likely be trying out something new. — MJ

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Dakotah Fitzgerald

Photo by Lisa Gaviglio

Dakotah Fitzgerald, 25

Owner of Dakotah Tyrene Esthetics

Residence: Kenmore

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

Education: Euro Institute of Skin Care and Bellevue College

First Job: Receptionist

Favorite Podcast: This American Life

Book currently reading: Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Hobbies: Beauty, reading, hiking, lifting, traveling, music, her dog, and Instagram

Before the age of 40, I want to: Retire so I can spend all of my time teaching or traveling without any financial demands.

Dakotah Fitzgerald has worked in the beauty industry for the last seven years and opened her own skin care and lash business when she was only 23. Her specialty is in skin types prone to acne, and she saw a need for estheticians to understand teenagers who were looking for other alternatives to hormonal medications to combat acne. “I try to push education on all of my clients and now educate new estheticians, as well,” Fitzgerald said. When she opened her business, she grew her online presence and received many new clients. She was then offered a job at a private skin care company in Arkansas, which led her to teach chemical peel classes in the Pacific Northwest. When she’s not working or helping her fiancé run his fitness business, Fitzgerald can be found sipping coffee at Little Brother in Kirkland. — MJ


Douglas SmithDouglas Smith, 19

Co-Founder of KuriousMinds, Lead on Insights and Product Development at Monterra Ventures

Residence: Bellevue

Hometown: Bellevue

Education: University of Southern California

First job: Tutor

Favorite podcast: The Joe
Rogan Experience

Book currently reading: This is Not a T-Shirt by Bobby Hundreds

Hobbies: Playing basketball, trading stock, and reselling streetwear and fashion

Before the age of 40, I want to: Spearhead an initiative to bring financial-literacy education to all schools across the U.S., empower consumers with solutions that help them have more control over their personal data, and continue to learn the best ways to further the accessibility and delivery of education globally.

A Gen-Z entrepreneur and current student at the University of Southern California, Douglas Smith said he has a passion for problem-solving. This trait has served him well in the founding of KuriousMinds, an educational startup aimed at educating youth on business and entrepreneurship skills through workshops and summer camps. “As someone who, at one point, wanted to start a business and had no idea how, I want to give the youth entrepreneurs of my generation the confidence to take the initial leap of faith by educating them on the basic business skills and understandings,” Smith said. In addition to his startup and studies, Smith also is the lead on insights and product development for Monterra Ventures. Upon graduation, the business administration major hopes to use his passion for business and education to improve the financial literacy in low-income communities. When he’s not busy with other pursuits, Smith likes to hang out at Third Culture Coffee in Bellevue. — MM


Drake RemlingerDrake Remlinger, 26

CEO of The Remlinger Group

Residence: Bellevue

Hometown: Snohomish

Education: University of Washington

First job: Site Worker at Lord Hill Farms

Favorite podcast: MFCEO Project Podcast

Book currently reading: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Hobbies: Skiing, boating, golfing, fishing, tennis, traveling, riding motorcycles, design, and real estate

Before the age of 40, I want to: Establish an international charity.

In January 2018, Drake Remlinger was diagnosed with Stage 3C melanoma and was told he had less than a year to live. “My future was entirely uncertain, (so) I focused on what I liked to do, and that was work,” Remlinger said. He’d always had a knack for real estate, starting his career shortly after graduating from the University of Washington; during his year of treatment, he launched his first real estate brokerage, became a commercial appraiser, partnered with a firm in Seattle, and opened up a second brokerage in Snohomish, his hometown. “This experience shaped me as a young business leader and taught me that mindset is everything,” Remlinger said. He has been cancer-free since early 2020. — ZB


Evan Ebert

Courtesy Green Rubino

Evan Ebert, 28

Realtor at Windermere Real Estate JS

Residence: Everett

Hometown: Everett

Education: Seattle Pacific University

First job: Tennis coach for Everett Parks & Recreation

Favorite podcast: Something Human

Book currently reading: The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

Hobbies: Cooking, meditation, breathwork, yoga, CrossFit, reading, podcasting, succulent care, spending time with family and friends, getting outside, and tennis

Before the age of 40, I want to: Be able to inspire people to live their lives freely, without fear.

Early in life, Evan Ebert was a Nintendo fanatic and often daydreamed about becoming a video game developer or graphic artist. “That must have been before I figured out that I couldn’t properly draw,” the Everett native said. Later, in his first job as a tennis coach, he learned how to lead and help others. For Ebert, it mattered not only that the kids he was coaching learn how to play tennis, but also that they grow personally through the sport. He said it is an “inborn passion of mine to help people feel at home in this world.” In his role as a Realtor at Windermere Real Estate JS, a client wrote that Ebert “approaches people in a genuinely authentic way.” Personal development is something that matters deeply to Ebert — he sees the key to making a difference as starting with yourself. When he’s not working, Ebert hosts a podcast called Something Human. — LG


Hannah SiegertszHannah Siegertsz, 27

Senior Consultant at Mosier McCann

Founder and CEO of Pair Partners

Residence: Redmond

Hometown: Colombo, Sri Lanka

Education: University of Washington and Pacific Lutheran University

First job: Nanny

Favorite podcast: Raise Your Game Show with Alan Stein Jr.

Book currently reading: 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

Hobbies: Going on super-long walks, connecting with people, and exercising in a group

Before the age of 40, I want to: Keep living a legacy and impacting lives.

Hannah Siegertsz is one of 24 siblings who grew up in Sri Lanka. As the senior consultant at Mosier McCann and also founder and CEO of Pair Partners, Siegertsz’s job consists of evaluating the market need, designing business plans, and motivating and inspiring other professionals to improve in their lines of work. Outside work, Siegertsz teaches university classes and promotes women in the workforce in Sri Lanka. She even planned and conducted a seminar on the topic, which sold out within a couple days. “We jokingly tease her that she must not sleep for all that she gets accomplished in a given day, week, or month,” coworker Joli Mosier wrote in her nomination of Siegertsz. “She is truly one of the most productive, dedicated, and resourceful professionals I know.” — MJ


Hayk SaakianHayk Saakian, 27

Chief Operations Officer of Logic Inbound

Residence: Newcastle

Hometown: Seattle

Education: University of California Berkeley

First job: Developing an inventory management system for car dealerships

Favorite podcast: Monday Morning Podcast

Book currently reading: Do More Faster by Brad Feld and David Cohen

Hobby: Writing reviews for tech
and gaming products on his website

Before the age of 40, I want to: Travel the world, because I’ve been focused on business and savings for a long time, so I’d like to see the world before I get too old.

Hayk Saakian is a self-described “tech guy.” The earliest toy he can recall from his childhood was the robot that sparked his fascination in technology. By middle school, Saakian already was showing an aptitude for technology when he built his school website. At 18, the app for his first startup, Shoplletes, had amassed 300,000 downloads. Later, his passion for business brought him to the field of marketing. Together with his cousin, Vladimir Mkrtumyan, he created Logic Inbound, a marketing agency. Technology even has permeated Saakian’s free time through his website, Hayk, which features tech reviews on everything from motherboards to games. Saakian also has an intense drive to learn. His cousin said Saakian reads one book every week. “I think genuine curiosity is the driving force behind real innovation,” Saakian said. — LG


Jaysa DuffinJaysa Duffin, 28

Operations Manager at The Novel Tree

Residence: Seattle

Hometown: Modesto, California

Education: University of Washington

First job: Bagger at SaveMart grocery store

Favorite podcast: Crime Junkie

Book currently reading: The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

Hobbies: Hiking, kayaking, exercising, hanging with her dogs, and trying good food

Before the age of 40, I want to: Contribute something positive to the world.

Jaysa Duffin is operations manager for The Novel Tree and a full-time college student at the University of Washington. Growing up with a single mother, Duffin said she has a passion for helping those from less-affluent backgrounds gain the social capital needed to advance into business roles. In fact, Duffin said working with The Novel Tree’s female CEO stirred her passion to pursue a career in business. “Having such a strong female leader as our CEO is incredibly inspiring,” she said. If she ever makes it big in business, Duffin said she intends to gift her hardworking mom a new house and car. When she’s not working or hanging out with her fiancé and dogs Nolan and Troy, Duffin dedicates her weekends to being a pen pal to senior citizens and cleaning up area parks and beaches. — MM


Jeffrey ZhuJeffrey Zhu, 23

Lead Artist at Stovetop Studios

Residence: Issaquah

Hometown: Issaquah

Education: University of Washington

First job: 3D art commissions

Favorite podcast: Extremities

Book currently reading: None

Hobbies: Tennis, hiking, boating, photography, cooking, and shooting

Before the age of 40, I want to: Retire.

While his contemporaries have professional challenges like sustainable growth or effective leadership, Jeffrey Zhu’s conundrum is more pressing. “It’s whether to stay in the field of architecture or move into game development — or somehow do both,” Zhu said. In high school, Zhu was convinced he wanted to be an architect. He spent his summers shadowing professionals in the industry and, later, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the trade. Meanwhile, however, Zhu began designing games with a childhood friend under their startup Stovetop Studios and became enamored. After many incomplete projects, the duo launched Snakeybus. “It’s an absurd arcade game where you drive an articulated bus that keeps growing longer as you pick up and drop off more passengers,” Zhu explained. Faced with the unanticipated success of Snakeybus and the master’s degree in architecture he’s pursuing from Cornell University, Zhu is looking for a way to bridge his two professional passions. — JK 


Joseph MontgomeryJoseph Montgomery, 29

Wealth Management Advisor at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co.

Residence: Kirkland

Hometown: Corvallis, Oregon

Education: Seattle Central Community College and Cornish Arts College

First job: House painter

Favorite podcast: The MeatEater Podcast

Book currently reading: Relentless by Tim Grover and Shari Wenk

Hobbies: Rugby (Seattle Seawolves and Seattle Rugby Club), hunting, fishing, and backpacking

Before the age of 40, I want to: Own ranch land to host retreats for troubled youth, athletes, women’s groups, and more.

When Joseph Montgomery moved to Seattle 10 years ago, he planned to go to music school, play rugby, fight wildfires, and paint houses. “God, however, had a completely different journey for me,” Montgomery said, adding he has not always known his potential is limitless. “Eventually, when my dead-end jobs reached their dead-ends, and the realization came that my partial degree in music wasn’t going to get me anywhere, it all came to a head. It was from this seemingly rock bottom that I derived my work ethic, and it’s my refusal to go back there that doesn’t allow me to quit. How could we not give 100 percent when it’s 100 percent our choice?” He said his biggest professional challenge has been remaining committed to the daily disciplines that got him where he is today. In another commitment, he’s scheduled to be married Sept. 10. — JS

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Krubale MulugetaKrubale Mulugeta, 23

Real Estate Entrepreneur at Geta Real Estate

Residence: Seattle

Hometown: Seattle

Education: University of Washington Bothell

First job: Stadium vendor

Favorite podcast: BiggerPockets Video Podcast

Book currently reading: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Hobbies: Traveling, playing basketball, listening to music, and socializing

Before the age of 40, I want to: Give as much back as possible.

After dropping out of college at 19, Krubale Mulugeta found his footing as a real estate broker while building his own personal real estate portfolio. In only a few years, he has built extreme success for himself in the industry, working in both sales and real estate investment. On top of his quick career growth, Mulugeta is highly involved in the community, volunteering with both Make-A-Wish and the American Red Cross. He also is the co-founder of a nonprofit called the Hewot Care Foundation, which he said donates to kids in Ethiopia necessities such as clothes, shoes, money, school supplies, and more. — ZB


Lexi Neigel

Photo by Aislinn Bailey at Ais Portraits

Lexi Neigel, 29

Senior UX Researcher at Microsoft 

Residence: Kirkland

Hometown: Seattle

Education: University of Central Florida and Washington State University

First job: Farmhand

Favorite podcast: Make It So-So Podcast

Book currently reading: Writing is Designing by Michael Metts and Andy Welfle

Hobbies: Hiking, reading, and writing

Before the age of 40, I want to: Write and publish a book on UX.

Lexi Neigel loves people. It’s what guides her work as a senior UX (user experience) researcher at Microsoft. But it’s not just people that Neigel is passionate about. As a child, she wanted to be a veterinarian. “I worked and rehabilitated neglected and abused horses for years — this work gave me a sense of purpose and helped me develop a deep sense of compassion for others,” Neigel said. Her path to user experience started in academic research for the field. Her first teaching job was at the age of 21. Neigel said shifting from academia to a career of being a user experience professional was challenging, but thanks mentor Paula Bach at Microsoft for guiding her. And she has since become a mentor herself, advising students seeking to break into user experience research at the University of Central Florida. — LG


Maya ShuklaMaya Shukla, 11

Founder of The Bored Baker

Residence: Bellevue

Hometown: Bellevue

Education: Elementary school

First job: Held her own art show and sold art she had created

Favorite podcast: None

Book currently reading: The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

Hobbies: Baking, drawing, tennis, playing the flute, and reading

Before the age of 40, I want to: Taste every single ice cream flavor in the world.

An entrepreneur since second grade, Maya Shukla first created and sold art, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 struck that she decided to dive into another passion. “My favorite activity is baking, which I’ve loved ever since I was little,” she said. “However, I could never bake consistently during the school year because of other activities blocking up my free time.” Untethered, Shukla started baking a new dish every day and sharing those on her blog, The Bored Baker. Finding herself with a surplus of sweets, Shukla began surprising her friends with treat deliveries. Soon, the young confectioner delved into activism and philanthropy through the #bakersagainstracism project, donating all proceeds to the Black Farmers Collective. And she also regularly donates meals to Sophia’s Way. Her biggest professional challenge? “Some people don’t take me seriously because of my age,” she said. Hopefully, Shukla’s status as the youngest Eastsider to ever receive 30 Under 30 honors will help with that. — JK


Melissa GilesMelissa Giles, 28

Director of Operations and Parent Relations at Northwest University

Residence: Kirkland

Hometown: Santa Barbara, California

Education: Northwest University

First job: Referee for a third- and fourth-grade basketball league

Favorite podcast: Coffee Talk
with Billy and Jenn

Book currently reading: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Hobbies: Playing basketball and volleyball, paddle-boarding, rock climbing, and hiking

Before the age of 40, I want to: Be known for loving people well, both professionally and personally.

Melissa Giles previously lived in California and Texas before alighting on Kirkland — where she lives today with five roommates and a pup named Griffey — and Northwest University, her alma mater. A self-proclaimed lover of Harrison Ford’s iconic Indiana Jones persona, Giles always dreamed she’d be a modern-day female Indy. “I had a deep desire to be an archaeologist in a place like Egypt or Greece, and I loved the idea of discovering something that had never been found before.” Like her idol, Giles also works in a university — as the director of operations and parent relations — and, like Jones, she carefully uncovers delicate treasures. For Giles, the life stories of the parents and students she helps are the true prize. When she’s not working, Giles endeavors to visit all seven continents. “Five down, two to go,” the adventurous 28-year-old said. — JK


Peter BaldridgePeter Baldridge, 28

Senior data scientist at Logic20/20

Residence: Seattle

Hometown: University Place

Education: University of Washington

First job: Lifeguard

Favorite podcast: Broken Record

Book currently reading: How Asia Works by Joe Studwell

Hobby: Traveling

Before the age of 40, I want to: Continue to live a balanced and happy life.

As a young boy, Peter Baldridge was inspired to work in science after seeing Robin Williams play a scientist in the movie Flubber. Today, the data scientist feels fortunate to have entered the field when he did and has enjoyed working in a broad range of areas, including economics, manufacturing, telecommunications, and consulting. His passion is using data to help companies accomplish goals that they once thought impossible. Baldridge came to data science with a very academic background — he has a degree in applied and computational mathematical sciences — and said learning to see a project as a business case rather than a technical challenge was hugely challenging, but also hugely rewarding. When he’s not crunching numbers, Baldridge enjoys traveling. Closer to home, his favorite Eastside haunt for a coffee meeting is Five Stones Coffee Co., where, “Brews are delicious and … constantly served with a smile.” — JS


Rumesh Senanayake

Photo by Lauren Mitchell

Rumesh Senanayake, 29

Financial advisor at SC Financial Group LLC

Residence: Bothell

Hometown: Colombo, Sri Lanka

Education: University of Washington

First job: Basketball coach

Favorite podcast: Not a podcast, but Effective and Authentic Communication by Robin Roberts on MasterClass

Book currently reading: The Wealth Creator’s Playbook by John Christianson

Hobbies: Playing basketball, working out, paddleboarding, and spending time with his family

Before the age of 40, I want to: Be known for making a deep and meaningful impact on the Eastside community.

Rumesh Senanayake must be good at the game of H-O-R-S-E. He played as a shooting guard on the Sri Lankan National Basketball Team from 2007-11, played semipro ball in the Maldives from 2008-11, and still plays hoops when he can since coming to the United States in 2011. His wife, Ruthie, has game, too. The couple won the co-ed recreational division of the Spokane Hoopfest, billed as the largest 3-on-3 outdoor basketball tournament in the world, in 2018 and 2019. Senanayake’s first job, coaching basketball for first- and second-graders, taught him how to be a strong, effective leader and “that no matter who you were leading, you have an impact on their lives.” He’s striving now to have a positive impact on people’s financial lives, working as a financial advisor while pursuing his finance degree at the University of Washington, and will continue his studies to become a certified financial planner while working at SC Financial Group in Bellevue. He and his wife love traveling and try to visit a new country each year. — JS

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Sam Wigness

Photo by Brad Kevelin

Sam Wigness, 29

CEO of Emeraldology

Residence: Issaquah

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Education: University of North Dakota

First job: Restaurant host

Favorite podcast: DRILLED

Book currently reading: Doughnut Economics by Kate Rawworth

Hobbies: Hiking, gardening, fly fishing, playing softball, playing guitar, training my dog Pippen, watching football, and reading.

Before the age of 40, I want to: Produce more energy than I use with home solar panels and heat pumps.

Sam Wigness is all about the environment. Whether it’s summiting Mount Adams in his down time, volunteering to plant trees and survey salmon, or working his day job as the CEO of Emeraldology — a news site dedicated to showing that climate action is something everyone can achieve — Wigness is an eco-warrior. “Nothing excites me more than the prospect of solar-powered sports venues, zero-waste rock concerts, and home gardens overflowing with native plants and organic produce,” the Minnesota transplant said of his green passion. Wigness also eschews the millennial myth that his generation is entitled for demanding a livable future for rising generations. “Seems more like a survival instinct than entitlement to me,” he said. When he’s not advocating for climate action, Wigness can be found walking his Australian Shepard, Pippen, around Issaquah or grabbing a bite at the Medina Grocery Store, also known as “The Green Store.” — JK


Sergey MonichSergey Monich, 29

Owner of Bright Exterior

Residence: Kirkland

Hometown: Rivne, Ukraine

Education: High school

First job: Restocking shelves at a thrift store at the age of 9

Favorite podcast:
The On Purpose Podcast

Book currently reading: Saved from Success by Dale Partridge

Hobbies: Water sports, fishing, hunting, and traveling

Before the age of 40, I want to: Own a lumber yard in Kirkland and a design/build business with my wife.

In 2008, Sergey Monich opened his general contracting business, Bright Exterior. “I first got into the construction field by learning siding from a friend who has had a successful business established for years,” said Monich, who moved to Washington from Eastern Europe when he was young. As a business owner, he has continued to push his own creative boundaries, expanding in 2015 to focus on remodels and new construction and again in 2018, when he started building homes from the ground up. “He has a vision for his company and a plan to succeed by thriving every workday,” Monich’s wife of five years, Lana, said. His big heart, she added, is evident in the way he values the growth of his employees and his willingness to volunteer his construction expertise to his church. — ZB


Taylor WangTaylor Wang, 17

Freelance artist

Residence: Issaquah

Hometown: Amarillo, Texas

Education: Issaquah High School

First job: Selling hand-drawn merchandise online

Favorite podcast: Code Switch by NPR

Book currently reading: Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis

Hobbies: Creating art, reading, writing, and occasionally learning a TikTok dance.

Before the age of 40, I want to: Curate a women-only museum exhibit.

At 15, Taylor Wang wanted to amplify teenage artists, so she created the nonprofit Student Art Spaces. The organization has since exhibited more than 100 local teen artists in the area and expanded to 10 chapters in the United States and Canada. Wang is an accomplished artist in her own right. Her paintings have been exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum; the Bellevue Arts Museum; and the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. For her, she said, “Art is a vessel to express the fear and uncertainty of growing up in an interconnected, socially conscious generation.” The 17-year-old high school student has worked with the Survivor Coalition Project, a coalition of various women-led initiatives raising money for domestic violence survivors, and volunteered with The Vera Project, an all-ages arts venue. Wang plans on a career in curation and business management. — LG


Tyler Woodbridge

Photo by visualphotography.net

Tyler Woodbridge, 28

Managing Broker at John L. Scott, Inc. and Co-Owner of Exceptional Northwest Homes

Residence: Renton

Hometown: Renton

Education: WGU Washington

First job: Pizza delivery at Pizza Man

Favorite podcast: The Joe
Rogan Experience

Book currently reading: Every Day I Fight by Stuart Scott and Larry Platt

Hobbies: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, cooking, camping, gaming, and spending time with friends and family

Before the age of 40, I want to: Become financially independent and be known as someone who gives back to my local community.

During his first job as a pizza delivery guy, Tyler Woodbridge found himself navigating through sometimes uncertain terrain to find his way in an era when cell phones didn’t yet give turn-by-turn directions. Fortunately, Woodbridge didn’t need a GPS-enabled device to navigate his future career, on that journey, he knew the turns he needed to take in order to reach his destination. As a high school senior, Woodbridge became a licensed broker days after his 18th birthday and by 20 he was investing his extra cash to fund his business. Today, the 28-year-old entrepreneur finds himself approaching the front doors of Eastside homes, not with pizza boxes, but with his real estate clients in tow as a managing broker for John L. Scott, Inc. and as co-owner of Exceptional Northwest Homes. When he’s not working, Woodbridge donates his time to coach high school football and currently holds a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. — JK


Tyler Zangaglia

Photo by Yuen Lui Photography Studio

Tyler Zangaglia, 21

Founder and CEO of The Hope Festival

Residence: Sammamish

Hometown: Sammamish

Education: Gonzaga University

First job: Krispy Kreme

Favorite podcast: VIEWS with David Dobrik and Jason Nash

Book currently reading: Screw Business as Usual by Richard Branson

Hobbies: Adventuring with friends, traveling, mountain biking, and playing soccer

Before the age of 40, I want to: Create and launch something that has a profound impact on the world.

Tyler Zangaglia said the best professional advice he ever received came from his father. “I will never forget when my dad told me to figure out what my one true passion was, and then to do that one thing better than anyone else,” Zangaglia said. As it turns out, that one thing is helping others. After volunteering at a local community-service event as a high school freshman, Zangaglia’s eyes were opened to the magnitude of the homeless crisis in downtown Seattle. In 2015, he founded the Hope Festival, a youth-led nonprofit that provides more than 1,000 in-need individuals in the Seattle area with free groceries, clothes, hygiene items, and books, as well as free services including haircuts, massages, dental care, vaccinations, health screenings, and more. When the Gonzaga University senior isn’t serving others, he enjoys jumping into Lake Sammamish, hiking at Poo Poo Point in Issaquah, and grabbing a bubble tea in Bellevue. — MM


Varisha KhanVarisha Khan, 25

Councilmember, City of Redmond

Residence: Redmond

Hometown: Woodinville

Education: University of Washington

First job: The ASUW Middle Eastern Student Commission

Favorite podcast: Primed

Book currently reading: Becoming
by Michelle Obama

Hobbies: Cooking; listening to audiobooks and podcasts; enjoying the PNW nature; and, as of late, daydreaming about post-pandemic travels

Before the age of 40, I want to: Make the city I represent a better place, empower more young people to run for office and step into leadership roles, write a book, start my own company or nonprofit, and work in a variety of professional fields in the pursuit of social justice.

There’s not a lot that Varisha Khan doesn’t do. A journalist who covers immigrants and communities of color for the Seattle Globalist, her justice work extends to her roles at numerous local nonprofits and her position as a councilmember for the City of Redmond. In 2016, she was elected to serve as one of the youngest Presidential Electors in the Electoral College to represent Washington state’s 1st Congressional District. “I (focus) my work on making media and government more representative and inclusive,” said Khan, who was born into a middle-class American Muslim family and received her degree in journalism and political science. Right now, she said she’s focusing on taking care of the people in her city through the pandemic — and the unemployment, looming housing crisis, and racial justice movement that has accompanied it. — ZB


Yikun ZhaoYikun Zhao, 29

Vice President of Growth at Flyhomes

Residence: Redmond

Hometown: China

Education: Peking University and Northwestern University

First job: Helping her mom run errands

Favorite podcast: None

Book currently reading: Steve Jobs
by Walter Isaacson

Hobbies: Hiking and reading

Before the age of 40, I want to: Help Flyhomes become a successful company.

Yikun Zhao said she was born with entrepreneurship in her blood. During her childhood in China, Zhao’s father was an entrepreneur. “I really admired that he could call something his own,” she said. This parental example led Zhao to pursue work with fledgling startups like Flyhomes, a California-based real estate company with offices in Seattle that endeavors to change the way people buy homes. Zhao has been with the company more than three years and has witnessed the startup’s growth from one employee to more than 100. Zhao’s biggest professional challenge is tied to this growth as she navigates how to successfully and sustainably scale her team. When she’s not working, Zhao is a voracious reader, seeking out the biographies of successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs for further startup inspiration. — JK

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