Season 2 is out! Listen now.
April 21, 2022

Building a Professional Community in Uncertain Times | Alyssia Palacios-Woods, President AYC

Building a Professional Community in Uncertain Times | Alyssia Palacios-Woods, President AYC

Today, I’m having a conversation with the President and CEO of Austin Young Chamber of Commerce (AYC), Alyssia Palacios-Woods.
In this conversation, we cover:

  • Alyssia’s journey from a non-profit to CEO of AYC
  • The mission of AYC and how it changed over the course of COVID
  • Stories of impact that community has on the ecosystem
  • How Alyssia operates in her role of CEO, leader, and mom
  • P.S. AYC is hosting it’s Annual Lead Summit. I’ll be there. If you can, drop by. Here’s a link:


Moby: Hello? Hello. Hello. Welcome back to the B2B CEO show. This is your host Moby and today. I'm having a conversation with the president. And CEO of Austin Young chamber of commerce. Alicia Palacios Woods. In this conversation, we cover her journey from joining Austin, young chamber, a nonprofit in Austin, Texas, to becoming CEO of that organization. The mission of Austin Young chamber and how it has changed over the course of COVID. Stories of the impact that that community has had on the Austin tech ecosystem. And how she operates in the role of CEO leader and mom. If you're listening to this episode and you're an Austin, Austin, young chambers also hosting its annual lead summit in April. I'll be there. If you can drop by, please do, it will be awesome. I'll be interviewing people over there. Check. Out the show notes for the link to the conference

Moby: All right, everybody. Welcome back to the B2B CEO show with another CEO here today. Alicia Palacios Woods How are you?.

I'm doing great. Thanks, Moby. Thanks for having me excited to chat today.

Moby: Absolutely happy Friday to you. Happy Friday.

Alyssia: Beautiful weather here in Austin, Texas. So can't complain a hundred percent and to think we had an ice storm, not too long. One week ago, Texas weather. You got to love it.

Moby: A hundred percent. the people listening already heard your intro. I love to kind of, learn like how you got started in Austin and community and all of this space.

Alyssia: Oh yeah, sure. It's kind of an interesting route. I feel like so many careers now. Kind of windy roads and I, mine is no different. I came up to us and to go to St. Edward's University, where I went to college and played tennis there on the team and loved every minute of it. And then I moved from there to the University of Texas for my master's degree. And while I was there, I fell in love and I got married right after I graduated. And then we settled down here in Austin and stayed.

Alyssia: So, I got my career started my, education. My background is in design and advertising. and so I did that for a few years and then decided I really wanted to lean into giving back and purpose and philanthropy.

Alyssia: And so I purposely went searching for a job in the nonprofit sector. And landed a role as the director of development for a non-profit here in central Texas. And I worked there for seven years and loved it and then was ready for the next step after that and did a very strategic search as well, looking for growth opportunities and a place that allowed me to connect with people and really impact the community.

Alyssia: And I found that at the Austin Young chamber was lucky enough to get selected. And I've been in the role now as president and CEO at the Austrian chamber for four years. Wow. what pulled you towards design and advertising and the first. Growing up. I always had this creative brain, going through school, middle school, and high school. We always had projects that really brought in creativity. I always loved like Pixar animation. You know, I think everyone's job at that point is to work at Disney. And so I was always aligned with that and I really loved the design. And so even going into St Ed's, I told them from the beginning, I want to be a graphic designer and they said we're developing that program right now with one of the first graduates out of that program. And so I graduated, I'm one of the first to graduate with that degree from there. but yeah, I just always love like design and elements, landings that on a page. And right now I'm so far removed from that. It is, it is kind of funny actually.

Moby: And when you started working with that nonprofit, were you working in design and where you using a lot of your creative brain, or did you start with something else when you started with that nonprofit?

Alyssia: Well with development. And I think, especially with, with small nonprofits, with small development teams, like fundraising teams, you kind of are in charge of marketing too.

Alyssia: and so I was in charge of all of his donor relationships and stewardship,

Alyssia: and all of those campaigns, but also that, that the marketing and telling the story of the organization.

Alyssia: And so I did the newsletters. I did all of the event planning. I did all of the invitations and all the graphic layout sports. So it actually came in really handy. And for those seven years, I really leaned on that to help tell the story of the mission and a greater way. And that's so important. I think something I heard, which is not relevant to every person and every kind of industry, but one of the jobs of a CEO is to generate demand.

Alyssia: And just you having that understanding of how to talk to people, how to build a community probably came in handy during the nonprofit and also for Austin yet. No, you're absolutely right. I mean, everything comes back to be able to tell your story really well and kind of having an eye for what people, relate to.

Moby: Right. what parts of your story do you tell? Cause there's more than one part and any given time. And so what do you really focus on? What words do you use? How do you describe it?

Alyssia: We did a lot of that changing when I came to the young chamber and how we communicated about ourselves externally.

Moby: And so if I were to ask you your story of going from that nonprofit and deciding this next growth thing, what was that search like as you were looking for the next thing because like, this is a huge organization and you're crushing it. Did that kind of fall into your lap or you're like, you know what, that's exactly what the work kind of work I want to do.

Alyssia: It didn't just fall in my lap. You know, I think that when you're a young professional you have to be able to be kind of patient with it. I knew that as, as a young mother and as somebody who is used to high achievement and it would really focused on growth and development that I had to have the right next step and flexibility for me as a parent. As well. And so it took me about like six months. I was applying to very specific jobs that I thought would fit and I was willing to kind of wait out and find the right fit. And and so it did take a little while, and then the interview process for the chamber was also, you know, pretty extensive, which as it should be when you're hiring for the, the top leadership role of an organization. And so it was a cold, cold email, cold outreach to them. It was a cold. Through like, indeed. So, you know, for those you say, like that never happens. It happened for me and that's been very fortunate. and now of course they have a lot of new connections that have come out of it, but, it's been a really fun and neat experience for sure being in this and definitely offered in and delivered on what I was looking for a hundred percent. What was the process like of interviewing or, interviewing for this role and being considered. Yeah. So I started with regular application on indeed and then a phone interview with just a few key people.

Alyssia: And then another phone interview with more key people, the board, you know, in general, and then, branched out to some phone interviews,

Alyssia: were actually no, not phone interviews in person interviews with a staff member in some board members. And then,

Alyssia: ultimately culminated in meeting the entire board to be able to kind of share a little bit about my story and kind of answer their questions as well.

Alyssia: As a last effort. I've never gone through a panel interview and they scared the crap out of It's good times, especially, I don't know anybody, you know, which is often the case was for me, if you have a connection, you know, at least one person in the room, that's one thing. But for me, you know, in an organization, especially like a chamber of commerce, because a chamber operates so much different than any other nonprofit organization or any business organization, because. At the culmination of a Chamber's mission, your connectors, you're connecting these, all of these pieces together, higher ed, nonprofits for-profits, and businesses, you know, leaders in the community and you're bringing everybody together. it's a very different mindset than just, a C3 charitable nonprofit, or a for-profit business that you kind of has to wrap your head around. Yeah. From what you said, it seems like, I would imagine that you have to kind of. In touch with everything that's going on in the city, whether it's tech or business or development or social changes, our culture people. when you started this role, did you expect there, was that a realization that came you're like, oh, I have to know a lot of these things really fast, definitely a realization when you're like, Ooh, things are coming fast at me and there's, let me, let me, I'll just say honestly If it's not your full-time job to go down to city council and keep an eye on the agendas and check like everything that's happening.

Alyssia: Like you're never gonna, you're never gonna be able to do it. And so you really have to kind of lean in on key issues and depend on people around you who are experts in this. You can kind of help keep you informed and keep you in touch with what's happening that you need to pay attention to. You have to keep track of a lot of what's going on in this city from new expansions to new hires, to all of the city policies that affect business,

Alyssia: two hot issues like affordability and transportation. You really have to keep it around at all and really dig in as, as an organization on what you want to weigh in on and what you want to spend your time working towards.

Moby: Absolutely. And that kind of, do want to talk about community, but I want to touch upon that comment, which is, having the right team members I interviewed. The mayor. And I asked him how the hell do you do it? Because he seemed very calm. And you know, when you're running a city, especially like Austin, it's not easy. And he said, well, I was like, hi. I'm like, how would you make decisions? He's like, I trust my team to do that for me, which is they bring the important decision in front of me. They give me the information and I trust their recommendation I'm guessing for so much information coming your way. And so many parties try just trying to contact with you. You're trying to work with them. You must rely a lot of your on your team.

Alyssia: Exactly right. And it's not just the staff team either because it was a nonprofit. You're not as big as you want to be. You don't have the resources as many as you want to be. But as a membership organization, certainly, we have a hundred plus active volunteers and our members are the reason why we're here.

Alyssia: And so we really rely on them in different committees and different parts of the organization. So. Kind of have their expertise and their passions and weigh in on that and kind of let me know right. When it's time to kind of take a look at something deeper or bring it to the board level or even the staff level and see how we want to weigh in or act upon.

Moby: Could you share a story of the kind of like that realization. You mentioned two, three minutes ago, like, oh, that this is a lot. I remember my first year of business and there was one moment where, you know, things seem to be going really well. I was like, all right, I kind of got this. And then one week, somebody backed out of a contract and somebody that I was expecting to renew, because I had just assumed that they were like, yeah, we're not going to renew. This is my six months. And I was like, Oh, my gosh how is this going to work? Do you have a short story like that? And once you realize the scope of all of it,

Alyssia: I would say it was probably Austin FC coming to town. And if you remember at the very beginning and this from like the policy perspective, because policy is not my forte naturally, you know, I came in and they were like, we're going to rebrand.

Alyssia: We're going to get a new logo. I was like, great. Let's do it. I'm here. My background's in design, I've got marketing, Texas creative. Let's do it.

Alyssia: but then, you know, Austin FC was coming to town. I mean, if you remember at the beginning, it was a lot of like, with anything there's like pros and cons and those four and those against, and,

Alyssia: as an organization, we're really just starting to get our feet wet on the policy side and really taking stances on things and figuring out what processes we were going to take internally to be able to reach that end decision of yes or no.

Alyssia: Do we agree with this or not? And so I think that was a big learning opportunity for me and for organization to Wade through that with opposition and everything being really vocal at city council. And I remember I was invited to speak,

Alyssia: on behalf of Austin FC on one of the city council meetings.

Alyssia: When I like the final meeting. And I hand in hot and we weren't there as an organization yet. And that meeting ended up going to like three or four in the morning. And I was eternally grateful. I didn't go because I didn't have to stay up that late, but you know, there was a lot happening. And so ultimately we did determine our processes.

Alyssia: We did decide we were going to support Austin FC. So we came out with a statement and I think that's what a one piece of all the chambers and all the other organizations who came and supported it. But you know, now to see the stadium built and to go to a game and to see the pitch, even, you know,

Alyssia: just be developed, um, even more recently and all the pieces that are, that are coming from that from an economic development perspective, it's just really neat.

Moby: But yeah, in the beginning, it was a lot, a lot of new things that our organization went through a hundred percent, and was it kind of like at the year and a half? For you or two years when March 2020 came about,

Alyssia: I guess it was, I started in October, 2017. so just, just over two years, I'm involved. In fact, I divide my time at now between like pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, because it's just like a very, very clear split of how you're approaching problems and challenges and addressing everything.

Alyssia: So it's very different for sure. Different mindset that I think we're getting back to pre pandemic, like processes and thought, but definitely very different, hundred percent, a hundred percent. And, as you said, you know, you were involved in the Austin FC. collaboration, that decision. And of course, a huge deal for you is the city in south by Southwest.

Moby: And I remember when south by got canceled, I was like, oh, this is actually happening. I remember talking about, and my assumption was it's never going to be canceled, who would cancel that? And that was just a shock. Can you share kind of what went through. AYC and even you personally, as running that huge organization, when this news came, you're like, all right, things have changed a little bit.

Alyssia: I remember distinctively being at, the baseball fields, throwing pitches to my son. Cause it was right in the middle of baseball season. During pitches with my phone on speaker, on the city council at city announcement that they were going to cancel south by. So they were distinctively that like moment of, oh my gosh, like this is happening. What's coming next. you know, so for us, Everything moved so quickly from that moment. And I think that was definitely something that everybody was, grappling with. And I think, one of the key takeaways from that time period is you know, everything, all of a sudden was new for everybody. You know, we tend to talk about leadership and being in a leadership role as someone with experience or less experience. Well, when that happened, when the pandemic hit and south by was shut down, it was kind of a culminating moment and everybody was in new territory. It didn't matter how long you've been in a leadership role or not. And so you know, I think one of the things I noticed up front was that things were changing so rapidly. You know, from day to day to day, new announcements, new policies, new ways businesses had to operate things shut down. And so I remember where UIC staff, you know, I kind of had a feeling it was going to have, and I remember telling one of my employees like,

Alyssia: Hey, take your computer and your monitor home because I know she likes an external, I was like, take your monitor home

Alyssia: and so we were all set up. We've always had a hybrid environment. So operationally we were good and we could keep working. But we started doing just daily meetings for like an hour because we were keeping tabs on all the things that were changing. What are our members saying? What are they, what is the city of Austin saying? What is the state saying? What, and how are we parsing all this information, and what needs do we need to address right now? And so that was definitely something that was unexpected. And,

Alyssia: I think one of the first things that we thought about was, you know, people have. And they're worried and they don't know what the future holds for themselves, their jobs, their children.

Alyssia: And so one of the first things we put together in like a couple, a matter of a couple of days with a survey, it was the COVID 90 employee impact survey. a lot of the chambers did employer surveys, like what we're companies going to do, but we really wanted to get the perspective of the employee.

Alyssia: What are you worried about? Right. And especially from the impact of young professionals, you know, like most likely student loans, car payments, mortgages, like what are you most worried about pain? You know, how, what industry are you in, how long do you think you'd be able to last, you know, in, in your role, are you looking for a new job?

Alyssia: Are you worried about losing it and really taking all of that data and submitting it to the city, the county, the state, and, being able to let them use that data to help inform, you know, some of their legislation and how we could help and support individuals moving from.

Moby: Absolutely it confusing time. I remember kind of tying to your point of nobody kind of knew what to do. Everybody was got blaming something new. When I got laid off and I immediately made a video and I think I waited a day to post it, cause I was like, I won't let my dad know I've been laid off because it's on social media. So I called him. But my buddy. Messaging me on LinkedIn. He's like, oh, at the time to see what we're all made of. Like, yeah. Okay. Okay. Yeah. Big time, big time.

Alyssia: Exactly. And you know, it was, it was a real-time of a lot of systems crumbling when you had to rely on just communication in person. And when tasks had to be communicated in meetings versus having systems, how has before we jumped into the community part, when you zoom out, how would you see AYC before. COVID postcode, but as an organization, So pre COVID, we definitely had a lot of change and growth happening. You know, I came in with ideas and our board had ideas and we were executing on those. And we were in our best year ever in 2019 membership perspective, we had, we were just poised for growth and we had so many great ideas of collaboration and partnerships and like a national a city-wide wipey week that we were organizing. And then, you know, COVID hit, it was like, ah, everyone stop. And let's see now what we need to do. And I think it allowed us the time in slowing down and refocusing really on other things allowed us when we look back at what we were doing to think about strategically. Okay. What needs to come back and what doesn't. Because, you know, I think as organizations, especially committed organizations, you know, we get, we get a cycle of programs, operations and things that we do annually and consistently, which are great and well-received, but. And then you get into this, this, this like mindset of like, if we don't do it, people will miss it. And then we'll hear, well, I feel like what the pandemic did was allow us to take a deep breath and say, you know, what needs to come back and what doesn't like, what do people really need and what fits with the scope of our mission and where we're going. And for us, we were already on this trajectory of really leaning into supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, young professionals in that, in that, in that same vein. and so we really wanted to focus in on that programming. And so we've, you know, during the pandemic, certainly, we were providing information that was needed. But then, you know, during that time as well, spent 20, 21 really evaluating what we want to bring on, what new things do we want to do, and what kind of needs to fall off in order for that to happen. And so today, you know, we have a new strategic plan that, and we're actually working towards those goals and having the conversations we need to have in order to move things forward in the focus that you'd like to make. I have. So, that's funny you say that I'm looking at, sorry, I've posted odd Lila.

Moby: And today somebody messaged. I messaged somebody last night on LinkedIn. Recently he went ex-Marine start a company media company, wasn't content, then start into NFTs and started a podcast. And over the last seven months has blow blown up. And so I messaged him and he's like, congrats and all of this, except I said something which reminded me of what you're saying is like, think about what you can drop to make what you want to make happen faster.

Alyssia: And it seems like. This created an opportunity for you to focus on, like, these are the things we really want to do, which is number one, supporting entrepreneurs through the community. Right. Right. And young professionals and propulsion are always the heart of our mission.

Alyssia: So, but in that so many are looking at starting their businesses and they're looking for those resources. No, it can be something that we focus on more for sure. And so, and, you know, in that dropping to, it might even be scaling back, you know, it might even be reframing how much time and effort you put into one program versus another, and, creating capacity and space to do you're right. Some of those other things are faster.

Moby: on that point of helping young professionals and entrepreneurs .How do you see the impact of a community? Over the long run, like, let's say the young professional population of a city?

Alyssia: I mean, I think it's Austin is such a young city. millennials, young professionals are the largest and most diverse generation in the U S labor workforce, but gen Z coming up right behind millennials. And so I really think that frames the conversation for the importance of the type of work that we do and how we need to really prepare. These leaders, you know, whether they're leaning businesses, whether they're running teams, you know, whether they're, you know, moving up the ranks where their community leaders are on boards or committees, all of that work is so important. And we need to have young professionals weigh-in and be representative of the largest demographic. You know, we really need those voices when it comes to policy and the big issues that we're facing as a community, you have to be in the room. And so we've been trying to create that space too, so that we can be a part of that. And so the concept of creating space as a community, As somebody who leads one right queue, and like somebody who's dabbled in and outgoing more into it, I've seen the impact on individuals. When you create connections between individuals that you serve and you slowly. Then trust you.

Moby: if you were to be talking to somebody, I'll give the example that I mentioned before the, for a conversation, like if a B2B CEO happens to be the name of the show comes in and is like, all right, we're thinking of doing, focusing on community as a 20, 22 strategic initiative. What's the ROI on the community or the impact. What would be your response to them?

Alyssia: It's so hard to measure that, you know, it's very hard to measure it. For us, you know, as a membership organization, we can see it in some membership numbers, but I think that the larger purpose is the connection in the community. For us. We know that anybody we bring into the chamber, any connection we're able to make through the chamber, even if they're not a member really supports the

Alyssia: talent retention, right? Economic development. We're trying to keep good workers and give people here in the city and really feel like they're supported and have people around them that are like-minded who they can grow and learn and, and live with. So, you know, as far as ROI, you know, I think that it's important for every organization to determine what they want to accomplish from it and what their key drivers are. we have 50. Programs that we run annually. and some of them are just networking base, allowing people to connect one-on-one and some of them are learning and development programs. Some of them are civic engagement. some of them are volunteering and so we're creating different opportunities for these young professionals to engage meaningfully based on their passions.

Alyssia: And, and like I said, with the chamber. There are a lot of different people who come to the chamber for different reasons and they'll get out of it. What they put in. It's like a gym membership, you know, you can pay for it, but if you don't show up, not going to see very many results, so you have to show up and you have to be involved and say, if a company is thinking about creating community you know, I, I think that the benefits that you receive are all long-term, you know, you're going to see people stay longer. You're going to see maybe some growth in your revenue, depending on what different streams that you have. And so you really got to dig into what that means for your company.

Moby: You touched on it out on that boat, the comment about long-term benefits one of the things I do sell for something to clients is community. And the first time I made a proposal for it, I was like, what do I know? It's right. But how do I say it? And I was like, I don't know how to. Yeah. Instead of being like, oh, it will increase your inbound. And I was like, all right, let me look at some things that I've done. And I looked at the work that we've done, and I saw that 11 of the speakers for one event became our customers within the next six months, and I did not plan that. It wasn't like, Hey, come speak so I can tell you stuff. But, and then I looked at the other opportunities and I think there are stories are a fascinating way to talk about, okay, this is the impact of community in the long run. Kind of like what you said.

Alyssia: Yeah. And I, I agree with you. One of our strategies, you know, is engaging people with the chamber is always our goal. And you don't really know, like for us, like any good salesperson, right. A membership person will know that you're not going to force somebody into buying a membership or whatever. It's gotta be a fit for them. but what. have the mindset of that. We want to gauge as many people as we can with our chamber and whatever capacity fits for them.

Alyssia: And so is it membership, is it a speaking opportunity? You know, do they want to be a mentor? You know, do they want to just volunteer one time or just come, you know, to events one-off but. All of that work collectively will lead to more ripple effects down the line. And they're, they're hard to measure, right?

Alyssia: Unless you're doing like study and the survey and you're, and you're calculating it step-by-step but certainly we see the same thing. When we invite speakers to participate on some of our panels, we invite them to judge some of our pitch competitions, you know, we're building relationships and we're keeping them aware about who we are and what we're doing.

Alyssia: And they're either becoming members or inviting others to become involved with us. And you know, it just has a reciprocal.

Moby: Absolutely. And you've mentioned before that you have quite a few types of members. Before we go into that, how do you keep track of the types of men? And this is kind of like a personal productivity organization thing because I think a lot of people struggle with it. My systems are everywhere. so when it comes to keeping track of the organization and all the KPIs for each type of member and initiatives and the committees, how do you, as the CEO look towards the organization and it kind of systemized things.

Alyssia: Well, one of the first things I did was take all the time Like databases and tools that we had, and go all the one. Like what's the one that we need that can be the main driver because if you have all your information separated, it's almost impossible to see what's happening. So we did migrate like my first three, three months, and we migrated into a system that would handle that.

Alyssia: Membership our event management, some email capabilities some committee tools as well and our invoicing and all did it in one. And it's a membership association software, and it's been fantastic. I mean, nothing's without its forming pains and there's no system that's perfect, but it did a lot for helping us to maintain and you know, streamline our process. so we use that and we can see membership what level they're at, you know, how engaged they are when people register for things, it's all in the same system. We can pull up a member and say, you had 2020 employees come and they registered for 52 events and they attended this many. And so we can pull that data and see, you know, what's happening at the individual membership level.

Alyssia: We can see how much they've committed to our organization from a billing perspective, invoicing, what they've sponsored, you know, the cadence of that sponsor. We can see who's serving on committees, et cetera. you know, as you get more into, if when you get trickled down into less of like the numbers and then data, like people serving on committees and showing up to meetings and kind of the, each of the committees work that the little disk that's little separate from the main system, but you can still kind of see what's happening and what engagement looks like. So yeah, you know, It's definitely a lot of information. but I I'm always a proponent of streamlining processes as much as you can. And finding a system that works for you to see everything in one place.

Moby: Absolutely. I recently had. I've been podcasting for a while. And for this new one, I was like, oh no, I've got to make a website and put all of that. And men, we train somebody and make SOP use. And I found this tool, which automatically connects. I had my website up in three minutes for a package and I just automatically,

yes, exactly. And I, I went to school for that for years and years and years. And now there's like a little widget that can just shoot it on out for you.

Moby: It's. Yeah, it's really cool. And I think, it kind of speaks to your point, which is to find a system or a tool, which really makes it easy and extremely. Exactly a hundred percent. and so when you look at, so you've got this tool and you're looking at a lot of qualitative data or quantitative, sorry, as the CEO, as a leader of a community with multiple aspects, how do you gauge sentiment in community and be like, all right, we see this trend in our members, which can necessarily be. Described by numbers or inputting it into numbers

Alyssia: Great. There's definitely a lot of that. especially during the pandemic, like certainly in the qualitative things, like how many people are we seeing registered for virtual events for in-person versus in-person events, which is like a pendulum. I knew that virtual will be like this and then in-person would go like that.

Alyssia: And eventually we would like to level out in the middle. I think, I think we're starting to level out based on what I'm seeing, but, but fingers crossed. but with the, with the other side, you know, Yeah, in my role, I. I get information from a lot of different directions in any CEO role, right? I've got my board of directors who were telling me information.

Alyssia: I've got my staff, that's telling me information. I have my committee leaders who were telling me, and I have members. You were telling me. So I feel like my role is to take all that data and all of those perspectives and then figure out the right way to move forward with the best way to move forward is. Any other person doesn't have all of that information. And so it's really important to be able to talk and have conversations with all of those different groups. You know, I have a great board of directors. I have a great executive board, so I often chat with them about what I'm hearing or what I'm seeing and kind of figure out if I don't know the direct path, and what needs to happen to move forward.

Alyssia: And work with the solid team, but, you know, that's kind of my process. I mean, definitely to listen, even from the beginning, especially through so much change to really listen and hear the perspectives of everybody. And I hoping to find that no matter what decision you make, if people are heard, then it definitely makes them feel better. And definitely feel like they had a say And a way to be involved in the process.

Moby: Absolutely. Yeah. Making somebody feel acknowledged really goes a far away and that kind of touches on this thing of ti. Management and managing people. One thing I heard, which I really liked, is when you're managing people, you're not just managing their work. You're also managing their emotions and you are, you know, you're, you're leading a team, but you have external stakeholders, like different kinds of members. Then you have your board members and you have city things. And then how, and, and I heard this a long time ago, which is. This was talking about coaching to show off for the people that need your help. Most, you need to show up for yourself and maintain your energy and make sure that your primary indigo you're obviously very busy. How do you. You know, maintain your energy or re-energize yourself to be able to deal with the onslaught of so many external stakeholders internal.

Alyssia: Yeah. So great question will be a hundred million dollar question. You know, I definitely you're right. It is a lot, especially as a mom of three and, you know, feeling all the emotions too, of being a parent through the pandemic and worrying about kids and family, you know, we all worry about family. And so. Keeping that in mind and an understanding that others are going through that as well. And for me, it's always the number one, the number one rule that families first and we're people first. And so, you know, I'd much rather have an emotional connection or a personal connection with staff member or a member until undo that first and before any work can get done, because it's so important for people to be recognized, to be heard and to feel. To feel like they're working with a team and someone who cares. I also know though that, that people want and expect a strong, confident leader you know, despite everything. And it's such a balance to be calm. And yet to be transparent because especially during the pandemic, when things hit, you know, like you don't know all the answers, you're still figuring them out.

Alyssia: You're still working through a lot of things. So you have to exude confidence and strength while also being transparent like, Hey, I don't know the answer to that yet, but we're going to figure it out together. And so that was one of the things that I definitely learned during the pandemic a little bit more to lean into and that it's okay not to have the answer and to say, I don't have the answer yet, but we're going to work together.

Alyssia: We're going to find it. And that's part of the process and to really include people in the conversations to keep them informed and updated on what's happened. As far as me, how I like to recharge, I sometimes take a step back. Like sometimes I just turn, and don't look at my phone after a certain time. if I know that I'm really stressed or there's a lot bothering me, I just, I just check out of social media.

Alyssia: I know. think it was December 2020 when it was like the worst of the surges. And like, you weren't with your family for Christmas. And everything was just awful. Like I just flat out would not get on social media or news at all, because everything was negative. And I knew that it was just going to make things worse for me and my mindset.

Alyssia: And so, you know, sometimes you just have to recognize it. You have to take that step back in order to continue doing the work that you're doing and to come fully present and a little bit more recharged with what you're doing.

Alyssia: and really finding, and doing things that make you feel relaxed and like you can step away.

Alyssia: You know, for me, it's like taking a bath or getting outside and being active or spending time with my kids it's uninterrupted and really being able to fully step away and be present in this.

Moby: And hearing what you're saying and my experiences, and also the experiences of people that I used to have this naive idea that some people knew what they were doing completely when it came to managing all of their stuff. And the more I've talked to people and, you know, open up to them and they will open up to me. I realized that it's just a, I wouldn't say it's a daily struggle. It's a daily. Which is maintaining your energy and finding some days what works really well for you on a Monday. On Thursday completely fails. Right. And I think in this world where we're constantly on zoom, where there's I have, I think people hear this on the podcast. I mentioned this every second to third. I think I have at this point, just messages, 120 900. Text message. Text messages, messages. Yeah. And I'm like, oh God, that's a lot.

Alyssia: Yeah. I think I have, I mean, I, I get a lot, I mean, I have, it says my email has 60,000 unread emails. Like it's probably mostly junk, but like, yeah. That's what comes in that like inundates you and. You have to take a moment to like to separate yourself from it and you know, kind of meet needs as they come.

Alyssia: And I also, I also wanted to, to mention something that you said too, like with decision-making as a CEO, like nothing's black and white, you know, there's no right wrong. It's all gray. And so you really have to navigate through the situation with team members with all these different perspectives and really try to choose the best course forward. It's. It's all great. There's no, there's no clear answer.

Moby: A hundred percent. somebody said this about leadership and also entrepreneurship that it's, you're walking on a road. You can only see the road and there's fog, and you can only see the next two steps and you have a general idea of the direction you're going, but after the next. There's nothing. The only way you can see the future is just to move forward, right. A hundred percent, 100%. Absolutely.

Moby: I want to be respectful of your time, cause I want to ask like 200 different questions, but when it comes to the future of you, you see, you know, Community and Austin in two, three years. Oh, I was about to ask you to predict the future, but after saying you can't to the future, but where do you see community hybrid in person over the next two years for specifically AYC?

Alyssia: I see it as a hybrid, you know, I think there's definitely the people who want that in-person connection. And I think, I do think that is really important and that we have to deliver that. I also know, like those leaves to have a weekday lunch and learns, you know, but it's like, well, now that we're used to being home like if you're home, you're probably not going to leave to go to a luncheon and then come back home. So, you know, I do see it as a hybrid situation. and so getting people, I think it's harder to get people out during the day if they're working from home.

Alyssia: And I think that w people, young professionals are really pushing companies to have off of those flexible work environments. and I think. Companies should adapt to that.

Alyssia: and so, but I think for AYC, this hybrid will continue and certainly we're watching kind of that pendulum that I'm showing that I was talking about of like all, all virtual, you know, in March 2020 may, no, between 20 and then like switching to in-person for 2021. And now we're kind of leveling off, I think a little bit. And I'm hopeful for that because I do think that each different program. Can be impactful in one way or the other. So I think people can engage with what, works for them, and we kind of meet them where they're at and kind of gauge reactions based on the data that we see. Kind of look looking at it.

Moby: So for example, I will happily go to the 11:00 AM virtual thing. I will not go to lunch, a friend. I haven't gone to lunch with somebody since probably early 2021. Only went because I was like, I was desperate to meet somebody who wasn't a friend, like a professional contact for lunch. 2021. But now if a friend asks me, Hey, do you want to have lunch? I'm like, no, yeah, I get dressed. I gotta go. I gotta schedule for like transport, transportation, like all that stuff. Like two hours, all of a sudden in the middle of my day that I've lost a hundred, a hundred percent. And then you have more emails.

Moby: And on the other side, if I have a. meeting at 7:00 PM and it's virtual. I do not want to go. I'm like it's after five 30. Why are we on your computer? This is what we do. Yep, exactly. You have to, you gotta meet.

Alyssia: This is what we're hearing. Definitely from what we're seeing. And we've been trying different things, you know? We were so used to knowing, like who would show up how many registrations we would get for our events and programs for your friend Anik and then post-pandemic. It's been a little bit more unknown, like, and so we've been trying different things. We hear it, we hear things and we try different things. And then we see what the response looks like.

Alyssia: And that's how we kind of make decisions for what the next one will look like. And so we are like parsing through that and kind of calculating making strategic calculations around what things look like, but you're right. People don't want to go out Monday. It's harder. It takes more effort now that they're used to like the good life and being home and, you know, having that flexible schedule.

Alyssia: And then, you know, in the evening though, people do want to get out generally like right at two, five, or, you know, get out and move around and meet people. They want that too. But if you get too late, then I don't know. It's a delicate balance to strike.

Moby: have you ever seen 30 rock. So there's a moment, whatever is related to, I think Tina Fey's character is asked out by a younger guy to go out and he, and he's like, oh, I'll pick you up at 10. And she's like at night and I feel the same exact way. I'm like, somebody likes me at nine o'clock at night. I'm like nine o'clock. What are you doing? Winding down. And, you know, you mentioned like what's in the future. I think that's a perfect segue into what's coming up for a dicey this year. And where did people get connected? And also I'd love to hear about your lead summit.

Alyssia: Thank you. Yeah, we have wonderful programs coming up. Virtual January and February, but we're starting back in person in March and we have a great set of programs slated for the rest of the year.

Alyssia: So definitely everybody should check us out Austin, on the website for all of our upcoming events.

Alyssia: but our lead summit is a really special and it's one of our signature events. It's our full-day conference for young professionals in central Texas. It's the only one of its kind. it'll be at the university of Texas Thompson conference center.

Alyssia: We have some amazing programs for the day. We have some opening panels. We have some long workshops. We have some networking sessions. We have some wellness sessions. And so you really get it all, like in our mind, it's like our mission in a day. It's everything that the young chamber means and what young professionals should embody all in one day, you know, to take care of yourself, to focus on wellness, you know, to grow as an individual, to support others, to connect with people.

Alyssia: So we really lean into that and we're looking forward to a really great day and we might everybody to join us the more. It's a good way to get back into like,

Moby: now conferences, when you go to a conference and they actually want to, it's like, I will buy the well, will be your conference. And it's like, I'm excited about it.

Alyssia: Yeah, exactly. And I mean, we, you know, it's, it's in the chamber, so we try to make it fun and engaging. We're going to have all sorts of things, apps, all the great things. So, we, definitely invite everybody to come out and enjoy just being with others. And there are so many people who are new to Austin and there's so much shuffle that has happened with the workforce and new jobs. And so. I would just encourage everyone to come back out and make new connections or reconnect with people you haven't seen in a while. And yeah, and just be a part, be a part of the day,

Moby: A hundred percent where can people follow? And some of your content or your updates?

Alyssia: Definitely follow all the AYC social channels. We're active on everything. Our website has the links to all of those and me personally, I'm on LinkedIn. So definitely check me out there. I want to say I'm very active on social media, but I'm really, I'm really not that active on there. It's one of my, like things where it's like lean into there and don't lean into there because this is, this is a survival mode, but definitely, Austin, Austin young chamber is very active on social. So I encourage everyone.

Moby: Absolutely. Well, let's see, I really appreciate you giving the time and I'm looking forward to being at your conference and also people just seeing people again.

Alyssia: Exactly. Thanks, Moby. It's been great. Being here. Look forward to seeing you in person soon.

Moby: Absolutely.

Alyssia Palacios-WoodsProfile Photo

Alyssia Palacios-Woods

President and CEO

President and CEO of Austin Young Chamber of Commerce (AYC)