Alumni Spotlight: Julie Ha Truong (LLA ’15)

Julie Ha Truong, MPP
Founder, Leadership Savvy
Leadership Savvy is a consulting firm serving mission-minded leaders in achieving personal and professional goals. 

Can you explain a little bit more about the work you are doing at Leadership Savvy and why you founded your own business?

For the last 20 years it has been such a wild and fulfilling journey helping  community-minded leaders realize their bold missions. I have done this as a convener, partner, trainer, coach, recruiter, facilitator, and consultant. When I reflected on what initiatives were the most fulfilling and had lasting results, I realized for me it was about building partnerships. It was about walking alongside and engaging communities, building diverse leaders, and strengthening organizations. In each initiative there was a magic and momentum that happened when people came together to envision a brighter future. I found my role was essential to help them align passions to strategy. 

That’s when I realized there was a need for more intentional leadership strategy and support. Thus Leadership Savvy was born — to support the people behind the missions. Our services build off of our core values: we believe everyone has potential (leadership & career coaching), we believe in the power of people (team facilitation & training), and we believe communities are built by people (organizational and partnership strategy consulting). Our goal is to inspire and support individuals to dream big and achieve bold missions that strengthen our communities. If you’d like to see some of the work we’ve done and or access some of our free leadership trainings please visit www.leadershipsavvy.com

Describe how your experience in LLA and how SCLN may have inspired, prepared, or connected you to do your work.

In 2011 I moved to Los Angeles from Minnesota. With L.A. having so much to explore, I was immediately hooked. I did notice though that L.A. had some tough social issues it was grappling with. Even as a nonprofit professional I was overwhelmed by the scale of some of the issues here in Los Angeles. It wasn’t until 2015, as a participant in the SCLN program did I really start to see, appreciate, and love the progress that was being made in Los Angeles. The SCLN program was so thoughtfully crafted to give us real access and insight to the key players working tirelessly to build better Los Angeles. We heard and saw first hand what leaders in the education, transportation, and healthcare were doing to plan and realize large-scale improvements. Each session I walked away inspired by the good work being done and motivated to help play a role. No longer did I feel overwhelmed — in fact I was empowered to build bridges between the thousands of leaders I was working with and the larger societal issues happening in Los Angeles. 

Describe your thoughts on growing as a leader and serving your community. Do you have any leadership advice for your fellow alumni?

There’s a picture my mom has of me. I was age two, perched on a tall chair sitting perfectly upright, with my legs crossed, good eye contact and a sweet smile. My mom said she used to sit me down and share with me how important it was to “sit properly,” “speak properly,” and “dress properly.” She said that making a good impression is important — that being one of the only minorities in our area, my actions would shape how others thought about Asians in America. Then in Kindergarten when the teacher asked who wanted to be president, a classmate exclaimed at me: “you can’t be president, you’re a girl!” Growing up these were the thoughts and experiences I encountered daily. 

In some ways it limited me from being myself, but in other ways worked doubly hard to fit in and impress. It did result in having mostly positive relationships, apart from the occasional bullying. By the time I was in high school I realized this path was safe, but it meant I didn’t know who my true self was. Around that time I was given opportunities to teach children and volunteer with nonprofit organizations. I also took a year to study abroad in China. That was exciting and terrifying. I abandoned all that I knew: people, language, culture, and physical environment. This is when I started to see who I really was. A capable, strong, adventurous, uniquely multicultural person who loved to build community and give back. 

Two decades later, I coach and train hundreds of people annually. My advice to professionals young and old is that we are all always a work in progress, we are always learning. Today’s leaders need a mix of IQ (intelligence quotient), EQ (emotional quotient), and AQ (agility quotient). As you work to develop this mix, I encourage you to do some things that scare you. You may be surprised to learn what you are capable of. The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone. Find someone or join a class where you’ll find people who can be your support, cheerleader, and critical thinker. Know that there will be ups and downs — enjoy the ride and learn as you go! 

Connect with Julie on LinkedIn
Check out Leadership Savvy