We have a range of speakers from across our network coming to Transitions: Opportunities Forum & Networking Expo. Below are the profiles of our confirmed speakers.

Keynote Speakers

“Leveraging Your JET Experience”

You’ve lived and worked in Japan as a JET for one or more years, but now you’re back in the US. How are you going to relate all that you gained from your time on the JET Program to a potential employer? Learn how to effectively tell the story of your high-value skills in your resume, LinkedIn, networking and interviews.

Rob Uy is a global human resources professional, career transition coach, trainer and facilitator. Drawing on 25+ years human resources experience in global high-tech products and services, Rob works with individuals, teams and organizations to help them ‘find their voice’ and realize career and organizational goals.

As a human resources professional, coach and trainer, Rob’s experience includes over 25 years of HR leadership for Fortune 500 global technology and services firms, including Amazon, T-Mobile, Intellectual Ventures, and Microsoft.

Throughout Rob’s career in global HR and cross-cultural communications he has been a frequent and well-respected partner of business leaders in the US, Japan, China, India and Europe, providing expertise, coaching and consulting during periods of M&A, rapid growth, employee relations, performance management, reorganization and business process change, and he has a reputation for bringing a sense of calm and grounded perspective to the most chaotic of situations.

Rob is an enthusiastic amateur photographer and father of two amazing children with whom he shares a passion for food and travel.

“What’s Trending with Japanese Companies in the US”

So you want to work for a Japanese company but don’t have a clue where to start or what types of jobs are even available? Learn about the current trends of Japanese companies in the US and how 2022 compared with 2023. Find out about about regional trends. Hear the predictions for next year’s job market for those hoping to work for a Japanese company in 2024!

Takeshi Yamagishi was born and raised in Ishikawa and then moved to Spain for High School and University. His first encounters with foreigners were with JETs, who helped open his mind and inspired him to explore the world. His JET connection came full circle after obtaining his teaching license in Japan and having the opportunity to team-teach with JETs as a JTE!

His gratitude to the JETs he encountered in during his youth combined with his passion for education motivates his desire to support the JET alumni community.

He has NPO as well as for profit experience and has worked with student exchange programs, international sales, business development, organic foods, medical companies, agriculture, recruiting & HR, there has always been an element of international education/training in his focus, which continues today at Quick USA, which helps alumni across the country find their next career steps. His personal drive to help support JET alumni takes him to many events like Transitions to offer his advice and expertise.

Takeshi enjoys staying active and is keenly interested in triathlons.  In the mornings you’ll catch him either running, swimming or biking and then then to keep up his energy you’re likely to see him in the kitchen as cooking is yet another passion that he pursues!

Panel Speakers

“Using your J-Skills”

“I’ve gained Japanese language skills during my time on the JET Program, but how can I continue to use, improve and apply my skills in a career? Learn about how you can put all those hours of studying Japanese to good use! Our panelists have all asked the same questions, but now have some answers, advice and insight to share with you in their respective fields.

Jessyca Livingston was an ALT in Hokkaido (2003-06) and now serves as the Executive Director of US JET Program Alumni Association (USJETAA). She leads USJETAA’s work to support the nearly 40,000 American alumni of the JET Program. Prior to taking the helm of USJETAA, Jessyca strengthened the Colorado-Japan relationship through her work at the Japan-America Society of Colorado as well as through her time as the JET Coordinator at the Japanese Consulate in Denver. Jessyca has a long history of leadership in the JET community serving as treasurer for the JETAA Rocky Mountain chapter for two years, and then as JETAA USA Country Representative for another two years, helping guide the JET community through its response to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. In 2012, she led the establishment of the JETAA USA Board of Advisors, and she also served as a founding board member for USJETAA when it was launched in 2015. Jessyca currently resides in Denver, Colorado.

Amanda Suzuki spent three subsequent years in Japan as an ALT in Hyogo and as a MEXT graduate scholar at Keio University. She returned back to Seattle to pursue a career in international relations, which included two years in the government sector at the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle before shifting gears to private industry. She now works at Nintendo of America on special projects requiring extensive collaboration with Japan.

Brian Watson is that unique weirdo who has managed to combine his passions for Japanese language, writing, and project management for his entire adult career. After three years on the JET Programme (as an AET in Saitama Prefecture, 1988–1991), he stayed in Japan for seven more years, working for CLAIR, as a freelance translator, and then in software localization as a project manager. Headhunted to the Seattle area in 1998, he continued in project management until 2005, when his love for translation reasserted itself as he took a contract position at Nintendo of America. He was hired on full-time at Nintendo in 2015, and although he has both translated and interpreted there, he currently embraces his project management side, developing training content for new hires. Brian has also been a queer leader and mentor for more than thirty-five years, and advocates fiercely for authentic living as he completes his first memoir, Crying in a Foreign Language.

“Blazing My Own Trail”

Having trouble matching your passion & interests with a position that will allow you to follow your dreams? Maybe your heart is trying to tell you that you’re an entrepreneur & it’s time to forge your own path! Our panelists will share their personal entrepreneurial journeys and offer tips to potentially help you begin your own adventure.”

Giuliana Alfinito moved to Wakayama, Japan in 2017 as an Assistant Language Teacher on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. By happenstance, she was hired to work in Shingu City—the sister city of her hometown of Santa Cruz, California. After receiving an MBA from Northeastern University in 2021, she founded Kumano Adventures in 2023, a travel design firm focused on deeply immersive experiences in the Kumano region of Japan.

Zack Davisson was a JET in Nara for 3 years and Osaka for 2 years. He is an award winning translator, writer, lecturer, and scholar of manga and Japanese folklore and ghosts. He is the author of YUREI: THE JAPANESE GHOST, YOKAI STORIES, and THE SUPERNATURAL CATS OF JAPAN from Chin Music Press. He has maintained the popular Japanese folklore website HYAKUMONOGATARI.COM since 2010. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington with his wife Miyuki, their dog Mochi, cats Bagheera and Sheer Khan—and several ghosts. 

Bruce Rutledge was an ALT in Funbashi Chiba from 1985-1987 on the Monbusho Exchange Fellow Program, which changed its name to the JET Program in 1987. He has spent 15 years working as an editor and writer in Japan for the Nikkei, J@pan Inc magazine, Asiaweek, NHK and other media organizations. Bruce is now building a small publishing company in Seattle that has strong ties to Japan’s publishing industry. His specialties include writing, editing, translation (Japanese-English, English-Japanese), design, web design and consulting on doing business in Japan.

“Next Steps for the Future”

Grad school? Certification? Just… waiting? Our panelists will explore the different pathways and offer their advice about how to decide which steps are best for you before you leap into something new.

Dr. Suzan Kobashigawa was born and raised in Hawai’i, but left after high school to attend Northwest University. After graduation she went to Japan to teach English language. After five years, she returned to the U.S. to attend graduate school, and eventually made her way back to Northwest as a faculty member. Dr. Kobashigawa’s interests include traveling, music (Latin, Hawaiian, 70s), foreign language study (Japanese and Hawaiian), sports (collegiate and professional), and reading.

Maggie Le was a CIR in Ehime from 2015 – 2017. After working in US-Japan relations for six years, she became an editor for Penguin Random House Publisher Services. Since 2021, she works with localization teams for the Kodansha print manga program. Some titles she has been a part of include Blue LockInitial D Omnibus, and The Yakuza’s Bias. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband, two cats, and a bunch of chickens and plays taiko in her free time.

Bryna Lieberman was a Fukuoka JET from 2010 – 2015 (ALT 2010 – 2012, PA 2012 – 2015). Since moving to Seattle Bryna has been an Instructor Manager at the tech bootcamp General Assembly and is currently the Director of Organization Development and Training with the University of Washington Libraries.