CEO of Alaska Airlines visits BC

On Thursday, Oct. 26, Brad Tilden, the CEO of Alaska Airlines, gave a two-hour speech at Bellevue College on leadership and business. Tilden is one of many successful business people to visit BC, along with Blake Nordstrom, CEO of Nordstrom, Jim Donald, CEO of Starbucks, James Sinegal, CEO of Costco, and many others. According to his bio, “Brad Tilden serves as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air and Virgin America. He also serves as chairman and chief executive officer of Alaska Airlines and chairman of Horizon Air and Virgin America. The combined airlines have 18,800 employees, 285 aircraft and fly to 118 destinations throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and Cuba.”
Tilden, however, has special meaning to the Business Leadership Community, or BLC. An alumna of the BLC named Brooke Vatheuer, is currently the VP of Finance and Planning at Horizon Air, which is owned by Alaska. “She started here and she was a great student,” recalls Leslie Lum, BLC program chair. “She started off as an auditor [for Alaska] and she’s been rising in Alaska amazingly. She became a manager, then a director, and now she’s a managing director and we’re all so proud of her.”
However, faculty weren’t the only ones who were happy to have Tilden on campus, the students of the BLC have been placed in charge of planning the entire event. “The officers of the Business Leadership Community really feel empowered when they arrange this event because they have to put the whole thing together, they have to deal with the CEO. It’s a great experience for them and for some reason it puts them on a launching pad so they just take off for the rest of the year, so we love the impact on our students because it’s really empowering,” said Lum.
Erika Vargas, the student president of the BLC, said, “These kinds of leadership talks are extremely empowering for students. The opportunity of meeting a CEO and understanding his experiences could positively guide students to pursue business careers. Also, it helps students appreciate that even CEOs have failures.”
“It’s really good for them to kind of see from a leadership point of view to put it as a metaphor, you’re looking from 20,000 feet, what it looks like, and it’s really different because usually when you’re getting into an industry or business or trying to start your career you’re kind of starting at the bottom and you’re kind of wandering through this maze so these folks looking from here,” Lum said, gesturing high above her. “And sometimes they can tell you the pattern. So they can tell you ‘if you want to go in this direction this is what you should do and if you want to go in this direction that’s actually something totally different.’”
Aside from this event, the BLC is in charge of planning many other events. “So we have two big events, the CEO event is our first one and we close out the year with our alumni event. That’s when we bring our alumni back on campus and we have a huge celebration for them,” said Lum. “But it’s really not for them, it’s for students to go meet them.”