Green Chips has a conversation with community leader, life long learner, ENTJ Executive, and Caesars Entertainment Corporation VP, Gwen Migita

August 2015

As this is a feature about community leaders, what do you think makes a good leader?

Leading by action over a lot of words. Words are important for inspiration but a leader should do anything that he or she expects others to do. Whether that is scraping up gum after an event to keep a place clean, asking for money to support an organization, or engaging with groups of people that they wouldn’t normally interact with on a social or personal basis.

Do you have a personal philosophy or approach to life?

It wasn’t until recently but yes. I would say, understanding what my purpose is in life and then building into it how that affects me as a leader, how it affects me as a mother, and as a (hopefully) positive contributor to society. Everything has to fit in to your life purpose and it will all fall into place from there.

My life purpose is to flatten the world, for lack of a better term – borrowed from Tom Friedman. There are so many inequities in our world and even in our own backyard in terms of social-economic access. My meaning is driven by being an equalizer between peoples who have access to a good education, a safe and warm home, jobs that pay at least a livable way, upward mobility – and people who don’t.

What was your major in college and your path to your current position?

I was once a philosophy major along with business administration – I was a little confused when I walked between my classes every day.  I graduated with an undergraduate in business administration at the University of Washington with a concentration in marketing to condense my, could have been 7 year track into 5 years, and then I graduated from UNLV with an Executive MBA.

Is this where you thought you would be?

No. I didn’t know where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a diplomat and was so intent on working abroad. However, the more I worked, studied or traveled internationally – I’ve been to nearly 30 countries – the more I felt that my best career opportunities were here in the United States.

Is there one word that best describes how you work?

Action. Action over words…and sometimes to a fault.

What keeps you engaged/passionate about your job; what drives you?

I would say continual learning because in this field its a “must do” in order to understand how the space is changing so rapidly and to stay on top of the trends. I’m also driven by having the flexibility and latitude to recommend approaches to address or capitalize on global mega-trends, develop big picture strategies and to translate it into real life applications at the practical and process level. I’m most grateful and inspired to work on making life more meaningful in the workplace for my coworkers (and myself) – its so important to catalyze an environment which is heart and values driven – otherwise it’s just about collecting a paycheck until something better comes along.

How do you re-charge?

That’s a good question. That would take a lot of coffee! I would say taking an afternoon or even a few hours with my young family and going to a park for a short walk. Staying away from any screen device for chunks of time is so important to achieve a balanced life these days.

What are you better at than anyone else and what is your secret?

Hmmm….I don’t know. That wouldn’t be very Japanese of me to answer that question…

(I revised the question to just ask Gwen what she was good at!)

Reading intuition, the context behind words and actions, and reading a room. It’s not just the nonverbal but reading the context and shades of gray in what is unsaid. It might be somewhat culturally driven but there is a lot said in the unspoken. In verbal communication there can be an immense amount of context around what is being stated.

Where are you from originally and what has surprised you the most about this community?

I am originally from Aiea Hawaii, the only city in the US that is spelled in all vowels – there’s a good piece of trivia for you. I grew up in a mountainous community overlooking Pearl Harbor and seeing the Arizona Memorial from my window with gorgeous sunsets over an adjacent mountain range.

I have been surprised by how open and entrepreneurial the community is. There are a number of people working very hard to make Southern Nevada an attractive community to live in and battle the stereotypes and negative perceptions of the region. When I moved to the “mainland” at 18, people I met (college students!) assumed that we didn’t speak English in the home, and asked what currency we used. (Maybe its because Hawaii is treated as an international destination with domestic travel and was always in that inset on a map next to Alaska; and, of course, the media images in movies of exotic Hawaii.) So, you can imagine the perceptions people have of the Las Vegas area. I love to collaborate with a great group of people who are constantly working to normalize the perception of the region. There is so much good going on in the community.

What is your biggest hope for this community in the next 10 years? 50?

I would like to see Southern Nevada get the credit that it deserves nationally and globally in terms of how it is aggressively advancing sustainability: social, economic, and environmental impacts. There are a lot of efforts around economic diversification, primary education and advancing mental and physical wellness.  Although the region is dominated by one or two industries there is a great opportunity for incubation and testing initiatives that might be much more difficult, or impossible, in more diverse communities.

I hope that we revert to some of the practices of earlier inhabitants in this region – such as pounded earth in construction of the built environment. There is immense opportunity in incorporating biomimicry in the design elements of our facilities and homes… and even the way we move about in our day-to-day lives via transportation and infrastructure to adopt natural resources for human consumption.

What app or technical gadget can’t you live without?

Hopefully, I can live without any app or gadget because that would be the ideal situation.  Unfortunately, we are a culture engrossed in communicating heavily via email and text messages. These days, I’m attempting to balance my screen time with brain muscle exercises such as Luminosity. I was inspired after learning more about the Brain Health Index from a relationship we have with the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health. I’m working on improving my BHI via exercises, my social interactions, and adjusting my nitrates and fried food rich diet.

What is the best advice you ever received?

The most profound advice came from my boss and mentor, Jan Jones: “Don’t apologize for who you are.”  As a woman, we tend to do apologize a lot and give our space up for others. Also, as an Asian, I tended to apologize for being different and put my needs and interests last. Add to that, my sexual orientation which culturally and personally ins’t aligned with my upbringing in a conservative household and church.

Through Jan’s advice and mentoring, and subsequent women and leadership training, I’ve learned that bringing my whole self to work, being comfortable in my skin, and not giving up my power and space is so important. We all deserve to be at the table even if we aren’t invited. Even if my opinion or perspective may be an outlier I’ve learned that it’s ok. In fact, my differences are healthy and necessary for a stronger outcome.

What advice would you give to young professionals starting out?

I would encourage them to be more direct but with patience and respect to the difference among generations, cultures, thinking and communications styles, and so on. Technology and the marketing of companies have created a generation expecting instant gratification, rapid and upward mobility, and incenting communication through devices.

I probably drove traditionalists and boomers nuts in my approach as a Gen X-er, combined with my steep learning curve in working in my first “American Culture” company when I came to Caesars. I had to adapt to a foreign culture in many ways, mostly driven by race (eg: “don’t praise or accept praise”) and gender differences.

What is your favorite word?

“Da kine,” which is a Hawaiian Pigeon English term. I like this term because you can refer to anything subtly or in code. Ex:’Take da kine out of the refrigerator. Or, you know, da kine.”

Do you know your Myer’s Briggs Personality type?

Yes, it’s ENTJ but I think I am shifting more towards the I with age.

Last question, what are you reading right now?

I’ve shifted my reading to short articles and read the Guardian daily. I seek policy issues and mega trends.  Outside of that, I carry longer reads in my bag but I don’t get to them unfortunately.

Any final thoughts or comments?

I think there is a lot of great work happening in the region around sustainability. However, the opportunities to educate and advance incrementally or through transformational change are endless through unusual collaboration. I would like to see the work of Green Chips continue to orchestrate collaboration yet focus on long term quantitative outcomes.


Brought to you in part by the generous support of: