There is nothing tedious about Judy Lao, the National Convention Program Manager. Like a glass of champagne, she is as effervescent, radiating warmth and some restrained mischief. Despite her whirlwind schedule, Judy is easily approachable and present for this interviewer, even after hours of planning and networking at our 2016 national convention in Las Vegas.
It has been over eight years since she joined NAAAP in 2008. Starting out with the San Francisco Chapter as the VP of Community Alliance, Judy fast became an indispensable part of the organization. She was instrumental in rebuilding the San Francisco Chapter, and later moved to New York in 2011. At the time, Judy was new to The Urban Jungle and knew barely anyone, which prompted her to tap back into her NAAAP roots. As it turned out, it was NAAAP’s 30th anniversary, and the annual Convention was being held on her new home turf. “Since I’m very close friends with members from all of the Chapters, they asked me if I was interested in helping them out, which is how I got re-involved with NAAAP and eventually became President of their New York chapter as well.”
Born in San Francisco and raised in San Jose, Judy is a self-professed Bay Area, California girl. “I loved growing up in San Jose and still keep in touch with my friends from junior high and high school,” she says. Judy attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and mentions she was lucky to have attended college in one of the most beautiful cities in that State. Home base will always be Silicon Valley, she says, even though she now resides in New York. “I’ve grown kind of bi-Coastal, because I try to come home and see my family and friends as often as possible.” Family, both immediate and extended, is an important part of her life, which makes it doubly hard for her to make it to family events due to geographic distance. However, living in New York for Judy has been a highly memorable experience. “New York really is one of the greatest cities to live in, and I’m so fortunate to have had the opportunity to move across the country.” When asked what she loves the most about living in Manhattan, she mentions its herculean ability in having anything – be it food, laundry et al – delivered right to her doorstep, come rain, snow, or shine.
An Aquarius, Judy likes long walks on the beach, is an avid football fan who claims she runs four fantasy football leagues, and was a competitive figure skater up until college. It is clear that this exuberant young woman does not like to sit still, and her extracurricular activities also include an impressive array of sports, ranging from golf and tennis to skiing, hockey, and paddleboard. “Hockey and football are my life,” she adds.
As this year’s national convention’s Program Manager, Judy had personally planned the exhaustive workshops and handpicked the speakers herself. As of right now, she has already received a massive amount of positive feedback. “The speakers had a good time and they’re all hanging around,” she mentions, adding that for a lot of the speakers, it was the first time they had heard of NAAAP. As a whole, however, she points out that it has been an eclectic mix of old NAAAP alumni and newcomers who were vaguely familiar with the NAAAP brand, which made the convention even more outstanding. In the end, it was by no means an easy feat to have secured prominent figures from within the network she had built personally via NAAAP for this year’s convention. To have included speakers such as Brian Yang, Producer of Linsanity and cast member of Hawaii Five-O, and Richard Lui, an MSNBC anchor who anchored the landmark AAPI presidential town hall, is truly an achievement of gargantuan proportions.
Overall, when asked to describe her thoughts about the convention, Judy had this to say: “it was a good taste in everyone’s mouth of how epic NAAAP can be, and they want to come back and do more.”
For her day job, Judy works as a paralegal, having recently joined Black Stone, a new private equity fund. After managing the New York office of Jenner & Block LLP, Judy was recruited to support the Chief Legal Office at Blackstone.