Alissa Ko, 34
Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs
How did you get here?
I attribute my career to a lot of hard work and quite a bit of luck. My first experience in public service was an internship with the local Taiwanese American Citizens League while I was in college. I worked every day helping constituents and left that internship wanting to do even more to make our country a better place, even if for just one individual at a time. That was a defining life experience for me because from that point on, I changed my focus in college from accounting to public policy. After college, I was afforded some great opportunities to help organize communities, to build coalitions, to fundraise for causes and candidates, and to work on legislative campaigns.
In 2012, one of my mentors recommended me for a position as the Asian American and Pacific Islander Director for the Obama 2012 campaign. And I got the job! I worked with amazing people on the President's re-election campaign who pushed for and created so many opportunities to engage different constituencies in the political process. Following that campaign, I worked on the Presidential Inauguration Committee, for a few AAPI organizations, and served as the Ready for Hillary Deputy Director before coming to the White House.
Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career?
My mother has been my greatest inspiration and most positive influence on my career. Growing up, she taught my brother and I the importance of speaking up for those who could not or did not have a voice. She also taught us how important it was to share with those less fortunate. Those lessons, coupled with the example of her generosity, have guided me throughout my life, influencing me both personally and professionally.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment during the Obama administration?
I am so proud of the work we are doing to collaborate with state and local leaders across the country on the President's domestic priorities. The President has recognized that change doesn't only happen in Washington, DC, but that it must happen with the private sector and at the state and local level. It has been an amazing experience working with state legislators to support their work and amplify successes that impact real people’s lives. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at both a Federal and local level to affect change and I am especially proud to have been part of a team who successfully advocates for paid family leave in New York, tuition-free community college in Oregon, and to make it just a little easier for formerly incarcerated people to get a job in Georgia.
Can you describe your time working for the Obama administration in 10 words?
Non-stop. Humbling. Inspiring. Exhausting. Meaningful. Fulfilling. Challenging. Epic. An honor.
Complete the sentence: “When I’m not working, I…”
I'm eating! I love trying different types of food but now I'm also trying to learn how to be a better cook. I love hosting and having people over for food. Come on over.