Alumni Testimonial: What I Learned at ELP



Padma Rama, Broadcast Producer, Associated Press

As a graduate of AAJA’s 2016 Executive Leadership Program, I’m looking forward to implementing what I’ve learned.

Currently, I’m a broadcast producer with The Associated Press, based in Washington D.C. This year, I covered the Democratic National Convention and worked on a number of enterprise stories for the AP, including a piece ahead of Election Day focusing on Asian American voters. Much of what I can be proud of this year in terms of my reporting happened after I attended ELP. I also had the opportunity to motivate a younger generation of journalists by co-teaching with MSNBC’s Richard Lui at AAJA’s J-Camp this summer – an opportunity that came about thanks to Cari Hernandez-Wood and Arelis Hernandez, journalists I met at ELP.

While I’m proud of my accomplishments that came before this year,  ELP gave me a set of skills and a toolbox I’ve never had before. And I doubt I could have found it anywhere else.







What are some of my takeaways from ELP?

Leadership isn’t taught. It’s cultivated. Instead of telling us how to lead, ELP asked us to formulate the qualities of a good leader for ourselves.



No matter how good you are at promoting yourself, there’s always room for improvement.

I live in Washington, D.C. where happy hours and networking events are a way of life. But I’ve never been a big fan of networking or promoting myself to total strangers.

But that’s what we had to do from day one at ELP. We were forced to overcome any apprehension and immediately learn how to promote ourselves in way that made our life-story memorable. 

After receiving guidance from our coaches, we came up with pitches and went around the room introducing ourselves to each other over and over and over again. We also attended networking events and met with senior media executives.

I had always thought I was pretty comfortable with public speaking. But something happened during my time at ELP.
When I returned to work, I realized that I was communicating in a different way with all of my colleagues – managers and peers. I felt more confident because I had thought about how others perceive me, how I want them to perceive me and how to make that happen through communication.

But what about the real-life implications?

ELP’s mentors and AAJA are holding me accountable for my goals.  During our time together, my classmates, coaches and I developed what we called our own “cone of silence,” which meant that we encouraged each other to share personal stories and agreed to support each other in overcoming challenges. After ELP, our mentors have been in regular contact with us when we’ve asked for guidance on career goals.



On the final day, we presented our Smart Goals to the class, which we had developed and refined during our time at ELP.

While I’m responsible for the success of my goal, I’m confident that now through ELP, I’ll  have a team enthusiastically cheering me forward.




Questions about Executive Leadership Program or ELP Bootcamp? Contact Daniel Garcia at