Iris Leong is the Assistant Vice Presid ent and Legal Counsel for 99 Ranch Market, the largest Asian supermarket chain in the United States, which owns more than 35 stores nationwide. She is perhaps one of the youngest Asian Pacific American (APA) general counsels in Southern California.
Born in Taiwan to a journalist father and a homemaker mother, Iris moved to Malaysia for a year to attend preschool while her mother gave birth to her little brother. She recounts the strict emphasis her preschool had on teaching trilingual languages to the children. "At age five, we had to learn English, Malay and Mandarin Chinese vocabularies every morning. Each child was expected to stand in front of the class to properly recite the day of the week, the date, and the weather for that day in all three languages. If I made a mistake in one language, my teacher would not let me go outside to play on the seesaw. I would practice the night before to be prepared for my turn in front of the class the next day. It was nerve-wracking!” That early trilingual experience led Iris to continue to develop her Mandarin Chinese language skills even after she immigrated to Southern California with her family at age nine. To this day, Iris’s fluency in Mandarin Chinese is what helped land her dream job as general counsel for 99 Ranch Market. As an immigrant APA, she emphasizes that bilingual skills are a very important asset in today’s job market. "It helps set you apart from other candidates and makes you more marketable,” she said.
Vanessa L. Washington has come a long way from her upbringing in the rural Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to build a distinguished career in the financial services industry and has earned a myriad of accolades for both her professional work and community involvement.
Vanessa is a Senior Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary at Bank of the West and also serves as a member of the Bank's Executive Management Committee. She also serves as General Counsel and Secretary for BancWest Corporation, a member of the BNP Paribas Group. She started in 2005 as Executive Vice President in charge of the Bank's legal function, and the Bank quickly recognized her talent and promoted Vanessa to her current position in just one year. Since then, as the Bank has doubled in size, Vanessa's role has grown to include responsibility for the Compliance, Community Reinvestment Act, Security, Business Continuity and Regulatory Relations functions for both the holding company and the Bank. She also serves as a Trustee for the Bank's charitable foundation.