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Meet Alicia McLain of Operational Innovations

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alicia McLain.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I think it started from my years selling girl scout cookies. This is my 3rd try at being an entrepreneur. My freshman and sophomore projects brought great learning, skill resilience and endurance building. I’m grateful for every peak and valley of those early days.

The name of my company, Operational Innovations, came from my vision of operational excellence. I believe the systems in which we work should support, not impede.

Sometimes a second set of eyes can help us see the things we need to see. Or sometimes a skilled coach can help us find the answers we’ve been seeking. I have a keen sense for spotting and eliminating waste in organizations. It is my mission to (re)connect leaders to their vision, to build agility, develop high performing teams and to create organizations and cultures where people want to work!

How in the heck did I get here?
I started with a vision to combine business and computers when I was picking a major for college. I decided on Information & Decision Systems. I started this at Cal State Fullerton and decided after a year there, to finish my schooling at SDSU. I minored in Spanish and upon graduation took my skills into the workplace. I’ve worked at some of San Diego’s iconic employers: Solar Turbines, NCR/Teradata and a few others along the way.

Along the way, I’ve discovered my superpower. I am a connector. I connect people to ideas, values, principles and what matters to them through the work that I do in the following few areas.

In the early days, back in 2006, I started working with solo-prenuers. Having been one myself a time before, I was acutely attuned to and aware of the types of things that can get in the way of someone running their own business. There is a chasm between having a passion for something “like baking’ and running a business as a baker. This bridge between the thing you love to do, and monetizing it, is exactly where many of my small business clients get in their own way. In those early days I offered mostly consulting, some training and coaching.

Today, I still work with solo-prenuers helping them find the structures that support their success through the coaching work that I do!

My work is really focused in 4 key areas:
1) Executive and Leadership Coaching
2) Organizational Transformation
3) Training
4) Public Speaking

I feel like, in my work, I use my superpowers to help others find theirs…. because well have them.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
In the early years of my life and career, if there was an obstacle it might have been “being different”.

In my career and chosen profession today, I am different from about 99% of my peers. Being a black woman in technology in the early years as well as now, I navigate this territory as gracefully as I know how.

For me, I think it was a good thing that this has been the story of my life starting at age 3 when my family and I lived in Japan. I went to kindergarten there and I was definitely different. From there moving to Orange County, I grew up in neighborhoods and went to schools where the only person that looked like me, was my brother! We were both the kids that were different from everyone else. This could have been a deterrent or an impediment. We had great parents to help both of us navigate being different in the 70s, 80s and 90s in Orange County.

Since then and because I built up a resilience, being the one that is different in my chosen field is not something that slows me down. If I apply this to my business and the iterations of being an entrepreneur, I can see quite clearly now that anything I might have viewed as inconvenient or annoying at the time, was in fact – the preparation I needed to get to where I am today.

There is a book, entitled “The Obstacle Is The Way’ by Ryan Holiday – and I believe it was for me.

Please tell us about Operational Innovations (San Diego).
My work today is fined tuned in 4 key areas: Executive and Leadership Coaching, Organizational Transformation, Training and Public Speaking:

Organizational Transformation. My niche is technical and R&D organizations looking to transform their work practices to Agile. Agile is the name of an approach to building agility in your organizational practices. Agility comes in the form of greater transparency, faster decision making, rapid risk identification, openness, empowering teams and organizations and greater customer satisfaction. This work method, Agile,  has its roots in the software development but can be applied to any type of work/industry/business.

I started organizational change work with different focus decades ago and have built toolkit over the years. I help organizations connect to their best vision for themselves and help them get there through change processes.  I am honored to be of service and be part of this pivotal transformation work with my clients.

Because change is hard, I offer executive and leadership coaching that focuses on executives and other leaders who are in organizations that are changing rapidly who are trying to get their sea legs, trying to figure out where they fit or how they relate. I work with these executives and leaders to help them connect to their best version of their self.  I am humbled by the opportunity to witness the growth and development of individuals I’m coaching.  I have some of the best coaching clients! This is real connecting work.

Training is a pivotal part of the Organizational transformation and I’ve developed a level of mastery in teaching and training that sets me apart. I engage learners in an experience that is interactive, fun and addresses their strongest learning styles. My father always said I’d be a teacher! I am inspired by watching people learn and connect the dots on ideas that were previously unknown or unclear.  The lightbulbs go off and I love it!

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have listened to my niche sooner in life. I say listened because it was always there under the surface of things. It took me some time to hear, be open to and understand. I took my StrengthFinder assessment in 2002 or around then and uncovered my “superpowers”: MAXIMIZER, IDEATION, COMMUNICATION, ACTIVATOR & STRATEGIC. I wrote them down, thought ‘hey – that’s cool and interesting’ but didn’t really listen…

Today I listen…. and find the best way to be of service:
MAXIMIZER – people exceptionally talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

IDEATION – People exceptionally talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena

COMMUNICATION – People exceptionally talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

ACTIVATOR – People exceptionally talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They want to do things now, rather than simply talk about them.

I would have expanded my horizons internationally earlier in my life. Starting with an exchange program in school. I would have sought out an exchange program and did an immersion in Mexico or Spain to strengthen my language skills.

I would have learned to speak another language besides Spanish. I would have gotten Quickbooks/a bookkeeper in my 1st round of entrepreneurship, instead of doing it all myself. I would have set and honored my own personal boundaries around how much time I spent working on my 1st round of entrepreneurship. I would have sought out a professional coach in my 1st round of entrepreneurship.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 325 W Washington Street, #2-173 San Diego, CA 92103
  • Website:
  • Phone: 619-972-0453
  • Email:
  • Twitter: @TheLDRSHIPCoach, @AgileLeaderSD

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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