Chief Executive Officer
Lyla is an inclusion strategist and cultural intelligence advisor. She began her career in 2001 as a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer stationed in Japan. Born in Kabul and a refugee of the Soviet conflict, the attacks on 9/11 prompted her to transfer into the Intelligence community where she served as a Counterterrorism analyst in Afghanistan working alongside U.S. and NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF). Upon separating from the military, she consulted for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, and U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) preparing U.S. and NATO military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel for their South Asia deployments. She also served as the Cultural Advisor to the Commanding General at the NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan/Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan headquartered in Kabul.
Since 2015, Lyla has been an independent consultant working with military/government personnel, executives, staff, students, and faculty across the globe on cross-cultural intelligence, organizational performance, and building inclusive organizations. Additionally, Lyla consults for USSOCOM as a Senior Cultural Advisor for Afghanistan. Lastly, she is the co-founder and director of two national nonprofits:
1.) PROMOTE – focused on innovation through inclusion in national security
2.) Honor the Promise – focused on long-term refugee resilience in the U.S.
Lyla has spoken about the power of inclusive teams at numerous events such as the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Forum on Leadership, Global Special Operations Forces Symposium, Virginia Women Veterans Summit, and the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. She has also been featured in media by CNN, NPR, PBS, and The Washington Post.
Her memberships include the Global Special Operations Forces Foundation, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Veterans in Smart Power, and Women in International Security. She was a 2017 fellow at Veterans in Global Leadership and a 2018 Scholar at the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program. She volunteers as an Ambassador for the Global War on Terror (GWOT) Memorial Foundation, is a member of the Advisory Council for the Global SOF Foundation, and served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Virginia Board of Veterans Services from June 2017 to June 2021.
Lyla holds a M.A. from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Penn State University. She is currently a nonresident Senior Fellow with Atlantic Council’s Forward Defense focused on the future of war and is pursuing a Doctor of Education (EdD) in Arizona State University’s Leadership and Innovation program. She is an avid Star Wars aficionado, enjoys international travel, and spends every free moment with her niece and nephews.
Chief Operating Officer
Ashley is the Chief Operating Officer of Honor the Promise, a Veteran-led, non-profit that assists America’s Afghan Special Operations partners resettle in the U.S. and lead resilient and purposeful lives. Ashley is committed to supporting the broader veteran community and currently serves in a volunteer capcity as the Director of Operations for Promote, a non-profit that fosters inclusion and innovation in the military’s Special Operations community and national security organizations through leadership development assessments and training. She has leveraged her certifications in Human Centered Design from the Joint Special Operations University and the Luma Institute to help military organizations design innovative solutions to their organizational challenges. She has passionately used HCD principles for over eight years to solve some of the most intractable, wicked organizational challenges.
Ashley is a graduate of the Wharton School where she received her Master of Business Administration degree, majoring in Finance and Management. While there, she served as the president of Wharton’s Veterans Association, the Wharton Boxing Club and as a research fellow with Wharton’s People Analytics Applied Insights Lab. Ashley is a graduate of the University of Portland where she received her B.A. in Political Science and Spanish Literature. Prior to Wharton, Ashley was a Corporate Development Associate at JPMorgan Chase & Co and served as an Army Officer for ten years. She held positions as a Military Intelligence Officer in Korea prior to assessing into Special Operations as a Civil Affairs Officer. After serving six years in Special Operations with deployments to Afghanistan and across the Middle East and Europe, she transitioned into the Army Reserves. Ashley currently serves as a Major in the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade in the future operations section.
Ashley is a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council and was recognized by the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy with their Veteran Leadership Award. Ashley’s work on the topic of information sharing in interagency environments was published by Special Warfare Magazine and NATO’s Centre of Excellence for Defence Against Terrorism. She spoke as a panelist at the National Geospatial and Intelligence Agency’s Levant Conference and the NATO Terrorism Expert’s Conference in Ankara, Turkey. She is an active member of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, Office of Strategic Services Society, Women in International Security, and Global Special Operations Forces Foundation. In her spare time, she is an avid olympic weight-lifter, working towards her Master Scuba Diver certification, and a devoted aunt to seven nieces and nephews.
Chief Financial Officer
Jennifer has more than 35 years of financial, operations, and program management experience in the non-profit and government sectors. Her areas of expertise include financial analysis, financial systems integration, benchmarking, statistical methodologies and analysis, and infrastructure growth management.
Jennifer served as the Chief Financial and Operating Officer (CFOO) for the Washington Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit in the education reform sector. She spearheaded the strategic planning and managed the organization through its growth from an annual budget of $3 million to $17 million in less than a
year. After five years as a senior analyst with Ernst & Young’s Association Services group, Jennifer performed financial process analysis of State governments’ distribution of federally funded programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Social Security, and Medicare, for the Financial Management Service of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Jennifer has worked directly for trade associations performing financial analysis and industry benchmarking, including the International Dairy Foods Association.
Jennifer has been consulting to non-profits since 2012, providing a wide range of services from strategic infrastructure development for start-ups to booking. Clients have included New America, NACHA – The Electronic Payments Association, Promote, The Africa Narrative, and as a sub-contractor to Dynamic Consulting.
Jennifer holds and MBA in finance from The George Washington University, and an undergraduate degree in Economics. Jennifer is a native of the District of Columbia and graduated from The Maret School where she has served on their board of directors and as President of the Alumni Association.
Ahmad Khalid Noori
Born in northern Afghanistan, Mr. Noori is a proud veteran of the Afghan Special Operations Community. An attack in late 2010 that killed his father, MG Noori, and wounded numerous other Afghan officials prompted Noori to join the Afghan Army. After being nominated to attend and graduating from a military academy in southern India, Noori began his military career in 2016 as Head of Office for Afghanistan’s Joint Special Operations Command. He rose to the rank of Captain and led a company of Ktah Khas (National Mission Unit) to conduct counter-terrorism operations in partnership with U.S. Special Operations Forces (USSOF) throughout Afghanistan. His service includes over 6 years of ground support and combat experience.
With a demonstrated track record of success with high-end combat operations, clandestine activities, intelligence, and other discreet operations, Noori has been awarded numerous honors for contributing to U.S. national security, defense, and foreign policy objectives. He provided regional, cultural, and linguistic atmospherics, shared knowledge of key actors and institutions, and leveraged informal networks of local contacts and influencers in the region. His steadfast leadership in providing the best military advice to both U.S. and Afghan officials was critical to U.S. security objectives throughout the region.
During his tenure within the Afghan Special Operations community, Mr. Noori received appreciation awards from the highest levels of the Afghan government for his outstanding service and achievements. Through his service, Noori cultivated strong skills in emergency planning/crisis response, leadership, communications, mentorship, and coaching. These skills helped him train future generations of troops/support staff and serve honorably alongside USSOF.
As a Program Manager at Honor the Promise, Noori leads the team’s efforts to identify the Afghan National Army Special Operations Forces members who were evacuated to the U.S. and ensure they have the support they need to achieve their resettlement goals.
Noori holds a postgraduate degree in Defense Management and Strategic Studies from Hindustan University. He is interested in space, enjoys traveling, and reading historical books. He also enjoys playing both soccer and Buzkashi (Afghanistan’s national sport featured in Rambo 3)!
Board of Directors
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Zac enlisted in the Army in 2002 and reached his life-long dream of becoming a U.S. Army Special Forces-Green Beret. He completed multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and operational deployments to various parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Upon leaving the Army, Zac ventured into the business world. Realizing quickly that he lacked a sense of purpose, he transitioned into teaching. Instantly, he realized the similarities between teaching and military service. His skills developed over the years in the military transitioned seamlessly into the classroom. Seeing the demand and need for strong and diverse leaders in the classroom, he started Operation Socrates to offer a pathway for other veterans to continue to use their experiences to benefit the next generation.
When Kabul fell in August 2021, Zac connected virtually with numerous Special Operations veterans, frontline civilians, active-duty service members, and intelligence community members as part of Task Force Pineapple, to evacuate an estimated 600 Afghans from Hamid Karzai International Airport, also known as the “Pineapple Express.” After the fall of Afghanistan, he took a leave of absence from teaching that semester so he could continue to focus on evacuation and relocation efforts. Together in total they evacuated over 3,000 Americans, Legal Permanent Residents, and Afghan allies. Zac returned full-time to teaching in January 2022 but continues his commitment to the Afghan people through his role at Honor the Promise.
Zac has a B.S. in History from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, an M.A. in Military History from Norwich University, and an M.A. in Teaching from New York University. Zac is a certified secondary teacher and currently teaches 8th Grade Social Studies.
Zac resides in Upstate New York with his wife, two young sons, and two Labrador retrievers. His hobbies include watching rugby, training jiu-jitsu, reading, traveling, and anything involving the great outdoors.
Board of Directors
David Livermore, PhD (Michigan State University) is a social scientist devoted to the topics of cultural intelligence (CQ) and global leadership and the author of several award-winning books, including Leading with Cultural Intelligence, Driven by Difference, and Serving with Eyes Wide Open. His forthcoming book, Digital, Diverse & Divided, addresses one of the most pressing issues of our day–how to overcome polarization in our personal and professional relationships.
David is a founder of the Cultural Intelligence Center in East Lansing, Michigan, and a visiting research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He consults with global organizations around the world, including the Harvard Business School, Google, Coca-Cola, the US Department of Defense, BMW, Qatar Airways, the United Nations, and dozens more. He has traveled to more than one hundred countries and is a frequent speaker at conferences. He also serves on several boards.
David loves to make social science accessible to practitioners. He has been interviewed and referenced by myriad news sources, including The Atlantic, CBS News, Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, Forbes, NBC, the New York Times, USA Today, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the South China Post.
David and his wife, Linda, have two adult daughters, Emily and Grace. Emily is embarking on a career as a litigation lawyer, and Grace is a graphic designer. Some of their favorite family activities are traveling (fortunately!) and discovering new foods together.
Board of Directors
Mr. Andrew Coté currently serves as the Chief of Staff and Director of Federal and Defense Sales at BRINC Drones. He most recently served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism (DASD SOCT). In this capacity, Mr. Coté led the Department’s policies, plans, and resources related to special operations and irregular warfare with emphasis on counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, unconventional warfare, and information operations. He represented the Secretary of Defense on various interagency working groups for national security policy and Capitol Hill engagements. Mr. Coté reported to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict (ASD SOLIC) and assisted with statutory responsibilities regarding the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Joint Special Operations command (JSOC).
Prior to this position, Mr. Coté served as the Chief of Staff to the DASD SOCT and the Chief of Staff to the ASD SOLIC. While serving in these roles Mr. Coté was vital in the implementation of Section 922 of the 2017 NDAA to reorganize SO/LIC directly under authority and control of the Secretary of Defense. This legislative requirement codified that the ASD SO/LIC serve as the service Secretary of SOCOM. As the Chief of Staff to ASD SO/LIC, Mr. Coté supported management of the 150-person directorate responsible for policy development and implementation related to special operations, counterterrorism, counter narcotics, global threats, detainee policy, and stability and humanitarian affairs. Additionally, while serving as the Chief of Staff to ASD SOLIC, Mr. Coté championed and signed the historic Women in Special Operations Forces Data Call designed to provide women the equal opportunity to be selected for, and to excel in, senior leadership positions and coveted special operations programs. He was awarded the Secretary of Defense’s Exceptional Public Service Award for his service in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).
Before entering OSD as a civilian, Mr. Coté served as an officer in the Marine Corps. Prior to separation, he served as the Marine Security Force Commander (J2) at the White House Communications Agency. Additional assignments were as a Presidential Support Program Platoon Commander at Marine Barracks Washington D.C., Military Social Aide to the 44th and 45th Presidents of the United States, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment deployed with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response Africa (Black Sea Rotational Force). He was awarded two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and the Presidential Service Badge for full-time service in support of the President of the United States.
Mr. Coté earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University. He is the founder of Chancery Consulting and the co-founder of Cobb Consulting. His current portfolio entails artificial intelligence/machine learning companies, unmanned systems companies, an all-natural energy bar company, and information operations platforms for both defense and commercial clients. He is also a board member of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) – DC Chapter, the American Freedom Fund (AFF), the National Defense Industrial Association – SO/LIC Division, the Johns Hopkins Lacrosse Advisory Board, the Johns Hopkins (Men’s and Women’s) Lacrosse Mentorship Board, the White House Historical Association Next-Gen Leadership Ambassador Fellowship, and the Atlantic Council GeoTech Action Council.
Board of Directors
Baktash Ahadi is thefounder and Principal Consultant of Taleem, a leadership consultancy focused on leadership, narrative storytelling, and behavior change. He led the congressionally mandated “Afghan Familiarization Course” at the Foreign Service Institute, where under his tenure the course became the “best rated course at the State Department”. Moreover, Baktash served as an advisor, mentor, and translator for the U.S. Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan from 2010-2013.
In 1984, when Baktash was three years old, he and his family fled their native Kabul, Afghanistan, after his father, a government employee, refused to join the communist regime. After surviving a harrowing seven-day journey on horseback through the Hindu Kush mountain range to Pakistan, during which they were shot at and nearly killed several times, Baktash’s family eventually settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
The tragic events of 9/11 set Baktash on a path of examining why people do what they do. Upon graduation from college, he decided to serve in the Peace Corps as an educator in a rural village in Mozambique. His father learned English from a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kandahar in the 1960s and that experience was the inspiration for his family to come to the United States.
Baktash interrupted his graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University to return to Afghanistan for an equally harrowing mission. Uniquely positioned as both a U.S. citizen and an Afghan national who speaks the Dari language, he initially worked in western Afghanistan for a U.S. and NATO Afghan advisory group. He supported counterinsurgency efforts to both win “the hearts and minds” of Afghan locals and engage them to determine their perceptions on a wide range of topics from opium production to Taliban roaming courts. He later served as a cultural advisor and combat interpreter for the U.S. Special Operations Task Force, working as a liaison between the Special Forces (MARSOC), the Afghan Commandos, and Afghan locals.
After his service in Afghanistan, Baktash produced and translated a number of award-winning documentary films about free speech, photojournalism, the refugee crisis, and violence against women. He writes, speaks, and teaches regularly about individual, organizational, and societal change.
- Recently published Op-Ed in the Washington Post entitled, “I was a combat interpreter in Afghanistan and cultural illiteracy led to the failure in Afghanistan”
- My personal website is a reference that includes a short bio, podcast, films produced, and a TEDx Talk.
- My podcast, Stories of Transformation, which is a chart topping Apple podcast in the category of “documentary”.
This link is to my TEDxTalk that is about storytelling, change, and vulnerability.
Board of Directors
Selina Hayes is an experienced executive and humanitarian with access to strategic partners and networks across Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Currently the CEO of Hayes Group International, she leads a consortium that specializes in emerging and frontier markets and is focused on cultural intelligence, security, counter terrorism, and the using disruptive technologies to deliver comprehensive solutions to unique problem sets.
Ms. Hayes has been a senior advisor and program manager for military and civilian organizations including: the Department of Defense (DoD), State Dept, USAID, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Department of Homeland Security; and commercial entities to include the oil and gas industry. She has held a variety of positions at strategic, operational, and tactical levels in Africa and Europe spending a considerable amount of time in Africa. Ms. Hayes has experience working cultural assessments and social media products in Africa to include Nigeria, Niger, DRC, Mali, Somalia and parts of the Middle East, working with SOCOM, EUCOM, AFRICOM, the TSOC’s, and Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (JTFHOA). She has provided technical assistance on matters related to counter-terrorism, stabilization and reconstruction, economic development, governance, humanitarian assistance, security sector reform, interagency coordination, and other post conflict “nontraditional security assistance” programming needs.
Outside of the corporate world, Ms. Hayes is the Co-founder of the nonprofit Project H.O.W (Helping Other Women) and was a board member and advisor to Invisible Children. Over the course of her career Ms. Hayes has participated in numerous civ-mil exercise and programs providing for a unique perspective and blend of effective humanitarian work with a detailed understanding of military, State Department, and security organizations.
Prior to forming Hayes Group, Ms. Hayes was the Director for International Business Development for SRA International, running their MENA Program where she was responsible for building over $900M in business. Prior to, Ms. Hayes worked at the Embassy of Australia and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Washington DC.
Ms. Hayes has traveled extensively and originates from Sydney, Australia. She has a B.A. International Relations from George Washington University, International M.B.A. University of San Diego, and M.A. International Relations.
Board of Advisors
Ms. Mariam Osman immigrated to Queens, NY from Afghanistan in 1976. As Head of Global Investment Operations (GIO) Services and Cash Reconciliations at BlackRock, she is responsible for alignment of the client business to the objective and strategic directions of the GIO platform, mitigating risk and providing real time cash availability to our investment management teams. Mariam leads GIO in Edinburgh and is a member of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) Tech & Ops Executive Committee.
Previously, Mariam was part of the BlackRock Market Structure team with Trading Liquidity & Strategy Group. She led BlackRock’s effort to both influence and adapt to macro market structure changes across all major asset classes. She collaborated with BlackRock’s public policy team to author BlackRock Viewpoints on key market structure developments and define strategy for adapting to major regulatory changes such as Brexit. She also managed BlackRock’s relationships with major derivative clearing houses and clearing brokers and led key initiatives such as Fixed Income Clearing Corporation (FICC) Repo clearing for the Cash Management business and the multi-FCM project for exchange traded derivatives.
Prior to joining BlackRock, Mariam worked at UBS as the Global Head of Client Technology in Prime Brokerage. She was responsible for the integration of the bank’s platform within the prime brokerage, futures and OTC products. She also worked at Goldman Sachs in several departments including – Equity Capital Markets, Equities Trading, International Trading and Equity Finance. Additionally, Mariam taught English at Kabul University in 2006 and helped to build schools for Afghan children with the Ayenda Foundation in 2008.
Ms. Osman earned a BS in Computer Science from Saint John’s University and a MS in Information Systems from New York University.
Board of Advisors
Jason Hunt is a Management Consultant based out of New York City in Accenture’s Health & Public Sector practice, specializing in Higher Education. Jason has an extensive background with 20 years working in the industry in various management roles across an array of institutional landscapes and auxiliary units. He specializes in change strategy & planning, program & process management, organizational culture, leadership and management structures, and business process engineering.
Jason holds a master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership and Administration from Penn State and an MBA in Strategy and Leadership from Rutgers Business School. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, running, traveling abroad, college football and all that New York City has to offer.