Albert Ciuksza
Albert Ciuksza

Albert Ciuksza knows millennials. We catch up with him as his company prepares to host the first of four national leadership events at Bakery Square, focused on the country’s transitioning workforce. As Director of Solutions 21, Albert spearheads the flagship program, Next Leader Now, which is laser-focused on millennial talent. According to The Brookings Institution, millennials will make up 75 percent of America’s workforce by 2025. Ciuksza tells us that the most surprising — and toughest — reality about his work with this community “is seeing the extent to which bad press and myths around millennials have had a developmental impact on the generation as a whole.”

A native of El Paso, Texas, Albert lives with his wife, Dr. Mallory Ciuksza, and their two dogs in Bellevue.

What upcoming events are you excited attend?

It’s hard not to talk about Leadership Day Pittsburgh on January 26 at Bakery Square. It’s going to be a great collection of the best leadership experts we can get our hands on, from Aradhna Oliphant at Leadership Pittsburgh to our own Rob Salome, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army who served as a military advisor and carried the nuclear football for Vice President Joe Biden.

Best thing about Pittsburgh or Western PA?

The region has a well-known legacy of world-class leadership. Those folks faced incredible odds and got this ball rolling. Being steeped in that culture — from the arts to business to medicine and technology — it’s a reminder that it’s our job to keep it going strong.


Albert and his wife, Mallory, hiking in Sedona, Arizona.

It’s time to unwind. Where do you head?

Casa Reyna in the Strip, a just-like-home-feeling Mexican place in the basement under Reyna Foods. Oscar Avila is the general manager there and someone with whom you can make fast friends. Three quick recommendations: the salsa sampler (especially the chipotle and mango) to start, the Tamal Oaxaqueno for your meal, and wrap it up with Oscar’s hand-selected tequila or mezcal flight.

What book is on your nightstand or in your e-reader right now?

“The Death of Expertise” by Tom Nichols, who hits hard at the implication of society replacing experts with Google searches.

Which Pittsburgh food truck do you want parked outside your house?

This happens to me every week in the spring and summer! The Bellevue Farmers Market features at least one food truck every Wednesday, which is held across the street from our home, so my wife and I know not to plan dinner that night. The Santa Fe Express carnitas tacos are my go-to when they’re there.

Which Pittsburgh band would you like to play in your living room?

Donora. On a related note, my wife’s birthday is toward the end of February. *cough*

Last photo you took on your phone?

The 7e sign in long-term parking at the Pittsburgh airport. It’s a little trick that prevents me from having to wander around the lot in sub-zero temperatures looking for my car.

Albert launching a new Next Leader Now cohort | Photo by Eve Pyle.

What song in your playlist is on endless repeat?

“Out on the Weekend (Version 2)” by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and “Sugar Dyed” by St. Paul & The Broken Bones.

Your wish for Pittsburgh?

Our region is expected to be short about 80,000 workers by 2025, which tracks closely with our research nationally. My question is: who will be the leaders in the public, private and social sectors by then and how are we preparing them to make executive-level decisions? In that light, my three wishes for the region would be:

1) Recognize that this shift is inevitable and approaching fast
2) Invest in next leaders to be fully prepared to take on those decision-making roles
3) Take advantage of our learning opportunities and use them to demonstrate tangible results

Best part of your job?

We say that we “build better bosses.” It’s an incredible opportunity to be part of a ripple effect, not just with the folks we teach and coach, but the people they impact and the companies they are helping to grow. As statistics can attest, millennial workers are a different breed: They value purpose over paycheck and seek ongoing feedback as opposed to yearly performance reviews. Allowing old management tactics to linger costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually, according to Gallup, as millennials remain “job skippers” and have the lowest unemployment rate among all current demographics in the workforce. Our program helps organizations throughout the world deal with this growing challenge head on. Our candidates don’t just get better results at work, they leave the office being better parents, friends, siblings, significant others and members of the community. It’s inspiring to be a part of.

See who else is NEXT Up here.

Have a NEXT Up suggestion? Email us!

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...