Cover Story — 40 Under 40 Awards, 2013
Catryn Fowler is typical of our award winners — individuals with bright minds and community spirit. Here she’s with daughters Emily, left, and Carolyna on a tennis day.
Presenting Our 40 Under 40 Honorees — 2013
A salute to 40 outstanding San Diegans
SD Metro is proud to present winners of our 40 Under 40 Awards for 2013, a group of men and women who represent some of the the best and brightest minds of San Diego County. A record 115 nominations were received, an indication of this region’s reputation for attracting top talent.
The 2012 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon will be held Sept. 26 at the Sheraton Hotel & Marina on Harbor Island, across from the airport. Registration is at 11:30 a.m. The luncheon and program lasts from noon to 1:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, email Rebeca Page at email@example.com or call her at (858) 461-4484.
Douglas Abts, who is Bridgepoint Education’s senior vice president of strategy and corporate development, has been instrumental in helping to shape the future of this innovative higher education company. He leads corporate strategic planning efforts, mergers and acquisition activities, learning product development and sales. Prior to joining Bridgepoint, Abts spent seven years at SAIC in San Diego where he was corporate vice president for mergers and acquisitions. He closed transactions valued at more than $500 million for SAIC. He is a Navy SEAL, served as a platoon commander and operations officer. He accomplished three successful overseas deployments and received several commendations and awards. He is a member of the board of directors of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, coaches youth soccer, is heavily involved with St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church and the Navy SEALS Special Warfare Family Foundation. He is a native San Diegan who holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard University. At Stanford, he was the top graduate in his Navy ROTC program and president of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He also is a member of the inaugural member of Cathedral Catholic High School’s Distinguished Dons Hall of Fame.
Holly Amaya is the sole in-house counsel for global inventory services provider WIS International, which employs more than 15,000 in 220 offices across eight countries. As the company’s only attorney, Holly defends the company against litigation and administrative agency investigations and complaints. She reviews all contracts and resolves transactional matters arising from inventory operations, IP developments and internal policies and overseas outside counsels. Amaya’s leadership in local professional organizations reflects her strong commitment in advancing the status of women in the law. She serves as a volunteer reader for Lawyers Club read-ins at Central Elementary School, the poorest per-capita school in the San Diego Unified School District. This summer, Amaya successfully represented an Eritrean national in removal proceedings before the United States Immigration Court. Her client had been subjected to torture by the Eritrean military. She has spearheaded the founding of Food From the Bar San Diego, a partnership between Feeding America and the San Diego legal community. Amaya has a bachelor of arts degree with distinction in journalism and English from Indiana University, a degree in American and British Literature from the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, and law degree from the Indiana University School of Law.
Joe Anderson is president of Pure Financial Advisors, a financial planning, investment advisement and financial services company. Pure Financial Advisors has $740 million in client assets under management and it is estimated that it will reach $1 billion in client assets by the first quarter of 2014. Pure has achieved this within its first five years in business. The company started in 2008 with no clients, negative revenue and no assets under management. Today, Pure is the second-largest registered investment advisory (RIA) firm in San Diego and is ranked 216th out of over 15,000 RIA firms in the U.S. Anderson developed the entire sales and marketing process for Pure by creating a service model and process to retain 98.8 percent of its clients. As president, he is the firm’s advance planner, directly responsible for the activities of the firm’s 30 employees and 19 CFPs and CPAs, all of whom he personally hired and trained. He sits on the board of Home for Vets, is a board member of the Society of Financial Service Professionals and teaches over 100 retirement classes a year at local colleges and community colleges. Anderson is a graduate of the University of Florida, is a certified financial planner professional and an accredited investment fiduciary. He has been a keynote speaker at the Scripps Health Retirement Symposiums and TD Ameritrade Symposium in both 2012 and 2013.
Ernesto M. Arredondo Jr.
Ernesto Arredondo is area president of Wells Fargo’s San Diego Community Bank. He is responsible for $4 billion in deposits, oversees a successful team of more than 600 employees and 41 banking locations. He works by the principal of “Inspect what you expect.” Employees will do what you “inspect” not what you “expect.” He is a member of the board of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and Father Joe’s Villages. He is also a foundation trustee for UCSD. For the past two years, Arredondo and 20 of his Wells Fargo managers have taught financial education to 500 students at local public schools in partnership with Junior Achievement of San Diego. He has served as a judge and advocate for the San Diego Youth Entrepreneurship Program. It is a free program that is designed for high school seniors to learn how to turn their interest and hobbies into profitable business ventures. Arredondo and his Wells Fargo team also partner with the Mexican Consulate to provide financial education to approximately 300 people per month. The program, called “Ventana Financiiara,” provides important information about how to use credit responsibly and how to manage spending and learn the basics of banking services. He and his wife, Christina, are parents of two daughters, Mia, 9, and Emma, 6.
Todd Bennett is a principal at Barney & Barney, a San Diego-based insurance broker founded in 1909. As a leader in the firm’s Employee Benefits division, Todd specializes in providing benefit solutions to key San Diego organizations. His mother is an underwriter, his father a broker, his grandfather owned an agency, his wife sells commercial insurance and most recently he recruited his brother to join the firm. Insurance truly runs in Bennett’s blood. As one of the industry’s leading experts on health care reform, he is a regular speaker at trade/industry associations and boards. Since 2009, Bennett has served on the Income Vision Council for the United Way of San Diego. He is also one of the original members of the Barney & Barney Foundation Grant Committee. To date, the foundation has awarded over $600,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations. Bennett also is active in the San Diego business community through his role on the SME Connect Advisory Board. The advisory board helps to drive content, and develop programs and affinity products for small and medium-sized innovation companies in San Diego. Bennett joined Barney & Barney in 2006, became a partner in only six years and is one of the firm’s top producers. He is a graduate of the LEAD San Diego EMBARK program.
Joe Bernstein is senior vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle and at 36, continues to be the youngest senior vice president in its San Diego office. It’s a difficult title to earn as it is based on lease deal volume and value. His diversified client base includes companies from banking, legal, defense, insurance, engineering, life scions, technology and nonprofits. In 2011, Bernstein was named one of Jones Lang LaSalle’s nationwide Top Achievers. Some of his clients include USBank, InnovaSystems, Stewart Title, TY Lin International, Merrill Lynch and Hartford Insurance. For the past four years Bernstein has served on the foundation board at Walden Family Services, a nonprofit, foster family agency that helps place children with physical/mental handicaps, including those who were abused, neglected or have medical issues that make them difficult to place. Throughout his time on the foundation board, Bernstein has used his network of clients, friends and associates to educate the community about the mission of Walden Family Services.
Sarah Boot was an assistant United States Attorney in the General Crimes Unit in San Diego before resigning to campaign for the District 2 San Diego City Council seat in the June 2014 primary. The seat is currently occupied by Kevin Faulconer, but will be vacant at that time. Faulconer is running for mayor in the Nov. 19 special election. In her position with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Boot successfully prosecuted a broad array of federal crimes, including bank robbery, sex trafficking of minors, narcotics and human trafficking. Boot successfully implemented proactive investigations resulting in the arrest and successful prosecution of criminals higher up the chain in a criminal organization than the street-level dealer or courier. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s office, Boot was part of a litigation team at Cooley LLP, which secured a large settlement on behalf of the Salk Institute in an intellectual property dispute. Before attending the University of Michigan Law School, Boot was the finance director for the campaign of a Washington, D.C., city council member and served as the regional field coordinator for a New Hampshire presidential primary campaign. She is currently president of the Lawyers Club of San Diego. She also serves on the advisory board of Run Women Run, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to recruiting, training and supporting women to run for office.
Three years ago, Julien Brandt took a leap of faith, as many entrepreneurs do, and started a company in the online marketing industry. Although the industry was characteristically unethical and unreliable in the minds of many business owners, Brandt sought to create a company that truly served as a resource for an underserved market in San Diego — small businesses. And so, Organik SEO was born. Organik has grown from a sole proprietorship to a team of eight in under three years. Organik has more than doubled its revenue year after year and what started as a one-man show has transformed into a thriving small business that manages monthly search engine optimization and social media campaigns for over 50 businesses in San Diego. Organik now has over 100 clients including website development and other online marketing services. Brandt is s member of the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce, a member of Accelerator, an Entrepreneurs organization and the Rancho Santa Fe Business Round Table. He continually offers support to Give n’ Go Project, an organization whose mission is to instill a sense of hope for abandoned kids.
Michelle Brubaker is a senior public information officer for the UC San Diego Health System. She is responsible for a host of issues including media relations, public relations, social media, crisis communications, video production, brand development, blogging and web content writing. In 2012, Brubaker was nominated for an Emmy Award in the writing, short form category for the San Diego Beacon Community Project video. She is a volunteer and donor for the San Diego Humane Society and is currently working on a project to create a partnership between UC San Diego Health System, and the San Diego Humane Society. A married mother with a young son, Brubaker finds time to support the Susan G Komen three-day Breast Cancer Walk and has helped raise funds through the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. She has also completed the San Francisco Nike Women’s Marathon. As a TV news professional, Brubaker covered everything from wildfires to the Oscars. Early on in the development of YouTube.com, Brubaker was one of the early viral wedding video pioneers. Her wedding dance video went viral on YouTube and has now been viewed over 17 million times. She has done guest appearances on the “Today Show,” “Inside Edition,” the “Ellen Degeneres Show” and even the “Lily Allen Show” in London.
Under the leadership of Ryan Callan and his two brothers, Trevor and Tim, Callan Capital’s ethics and investment guidance have earned the business and trust of some of San Diego’s wealthiest families. After just six years, and deciding to leave jobs at Merrill Lynch, Ryan, Trevor and Tim have grown Callan Capital’s assets in excess of $400 million, placing the firm along the top wealth management companies in San Diego. As the chief operating officer of Callan Capital, Ryan handles firm-wide trading, compliance, technology and strategic planning. He also sits on Callan’s investment committee. He has had a direct hand in reinvigorating the Kiwanis Club of San Diego, which distributes more than $280,000 annually to charitable causes. Ryan has given of his time to Armed Services YMCA, Audubon Society, Boy Scouts of America, Boys to Men Mentoring Network, Equinox Center, Fisher House, International Relief teams, Old Town Academy, Rady Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald Charities. The La Jolla Music Society has also benefited from Ryan’s generosity of both time and money. Financial Advisor Magazine has named Callan Capital to the top RIA Rankings by total assets.
Clifford Cho is the market executive overseeing all of Bank of America services in San Diego with a focus on delivering comprehensive credit and treasury solutions to client companies with revenues ranging from $5 million to $50 million. The team that he manages at BofA has increased the bank’s revenues by 24 percent year after year and is now recognized as the No. 1 SBA lender in San Diego County. Cho leads a team that supports and partners with San Diego businesses to help them grow and create critically needed jobs for the region. He possesses strong management, quantitative and research skills and is an excellent mentor to junior employes at the bank. Cho serves on the board of the San Diego Military Advisory Council, serves and leads a volunteer team at Fisher House, a charity that provides temporary housing and meals for military families who have a critically ill family member at Balboa Naval Hospital. He also serves with the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Warriors. He assists those wounded warriors who want to compete in athletic competitions such as the Rock & Roll Marathon. Cho is a graduate of UC San Diego and a 2011 graduate of LEAD San Diego.
Myrian Solis Coronel
Myrian Solis Coronel is the national partnership manager for Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI). In her role, she identifies and builds partnerships which support REI’s diversity and inclusion vision by reaching emerging customers in the areas of gender, race and age. Prior to joining REI, Coronel was employed at KPBS for seven years where she developed and implemented media and outreach campaigns. She is a board member for I Love A Clean San Diego, was recently appointed by the governor to the California Parks and Recreation Commission and is active in the Parks for Everyone initiative at the San Diego Foundation. She has given of her time and energy to MANA de San Diego and the San Diego Foundation’s Environmental Working Group. Coronel is a 2007 LEAD San Diego graduate and Los Aztecas at San Diego State. She is a graduate of San Diego State University.
John Fiske is the senior trial attorney who leads the mass torts division at Gomez Iagmin Trial Attorneys, where he manages over 600 cases, including medical device and pharmaceutical drug lawsuits. In 2010, Fiske was on the trial team that obtained a $10.8 million jury verdict against Pizza Hut. In 2010, he secured a $13.5 million prove-up judgment for a client with brain and burn injuries. Fiske earned his law license at 23 and opened and owned his own law practice at 27. Now, at only 29, he leads the Gomez Iagmin mass torts division, which includes the NFL litigation. Recently, he organized and lead the well-publicized litigation against Costco and Townsend Farms for Hepatitis A food poisoning. Fiske regularly appears as a legal analyst on a number of San Diego television stations. He is president of the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation, a board member of UC San Diego’s Bannister Family House and Solutions-Exploring Success Post High School and a Redcoat on the San Diego Holiday Bowl Committee.He has been named a Top Influential, a Top Young Attorney and a Person to Watch. He is a graduate of California Western School of Law.
At the age of 23, Brendan Foote founded tax advisory firm Cal Tax Group in 2006 in both Los Angeles and San Diego. The company was acquired by Hughes Marino in 2011. Foote is also the youngest board member of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. He and his team have generated over $50 million in tax savings for their more than 325 San Diego clients. He is the regional expert on Enterprise Zones and other tax incentive programs. Foote spends a great deal of time working with charitable organizations including Just In Time for Foster Youth and Toussaint Academy. He is also on the board of the San Diego World Trade Centeer and the East Village Association. Foote routinely makes trips to Sacramento to lobby for economic development programs that offer a boost to under-privileged communities. His clients include ACE Parking, Hard Rock Hotel, WD 40, the Procopio law firm and Searsucker. He is the youngest senior vice president at Hughes Marino.
Catryn Fowler emigrated to the United States from Estonia 15 years ago, after living abroad in Italy for three years. From residential sales at premier real estate companies and leadership roles in business development, to her current role as sales manager at the Villas at Rancho Valencia, Fowler has achieved tremendous success within San Diego’s real estate industry. She is highly respected by her associates and clients and has over a decade of experience in sales and marketing of multi-million dollar high-rise projects, master planned golf communities and luxury resort real estate. Acknowledged in the industry for outperforming the competition while maintaining the highest ethical standards, Fowler is an expert on trendsetting marketing, superior negotiating skills and a client-centered approach. She has been instrumental in selling more than $60 million in real estate to date. Her expertise includes overseeing the sales and marketing for under-performing developments, while providing strategic and tactical direction to developers and financial institutions. She is licensed in both Oregon and California. Fowler is a dedicated single mother, is actively involved with her daughters’ schools, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and is currently training for the ‘Dodge Million Dollar Challenge,” the 620-mile ride down the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego. Organized by the CAF, the event is unique in the world of cycling. The goal is to raise $1 million for help challenged athletes to find success in sports.
Tracey Nordost Frey
Tracey Nordost Frey is the marketing manager for Turner Construction Co., where she is responsible for strategic planning, multi-media marketing and branding. She leads the marketing team in proposal, brochure and presentation strategy and content and creates and manages advertisement campaigns and production. Frey’s work on Turner pursuits has helped maintain the company’s position as the No. 1 builder in national rankings. Her work has helped Turner win some of the most prominent and prestigious construction projects in San Diego, including the $185 million San Diego New Central Library and the $470 million Green Build Terminal 2 expansion project at San Diego Lindbergh International Airport. She is a recipient of a Turner Staff Award, a member of NAIOP San Diego, the Commercial Real Estate Women of San Diego and the San Diego Hotel-Motel Association. Frey has shared her expertise to benefit minority businesses in the construction industry. She also volunteers at Rady Children’s Hospital working with children and families enduring illnesses. Frey is a founding committee member of Turner’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament which annually raises $50,000 for local charities.
Rick Fultz is the vice president of business development for Biocom here in San Diego. Biocom is the largest regional life science association in the world and services almost 600 member companies in Southern California. Fultz oversees membership, sponsorship, and development efforts for the organization as well as manages their Biocom Purchasing Group. Under his leadership the Biocom Purchasing Group has nearly doubled since 2010 and helps save Biocom members nearly $50 million annually. Prior to his time at Biocom, Fultz was the executive director of the San Diego Senior Olympics, the sports director at the Mission Valley YMCA, and even founded the San Diego Kickball League back in 2004. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware where he was president of the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity and has a master’s in public policy from New England College. Fultz spends his free time coaching and enjoying adventures with his wife Lauri and their three children.
Kate Hardman is an award-winning IABC-accredited business communications professional with 13 years experience in developing and implementing strategies that enable companies to inform, engage and motivate global audiences and targeted groups. For the past five years she has worked at Qualcomm Inc., where she is the internal communications lead for Qualcomm’s services businesses and Qualcomm Europe. Over the course of her career, Hardman has managed a diverse range of strategic, change, management, creative and editorial initiatives. She has been recognized with multiple awards, including two IABC Gold Quills. She has completed 11 half marathons, including two of San Diego’s Triple Crown series. She is also ASA 101-certified in Basic Keelboat Sailing. Hardman is the new president of the San Diego chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. She is a born leader and a polished speaker. She has won many awards and honors throughout her career. She is a graduate of the University of York in England.
Omar Lopez is a clinical assistant professor in the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work at USC’s Academic Center in Rancho Bernardo. He is a classic example of how a poor, undocumented, non-English speaking teenager can succeed in the United States. His mother didn’t have the means to raise him and his sister so she sent them to a government boarding school. At age 12, he crossed into the United States to live with his father. He began to get into trouble living in a poor neighborhood surrounded by drugs and gangs. His inability to speak English and lack of acculturation impaired his ability to connect. with others. His resiliency drove him to succeed academically and in sports, playing varsity soccer (becoming the team’s captain), cross-country (earning MVP award), and track (mile school record) in high school. Lopez received his bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego with a double major in sociology and Spanish Literature, a Master of Social work from San Diego State and is on track to complete a doctorate of education from USC next year. He is active in binational social work in collaboration with Mexico. Lopez has dedicated his professional and personal life to creating and promoting opportunities for children and families in the child welfare system. He has won a congressional award, “Angel in Adoption,” for his dedication to the child welfare field.
In 2011, Amber Mauer was recruited by the national award-winning architecture firm, The Miller Hull Partnership, to facilitate the opening of its San Diego office. Based in Seattle, the firm had a lot riding on the expansion, as it was the partnership’s first and only branch office. The firm had been selected as the design architect for the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry, a $400 million federally funded project designed to reduce wait times and increase security at the border. Mauer proved to be the perfect choice, evidenced by the fact that the local office is growing and taking on more significant projects, including the San Diego Community College District’s Mesa Campus cafeteria, stockroom and bookstore; Chula Vista Nature Center; Port of San Diego On-Call Design Review, San Diego Zoo renovations, Kettenburg Marina and Caltrans on-call contract. Mauer is active with the South County Economic Development Council, the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the Urban Land Institute and Commercial Real Estate Women. Before joining Miller Hull, Mauer was the strategic development director of JMA Architects Inc., a firm specializing in multi-family housing and tribal gaming projects. She is a member of the Junior League of San Diego, the San Diego Police Department’s SWAT Foundation and Tables for Tots benefiting Rady Children’s Hospital.
David Mier is the coordinator of government and community affairs for UC San Diego Health Sciences. He is responsible for all legislative and community relations at the local, state and federal levels in the private, public and government sectors on behalf of UC San Diego School of Medicine, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and UC San Diego Health System. Mier also manages UCSD’s Heath Sciences Health, Education and OResearch Empowerment (HERE) initiative. Additionally, Mier, who is fluent in Spanish, has successfully managed UC San Diego’s Center for the Investigation of Health and Education Disparities (CIHED), a research unit designed to focus on promoting research for a new understanding of health and education disparities in the United States. Mier is a member of the South County Economic Development Council, the San Diego Border Area Health Education Center and the Parent Institute for Quality Education. He has served as a mentor for Spanish-speaking, at -risk Latino youth at Hoover High School and next year plans on mentoring student athletes who will be bused into La Jolla High School from disadvantaged communities. He is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, Pomona.
Alex Montoya is a triple prosthetics-wearer, having been born without two arms and a right leg who tells people, “you need to focus on what you have, not on what you’re missing.” Montoya is the director of Latino affairs for the San Diego Padres. He was born in Colombia and with the help of Shriners International, his parents sent him to San Diego when he was 4, so he could live with an aunt and uncle while receiving the kind of medical care he could never get at home. Montoya learned English by watching baseball on television. He learned about advocacy as a student at Schweitzer Elementary School. At San Diego High School, Montoya was voted prom king and most likely to succeed. While a student at the University of Notre Dame, he played intramural soccer and carried a torch in the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay. He joined the Padres after a brief stint with the San Diego Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Montoya has published two books, “Swinging for the Fences” and “The Finish Line.” He lives in San Diego and cares for his brother, Frankie, who has Down’s Syndrome.
Danielle Moore is a partner at Fisher & Phillips, a national labor and employment firm. Her successful law practice includes representing and counseling employers in all aspects of labor and employment law, including employment discrimination, wrongful termination, workplace harassment, retaliation, unfair competition and class action wage-hour lawsuits. She recently obtained a complete defense verdict after a four-week trial, defending a corporation and its board of directors. She recently resolved a complicated wage-hour class action involving over 2,000 employees and saving the company over $4 million. Moore teaches an employment law course at San Diego State and has guest lectured at Long Beach State. She started her career working on a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. She is actively involved with the Lawyers Club of San Diego, the bar association of nearly 1,200 members who share the goal of advancing the status of women in law and society. She is president of the North County chapter of the Lawyers Club. She is actively involved with the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, a mentor with Women for Women and the Society for Human Resources Management. Moore has her law degree from George Washington University and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California.
Yukon Palmer is the founder of FieldLogix, the provider of the 1st Green GPS Field Management Solution in the United States. He started the company in 2002 with a $3,500 investment based on a business plan written in San Diego State’s MBA program. He has since grown the company’s revenues to millions of dollars with a customer base throughout the country. FieldLogix was named one of San Diego’s Most Admired Companies in 2011 by SD METRO Magazine as well as one of the magazine’s Metro Movers of 2010. He has been involved with Connect’s CEO Roundtable, a mentor for the Lavin Entrepreneurship program at SDSU, a member of the Clean Cities Coalition, a member of CommNexus’ Machine-to-Machine Special Interest Group, has spoken at entrepreneurship programs at SDSU and has hosted visits by international students from Hong Kong University and Ohio State University.
Kim Reed Perell
Kim Reed Perell is president and chief executive officer of Adconion Direct, a multi-channel digital distribution platform spanning display, video, mobile, email and social media. She was previously chief executive officer and founder of Frontline Direct, a leading performance marketing company which she self-founded and grew to over $100 million in annual revenues. Frontline Direct was acquired in 2008 by Adconion Media Group. Today, Adconion Direct has over 600 employees in 14 countries, and partners with 77 of the top 100 brand agencies. Prior to founding Frontline Direct, Perell was responsible for Internet marketing and sales at Xdrive Technologies, which was later acquired by AOL. Adconion Direct has partnered with the Ronald McDonald House, Special Olympics, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, Feeding America, Milestone House, Goodwill, New Life Headstart and Father Joe’s Villages. This year, employees from nine countries gathered in San Diego to participate in San Diego Habitat for Humanity’s first Building for the Brave project, the program that provides affordable homeownership to disabled veterans and their families. Adconion Direct has been named as one of San Diego’s Most Trusted Brands by SD METRO Magazine and as one of 20 Women Who Rock in San Diego by the magazine. Perell is a graduate of Pepperdine University.
Christopher Placencia is founder and owner of Jason Paul Marketing LLC, as well as founder of WordPress 2 Success, the Dapper Press and City Restaurant Websites along with Co-Founding LockBox Code, SB Nightlife and 400 Media Group. While attending Cal State San Marcos, Placencia showed his entrepreneurial skills placing in the top three of its quick pitch competition. While in school, he decided to venture off and start his own company. He named it Jason Paul Marketing after his friend Jason Paul Huerta, who died from leukemia at the age of 15. Placencia’s skills range from online web design, internet marketing, company branding and public relations. Currently, he is working on three additional startup companies — City Restaurant Websites, 400 Media Group and HomeViewer. He is a member of Red Bird Foundation’s board of directors that raises scholarship funding for kids wishing to Bishop Garcia Diego High School in his hometown of Santa Barbara and a SDAR Young Professionals Network board member. Placencia holds a bachelor of science degree from Cal State San Marcos.
Sean Puckett is a first vice president at Regents bank, who started his banking career at age 25 and within two years was an assistant vice president. Due to his hard work, knowledge and leadership skills, he became a vice president at age 29. Puckett partners with companies to scale and build their enterprise value using his consultative banking approach. He is know to many in the San Diego business community as a hard worker who helps others succeed. He helped grow the Strategic Trusted Advisors Roundtable (STAR) and is a member of its board of directors. Puckett also volunteers his time for the Laurels for Leadership Foundation, which recognizes excellence in student leadership. He’s also an avid surfer. Last year, he participated in the Boys to Men Mentoring Network’s “100 Wave Challenge.” He caught 101 waves in six hours and raised $5,000 for the organization. Puckett is a member of the corporate board of directors for the San Diego County YMCA. He is a graduate of the University of San Diego.
Heather S. Riley
Heather Riley is senior counsel in Allen Matkins’ San Diego office, where her practice involves a variety of land use and environmental matters, with a particular emphasis on writ litigation. She has defended numerous private clients and public entities in land use and environmental actions in both state and federal courts. Riley is on the board of directors of the San Diego County Bar Association. She has received the bar association Stars Award, recognizing more than 50 hours of community service. In addition to her successful legal career, Riley dedicates time to Rachel’s Women’s Center, a local nonprofit that provides food, shelter and support to homeless and underserved women in San Diego. She also is a member of Run Women Run, an organization which supports, trains and mentors pro-choice women in elected or appointed political positions in San Diego. She received her B.A. magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the State University of New York and received her law degree cum laude from Albany Law School of Union University.
Eric Rockwell is president and CIO for centrexIt and is the outsourced CIO for over 60 companies in San Diego, including the USS Midway, Balboa Nephrology Medical Group and Psychiatric Centers in San Diego. Rockwell creates technology road maps for companies which are then able to align them with their business plans. This has changed technology into a tool that is working for them and acting as a business driver rather than as a traditional expense. Rockwell is a member of the John Brockington Institute, and together with Balboa Nephrology Group, has helped change the outcome for families with lower means by donating technology resources and devices they couldn’t otherwise afford. centrexIT has also donated over 500 recycled computer parts over the past year. Rockwell designed and oversaw all of the technology for the 2012 “Battle of the Midway” NCAA basketball game; and successfully migrated over 100,000 paper medical records to electronic health records at several large medical groups. centrexIT has won a number of prestigious business awards including Cisco Small Business Security Award, Microsoft Cloud and Virtualization Competency Award, N-Able Innovator of the Year Award and the HTG Innovator Award.
Puja Sachdev is a family law specialist whose practice includes dissolutions, child custody, child and spousal support, property division and temporary and permanent restraining orders. She is a certified specialist in family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization. She started her business career as a research analyst at Franklin Templeton Investments in San Marcos. She is a graduate of the University of Nevada, holds an M.B.A. degree from San Diego State University and her law degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Her master’s degree from SDSU focused on financial and tax planning. SD METRO Magazine has honored her as a Best Lawyer, she has been a staff writer for the Millionaire Girls Movement, has volunteered for the Lawyer Volunteer Program and participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk. Sachdev is a member of the Lawyers Club of San Diego, the North American South Asia Bar Association and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
Cheryl Shields is a volunteer without equal. She is the founder and organizer of a very special organization called a “Night to Remember,” which integrates students with special needs ( like Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy and austim) and who are referred to as the “Honored Guests”) with able-bodied students from area high schools (who are referred to as the “Host”). Realizing that families with special needs children often have heavy financial obligations, Shields’ efforts ensure that everything for the Honored Guests is provided free of charge: tuxedos, formal dresses, jewelry, flowers, hair style and makeup, limos and a gift bag. More than 300 area high school students attended the first “Night to Remember,” which Shields organized and planned. By the third year, 800 students from 66 different high schools in Southern California attended. Shields is the proud mom of 10-year old triplets — Caroline, Zach and Hannah. She dedicates her time to a group of high school kids who are often overlooked. She doesn’t work for a paycheck or a promotion. She doesn’t write books or make speeches. She lives it. Shields has also served as a PTA president, acted as a Little League team mom and volunteered through community theater. She won the 2012 Channel 10 News Leadership Award.
Ryan Shortill is the CEO and founder of Positive Adventures LLC, a program in which people of all ages and backgrounds can explore healthy outlets, increase self-awareness and connect with others. The programs at Positive Adventures teach people how to develop hard skills such as kayaking, climbing and backpacking. But they also teach the fundamental importance of group cohesiveness and leadership. Shortill built Positive Adventures on volunteerism and social entrepreneurship. A New Hampshire native, he launched Positive Adventures with no money in the bank and not knowing a single soul in San Diego. He quickly rose to the occasion to divert his attention and energy in giving back to the community when he himself had nothing. Staying true to this commitment was non-negotiable. He turned advice and comments from friends telling him to “get a job” by volunteering more. Shortill has volunteered at over 25 nonprofits in San Diego and Positive Adventures had contributed to many, such as Challenged Athletes Foundation, the Monarch School and Scripps Cancer Center.
Sophie A. Silvestri
Sophie Silvestri is director of operations for the San Diego Port Tenants Association, a nonprofit that collectively represents and promotes the businesses that lease land along the tidelands of the San Diego Unified Port District. Businesses along the tidelands range from industrial tenants to marine recreation tenants. Silvestri is the key interface for the port tenants and acts as the liaison between the port businesses and government. She is responsible for membership, marketing, strategic planning and executing special events. She is an active member and administrator of the San Diego Working Waterfront Group. Silvestri also sits as an alternate on the board of the San Diego Business Leadership Alliance. She is the recipient of San Diego Coastkeeper’s 2013 Coastal Champion Find & Fix Award for her work on Operation Clean Sweep. Last year, under her leadership, Operation Clean Sweep volunteers cleared 48,000 pounds of waste and debris out of San Diego Bay, its watershed and shoreline. She is on the board of the World Trade Institute and is a graduate of San Diego State University.
Kimberly Simms is an attorney who focuses on the emerging legal issues related to medical marijuana. She is also very involved in local politics, serving as an officer of the San Diego County Democratic Party. Simms started her own law practice immediately after graduating from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2008. In her law practice, she has fought relentlessly for patients’ rights, negotiated with government officials to craft reasonable and effective regulations that allow for safe access, litigated complex land use and zoning cases and handled criminal defense matters. She is recognized as an expert in the emerging area of law dealing with medical marijuana. Simms has taught courses and seminars and has advised businesses on how to comply with the ever-changing legal and regulatory requirements. She has committed more than 50 pro bono legal service hours as a volunteer attorney for the California Innocence Project, a program dedicated to releasing wrongfully convicted inmates. She is a member of the Young Professionals Council, a diverse group of young gay and lesbian professionals and allies dedicated to the preservation and future growth of the San Diego LGBT Community Center.
As a senior manager at Deloitte Tax LLP, Susan Steele is responsible for serving clients primarily in the real estate industry, as well as high net worth individuals. In her role, she works at advising her clients on tax planning considerations while specializing in REITs, real estate owners, operators and investors, private equity, tax deferred exchanges and involuntary conversions and family office consultation. She is involved in Deloitte’s Women Initiatives (WIN) and is passionate about helping other women reach their potential while balancing family and other interests. Steele is very active with facilitating learning and development programs for many Deloitte professionals. She has taught tax technical courses throughout the United States and abroad. Steele is on the board of Junior Achievement of San Diego and Imperial Counties and is a member of CREW’s (Commercial Real Estate Women) board of directors. On an annual basis she teaches business ethics at Kearny High School where the students explore ethical dilemma decision making and the importance of ethics in the workplace and our community.
Genevieve A. Suzuki
Genevieve Suzuki is executive editor of the three Mission Publishing Group newspapers — Mission Times Courier, La Mesa Courier and Mission Valley News, which have a combined circulation of 70,000. As executive editor, she oversees the newspapers’ editorial departments, managing writers, assigning stories and reaching out to the different communities. She is an active member of the Grantville-Allied Gardens Kiwanis Club and serves as secretary of the San Diego Japanese American Citizens League. She serves on the Journalism Advisory Committee for Mesa College. She has won several awards for her writing from the San Diego Press Club, including first place for General News and second place for both the Travel and Dining categories. Suzuki’s children’s book, “The Original Poi Cats on O’ahu,” was on Hawaii’s bestseller list for several months before Suzuki moved from Honolulu to San Diego. In addition to being a journalist, she is a family law attorney who believes in offering affordable representation to clients struggling with family law issues. She has received the Wiley W. Manuel Award for her pro bono work with the San Diego Volunteer Lawyers Program. Suzuki is a graduate of the California Western School of Law.
Brittany Applestein Syz
Brittany Applestein Syz is the vice president of operations and general counsel at Oberon Fuels Inc., a clean energy company that makes dimethyl ether, a clean burning alternative to diesel. She manages contract negations, government affairs and all of the legal matters for Oberon Fuels. She assists in the strategic decision-making at Oberon Fuels, preparing to go online with its first plant. Prior to joining Oberon Fuels, she was an associate at Solomon Minton Cardinal Doyle & Smith LLP, a boutique transactional law firm providing real estate, corporate and business legal services. From 2006 to 2009, Syz was an associate at Morrison & Foerster LLP in San Francisco. She has worked on many pro bono matters in both San Francisco and San Diego, including the acquisition and development of low-income senior citizen housing, the disposition and transfer of assets of a food bank, and leasing matters for several nonprofits. Syz is involved with the ACLU’s Lawyer’s Campaign, a member of Run Women Run and was selected to be one of 20 fellows of the New Leaders Council. She is a member of the board of the Harvard Club and is a member of the Mayor’s Livable Streets Coalition Advisory.
Christopher Ward is the chief of staff for state Sen. Marty Block. He directs both the Capitol and district offices for Block, managing a complex and dynamic legislative office, communications operations, constituent service programs and special projects. He has worked on a number of local political campaigns in a variety of roles. Ward has served as a key adviser to candidates for mayor, district attorney, city attorney, state Assembly, city council and Superior Court judge. He is a member of the Uptown Planning Board and is an active member in the LGBT community. He is a contributing volunteer to the LGBT Center, Equality California and I Love A Clean San Diego. Ward is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. While attending Johns Hopkins University, he was awarded the Provost’s Top Research Award for his work on Huntington’s Disease. He holds a master’s degree in public policy and urban planning from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Christopher Yanov is founder and president of Reality Changers. He is fast becoming known as one of San Diego’s new civic power brokers, and has raised and awarded over $1 million in scholarships to inner-city students before turning 30. He earned four college degrees in five years. He graduated in 2-1/2 years from UC San Diego with a bachelor of art degree in political science and Spanish literature. Yanov completed two master’s degree programs at the University of San Diego with degrees in peace and justice and international relations. Before starting Reality Changers, he worked with gang members for five years and now the program’s 700-plus students have earned approximately $45 million in scholarships from all sources. He collaborated with former Mexican President Vicente Fox on deterring young people from joining drug cartels. He is also finishing a book, “Ending Gang Violence One Kid at a Time.”
Bill Yates is vice president for marketing and sales for San Diego-based GreatCall Inc.. Since joining GreatCall in 2007, he has been the driving force behind the company’s marketing vision, successfully transitioning the venture capital-funded startup to one of the nation’s most highly regarded wireless health and safety services companies. In six years, Yates has established multiple brands, brought GreatCall’s products to more than 6,000 retail outlets across the country, including Walmart, Best Buy, Sears and others, achieved 50 percent national unaided brand awareness for the company’s flagship product — the Jitterbug cell phone — within the first two years, and built a team of more than 130 marketing and sales professionals from within the greater San Diego area. Yates donates his time to the Solana Beach Foundation for Learning. He is a member of the Solana Beach-based Pill Box to raise funds for Solana Beach schools. He holds his MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.