Main Stage Speakers

Elizabeth Alvarez

Broadcast Journalist, KUSI News 
Mistress of Ceremonies

Elizabeth is an award winning, bilingual journalist who has worked in news since the late 1990s. She was born and raised in Southern California and graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in Journalism. The California native began her career at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles as a news assistant. After that, she worked as both an anchor and reporter in Roswell, NM, El Paso, TX and Orlando, FL.

Elizabeth has covered some of the biggest stories to make national headlines. She reported on the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company in Nasiriyah, Iraq during the 2003 invasion, bringing viewers up-to-the-minute information from the Fort Bliss army post. While working for the Fox affiliate WOFL in Orlando, she covered the disappearance of missing 2-year-old Trenton Duckett and the infamous Casey Anthony case.

Elizabeth went on to anchor the morning news for KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque, NM and after three years, she comes to the nation’s leading independent television station, KUSI-TV in San Diego, CA.

Elizabeth now anchors the most-watched morning shows in San Diego — Good Morning San Diego on Saturday and Sunday.

DA Summer Stephan

District Attorney, County of San Diego
Keynote Speaker

District Attorney Summer Stephan has devoted her life to protecting children and families and providing justice to the voiceless and most vulnerable. She is a national leader in the fight against sexual exploitation and human trafficking, who has served as a Deputy District Attorney in San Diego County for 28 years. During this time, she combined extensive courtroom experience with over 15 years of management and leadership experience. She rose through the ranks to appointments as Chief of the DA’s North County Branch and Chief of the Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division, a Special Victims Unit she pioneered. In 2012, she was appointed Chief Deputy District Attorney. In 2017, she was appointed District Attorney. On June 5, 2018, the voters elected Summer as District Attorney in the most resounding victory recorded for DA races in San Diego County. She has been named the 2017 Southern California District Attorney of the Year by Crime Victims United.

District Attorney Stephan leads the second largest DA’s Office in California, managing a professional staff of over 1,000 employees, serving as the People’s Prosecutor for all of San Diego County and its over three million residents, which are spread throughout cities and communities from the U.S.-Mexico border to the Riverside County line. The DA uses her nearly three decades of experience to set public safety priorities and to leverage, partner and collaborate with law enforcement and the community, to maintain San Diego County as one of the safest urban regions in the United States.

As a trial prosecutor, Summer tried more than 100 jury trials, including cases of complex homicides, sexually violent predators, child molestation, sexual assault, school shooting, and human trafficking-related cases.

She holds leadership positions in public safety on the national state and local level, including being selected as one of only two prosecutors in California to serve on Governor Schwarzenegger’s Task Force for High-Risk Sex Offenders and Sexually-Violent Predators. Among her many leadership positions in the fight against human trafficking, Summer chaired the San Diego County Human Trafficking Advisory Council. Summer serves as Chair of the Human Trafficking subcommittee for the National District Attorneys Association- Women Prosecutors Section. She spearheaded the innovative “Know the Price” campaign, which focused on reducing sexual assaults of college students. She also led the award-winning “The Ugly Truth” Human Trafficking Campaign.

She is a leader in advancing public safety through a smart, fair and equal criminal justice. She brings solutions to complex issues through her unique data-driven, and common sense approach that goes beyond a one-size-fits-all mentality. Instead, she leverages innovations in crime prevention and restorative justice practices and believes in investing in and building healthy lives and communities that disrupt prison pipelines while preserving public safety. For example, Summer was part of the leadership team that diverted more youthful offenders into positive programs while lowering recidivism and harm to communities, dramatically lowering the incarceration rate for juvenile offenders by 48 percent. In addition, she helped implement and expand smart on crime programs that address the underlying causes of criminality for non-violent offenders such as mental health, substance abuse and addiction. In addition, she began the first Veterans Treatment model in North County with Deputy DA George Loyd, a heroic Marine Corps veteran.

Summer is the recipient of numerous local, state and federal awards, including an FBI commendation for organized crime prosecution, the outstanding achievement award for the complex prosecution involving the sexual assault and murder of an elderly woman. She was named “Angel of Anti-Human Trafficking” and “Modern Day Abolitionist. She received the prestigious 2016 “Voices for Justice” award by the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice. She received the Lifetime Legacy Award by Women of Influence.

DA Stephan received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Davis and her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. She completed the “Driving Government Performance” Executive Education Course at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

 

Mara Fortin

Owner, Nothing Bundt Cakes
Closing Speaker

Mara Fortin is an attorney, small business owner, political advocate, philanthropist, community leader and, most importantly, a mom. She has three children, two teenage daughters and a toddler son. Mara is the first franchisee ever to open a Nothing bundt Cakes bakery, and is now the largest in the nation, with seven. She gave up her practice of law thirteen years ago, moved her family back to her hometown of San Diego when her daughters were two and nine months old, and started on her small business venture. Over the years, Mara found a niche by using her legal background and the grit of twelve years’ experience opening small, but prolific, retail bakeries in the challenging California market, to speak openly and transparently about the challenges faced on a daily basis. Her authentic style, and years in the trenches, allows her to connect with a wide array of influencers.

In addition to building a successful business which now employs more than 130, mostly women, in the San Diego county market, Mara has sat on the boards of several small business advisory councils, including being the co-founder of several within the Nothing bundt Cakes system. She is very active with the International Franchise Association and also sits on its board of directors. 

Mara is an invested member of the community. Her philanthropy through charitable partnerships with Susan G. Komen and Rady Children’s Hospital, leadership as an IFA member, amongst other organizations, and involvement in the franchise as a founder and first President of its franchisee association, demonstrates her passion for business development and sustainability. ‘Doing good business’ is not only a matter of money, but a matter of leadership, and advocacy. She mentors her team, fellow franchisees and community, and proudly represents her Brand every day.

Mara travels to Washington D.C., regularly to meet with members of Congress and frequently speaks with members of the press and media on small business related matters. Mara is an entrepreneur and thought leader and enjoys each and every opportunity to speak to and on behalf of the hardworking business owners across the country!

 

All Panelists

Lorena Slomanson

Development Director, Legal Aid Society of San Diego
Facilitator

As Development Director for the Legal Aid Society of San Diego (LASSD), Lorena Slomanson plays an integral role in advancing Legal Aid’s mission of improving lives by advancing justice through developing donor strategies and increasing fundraising opportunities.

Access to justice is Lorena’s passion. For a decade, she managed Legal Aid’s Unlawful Detainer and Temporary Restraining Order Clinics in various branches of the San Diego Superior Court.

A native San Diegan with over 15 years of non-profit experience as a social justice advocate, Lorena enjoys growing partnerships with community and corporate leaders in support of Legal Aid’s work to provide access to justice and quality healthcare coverage for San Diegans. Lorena is aligned with her organization’s commitment to community empowerment.  

Lorena currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the San Diego County Law Library. She  recently completed serving as a Commissioner on the State Bar of California’s Commission on Access to Justice, being appointed by Senator Toni Atkins. As Past President of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, Lorena was invited by the Anti-Defamation League to Israel as a member of the Latino Leadership Mission to Israel, and served as a Commissioner on our City’s Human Relations Commission.

Lorena earned her B.A. in Russian and Soviet Studies from the University of California, San Diego and her JD from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, where her father teaches. She is fluent in Spanish and Russian and conversational in Italian and French (thanks to OLP!).

Lorena’s mom Ana graduated from OLP in 1963, and her sister Christina is a 2003 grad. Her parents were married in 1972 on OLP’s North Terrace and her brother married his OLP high school sweetheart in OLP’s chapel in 2016. Let’s just say OLP is in her family’s DNA!

 

Michelle Flores-Gonzales '02

VP, Director of Operations, Flores Financial Services, Inc.
Panelist

Michelle joined Flores in 2002 as a part-time student worker. She graduated from the University of San Diego in 2006 with a B.B.A. in Business Administration and Accounting. During her undergraduate college career, Michelle was able to gain experience in public accounting via an internship with a public accounting firm.

Since joining the company full-time Michelle has assisted in the growth and development of the Flores team, adding numerous programs, team members, partners and clients to Flores. She completed her Masters in Business Administration at the University of San Diego in 2009.

She is currently heading up operations of Flores, working diligently with leaders in the industry to continue to grow Flores as quality service provider and partner for success for each and every customer. She is passionate about ensuring the Flores values of service, integrity, teamwork, accuracy and professionalism are met for both the clients and Flores team.  Michelle is married with two beautiful young children who are future Flores team members, seen running around the office often.

Holly Smithson

CEO, Athena
Panelist

Holly Smithson is Chief Executive Officer of Athena, a professional association dedicated to empowering progress together by advancing women in STEM. Athena’s 5000+ stakeholder community accesses executive leadership forums, educational and mentoring programs, and cross-industry networking.  Previously, she served as Vice President, Business Strategy at the California Life Sciences Association, the nation’s largest statewide advocacy organization for the life sciences sector. Smithson previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer at Cleantech San Diego, one of the first cleantech industry associations and market drivers to establish the region as a global hub.  

Smithson worked in public policy for a decade as a Presidential Appointee at several federal agencies and as a registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C. Smithson began her career in broadcast journalism as a news director and anchor for several television and all-talk radio stations. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Executive Leadership Program and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in broadcast communications from East Carolina University. She has been recognized by multiple organizations, including San Diego Magazine (Woman of the Year Finalist, 2018) San Diego Daily Transcript (San Diego's Top 100 Influentials, 2014), Delegate on California Governor Brown’s Trade Mission to China, 2013 and the San Diego Metro (Women Who Rock, 2012).

Dr. Ann Scarborough-Bull '67

Chief of Environmental Sciences (Ret.), Bureau of Ocean Energy
Panelist

A Southern California native, Ann was brought up on the ocean and worked as a deck-hand for her father during commercial fishing and charter boat operations.  A graduate of the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego, she received her Bachelor’s degree in both Biochemistry and Biology from University of California San Diego and went on to obtain a Master’s and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University with her graduate fieldwork performed at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole.  Her postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins University centered on the health of fish populations and their responses to anthropogenic degradation of their environments. A career employee for the Department of the Interior in environmental research and assessment, she worked for the former Minerals Management Service (MMS), now, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), in the Gulf of Mexico Region, 1988-2000, and in the Pacific Region, 2001-2016.  Dr. Scarborough Bull’s research interests center on the ecological influence, on both a local and regional scale, of offshore oil and gas platforms and renewable energy installations. She retired at the end of 2016 as the BOEM Chief of Environmental Sciences, Pacific Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Region, where she oversaw a $25+ million-dollar studies program on the OCS of California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. Dr. Scarborough Bull is now a Visiting Scholar at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Marine Science Institute, where she continues her research.

 

Mary Jean Anderson

Owner, Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air
Panelist

Mary Jean Anderson is owner and president of Anderson Plumbing, Heating and Air serving all of San Diego County.  Since 1978 the company has grown to over 170 employees specializing in residential plumbing installations/repairs; drain and sewer services; and heating/air conditioning installation/repairs.

Fundamental to Mary Jean’s success is her commitment to the good of the community.  She is a major annual supporter of Susan G. Komen San Diego Chapter with fundraising and promotional support for the Race for the Cure.  She is a national leader in training women and military establishing lucrative careers for them in the plumbing, heating and air conditioning trades through her own scholarships and unique school, Anderson Career Builder Institute.  The San Diego Police Foundation and TFK, a foundation helping to stop youth violence in the city schools, are also organizations she supports.

Mary Jean began her career as a nurse and believes that her natural instincts as a caretaker set the stage for her commitment to exceptional customer service in the plumbing, heating and air conditioning business.  The company slogan is “Nobody Wows Clients Like We Do!” and the concept of going the extra mile for the customer is part of all employee training. By the same token, Mary Jean is committed to providing a positive culture and work environment where co-workers can grow and thrive.  As a result, many of Anderson’s employees have been at the company for many years and their adult children now also work at Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air.

Anderson Plumbing Heating & Air won the BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Excellence multiple times and also the International BBB Award for Marketplace Ethics.  Mary Jean was named Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors (PHCC) National Contractor of the Year; San Diego Magazine’s Women Who Move the City Honoree; San Diego Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business; and San Diego Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO for Family Owned Businesses.  She has also served on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for the BBB of San Diego, Orange and Imperial Counties.

Sandra Jeskie

Partner, Duane Morris LLP
Facilitator

Sandra A. Jeskie is an experienced litigator, arbitrator, mediator and special master to the courts in a variety of cases involving technology, software, intellectual property or information/data. Her practice includes commercial litigation, software litigation, privacy, data security, Internet of Things (IOT), big data, wearable technology and information technology. She also manages intellectual property litigation for international and domestic clients across the United States. Law360 listed her as "Best-of-the-Best Attorneys" and "Cream of the Crop Litigators". Based on a client satisfaction survey of in-house counsel, BTI Consulting Group also recognized Ms. Jeskie as "delivering the absolute best client service." Ms. Jeskie is chair of the firm's Information Technologies and Telecom Practice Group, and served as President of the International Technology Law Association (ITechLaw).

Gina M. Jackson

Founder and Executive Artistic Director, Cultural Noire Performing Arts Company / Professor, San Diego Community College District
Panelist

Gina M. Jackson is an Adjunct Professor at San Diego Community College District and a Secondary Educator at San Diego Unified School District.  She has a B.A. in Speech Communication/English and Theatre Performance minors from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; an M.A. in African-American Studies/Literature-Theatre from Clark Atlanta University; and an M.Ed. and Preliminary Administrative Services Credential from National University.  Jackson has been an active member of San Diego’s arts and culture community, having served in numerous capacities.  Such capacities include serving on the boards of La Jolla Playhouse Partners (Vice President); Young Audiences of San Diego; Friends of Malcolm X Library (President), and San Diego Theatre Educators Alliance.  She is also a Charter Member of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. Most recently, Jackson was appointed an Artist-In-Residence at Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. She is currently a Board Director for the City of San Diego Horton Plaza Theatres Foundation, the County of San Diego Community Action Board, and a Coordinator for the San Diego Women’s Foundation.  She is an award-winning National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, having researched and studied the Mississippi Delta and Duke Ellington. Jackson is the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Cultural Noire Performing Arts Company.

Deborah Klochko

Executive Director and Chief Curator, Museum of Photographic Arts
Panelist

Deborah Klochko has over twenty-five years experience in photography museums as an educator, director, and curator.  Ms. Klochko has curated over thirty exhibitions; was executive editor of see, an award-winning journal of visual culture; and is the founder of Speaking of Light:  Oral Histories of American Photographers. She is the co-author of Create and Be Recognized:  Photography on the Edge. In addition, she is the author and curator of numerous books and exhibitions including, Picturing Eden, Nancy Newhall: A Literacy of Images, Streetwise: Masters of 60s Photography and Moment in Time:  A Collection of Photographs. Her most recent curatorial efforts include The Time Between:  The Sequences of Minor White, Beauty and the Beast:  The Animal in Photography, Hidden Worlds and Moment in Time:  A Collection of Photographs.

Formerly the director of The Friends of Photography, located at the Ansel Adams Center, she has also worked at the California Museum of Photography; the International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York; and the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Klochko received her Master of Arts in Teaching, Museum Education at George Washington University in Washington, DC and a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the Visual Studies Workshop (SUNY) in Rochester, New York.

Rana Sampson

Director, Community Relations Ambassador, Southern California and San Diego Divisions, Union Bank
Panelist

Rana Sampson is Union Bank’s Community Relations Ambassador for the Southern California Retail Division. Prior to that, Rana spent over 30 years of her professional career working on crime and other public safety problems, including helping children impacted by mental health challenges. Her positions included those as a NYPD police officer, undercover in narcotics, sergeant, director of public safety at a university, international crime reduction consultant, and founding member of the nonprofit Center for Problem Oriented Policing, the national “go to” Center for crime reduction strategies that provides free publications to police and the public on how to reduce crime and safety problems. Rana is the author of numerous U.S. Department of Justice-published publications on reducing safety problems, such as drug dealing in apartment complexes, bullying in schools, domestic violence, and acquaintance rape of college students.

Rana’s received many awards, including the National Improvement of Justice Award, the first ever San Diego Business Journal Community Service Award, and the Friends of Balboa Park Millennium Award. She was awarded a National Institute of Justice Fellowship and a White House Fellowship where she worked on the President of the United States’ White House Domestic Policy Council. Rana has a law degree with honors from Harvard Law School.

Rana serves on the Board of Directors of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the SDSU School of Public Affairs Task Force, and for 8 years served on the Board of the San Diego Museum of Art.  She is also currently on the advisory boards of the Barrio Logan College Institute, Reality Changers, the San Diego History Center, and the California Western School of Law’s Council of Visitors, where they house the Innocence Project freeing those wrongly or mistakenly incarcerated.

Chinedu Odu '93

Owner, Your Virtual Support Team
Facilitator

Chinedu Odu is the owner and founder of Your Virtual Support, a virtual administrative support company. After almost 20 years in the executive support industry, Chinedu founded the company to address a need she saw for remote administrative support services in the executive coaching industry. Her rapidly-growing company has been successfully providing support for executive coaches across the country since 2014.

Chinedu was born and raised in San Diego and graduated from OLP in 1993. Chinedu comes from a family of OLP alumni with sisters who graduated from OLP in 1992 and 1994. She credits OLP with giving her the drive and confidence to leave the state and move to Texas where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Texas A&M University. Chinedu also has a Master of Business Administration from Keller Graduate School.  Her hobbies include glamping and home improvement, and she has a healthy obsession with beauty vlogs.

.

Sue Saarnio

Consul General of USA in Tijuana, BC
Panelist

Sue Saarnio is a career Foreign Service Officer with more than 30 years of experience on international trade and economic issues in the U.S. State Department.  She started her Foreign Service career serving in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. She most recently served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Energy Resources and Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.  Prior to that, she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Mexico, Canada, and Regional Economic Policy in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

She has served in the State Department’s Economic, Energy and Business Affairs Bureau as Deputy Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs and Director for Multilateral Trade Affairs. She was the U.S. Special Advisor for Conflict Diamonds.  She also has served at U.S. Embassies in Ottawa, Panama, and at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem.

Prior to her government service, Ms. Saarnio worked as a journalist in Montana and Minnesota. She is a graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and attended the American University in Cairo, Egypt.  She has two children.

Ashley Nell Tipton

Fashion Designer, Winner of Project Runway 14
Panelist

Ashley Nell Tipton is a San Diego native who grew up with a large supportive family whose dedication to each other nurtured Ashley’s creative path.  Her love for fashion started at a very young age when she learned to sew with her grandmother. Ashley found a passion in creating her own designs and clothing and wanted to expand her skills.  Ashley attended Fashion Careers College where she studied Fashion Design and Technology. Her senior collection at Fashion Careers College was highlighted in the annual Golden Hanger Fashion Awards in 2012.  That same year she showed collection at New York’s Full Figured Fashion Week.

In 2015, after entering and winning Project Runway Ashley signed a contract with JC Penny to design and be the face of their “plus-size” Boutique +

Since then she has also designed plus sized patterns for Simplicity and her own jewelry line. Gifted in understanding the needs of the plus-size consumer Ashley released her first line of apparel and eyewear in November of 2017 and continues to work as a design consultant for other plus size establishments.  

With the strong desire to help others find their love for sewing and design, in 2019 Ashley has released a series of sewing classes for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge or sewing skill set.  

Ekaette “Philo” Mbong

PhD of Virology, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Panelist

Dr. Ekaette Mbong completed her Ph.D. at the University of Alabama in virology studying the dynamic interplay of viral proteins during a herpes simplex virus type 1 infection. She continued her training as Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California, San Diego in neuroendocrinology studying the effects of obesity on fertility. Interested in communicating the importance of science, Dr. Mbong applied and was awarded the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship. During her fellowship she worked on education policy at the National Science Foundation and science policy at the National Institutes of Health. She continues to communicate the importance of science as a medical writer in the San Diego region.  

Carrie Sawyer

Manager of Inclusion and Diversity at Qualcomm
Facilitator

Carrie Sawyer works at Qualcomm as a Manager of Inclusion and Diversity. She comes to diversity from the field of User Experience where she worked for 13 years to understand the needs, expectations, and behaviors of people to better inform the design process. Carrie earned her master’s in Human Computer Interaction from the University of Michigan and her bachelor’s in New Media Arts and Science from Indiana University.

Carrie is now applying her people-centered perspective to developing and implementing a diversity and inclusion roadmap for the company. She is working to improve representation in tech and is focused on building teams where each person can feel valued, contribute fully, and achieve their career goals

Kimberly Herrell

President, Schubach Aviation
Panelist

Kimberly Herrell has spent over a decade at Schubach Aviation and has had a meaningful impact on all facets of the company. As President, she manages day to day operations, in addition to driving the jet charter operator’s overall vision - overseeing marketing, sales and business development initiatives - with a strategic focus on future growth.

Prior to her appointment to President by Schubach Aviation founder Henry Schubach in 2018, Herrell served as Vice President, Director of Sales and Marketing and Charter Sales Manager. She is passionately involved in Schubach’s charitable giving initiatives, which have benefited non-profit organizations including Promises2Kids, Shelter to Soldier and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

In September 2018, Kim was honored to be among San Diego Magazine’s ‘Woman of the Year’ finalists in the ‘Industry Leader’ category recognizing dynamic and passionate leaders across San Diego.  Recently, she was named one of San Diego’s top 500 Influential Business Leaders by the San Diego Business Journal and was included as a ‘Woman of the Year’ 2018 finalist in the same publication.

Kim enjoys international travel and spending time with her husband, Ryan, and seven year old daughter, Ella.

Lisa Druxman

Founder, FIT4MOM (Stroller Strides, Fit4Baby, and Body Back)
Panelist

Lisa Druxman is a mom on a mission. She’s an entrepreneur, a motivational speaker and a best selling author. Lisa is the founder of FIT4MOM, one of the fastest growing franchises in the United States. FIT4MOM is the company that has brought classes like Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides and Body Back to thousands of locations nationwide. Her classes have created a village of hundreds of thousands of women who have found the “strength in motherhood”.  Lisa has been recognized for her leadership by NAWBO (The National Association of Women's Business Owners) and her business has been ranked as one of the top franchises according to Entrepreneur and Working Mother Magazine. Lisa’s book and podcast, The Empowered Mama, will help you reclaim your time, your health and yourself. Lisa has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper as a thought leader and influencer for on business and wellness and designing your best life.

Mine Okano

Senior Staff Technical Project Manager, World Wide Studios at Sony Playstation
Panelist

Mine Okano is a Senior Staff Technical Project Manager at Sony PlayStation where she is responsible for leading global project and program management within the World Wide Studios division, supporting game development and Information Technology initiatives. Mine has more than 17 years of experience in the technology industry. Prior to working at Sony PlayStation, Mine was the Director of Project Management for a leading San Diego Web development and digital consulting agency, where she helped numerous Fortune 500 companies redesign and modernize their Web presence, e-commerce platforms, and technology infrastructure.

Mine graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor's of Science in Japanese and Business. She also studied at Smith College and Sophia University and taught English in Japan through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. Her international business experience, including working for the Embassy of Japan as an Cultural Information Officer, and her ability to speak multiple languages have served as a key element of her career and especially at Sony where she also serves as a liaison between teams in Europe, US, and Japan.   

Mine is a very proud mother of two amazing children, and she is very active in their schools, extracurricular activities, and the community where they live in North Park. Beginning at a young age Mine has been a competitive swimmer. She was on the swim team at Smith College, and continues to compete in swimming, long-distance running, and Triathlons. She has proudly completed two half-Ironmans and hopes to do more.   

Debra Simmons

Observatory System Engineering Lead, Northrop Grumman Corporation, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
Panelist

Debra Simmons of the Northrop Grumman Corporation is the Observatory System Engineering Lead for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) responsible for directing all Systems Engineering across the program at Northrop Grumman. She also served in other leadership roles on the program and was a key member of the team that defined the JWST Observatory concept 20 years ago.  In addition to her JWST assignments, she has led Systems Integration and Test organizations, managed On-Orbit Operations for the Defense Support Program and provided control systems designs for a national program. Ms. Simmons has been with Northrop Grumman for almost forty years.

During her career, she has also given many engineering lectures at colleges and professional society conferences.  She has volunteered at elementary, middle and high schools teaching mathematics classes and talking to students about engineering and science.  In 1992, she was awarded the company’s Woman of Achievement Award for her personal and professional achievements and contributions to the company.

Ms. Simmons earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from San Diego State University and her Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California.  She grew up and attended high school in the San Diego area and still returns frequently to visit family and friends. Her hobbies include yoga, pool, hiking and caring for the adopted pets left at home by her daughter and son when they moved away to attend college.