2018 Speakers

Naomi Tutu - Build the World You Want to Live In

Activist, Daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The challenges of growing up black and female in apartheid South Africa have been the foundation of Naomi’s life as an activist for human rights. Those experiences taught her that our whole human family loses when we accept situations of oppression, and how the teaching and preaching hate and division injure us all. In her speeches she blends this passion for human dignity with humor and personal stories.

Ms Tutu is the third child of Archbishop Desmond and Nomalizo Leah Tutu. She was born in South Africa and had the opportunity to live in many communities and countries. She was educated in Swaziland, the US and England, and has divided her adult life between South Africa and the US. Growing up the ‘daughter of …’ has offered Naomi Tutu many opportunities and challenges in her life. Most important of these has been the challenge to follow her own path and role in building a better world. She has taken up the challenge and channeled the opportunities that she has been given to raise her voice as a champion for the dignity of all.

Lesia Cartelli - The Many Faces of Resilience

PEOPLE's Hero of the Week
Founder, Angel Faces

"When Lesia Cartelli was 9 years old, she was severely burned in a gas explosion at her grandparents’ home in East Detroit.

She’d been playing in the basement with her cousin when the gas leak ignited, blasting many of the nine family members who were inside the house across the street. Cartelli, who was buried in rubble, climbed out of the destruction on her own, crawling outside to roll in the dirt and snow to put out the flames on her small body." Read her full story on PEOPLE


Kim Coles

Kim Coles - Your Stories are Powerful, Amazing, and YOURS

Actress, Comedienne, Author, Playwright

Best known for her five-season turn as the unforgettable “Synclaire” on FOX’s ground-breaking comedy series, Living Single, KIM COLES has starred in numerous hit television programs including Frasier, Six Feet Under, In Living Color, One on One and the uproarious TBS comedy series 10 Items Or Less. She was the co-host of the nationally syndicated daytime talk show, In the Loop with iVillage and has been a guest co-host for various shows, including The View and Good Day Live. She was the host of BET’s My Black is Beautiful, a show that was part of a national initiative sponsored by Proctor & Gamble celebrating the diverse, collective beauty of African-American women. Read More


Janice Freeman - Always Believe Something Good is About to Happen

Singer, Top 11 Contestant on NBC's THE VOICE

In 2012 Janice was also diagnosed with cervical cancer. With her surviving spirit and supportive family she fought it and survived. In the midst of all the trials and tragedy she held on, not letting go of her dream and continued to press on with perseverance.

Moving forward despite her health challenges Janice auditioned for television series competition THE VOICE. Janice made it to the top 11 becoming a nationally acclaimed Artist. This experience allowed her to learn so much along the way - meeting impactful mentors and developing new flourishing relationships.

Having gone through so much, she is grateful to be cancer-free, but fights against Lupus today. With support of her loving family and  friends, Janice Freeman is a survivor, inspiration and "The Voice" to remember. 


Mariel Hemingway - Finding Your Voice

Actress and Author

Renaissance woman Mariel Hemingway is not only an iconic Academy Award nominated actor from a celebrated family, she's a prolific author, mother of 2 successful models, documentary producer, and renowned healthy lifestyle brand founder.

In a high-tech world, Mariel is considered an expert in high-touch solutions that facilitate the greatest sense of personal power, life balance, joy, fitness, authenticity, peace of mind and meaning. Her best selling books, video's and speaking engagements render techniques and strategies for self empowerment.

From shy child to young actress to becoming an in-demand key note speaker at global business and lifestyle conferences, it took years for her to find her voice, sense of purpose and passion for optimizing the lives of others by means of her leadership in the Healthy Lifestyle marketplace. Mariel Hemingway understands the impact and import of focus, engagement with those of like mind and heart, and hard work as the keys to thriving in all parts of life.

Speaker Website 


Captain Corrie Mays - Dream Big

Blue Angel #8

Corrie was selected for the United States Navy Blue Angels in July 2014 and joined the team in September 2014 as Blue Angel #8, where she served as the Events Coordinator and Squadron Naval Flight Officer. Not only was she one of the few to represent the United States Marine Corps, she was responsible for coordinating all Blue Angel related items for 130 flight demonstrations, multiple high visibility flyovers including Super Bowl 50, and planning over 350 community events across the country. She has accumulated nearly 1,000 flight hours and earned various unit and personal awards. Read More


Corrie Mays

District Attorney Summer Stephan -

Having THE Conversation With Our Daughters, Sons, and other Young People

Sexual harassment and assault are problems we can't ignore—the tough and delicate conversations need to begin at home with our younger generation.


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 27 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.

Panel - Negotiating for YOU!

Many of us shy away or avoid asking for something more or better than we have. Learn how to approach the conversation and get tips for successful negotiations.

  • Things you should never say when negotiating
  • Negotiating past “NO”
  • Conversations that lead to agreement
  • Negotiating for that raise or promotion

Cheryl Goodman

Head of Corporate Communications
Sony Electronics, Inc.

Cheryl Goodman is Head of Corporate Communications at Sony Electronics where she develops and leads the corporate communications strategy for Sony North America. In this role, Goodman oversees executive and financial communications, corporate social responsibility programs and employee communications. As Sony’s spokesperson, Goodman also serves on industry associations such as the Consumer Electronics Association committee (CTA) and the (DEG) Digital Entertainment Group.

With over 20 years in the industry, Goodman's experience spans a variety of sectors including media, technology and non-profit organizations. Prior to her executive appointment at Sony, Goodman led Athena San Diego, a professional association serving women in science and technology. Goodman’s background also includes a near decade at Qualcomm, in business development and Marketing. 

Susan Poser

Sr. Director
Oracle Insight & Customer Strategy

Susan leads the global program office for Oracle Insight and the Global Client Advisors. In this role, Ms. Poser brings her 20+ years of diverse experience working with sales executives, customers and a global team to develop processes and systems to effectively and efficiently execute a successful sales program. In addition, Ms. Poser has worked with several Fortune 500 customers to identify and extract value from their business transformation and software implementation efforts. 

Susan is the Co-Lead for Oracle Women Leadership in San Diego.

Pat Reno

Patricia Reno

Senior Vice President and Financial Advisor
RBC Wealth Management

Patricia Reno is Senior Vice President and Financial Advisor at RBC Wealth Management. She has been helping individuals and business owners in North County since 1988. She has two decades of experience managing bond portfolios and separately managed accounts for clients. Patricia specializes in municipal and government bonds and has significant experience servicing the needs of the medical and professional community in North County. For her fine work, Patricia has been recognized as an "Outstanding Woman in Business" by the San Diego Business Journal.

Denise Visconti

Office Managing Shareholder, San Diego
Littler Mendelson

Denise Visconti is the Office Managing Shareholder of the San Diego Office of Littler Mendelson, the largest law firm in the world exclusively devoted to representing management in employment, employee benefits and labor law matters.

In addition to running Littler’s San Diego office, Denise maintains an active law practice. She handles a broad variety of employment litigation matters, which includes defending clients in class action litigation, representative actions, private attorney general matters, as well as single-plaintiff actions. Denise also regularly provides advice and counseling to both large and small organizations and their human resources teams in all aspects of the employment relationship, including wage and hour issues, reductions in force, policies and procedures, performance management issues, and termination decisions.

Sandra Maas - Moderator

News Anchor

From reporting on life-saving breakthroughs as a medical correspondent for CBS News, to anchoring prime time newscasts for KUSI-TV and KFMB-TV, Sandra Maas has been informing and entertaining television and radio audiences for more than 30 years. An award-winning journalist with more than a dozen Emmy nominations, she is currently the primetime co-anchor of KUSI News at 5, 6 & 10 pm.

Can We Talk? Approaching Difficult Conversations with Confidence

Don’t let difficult conversations keep you awake at night. Learn techniques from business leaders to clearly communicate an issue and its impact, propose a solution, and inspire positive outcomes for a joint resolution. You may have a coworker who seems unaware that he/she frequently interrupts your work. Or perhaps there's an employee who isn't meeting your expectations. Or maybe your supervisor hasn't been supporting your professional development goals as much as you expected.

These are all stressful interpersonal situations to deal with. More importantly, none of them are likely to improve unless you initiate a difficult conversation.

Vera Howell

Director of Community and Citizenship
Turner Construction Company

Vera Howell is the Director of Community and Citizenship for Turner Construction Company in San Diego. She has an extensive background in administrative management as well as community program implementation management. As Director of Community and Citizenship, she is responsible for managing and implementing key programs such as the Turner School of Construction Management and the implementation of the ACE Mentor program in local high schools. She is responsible for performing in-house and outreach activities that solicit and maintain the involvement of the small, minority, women and disabled veteran business community.

Vera is also responsible for developing and maintaining favorable public relations with the community by representing Turner at community functions and maintaining involvement with small business contracting associations, community-based organizations and advocacy groups. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UC Santa Cruz and is active is several community organizations.

Kathy Hutchens

Vice President of Marketing and the Patient Engagement
Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Center

Kathy Hutchens is Vice President of Marketing and the Patient Engagement for Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Center, the multispecialty medical group affiliated with Sharp HealthCare. She is responsible for the patient contact center, whose staff members provide positively memorable experiences through more than 2 million encounters annually. She also heads strategic marketing for this San Diego-based organization with 22 locations, 500 physicians and 2,000 employees.

Since joining Sharp in 1994, she has had the opportunity to be part of numerous innovations. Kathy was one of the original leaders who laid the groundwork for The Sharp Experience, an exciting journey to improve the organization’s culture and transform the health care experience. Later she worked on the development of the “mySharp” patient portal.

Michelle Pagni

Executive Vice President of Human Resources
San Diego County Credit Union

Michelle Pagni is Executive Vice President of Human Resources at San Diego County Credit Union, San Diego’s largest locally-owned financial institution. With more than 20 years of experience in human resources management, Michelle has a demonstrated track record of collaboration and commitment and is responsible for developing and directing human resource policies and programs at SDCCU. She oversees organizational planning, training, employment, compensation, benefits, facilities and construction, safety and health, and employee services.

Selena Roberts

General Manager and CFO
Bernardo Winery

Selena Roberts is General Manager and CFO of Bernardo Winery, Inc., the oldest family owned and operated Winery in Southern California and one of the oldest recorded business entities in San Diego County.  As a destination property, Selena oversees the management of the many facets of this historic and unique property including three prestigious Event venues, a unique retail shopping environment and Winery sales operations.  Business management experience includes a background in the retail product development field, General Engineering and business finance.  Balance is the key to success for Bernardo Winery as Selena and her family have worked side by side with staff to create an unforgettable experience for every guest that enter their grounds, earning the reputation and notoriety of San Diego’s Best Winery for many years!

Jana Vargas

Director of Procurement and Contracts
San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

Jana Vargas is the Director of Procurement and Contracts at San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. Her areas of responsibility include the management of Procurement, Public Works Contracting, Revenue Concession Solicitations, Project Outreach, P-Cards, Surplus, Shipping, Receiving and the Authority Warehouse.

Jana has always been an advocate for engaging small and local businesses. She provides training on “How to successfully compete for government contracts”, has served on various industry panels and participated in reverse trade shows and business matchmaking events. Prior to joining the Airport Authority Ms. Vargas held procurement leadership and management positions in Aerospace, Non-Profit/Higher Education, and with the City of Long Beach.


Rita Brandin, Moderator

Senior Vice President and Development Director
Newland Real Estate Group

Rita Brandin is Senior Vice President and Development Director at Newland Real Estate Group. Rita’s career in real estate spans 33 years beginning in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2006, she accepted a position with Newland Communities to direct activities for Symphony Park, a 61- acre mixed-use project in downtown Las Vegas. Ms. Brandin was responsible for the master plan design and entitlement, infrastructure design and construction, land sales execution and coordination of vertical development for Symphony Park.

Relocating to San Diego with Newland in 2012, Ms. Brandin is currently responsible for directing the planning and entitlement activities for Newland Sierra, LLC, a future 2,000 acre master plan community in North County. She oversees all aspects of land development from strategic planning and entitlement processing, and management of a multi-disciplinary internal and external consultant team comprised of planning, engineering, financial and legal professionals. She is also a member of Newland Real Estate Group’s senior leadership team.