Ascend Texas Chapters' Inspiring Across Generations Conference 2021
ReSolutions: Inspire Resilience with Mindful Solutions

Speaker Bios:


Day 1: Resilience - Transcending Diversity in Everyday Lives
Opening Keynote


Karen Ideno
Group Vice President. Private Label
Toyota Financial Services

Karen Ideno is group vice president at Toyota, overseeing the company’s private label financial solution for Mazda. In this capacity, she serves as group vice president, sales, product & marketing for Mazda Financial Services. Ideno is responsible for all Mazda Financial Services’ sales and marketing activities, including sales support, product development, market planning, branding, remarketing, analytics, and insurance operations. Ideno reports to Pete Carey, Toyota group vice president and president of Mazda Financial Services.

Ideno began her career at Toyota holding various management positions including marketing manager and national marketing manager. She was instrumental in developing and growing the marketing department through such initiatives as the launch of the Toyota Financial Services brand, various product introductions, the launch of, and the creation of the company’s corporate social responsibility function. In 2006, Ideno was appointed national manager of corporate communications, corporate social responsibility, and government affairs. She and her team significantly expanded and improved the company’s internal communication strategy, media relations, and philanthropic endeavors. In 2007, the California State Senate recognized Ideno’s role in developing the company’s charitable activities, particularly in “Making Life Easier” for the youth of the Boys & Girls Club of East Los Angeles.

Ideno was promoted to corporate manager of marketing and brand in 2008. She was responsible for all Toyota and Lexus Financial Services marketing strategies including market planning, direct and digital marketing, social media, advertising, brand engagement, incentive and recognition programs, and customer and dealer experience initiatives. In 2013, Ideno was promoted to vice president of product, marketing & brand, remarketing, and business analytics. In this role, Ideno was responsible for all Toyota and Lexus Financial 
Services’ marketing, and oversaw the market planning, brand, loyalty, product development, sales, product and marketing analytics, retail & lease product operations, remarketing, and insurance products and operations departments.

Ideno is a national trustee of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, as well as a member of the American Marketing Association, the International Association of Business Communicators, and the UCLA Alumni Association. She is executive sponsor of the North American Advisory Council for Women Influencing & Impacting Toyota (WIIT) and has served as executive sponsor of Toyota Asian American Society in Alliance (TAASIA). She was recognized as one of the 100 Leading Women by Automotive News and honored by the Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce for her leadership in advancing diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Ideno earned her Master of Business Administration in Finance and Marketing from Pepperdine University, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Executive Panel: Resiliency and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
Speakers & Moderator

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Anjit Bajwa


EVS Tax Partner

Anjit is a principal in KPMG’s Economic and Valuation Services (EVS) practice based in Houston, TX. Anjit leads the Energy and Chemicals industry sector for the EVS practice. He also serves as the National Industry leader for Chemicals, tax as well as Engineering and Construction, tax

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Becky Caleb

Senior VP Enterprise Transaction Services Technology

Bank of America

Rebecca Caleb leads Technology Delivery for Enterprise Transaction Services including Enterprise Card Issuance, Cash Transportation, Image & Transaction Services Technology. She has overall responsibility for Portfolio Management - Strategy, Delivery, Execution, End to End Testing of Software Deliverables including Testing Automation, Solutions Engineering Architecture, Risk and Audit management.


She specializes in strategic enterprise wide transformations aimed at maximizing ROI through application of new technologies, methodologies, systems and services, driving digital innovation engineering and architecture, process improvement, promoting enterprise business agility, and operational excellence for creation of better products and client experience.


With an extensive background in Information Technology, Business and Management, she has held various leadership roles in implementing large scale technology integrations, portfolio management, agile transformations, application solutions development engineering, testing strategies, infrastructure, product management and business process reengineering at the bank and in prior organizations.


Becky is the Chair for Asian Leadership Network - North Texas at Bank of America, which has over 1350 members. She is a passionate advocate and champion for diversity and inclusion, empowerment of women leaders, engaged with multiple local employee networks - Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Development (LEAD) for Women, Inter-Generational (IGEN), Black Professional Group (BPG), Women in Technology & Operations (WIT&O), volunteers with Girls Who Code and Better Money Habits efforts. As an active mentor, she has been instrumental in launching various programs such as Mentoring in North Texas program across employee networks at Bank of America, launching the “Share your Story” series (A platform for employees to share their experiences) and has driven strong partnerships with the local community schools to promote financial literacy for students. She is a renowned speaker and panelist at multiple conferences including Women in Technology International, National Association of Asian American Professionals, Bank of America Innovation Days, DevCon events and other summits driving the culture of innovation and excellence forward.


She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Engineering, Master of Science degree in Management Information Systems along with many other industry certifications. Becky lives in Frisco, Texas with her husband and her two children.

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Jimmy Cheung

SVP of Technology and Engineering

Experian Consumer Services, North America

Senior Vice President of Technology and Engineering - Presides over North American Experian Consumer Services application development and data services developing direct to consumer (DTC) products for managing financial services. Directs application builds for three strategic platforms in credit and identify theft protection to yield $1B+ annual revenue.

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Taimur Ghazi

Director – Risk Consulting


Taimur, a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), has over ten years of experience in IT audit and compliance, governance, risk management, business process improvement and automation, user security, change management, IT operations, and cyber security. He is a subject-matter expert on specific matters relevant for Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act and internal controls over financial reporting (ICFR), including IT general controls, system configuration controls, manual business process controls, application security controls, data quality and analytic controls, etc., to provide reasonable assurance that financial statements are free of material misstatements. Taimur also performs compliance audits included in Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act (FDICIA) reporting standards.


He specializes in providing IT audit and risk consulting services for a variety of public and private companies in the energy, manufacturing and distribution, financial services, real estate, and technology sectors. This includes ensuring that audit efficiencies are achieved through the testing of IT general controls and IT application controls for the SOX 404 and financial statement audits.



Kristin Yoshida

Ascend Leadership

Board Member Crescendum

Kristin Yoshida is a Board Member for Ascend National and Ascend Houston.  She leads the Ascend L&D Strategy for next generation Leadership Programming.

Day 2: Resilience - Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling

BRG Leaders Panel:

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David Chen

Vice President

Sixth Street

David is a Vice President at Sixth Street based in New York and is the Co-Leader of the Pan-Asian Employee Affinity Group at Sixth Street. Prior to joining Sixth Street, David was a Vice President of Compliance at Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Before Goldman, he worked at Winmill & Co. most recently as an Assistant Vice President. David graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Economics and is a member and contributor to numerous Asian-American community organizations based in New York City, Ann Arbor, and Detroit.

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Soumava Dey

Actuarial BI Analyst/Manager 


Soumava Dey is currently working as Actuarial Business Intelligence Analyst/Manager in Life and Retirement Actuarial Science department at AIG. He is responsible for providing data analytics and infrastructure support to actuarial groups who reporting on life and annuity products, including mortality, lapse, and policyholder behavior. Soumava joined AIG in September of 2015. Prior to joining AIG, Soumava served various Insurance customers such as AXA-UK, Chartis Insurance and Sunamerica  within Life and Retirement business vertical. He holds a master’s degree in Data Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the West Bengal University of Technology in India. He is a freelance Data Science writer with recent publication in the Society Of Actuaries newsletter and the preprint Health Science journal ‘medRxiv’.

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Pankaj Sarda

Global Head of Lending Operations, Transaction Banking

Goldman Sachs

Pankaj Sarda is the Global Head of Lending Operations, Transaction Banking at Goldman Sachs. Previously to GS, he spent the last 10 years at Capital One as the Head of Operations, Small Business Bank (Deposit, Treasury and Lending) and also as the Operation Leader of the Credit Card Product.  Prior to Financial sector, Pankaj spent the first 8 years of his career in Manufacturing Industries as Six Sigma Operations leader with companies like General Electric, American Standard and Amcor Healthcare Packaging.  He has a Master’s Degree in Plastic Engineering from the University of Lowell and an MBA from University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.


Pankaj and his wife, Tripti, have two sons – Neil (10 years) and Veer (6 years) and they live in Plano, Texas. He loves to travel within the US and around the world and also enjoys cooking, reading, playing cricket and spending time with friends and family.

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Elaine Zhou

Associate Director


Elaine Zhou is an Associate Director at Protiviti, a global consulting firm that serves 60% of fortune 1000 companies. Elaine helps her clients with public company readiness, risk and internal audit transformation, and process improvement.


Elaine founded Protiviti’s Asian Employee Network Group, Aspire, 3 years ago in Dallas, then took Aspire to the global stage a year ago, and now serves as global lead for Aspire. Aspire aims to support Protiviti Asian employees as they grow their careers and build strong relationships with the larger business community. Elaine also serves as a Director for Ascend NTX chapter.


Mentoring Circles

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Seenu Akunuri



Seenu Akunuri is a Principal in PwC’s Deals practice in Houston, Texas.  As the leader for PwC’s US Energy and Mining Valuation practice, Seenu has built a solid reputation as the “go-to person” that can solve complex valuation issues around mergers, acquisitions, global tax restructuring, re-domiciliation of assets, divestitures and other domestic, global and cross-border transactions. 


Seenu has advised clients on significant transactions in all sectors of the energy and mining industries including, upstream, midstream, downstream and oil field services. Seenu’s experience includes valuations of assets including, oil and gas reserves, mines, precious minerals, acreage,  storage and pipeline assets, downstream assets, drilling rigs, subsea ROVs, platforms, oilfield equipment and services companies.


As one of PwC’s valuation specialists, Seenu has presented and published  thought leadership topics impacting the energy and mining industries. Seenu is a contributing author to the valuation chapter of Professional Development Institute and PwC’s Petroleum Accounting textbook. He also co-authored thought leadership articles on various valuation topics, most recently on valuation issues in upstream E&P companies under the current commodity price environment.


Seenu and his team fully understand the requirements of the IRS, SEC and PCAOB and have successfully supported their valuation work when reviewed by these regulatory agencies. 


Seenu was a director in Standard & Poor’s Corporate Value Consulting (“CVC”) before rejoining PwC in October 2005. Seenu is an Accredited Senior Appraiser, Certified Business Appraiser and Certified Valuation Analyst. He is a member of the the American Society of Appraisers and the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts.  Seenu holds an MBA with a concentration in Finance and Accounting from Tulane University.

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Chris Chew Tsing-Li 

Audit Partner


Chris is an Audit Partner in KPMG’s Houston office. Other than Houston, Chris had also served in KPMG’s Malaysia and Baton Rouge office. In total he has more than 16 years of experience assisting clients with financial statement audits, audit of internal controls, due diligence services, initial public offerings, and public and private debt offerings.



Kenny Dao

Application Sales Manager


Kenny Dao is currently an Application Sales Manager at Oracle. He is a Texas native from the great city of Dallas, TX currently living in Austin, TX. Kenny attended Texas A&M University for his undergrad and is a diehard professional/college football fan. At Oracle, Kenny also serves as the Austin hub lead for the Asian-American ERG, Oracle Pan-Asian Leadership, as well as engages in a variety of mentorship opportunities in his organization. In his free time, he competitively powerlifts and does freelancing photography.



Anand Gopalakrishnan

Sr. Software Development Manager - Product Cyber Security

General Motors

Gopalakrishnan “Anand” is a senior manager with 20 years of global leadership experience in Software Development, Cloud Computing & Digital Transformation.  In his most recent leadership role in the Cybersecurity space, he was pivotal in establishing security controls for in-vehicle electronic control units’ communication.


Prior to joining GM, Anand has worked for Chrysler where he held various leadership positions.  Anand earned his Electrical Engineering degree from India.  Also, he holds a Master's degree in Information Technology from University of Canberra, Australia and an MBA from Michigan State University.

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Greg Hsiao

Associate Consultant


Greg is a consultant with a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work.


Outside of work hours, he loves to play sports and try new food places.


He is always happy to connect with new faces so feel free to add him on LinkedIn.

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Steve Lyell

Tax Partner


Steve is a Tax Partner in KPMG’s State and Local Tax Practice in Houston, Texas. Steve has more than fifteen years of experience advising clients on state and local tax issues with a primary focus in the areas of income/franchise and property tax. Steve serves as one of KPMG’s State Tax Resource for Texas franchise tax

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Lisa Ong

President and Founder

Wishing Out Loud LLC

Lisa Ong is an executive coach, speaker, and diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and belonging consultant. Lisa specializes in DEI, leadership development, coaching, and facilitation.

Before founding Wishing Out Loud LLC, Lisa was a national diversity director in Diversity and Inclusion at PwC. She designed strategies to retain, develop and advance diverse talent. She focused on minority retention and advancement efforts as well as growing inclusive leaders at all levels.

A widely known “talent gardener” and “Inclusion connector,” Lisa helps individuals and organizations achieve goals, emphasizing inclusive leadership skills for meaningful relationships. She shares her coaching approach with her clients to discover their strengths, dream big and keep strategically “wishing out loud” to create opportunities to shine and be their best.

Lisa is a seasoned business executive with a background in audits and senior human capital roles. Lisa earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting from The University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Management degree from The University of Texas at Dallas. She is a Texas Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by The International Coach Federation.

Lisa speaks on diversity, equity, inclusion topics, unconscious bias, bridging cultural differences, authentic leadership, building meaningful relationships, and communicating with impact through storytelling. Lisa is the 2020 Chair of the TXCPA Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She is an active Lifetime Member of Ascend and a national Executive Advisor. As one of the executive coaches for Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (, she coaches rising Pan Asian leaders. She serves on the Programs Committee for the ICF North Texas Chapter. She volunteers with her church, the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, The University of Texas at Arlington’s Diversity, Race, Equity, Inclusion Council, and Just One Thing, a North Texas grassroots organization promoting racial equity. D CEO magazine named her to their 2020 and 2021 editions of The Dallas 500 Directory as “one of the most powerful business leaders in DFW.” Dallas Business Journal also recognized her with a 2017 Minority Business Leaders Award for her leadership. In 2020, UTD Jindal School of Business awarded her an OWLIE Award (Outstanding Worthy Leader, Involved Exceptionally) as an Outstanding Alum.

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Manoj Prakasam

Enterprise Agile Coach

Bank of America

Manoj Prakasam is a passionate Agile leader, Enterprise Agile Coach, SAFe Program Consultant (SPC 4.6) with 10+ years’ experience in Agile / SAFe / Scrum /Kanban. He kick started the AgileDigital transformation in Mobile Appincluding setting up the Erica: AI-powered digital financial assistant chatbot scrum teams.


He has facilitated Program Increment  (PI) sessions with multiple Trains with 100+ participants. Coached 250+ associates on Lean Agile and SAFe Agilist. Focus on continuous improvement of teams and process to ensure smoother delivery for teams.

With an extensive experience  in Information Technology, Business and Management  across Telecom, Retail, Airline, Banking and other industries he has held various leadership roles in implementing large scale Agile transformations, Program Management and testing including activating the 1st  ever iPhone at Cingular Wireless (AT&T)


Manoj is a pillar leader for recruiting members for the Asian Leadership Network - North Texas chapter at Bank of America, which has over 1350 members. He is a passionate advocate and champion for diversity and inclusion, a keen volunteer of North Texas Food Bank, Susan G. Komen, Bank of America Innovation Days and multiple other events.


He holds a BS in Mechanical and Engineering & Masters in Management Engineering along with many other industry certifications like SAFe Program Consultant, Agile Certified Coach, Agile Facilitator. Manoj lives in Allen, TX with his wife & two kids.

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Caroline Riskey

Managing Director - Corporate Treasury

Goldman Sachs

Caroline Riskey is a managing director at Goldman Sachs in the Corporate Treasury division. She leads the global insurance and advisory group for the firm. Her experience spans multiple investing divisions in real estate, mortgages, and consumer loan business.


She is the co-sponsor of the Dallas Asian Network and has been with the firm for over 18 years. Caroline serves on the Board of Ascend North Texas chapter, and a member of the Texas Women's Foundation's Orchid Giving Circle.



Emily Rollins

Public Board Director

Dolby Laboratories, Xometry, McAfee and Science 37

Public Board Director, Dolby Laboratories, Xometry, McAfee and Science 37 |Retired Audit & Assurance Partner, Deloitte | Early-Stage to IPO in Software/ SaaS, Payments, Life Sciences & Others


Emily served in various positions at Deloitte & Touche LLP, including as an Audit and Assurance Partner until retiring in Fall 2020. At Deloitte, she served technology and life sciences companies and guided hundreds of clients through complex audit and reporting processes. Emily also led firm-wide initiatives to recruit, develop and retain women and diverse professionals as well as transform and modernize Deloitte's audit platform. Emily is a deeply trusted advisor to founders and executive teams, and is respected in the boardroom for her calm diplomacy and ability to keep her peers focused and engaged. She currently serves on the boards of directors of Dolby Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE:DLB), Xometry, Inc. (Nasdaq: XMTR), McAfee (Nasdaq: MCFE), and Science 37 (Nasdaq: SNCE) as well as several non-profit entities, the Austin Healthcare Council, Great Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, and the Austin Chapter of Ascend. Emily has an extensive network and is a thoughtful, strategic connector.

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Rahul Sahni

Vice President

Bank of America

Rahul Sahni is a senior software developer and scrum master providing technology services for treasey suites of application in Bank of America. He has successfully led his team in agile journey and adoption from crawl to leap with bank wide agile transformational projects. He specializes in moderatization of Mainframe applications and provides guidance and leadership for such projects. 


Rahul has extensive background in Mainframe technologies for both banks and airlines, has held project manager and technology lead roles in implementing transform projects, capacity planning for high volume transaction processing and agile transformation. 


Rahul is co-lead for recruitment pillar of Asian Leadership Network - North Texas chapter at Bank of America, which has over 1350 members. He has been instrumental in induction of new members to the network, mentoring them, providing guidance on various volunteering activities of the network. The recruitment pillar of ALN-NTX chapter also works with HR and other networks to help new joiners get familiar with the bank's culture, volunteerism, leadership programs and community outreach. 


He has a Bachelor of Engineering degree in electronics, certification in project management from business school in India. He is a certified scrum master and holds many other industry certifications. Rahul lives in Celina, TX with his wife and two daughters.

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Lana Tran

Global Human Capital Strategy & Transformation Leader

Baker McKenzie

Lana is a Board Director for the Ascend North Texas chapter, the chapter's immediate past president, and a Lifetime Ascend member. Lana has over 20 years of professional and human capital consulting experience with leading management consultancies. She is currently one of the leaders for Baker McKenzie's global human capital transformation program.

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Angela Yeh

EPS Director of Product Operations


There’s a saying that “there are no million-dollar ideas, only million-dollar executions.”  I sincerely believe that.  As a veteran Program Manager, I have led PMOs and Product Operations.  In these roles my work served one purpose - to deliver programs/products to generate more revenue.  I get excited for new initiatives, and even more so leading teams through the change curve, watching high performing, diverse teams come to life. 


I am current Director of Product Operations for Experian Partner Solutions business unit.  Before this role I served with Cox Automotive for over 12 years, transforming both PMOs and Product Orgs with scaled agile framework and commercialization.  Prior to that I held various program management and consulting roles for over 12 years.


I am certified in SVPG (Marty Cagan) Product Management, Pragmatic Product Launch and Marketing, 280Group Digital Product Management, PROSCI Change Management and Lencioni’s The Advantage.  I believe organizational health is the fast track to high performance. 


Day 3: Resilience - Finding New Pathways

Ascend Leadership Talks:



Jade Huang

Regional Vice President


Jade was born in China but grew up in Austin, Texas. Having to adapt to a new environment, learn a second language and help out the family at a young age, she is no stranger to adversity and building resilience. Jade attended the University of Texas on a full academic scholarship and graduated in 3 years, majoring in Corporate Communications. While in College, Jade founded her own business to provide Chinese translation and education programs for the community. 

Within the last few years, Jade has hosted Asian American Cultural events throughout Austin for different non-profit organizations, such as Chinese Society of Austin and Austin Chinese American-Network. She was a Board Director for the Chinese Society of Austin where she helped in building and hosting programs to cultivate and promote Asian cultures with the people of Austin. She is currently the Co-President of Ascend Austin Chapter and the Regional Vice President at Financialforce, where she is responsible for the rollout of the Go-To-Market strategies for North America clients. Prior to Financialforce, she was a Sales Director at Oracle and led Oracle Professional Asian Leadership ERG with the goal of educating, raising awareness and providing volunteer opportunities for all employees. Jade is passionate about Diversity & Inclusion, community service and giving back to the community.



Anu Mandapati

Vice President, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Talking Talent

Anu Mandapati is the Vice President, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Talking Talent. She is also a leadership, team and well-being coach with 20 years of diversity, inclusion, leadership and organizational development experience. Anu specializes in coaching teams and organizations to increase their diverse talent pool, develop more inclusive staff at all levels, and increase performance and retention by creating work cultures where people feel like they can bring all of who they are to work and succeed. Her leadership tips, tools and strategies have been featured in various publications including Forbes, Fortune, HR Daily Advisor, Inc., and Money.



Susan Pham

Senior CX Program Manager


Susan Pham is a Senior Customer Experience Program Manager at Experian, where she provides program management expertise, brings strategic alignment across multiple workstreams and stitches together efforts to effectively drive vision for excellent customer experience. She has over 10 years of Agile, project management and digital marketing experience, with previous positions at GoTo, Yahoo!, and iCrossing. Susan is actively involved in the Asian American Employee Resource Group at Experian and various volunteering activities.

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Ram Ramanujam

Program Management Director

General Motors Electric Vehicles “Ultium” and “Hydrotec” Propulsion Systems

Ram is an operations and manufacturing executive, with over 30 years experience in the automotive sector. He is currently the Program Management Director for General Motors Electric Vehicles “Ultium” and “Hydrotec” Propulsion systems. His experience includes overseeing manufacturing and manufacturing engineering operations, GM’s Powertrain operations in Asia, and launching the Chevrolet Bolt EV


Ram earned an undergraduate degree. in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirapalli, a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University, and a MBA from the University of Michigan.


He lives in Michigan with his wife, parents and in-laws, and enjoys spending time with his sons. He also serves on professional and non-profit boards.

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Derek Wang

Senior Cyber Consultant


Derek Wang is currently a Senior Consultant within the Data Protection and Privacy practice at Ernst & Young, and previously worked at Deloitte as a Cybersecurity Consultant. Derek is a military veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps as a Combat Engineer and has a sense of humor drier than the desert training areas around his primary duty station, Camp Pendleton. He currently lives in Katy, Texas, and is a proud Longhorn from The University of Texas at Austin where he studied Biology and Identity Management & Security for his Bachelors and Masters respectively.


Derek is a Taiwanese – ‘Murican, avid proponent of Bill Nye the Science Guy, self-proclaimed foodie with a penchant for hole-in-the-wall establishments, outspoken supporter of well-being, hypocritically not following own well-being advice, overly-zealous with dad jokes, and a living anachronism that does not have much interest in TikTok and hashtags. His future plans include getting more “woke”, incorrectly using Gen Z slang for maximum cringe effect, and pursuing a new federal law enforcement career.


Not Your Typical Asian-American, AMA. #ReSolutions



Summer Xiao

Deputy CIO Enterprise Applications/PMO

City of Houston

Summer Xiao is the Deputy CIO for Enterprise Applications and Project Management Office at the City of Houston. Her teams provide value-add technology services for multiple city departments and strive to make a positive impact to city operations and city services through digital transformation. Prior to joining the City of Houston, Summer was a solution delivery director for a business technology consulting firm. Her past experience also includes being responsible for the entire IT operations at an advertising company. Summer has years of business and IT experience working in various industries and developing efficient teams that deliver technology solutions which increase revenue, reduce cost, and maximize efficiency. Summer Xiao graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems. She is also a PMI certified Project Management Professional with many years of hands-on project implementation experience.

The Pastry Warrior with Gracie Nguyen:
Day 3: Resilience - Finding new Pathways
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Gracie Nguyen

The Pastry Warrior

Gracie Nguyen aspired to be a pastry chef ever since she was a young child poking around in her mother's kitchen. She attended the Culinary Institute LeNotre, graduating as Valedictorian of her class. Fresh out of school, the aspiring chef landed a job as a pastry cook at Mark's American Cuisine, one of Houston's acclaimed fine dining restaurants. Gracie continued her education at the University of Houston's Hilton College in the hospitality program, while juggling her position at Marks and raising her four year old daughter as a single mother. As if the workload wasn't enough, shortly after being promoted to the pastry chef at Marks, Gracie was involved in the 2014 SXSW Festival Tragedy where 4 people died on site and about 20 others were rushed to nearby hospitals for critical treatment. Despite surviving the catastrophic incident, she didn't leave unscathed with broken bones, torn knee ligaments, a minor stroke, and traumatic brain injury. Though she has recovered for the most part, major side effects from the stroke caused her partial vision loss and loss of her senses of smell and taste. Needless to say, her pastry chef career got significantly more complicated, as a result. However, Gracie's strong ambition for success pushed her to adapt her handicaps to continue on her path. Post graduation, Gracie quickly secured the executive pastry chef position at The Briar Club, where she built up an elaborate pastry program to meet the needs and standards of the prestigious country club. After several years spent at TBC, Gracie decided to start a new chapter, focusing on family and her personal pastry business.