top of page


Empowering Women 2020 Winners

Tradeswoman of the Year - Deila Ray
Saleswoman of the Year - Carol Kunkel
Nandini Easwar - Engineer of the Year
Emerging Leader of the Year - Megan Livak
Mentor of the Year - Amanda Kurt
Innovator of the Year - Amanda Nummy
Rasha Maal-Bared - Leadership in STEM/STEAM
Marketer of the Year - Christy Behnke
Industry Advocate - Shea Dunifon
Leadership in Manufacturing - Kate Rome
Leadership in Reliability & Operations - Mandy Klopp

The Empowering Women of the Year is our favorite Podcast Producer, Host & Photographer, Bethany Womack!

Amanda Kurt

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year and Industry Advocate

Amanda grew up in SE Wisconsin and has been involved in the construction industry since childhood. Amanda became involved in the family business after receiving her BS in Structural Engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering. In 2013, Amanda became the vice president and managing partner at Kurk, Inc. 


Amanda’s role within the small family business includes a variety of tasks such as daily operations, project design, bidding, employee development, and marketing. She is passionate about teaching the next generation about careers in the trades. She organizes two local events, Touch a Truck, where children climb on and learn about construction vehicles, and Kurk Kids, where children build different projects.


Professionally, she is involved with trade associations including ABC Wisconsin, Lakeland Builders Association, Concrete Foundations Association, and American Concrete Institute. In addition to her work at Kurk, Inc, Amanda also owns and develops small scale real estate.

Photo - Amanda N 2020.jpg

Amanda Nummy

Nominated for: Engineer of the Year, Emerging Leader & Innovator of the Year

Amanda is a senior engineer with eight years of experience in the automotive and fuel cell industries. She earned a BS in Polymer, Textile, and Fiber Engineering from Georgia Tech, MS in Materials Science from Wayne State, and is currently pursuing postgraduate studies in Biomimicry from ASU. She works at the Hyundai-Kia Technical Center, where she is responsible for plant support and new application development of all plastic components for North and South America. Most notably, she has led development of a sustainable coating technology to replace paint, publishing an international paper and giving two presentations at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress. Her next project involves reclaiming plastic waste from the ocean for use in electric vehicles. Amanda recently founded a women's group at her workplace, launching initiatives for gender balance, professional development, and community outreach. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, traveling, and 3D printing.

Barbara Trautlein Photo.jpg

Barbara Trautlein, PhD

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year

Barbara Trautlein, PhD is author Change Intelligence:  Use the Power of CQ to Lead Change that Sticks, Chief Catalyst at Change Catalysts, and originator of the CQ® System for Developing Change Intelligence®. For over 30 years, Barbara has coached executives, trained leaders at all levels, certified change agents, and facilitated transformational change.  In 2015 she had the honor of being named Change Management Consultant of the Year by the Association of Change Management Professionals.  Barbara is gifted at sharing strategies and tactics that are accessible and actionable.  She has a unique ability to connect with her audiences, from C-level executives in Fortune 500 organizations to front line employees, and across industries, from steel mills to sales teams, refineries to retail outlets, and healthcare to high tech.  Clients served include Abbott Laboratories, BP, Cisco, Ford, Steel Dynamics, and ThyssenKrupp.  Barbara holds a doctorate in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan.

Billie Turner Photo.jpg

Billie Jo Turner

Nominated for: Emerging Leader of the Year

Billie Jo Turner is an Engineering Designer with the Product Architecture Management Team at ABB where she is responsible for innovative component redesign which will lead to  business improvements and cost savings, and she focuses on component complexity reduction and process streamlining.  Billie Jo has a degree in Automotive Technology from the University of Arkansas Fort Smith where she was the recipient of the Academic Excellence Award in her field.  She is a firm believer that manufacturing and engineering are very appropriate career paths for young women due to the variety of opportunities they provide.  Due to her own desire to grow professionally, she is now pursuing her Mechanical Engineering degree while working full-time. Billie Jo participates in the Society of Women Engineers, Motion Young Professionals, and STEM mentoring programs and student activities in her community.  


Bridget Jones

Nominated for: Industry Advocacy

Bridget Jones is a Mechanical Engineer on the Product Architecture Management team at ABB in Fort Smith, Arkansas. In her role she is responsible for product improvements and cost savings. What Bridget really enjoys about working in manufacturing is the ability to use her knowledge to solve problems for customers, create new designs, and improve the processes and products in front of her. Throughout the year, Bridget hosts students from local communities on the Fort Smith campus, organizing plant tours, presentations, and hands-on activities. She is a true advocate for manufacturing as a career choice, and she explains to the students the variety of jobs that are needed, the skills they require, and the career paths they lead to. She mentors local high school robotics classes, is heavily involved in K-12 careers fairs, and serves as the Community Outreach Director for ABB’s local Young Professionals Chapter. Bridget has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Arkansas and an MBA with an emphasis in leadership and ethics from John Brown University.


Christy Behnke

Nominated for: Marketer of the Year

Christy is the Marketing Leader at Rittal North America. She has 15 years of experience in marketing and has spent the last six years building brand awareness and lead conversion for companies in the manufacturing sector. Christy is also a part of the Affinity Group at Rittal, where she coaches other females in the company and helps them grow their skills so they can advance their careers in manufacturing. 

Christy serves on the YP Board of Directors for Carpenter’s Place, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide the tools necessary to rebuild the lives of homeless adults. She also is a member of the Board of Directors for The Rockford Skate Club. 

In her spare time, she loves spending time outdoors hiking with her family and their Bernese mountain dog, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  She also likes to travel, play tennis, read and cook.


DeIla Ray

Nominated for: Tradeswoman of the Year

As a woman who began her career in the shadows of a male dominated industry with zero experience her path may have seemed dark at first. DeIla, a combo pipe welder, utilized every opportunity she had to learn welding and fabricating. Encouraging and showing other women that this line of work can be done by anyone, DeIla is always seeking ways to reach out to other women. 


Recently, DeIla has also become a certified Niron Fusion Welder broadening her skillsets as a pipe welder. Traveling all across the country from compressor stations, refineries, water treatment and waste water treatment facilities, to now striking an arc as her own boss, the desire to always excel reigns true. Becoming an entrepreneur has not only motivated DeIla in personal growth, it has sparked an even larger desire to inspire and empower women looking to do the same. Now, six years later the only darkness that falls is when her hood drops.


Chelsea Becker

Nominated for: Leadership in STEM / STEAM & Innovator of the Year

In her current role as Product Architect Manager at ABB, Chelsea Becker is helping lead a newly created team by developing new processes and tools to enable a ground-breaking company transition to a Modular Configure to Order Product Platform. As part of the Product Architect Management team, she is leading a pilot project, gathering lessons learned, and pushing to continuously improve this new process for upcoming product launches. Chelsea holds a BSME from the University of Arkansas and an MBA from Webster University. With over thirteen years in the manufacturing industry, she has held several roles within ABB including design engineering and project management.  She is passionate about manufacturing, mentoring, and STEM outreach. She was a Manufacturing Institute STEP Ahead Emerging Leader for the class of 2016. 


Jenna Johns

Nominated for: Marketer of the Year, Leadership in Manufacturing & Leadership in Reliability & Operations

Jenna is the COO of RDI Technologies, Inc. and manages the strategic vision and execution of RDI’s internal operations and marketing. She is dedicated to ensuring that RDI’s customers get the best product, support, and experience possible. 

Jenna started out her career working for two Fortune 500 companies in finance, accounting, and contract management providing her with a strong operational foundation. Before joining RDI she was a private consultant engaged with entrepreneurial startup companies conducting market studies and building business plans, marketing plans, and financial models. She also conducted industry and market  assessments for government commercialization teams to help ensure that government funded research was translated to use or licensed to a business. Jenna has engaged with numerous venture capital firms reviewing business plans and financial models for investment and currently serves on the Board of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. 

Jenna graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelors degree in Finance, Logistics, and International Business. 

Profile Pic 2.jpg

Carol Kunkel

Nominated for: Saleswoman of the Year

Carol Kunkel is the Director of Inside Sales & Customer Service for the mechanical power transmission division of ABB in Greenville, South Carolina.  She has been with the company her entire career, starting shortly after high school, and has held a variety of roles in sales and marketing during that time.  Many years ago, Carol created a credo for her team that “Every customer interaction is our opportunity to retain a valued customer, increase revenue, build loyalty, or strengthen our brand,” and she lives that philosophy every day.  What she truly loves about her job is building relationships with her customers, determining how to improve their experiences, exceeding their expectations, and building a reputation for the company and the products as a result.  Carol and her team many times are the “voice of the customer” back into the organization, and they become the hub of information back to the customer as a result.  The DODGE brand of Power Transmission products (est. 1878) is industry known for its outstanding culture and standard for placing the customer first.


Carol is a servant leader, motivating her team and others in the organization to provide the best customer service in the industry.  Carol has also invested in herself throughout her career, going to school at night while raising a family and working fulltime.  As a result of her dedication and drive, she is a proud graduate of Furman University Undergraduate Evening Studies program majoring in Business Administration.  


When not talking Power Transmission, Carol shares her time with many in the community including the United Way of Greenville County, where she serves as Vice Chair of the Women’s Leadership Board; helping found a local women’s philanthropy networking group; and mentoring middle school “girls at risk” in Greenville’s Title I program.


An avid Clemson University football fan and amateur genealogist, Carol lives in Simpsonville SC with her husband Mark and adult children Mitchell, and Julianne.    


Edna Sugden

Nominated for: Saleswoman of the Year

Edna has been involved in Water Treatment for 30 years.  Starting as a temporary receptionist with the goal to improve office skills while selecting a career path, the path chose her.  She never left that first temp position!  She has been with Parkson Corporation (Hycor Equipment) since the start of her adult work life in 1991.  Through the years of corporate ladder “navigating” (sometimes climbing, sometimes descending through company re-orgs), she has accumulated skills in Accounting, Purchasing, Parts Sales, Capitol Sales, Applications, Key Account Management and Project Management. She is an experienced people leader as a Project Team Manager and Aftermarket Sales Team Manager. 


Training:  Miller Heiman Large Account Management; Project Management Academy; UW – The Chemistry of Water; Six Sigma - Green Belt. 


Committees: Water For People ILAWWA Committee Chairperson from 2010 – 2012. Member from 2008 – 2010.

Emily Petropoulos_1.jpg

Emily Petropoulos

Nominated for: Marketer of the Year

My name is Emily and I am currently the Channel Marketing Specialist for Rittal North America LLC. Prior to joining Rittal, I started my career in 2011 as a Graphic Designer until switching my focus in 2013 to Marketing. Over the past 7 years, I have gained most of my experience serving the electrical and industrial markets. Most recently, I received my inbound and inbound marketing certifications from Hubspot, which have given me the insight and knowledge to create and implement successful content across the board. 


Outside of the office, I enjoy spending time with my 2-year old son and husband either at home or traveling to new places.


Jeanette Brown

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year & Leadership in STEM / STEAM

Jeanette Brown is currently a Research Assistant Professor at Manhattan College, where she teaches senior and graduate-level courses in environmental engineering and is the faculty advisor for the student wastewater design team.  Jeanette is a registered professional engineer and a Board-Certified Environmental Engineer.  She was named a Distinguished Member of ASCE in 2019 and has received several awards from WEF and ASCE.  She served as President of WEF and was the first woman president of EWRI and AAEES.  Her area of expertise is wastewater treatment.  She is also committed to educating wastewater operators, having taught many operator training courses, and as a judge for the WEF Operations Challenge competition. As Judge for the US Stockholm Junior Water Prize, she helps mentor high school students to become STEM professionals in the water sector. Her goal is to for students to commit themselves to life-long learning and give back to the profession.

028 4X5.jpg

Laura Hamilton

Nominated for: Engineer of the Year & Leadership in Manufacturing

Born and raised in Germany, Laura moved to the US shortly after earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Laura began her career at Rittal North America LLC in 2012. Moving to a different continent at a young age taught her independency, which has helped her grow both professionally and personally.

Laura began her career in Inventory Management, where she was able to further her skillsets through various roles in stock planning and inventory analysis. Recently being promoted to Supply Chain Manager, she leads Rittal’s efforts in establishing a cross-departmental Sales Inventory Operations Planning (SIOP) process.

Laura enjoys the challenge of maintaining a healthy balance between inventory reduction and material availability in a fast changing economic environment. As a leader, she strives to empower and support her (all-women) team.

In her spare time, Laura enjoys cooking and being out on a motorcycle with her husband. She hopes to start riding by herself by the end of summer.

Steak and Lobster Dinner_2019_28.jpg

Julie Mann

Nominated for: Innovator of the Year, Industry Advocacy & Leadership in Reliability & Operations

Julie Mann is the VP of Communications for United Way of West Alabama. She juggles public relations, marketing, event planning and coordinating the young professionals affinity group—all to build relationships that lead to donations of money or time to strengthen education, health and financial stability in her community.


Prior to United Way, Julie also worked in public relations for nonprofits including the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Birmingham Pledge Foundation. 


Julie graduated from The University of Alabama in advertising, moved to Sydney for a hot minute to market mobile phones to a growing Chine demographic, then returned to Alabama for her first post at a nonprofit. She is the current AAF-Tuscaloosa president and has served as president of PRCA and Chair of the West Alabama Food & Wine Festival.  She spends her free time playing fetch with her furry kids, Molly & Izzy, and thanks to “safer-at-home” has discovered a love of jigsaw puzzles. 

headshot (1).jpg

Kate Rome

Nominated for: Industry Advocacy & Leadership in Manufacturing

Kate Rome, President of Rome Grinding Solutions, leads the third-generation family run business. Rome has worked for the company since she was 16 years old, filling roles from purchasing and accounting to general management. In 2008, she became Vice President and in 2014 she was appointed President of the food processing equipment manufacturer. 

Kate has been dedicated to helping women advance their careers in the manufacturing industry. As the President of Rome Grinding Solutions, she has increased the number of female employees by 25%, and pressed other manufacturing companies to do the same. Rome leads the Women’s Alliance Network for the FPSA, and is the second woman ever to sit on the Board of the FPSA. Kate has been recognized for her contributions with the 2019 Influential Women In Manufacturing award.

In her spare time, Kate likes to cook, boat, garden and spend time with her husband, 3 kids and 2 bulldogs.  

KVG_high res.jpg

Kate VanGheem

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year & Saleswoman of the Year

Kate began her career at Rittal in 1997 working as an Administrative Assistant to a Regional Manager based in Illinois while working her way through college. She was promoted to Inside Sales and graduated from North Central College with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a minor in Marketing. Soon after, Kate was promoted to the Outside Sales Team and became the first female industrial salesperson for Rittal in the US. After leaving Rittal for a brief period to help her daughter beat cancer, Kate returned to Rittal in 2017 to head up an Inside Training program for Data Sales, and now coaches the Sales Development Representative (SDR) Team and runs the National Channel for IT.  She is currently working within Rittal to start the Rittal Affinity diversity group. In her free time, she volunteers as choir director at her church and had gone on 3 international mission trips.


Kathleen Weede

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year

Kathleen is a Business Development leader with over 20 years in the Pump Aftermarket and Service Solutions industry and she has experience in sales strategies, market penetration, program management and team leadership.

Currently, Kathleen is a Service Program Leader at Grundfos, the largest pump manufacturer in the world and a global leader in water technology.  In this role, she executes strategic projects that provide service excellence value to the channel and customers to generate service sales revenue.  As a member of the commercial excellence team, she continually strives to make a positive impact by encouraging communication, supporting achievements, promoting out of the box thinking, developing new skills and encouraging empowerment to make decisions. 

The heart and purpose of Kathleen's work comes from building a positive work environment, increase efficiency, work with purpose, exceed goals while building trustworthy relationships with a motivated team. 

kaylin headshot 2.jpg

Kaylin Leas

Nominated for: Tradeswoman of the Year

A former High School Rodeo Champion, Kaylin is a journeyman combo pipe welder. She learned welding on the job after befriending other welders who taught her the tricks of the trade. Practicing before, during, and after her shift, in 2013 she became proficient enough to pass her first welding test. Along with welding, she recently added soldering and brazing to her list of skills. She has worked all over the country on power and gas plants, ethanol processing facilities and everything in between.

Kaylin is also learning pipefitting to advance her career in commercial construction. Her motto is, “Be better, do better and set a good example.”  She currently works for TD Industries in Ft. Worth, TX as their only female welder. Categorized by her supervisors as a fast learner and hard worker, Kaylin often finds herself in demand for specialized jobs. She never misses an opportunity to mentor and motivate the up and coming women of construction. As a woman in a man’s world, she’s kind of a big deal!


Kayt Racz

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year & Marketer of the Year

Kayt Racz is the Director of Creative Storytelling for In Good Company where she leads the Creative and Marketing functions of the business. Kayt believes that stories are the most effective way to create deep and meaningful connections with every corner of the world—and that’s the approach she brings to In Good Company’s communications. Prior to In Good Company, Kayt worked at Microsoft where she led digital storytelling for their Public Affairs business—bringing key issues to the forefront by using a variety of new media channels.  


Kayt serves as a board member for Generation Citizen, where she chairs the Communications Committee. She holds a BA in Communications from Colby-Sawyer College. 


Krysten Marshall

Nominated for: Marketer of the Year

With over a decade in the industry, Krysten has developed a reputation of staying ahead of industry trends, maintaining client-focused services, and inspiring those around her. Krysten’s career has progressed from working as a marketing coordinator to leading business development for Garver’s Central and Western regions, which contain both Garver’s longest standing (Arkansas) and youngest (Colorado) markets. She has built a marketing team based on their specific skill sets, setting them up for success and enabling Garver’s technical staff to have highly talented resources necessary to successfully serve their clients. Krysten’s ability to inspire and build up those around her is rooted in nature, and she does so because she cares about not only her company’s success but the personal and professional success of each of her teammates.

Krysten’s passion for the industry and continuing education has become infectious across Garver’s footprint. Recently, she’s developed a series of webcasts that shares the knowledge of Garver’s subject matter experts with clients, operators, and others in our industry. These webcasts have resulted in a loyal, weekly following, which has furthered Garver’s brand recognition and her reputation for sharing knowledge and educating others. Krysten has become synonymous with passion, innovation, and leading industry trends among those who know her. It is that level of commitment that inspires those around her and keeps her on the industry frontlines.


Leanne Fuller

Nominated for: Industry Advocacy

Leanne Fuller is Human Resources Business Partner for ABB in Greenville, South Carolina, supporting business operations for approximately 400 employees.  Leanne began her HR career in the pulp and paper industry, and later worked in financial services and consulting.  She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and Master’s Degree from Clemson University.  Leanne has long been active with Society for HR Management, currently serving as president of the Greenville chapter, and recently joined other SHRM leaders in Washington, DC to advocate on Capitol Hill for workplace legislation.  She has served as Guest Lecturer at Clemson University, and has been involved in community leadership through United Way, YWCA, Workforce Investment Act, and advisory councils for PRISMA Healthcare and Clemson MBA.  Leanne tells students and young professionals that manufacturing provides a great foundation for any business career because you see all business functions as well as varied career options.


Marianne Trimble

Nominated for: Leadership in Manufacturing & Industry Advocate

Marianne Trimble is a Business Process Improvement/Sales Productivity Leader with Rittal North America, LLC.  She is responsible for the development and optimization of business processes, working cross-functionally across all departments to drive productivity through efficient processes and usage of enterprise systems.  In addition, she responsible for Sales Productivity, working closely with the sales teams to drive both strategic selling, maximize productivity and growth through the effective use of process, tools, and behaviors.


Marianne began her career in 1988 when she joined the Army National Guard/Reserves, working for the United States Army Civil Affairs and Physiological Operations Command in Ft. Bragg, NC. In 1994, Marianne began her career at Rittal as a Customer Service Representative; she then worked her way up through the company to an Inside Sales Manager until she was promoted to her current role.  In her spare time, Marianne enjoys spending time with her family and friends.


Lori McPherson

Nominated for: Tradeswoman of the Year, Mentor of the Year & Leadership in STEM / STEAM

Lori McPherson has been a Regional Sales Manager with Walchem/Iwaki America for 22 years, and now covers the Southeast U.S.  She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University, and a M.S. in Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech.   Prior to Walchem she has held positions as a Process Engineer, Waste Treatment Engineer, and Analytical Product Manager specializing in Conductivity, pH and ORP Measurements.   She has published many papers throughout the years on Analytical measurement and control, with emphasis on ORP/chlorine control and accurate conductivity measurements.  She resides in Merritt Island, FL where she enjoys playing the Cello, Bicycling, and Paddleboarding.


Megan (Meg) M. Livak

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year & Emerging Leader of the Year

Megan is the Manager of Students and Young Professionals Programs at the Water Environment Federation (WEF), an international organization of water quality professionals, headquartered in Alexandria, VA.  In this capacity, she is liaison to the Students and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC), six MAs, and oversees WEF’s Students and Young Professionals’ programs, including the Community Service Project and Water Palooza at WEFTEC; the WEF/AWWA YP Summit and the Emerging Young Professionals Leadership Workshop (EYPL) at the Utility Management Conference; the Midyear Springboard Program; and two YP Summits in connection with WEFMAX meetings. Her goal is to build a place for YP's to join, stay engaged and grow in preparation for taking on leadership roles, both within their MA's and within WEF.

Megan is actively involved with the Global Water Stewardship, a group of volunteers that empower and support local Costa Rican communities to develop a professional wastewater industry. She is also an endurance triathlete, raced for the 2017 USA Triathlon National Team and is a Team USA Triathlon Ambassador.

Mandy Profile Pic Candid.jpg

Mandy Klopp

Nominated for: Leadership in Reliability & Operations

Mandy Klopp began working in the poultry industry nearly 25 years ago, starting her career as an HR Generalist/Recruiter while finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management from Viterbo University.  She later worked her way through a Management Trainee Program leading to several promotions including Human Resource Manager, Plant Manager, and Complex Manager with responsibilities for safety, human resources, plant and live operations as well as environmental, and engineering.  During that time, her team facilitated three major capital project expansions allowing for continued sales growth.  During the spring of 2019, she was promoted to her current role of Head of Operations for Pilgrim’s with responsibilities for complexes located in Arcadia, WI; Moorefield, West Virginia; and Natchitoches, Louisiana.  Mandy is a Six Sigma Black Belt, and is certified in lean manufacturing, incident command, HAZMAT, APICS, and HACCP.  She is driven and passionate about her family, both at home and at work.  

nadine robertson head-shot photo.jpg

Nadine Robertson

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year, Leadership in STEM / STEAM, & Leadership in Reliability & Operations

Nadine Robertson is a Wastewater Treatment Operator for the City of Kenner. She also serves as the Student and Young Professionals Committee Chair for the Louisiana Water Environment Association and is an active member of WEF’s SYPC. Nadine supportsCTEs (Career and Technical Education) and is an advocate for Diversity and Inclusion.  


Recently, Nadine accepted an internship to serve as the Workforce Development Coordinator for the Water Environment Federation’s InFLOW (Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water) Program. In this role she supports WEF’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, offers program development assistance, and mentors minority students and young professionals entering the water industry. 


Nadine is a 2018 WEF Emerging Water Scholar and a 2019 Water Leadership Institute graduate. Nadine has a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology from the University of North Florida, an Associate's Degree in Process Technology from Nunez Community College, and is currently pursuing an Engineering Degree at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Nandini head shot.jpg

Nandini Easwar

Nominated for: Leadership in STEM / STEAM & Engineer of the Year

Nandini Easwar is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of Speakfully, Nandini focuses on solving workplace culture and mistreatment issues by building a modern, action-driven software product. Nandini strategically helps with product vision, execution, and technology scale planning to ensure success of her company’s mission. In addition, Nandini drives the overall technical roadmap, including product design, development, analytics, cloud infrastructure and tech stack, executed by an all-remote team of engineers and designers. Prior to working with Speakfully, Nandini was the Director of Software Engineering and subsequently of QA/IT Compliance at Esurance where she launched and released multiple products.

RMB Pic 2020.jpg

Rasha Maal-Bared

Nominated for: Leadership in STEM / STEAM, Industry Advocacy & Leadership in Reliability & Operations

Dr. Maal-Bared is the senior microbiologist at EPCOR Water Canada where she acts as the subject matter expert for EPCOR-operated drinking water and wastewater plants. She completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia and her master’s degrees at the Harvard School of Public Health and Dalhousie University. She received awards from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Research, and recently completed the WEF Water Leadership Institute program. She is the chair of the Waterborne Infectious Disease Outbreak Control subcommittee at WEF's Disinfection and Public Health committee and led the development of several technical guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the water sector. She serves on the editorial board of Science of the Total Environment and Data in Brief. When she’s not working, she enjoys travelling with her family and hunting Pokémon with her nine-year-old daughter.   

headshot (2).jpg

Lisa Dirksen

Nominated for: Marketer of the Year & Emerging Leader of the Year

Lisa Dirksen is an energetic marketing and communications executive who delivers vision, creativity, and measurable results. As an innovative strategic leader, she excels in growing individual and organizational strength with poise and positivity. She is currently the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC)—a non-profit organization committed to developing strong water and wastewater professionals through standardized testing and internationally recognized certifications. Prior to ABC, Lisa worked for a Fortune 100 company leading marketing, communication, and training initiatives. She received an MBA degree from Upper Iowa University and B.A. degrees in English and Communications from Iowa State University. In her free time, Lisa enjoys spending time with her family, creating art, and traveling.

Sarah Primrose Headshot.jpg

Sarah Primrose

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year, Emerging Leader of the Year & Industry Advocacy

Sarah Primrose is an associate with the Financial Restructuring group at the international law firm of King & Spalding LLP. Sarah’s practice focuses on representing debtors, lenders, and creditors in Chapter 11 cases throughout the country along with out-of-court workouts. In addition, Sarah represents litigants in contested matters, adversary proceedings, federal court appeals, and other bankruptcy and insolvency litigation. Sarah's practice spans a number of industries including energy, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, retail, real estate, and hospitality. Prior to joining the firm, she served as law clerk to Judge James E. Graves, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Chief Judge Paul G. Hyman, Jr. of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida. Sarah graduated summa cum laude  from the Michigan State University College of Law.

Shea_Dunifon_2-28-20_SF - Copy.jpg

Shea Dunifon

Nominated for: Leadership in STEM / STEAM, Emerging Leader of the Year & Industry Advocacy

Shea Dunifon has served as Pinellas County Utilities’ Education Coordinator for the South Cross Bayou Advanced Water Reclamation Facility (AWRF) since January 2017. Shea’s efforts to lead tours of the facility, visiting classrooms as a guest educator and participating in local school programming such as science fairs and STEM expos has led the program to interact with over 30,000 citizens each year.

Before joining Pinellas County Utilities, Shea worked in the soil fertilizer industry as an Agronomist. She’s interned at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Space and Life Sciences Laboratory and the USDA Subtropical Horticultural Research Station. Shea holds a Master of Science degree in the Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences from Virginia Tech.

Shea is an active member of several professional organizations and is currently the Chair of the Public Communications and Outreach Committee for the Florida Water and Environment Association.

Shelley Gager5.jpg

Shelley Gager

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year

With nearly 20 years of experience, Shelley Gager has become a valuable contributor to the mechanical business of ABB.  By using her technical background, sales experience, and leadership ability, she has a track record of improving processes, building relationships, and growing sales.  She leads her business team by developing strategies and establishing  priorities that result in designing, manufacturing, and marketing of products that solve customer needs.  This allows the customer to operate safer and in a more efficient and competitive manner.  She is passionate about developing and inspiring the next generation of leaders.  From elementary schools, middle schools, and peers within the organization, she drives positive change and encourages others to find their passion to make a positive difference in their future.  As the current ABB Global Product Manager for heavy-duty gearing, she believes her actions and enthusiasm are excellent ways to balance coaching and mentoring to help others identify a career that will fit their interest and passion.


Tamika Alexander

Nominated for: Innovator of the Year, Industry Advocacy & Leadership in Reliability & Operations

Tamika Alexander works as the director of United Way of West Alabama’s 2-1-1 Helpline. Residents that dial 2-1-1 can be referred to resources that can empower them toward self-sufficiency. 

Tamika also anchors the 10 p.m. news for WVUA-TV. While working at WVUA-TV, she received an Associated Press Broadcasters Award for Best Regularly Scheduled Newscast. She was featured in Tuscaloosa Magazine as one of the most intriguing people in Tuscaloosa and she was named a top 40 under 40 professional by Tuscaloosa News.

Tamika holds a Bachelor of Communications degree from the University of Alabama. She is an active member of several organizations including:  Alabama One Credit Union Board of Directors, Chamber of Commerce Women’s Leadership Alliance and she is a graduate of Leadership Tuscaloosa. 

Tamika attends Beulah Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa. Outside of her professional interest she loves being mom to her son Jayden, traveling, shopping and cooking.  


Tina Hanson

Nominated for: Mentor of the Year

For 35 years, Tina has developed not only her career but the careers of young engineers around her. She knows that the success of any project lies in the capability and skills of the team performing the work. With Tina leading Garver’s West Texas Business Team that covers hundreds of miles, having a team you can rely on is instrumental. Reflective of this is her encouragement to her team to take initiative and responsibility to lead projects and engage with clients. She knows that setting them up for success leads to a successful project. Because Tina knows that often the hardest obstacle young engineers face in their career is the opportunity to grow and showcase their capabilities. Through this effort, she enables them to create an identity and reputation that belongs solely to them.

Tina’s mentorship reaches beyond Garver and extends to the Tarleton (TX) State University’s Student Design Team. As a mentor, she’s a resource to guide and educate students, helping them further their career and become more familiar with the industry. Four students, previously on the Student Design Team, now work at Garver and serve alongside Tina where she continues to mentor them through their career. In addition, she works with a local group of women who support and mentor each other, providing each other with not only mentorship but a respective understanding of women in the industry. Tina has built a reputation of mentorship for our next generation of engineers, empowering them to be advocates for our water resources and the leaders of advancing technology.


Toha Poveda-Zambrano

Nominated for: Emerging Leader of the Year

Toha Poveda is a Customer Order Engineer at ABB with nearly 2 years of successful experience in providing technical support to ABB customers. Toha specializes in smart sensors for mechanical power transmission products. At the beginning of her current role, Toha not only provided technical support for the smart sensor but also for bearings and power transmission products. She was one out of 6 customer order engineers on the team. However, the smart sensor technical support was taking most of her time, so a new department was created in which Toha became the only Customer Order Engineer. To be able to assist customers efficiently, Toha successfully implemented in her role activities, and as a result, her customers have been impressed with the high quality of her work. Toha has received an ABB Above and Beyond award from her outstanding customer service, and her peers also awarded her with the 2019 Customer Order Engineering Excellence award.

Bio pic.jpg

Robyn Neale

Nominated for: Leadership in Reliability & Operations & Leadership in Manufacturing

Robyn began her journey at First Healthcare Products as a Purchasing Agent.  She proved herself, within weeks, competent and loyal to her new place of employment and became a key member of the staff.  Due to her boss’ encouragement, her confidence grew as did her opportunities to demonstrate her leadership skills.  She was required to manage resources and gather information to help establish and implement key performance indicators KPIs for efficient production.  Recently, Robyn has earned her Certified Lean Professional (CLP) certificate.  This course has improved Robyn’s awareness and leadership skills to help maximize her teams potential.  Robyn’s core values are respect, always, and growth, continuously.  She aspires to manage her team by keeping the environment relaxed, safe and productive.  

Suzanne Krantz.jpg

Suzanne Krantz

Nominated for: Engineer of the Year & Industry Advocate

Suzanne is an Application Engineer for the Data Center Solutions team at Rittal North America LLC. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Ohio State University and a background in product management. With more than 10 years of experience in the data center industry, Suzanne has contributed to projects from cabling infrastructure to system design.  In her current role, she developed multiple pre-engineered, modular, and scalable solutions to support edge deployments and expanding enterprise networks, from standalone products to room solutions, with integrated cooling, monitoring, power, and enclosure systems.  Suzanne helped engineer comprehensive proof of concept designs to support complex end user deployments and created technical documentation for a range of projects and end users. She also conducted hands-on training of product applications for various audiences from Rittal sales, channel partners, to end users. 

bottom of page