Congratulations to Our 2020 San Diego Women of Influence Award Winners!
Champion of Women Award Winner
ChicExecs – Award winning marketing agency.
Nikki Carlson is Co-Founder/Co-President of ChicBlvd Inc. which founded and owns three divisions -ChicBlvd Magazine (www.chicblvd.com), ChicExecs Brand Strategist Firm (www.chicexecs.com) and Fashion Audio LLC (www.chicbuds.com). She has over 16 years experience in PR/Marketing. From high school salutatorian to a graduate with honors from Azusa Pacific University, Nikki reaches for her goals with determination and spirit. Soon after attaining a degree in Marketing, Nikki landed a job with Russ Reid Company, an advertising agency in Pasadena, CA. She rose through the ranks to an executive position where she managed clients in tv, radio, print, fundraising, website development, branding execution and event sponsorship. Her main focus: non-profit and Christian companies including World Vision, Columbia House, Veggie Tales. After 5 years at Russ Reid, she served as an executive at Ambassador Advertising Agency managing clients including Compassion International, Breakpoint with Chuck Colson, author and speaker Jim Garlow. Her work included overseeing radio program initiatives from creative concept through execution. In 2004, she ventured out to pioneer ChicBlvd Inc using her creativity, entrepreneur passion and desire to give back by helping other businesses and getting involved in charity work.
Kailynn Bowling is a proud mother, wife, and Co-Founder/Co-President of ChicBlvd Inc. which founded and owns three divisions – ChicBlvd Magazine (www.chicblvd.com), ChicExecs Brand Strategist Firm (www.chicexecs.com) and Fashion Audio LLC (www.chicbuds.com). After graduating with honors from high school and attending Mt. San Antonio College, she went into finance with the largest mortgage company in the United States. From loan processor she made her way into a corporate executive position. Kailynn’s personable and compassionate nature led her to focus on working with the government and media sources, making low income housing affordable to families in need, setting up a new program which was the first of its kind in Texas. After the tragedy of September 11th, Kailynn made up her mind to pursue her passions in marketing, PR, fashion and product design while she had the chance. Her first foray into entrepreneurship was with her own chic shop where she peddled her fashions while marketing the products in various ways to set up brand awareness. Her unique marketing and PR ideas spurred future ventures and successful product launches. Kailynn became known as the go-to girl for fresh fashion must-haves.
Leaders and Legends Award Winner
Dr. Ann Clark is Founder and CEO of ACI Specialty Benefits, a top-ranked employee assistance program and provider of best place to work benefits for customers worldwide. As founder of the first woman-owned EAP in the United States, Dr. Clark is a fierce example of everything it takes to build a business and never stop growing.
Named “Business Woman of the Year” by San Diego Business Journal and winner of “Woman Breaking Barriers” award, Dr. Clark continues to shake up the benefits industry with groundbreaking solutions in mental wellness, crisis response, concierge, and student assistance.
One of the first Certified Employee Assistance Professionals (CEAP) in the country, Dr. Clark is a renowned industry thought leader and frequent media contributor. Dr. Clark founded the first ever International Chair Yoga Association (ICYA) in 2016 with a mission to make yoga accessible for all, and has authored numerous works including Workplace Warfare, Women and Recovery, and Cultural Crossroads.
Dr. Clark received her doctorate in Behavior Disabilities and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin and completed post doctorate research on Alcoholism and Sexuality at the University of New Mexico.
Gamechanger Award Winner
Rashmi Char serves as vice president of engineering for Qualcomm Technologies Incorporated. Her current responsibilities include leading the Global Product and Tools Organization, wherein the products group supports commercialization of chipset SW with Qualcomm’s global customers and the tools group enables Qualcomm’s engineering teams to operate at scale and with utmost efficiency, leading the Software Project Engineers for next generation Premier and Value Tier MSMs including commercialization of 5G and IP Protection lead for Qualcomm for protecting Qualcomm’s IP, making sure we take good care of the IP we have so carefully created.
Rashmi Char joined Qualcomm in 1997 as an intern and has held roles of increasing responsibility in Mobile Product Development and Commercialization since that time. One of her first key positions was in UMTS Protocol Stack Development. She then moved on to lead global Software Design and Development teams to support High-Speed Data Services over all air interface technologies (UMTS, LTE, CDMA). As Software Project Engineer and Architect, Rashmi led the worldwide commercialization of the first worldwide LTE (4G) capable handset launches on all major carriers’ networks including VZW, ATT, SKT, LGU+, and Sprint and a number of cutting-edge 4G modems for mobile products. Rashmi excels at multitasking across various roles, directly leading hundreds of employees, while also simultaneously leading projects comprised of thousands of engineers around the world.
Rashmi is a member of Qualcomm’s Women’s Leadership Council, executive sponsor of Qualcomm Women’s organization (QWomen), Vice chair of the Athena San Diego’s Board of Directors, Board member of the Girl Scouts of San Diego and a member of the CSU San Marcos Advisory Council for the College of Science and Mathematics.
Rashmi firmly believes that attracting and retaining more women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce will maximize innovation, creativity, and competitiveness and is passionate about doing her part to promote women in STEM. Rashmi’s efforts in diversity advocacy are recognized by employees in and outside her own org. She works deliberately to ensure that her team is diverse and intentionally addresses diversity & Inclusion during program reviews, hiring initiatives, AR reviews and more which inspires those around her. Rashmi works closely with our QWomen employee network and created the Women’s Speakership Club, a platform for women to share their professional experiences, promote their prospects and network within Qualcomm. Rashmi is also an avid member of her community and contributes a lot of volunteer efforts towards getting a more diverse population to enter STEM education and professions
Rashmi has a bachelor of engineering Degree in Electronics and Computer Science and a master’s degree in Computer Science from SDSU.
Catalyst for Change Award Winner
Daniel Simon, Senior Vice President, BioPharma Business Development, Guardant Health, Inc.
Daniel is responsible for leading Guardant’s biopharmaceutical business, supporting oncology companies accelerate drug development using the Guardant’s Digital Sequencing technology platform, including patient identification, companion diagnostics, and real world evidence partnerships.
Daniel brings more than a fifteen years experience in the life sciences industry across business development, strategy, and management. Previously, Daniel served in roles at MyoKardia, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, McKinsey & Company, and Genentech. He holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and an MA Hons. in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge.
Woman to Watch Award Winner
Dr. Hossna Sadat Ahadi is a Counselor and Assistant Professor at Palomar College. She also teaches part-time at National University, Sanford College. Her dual bachelor’s degree is in history of the near east and political science from the University of California, San Diego, and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on multicultural counseling and social justice from San Diego State University (SDSU). She has her doctorate in educational leadership: concentration in community college/postsecondary education from SDSU. In 2019, she received an award for ‘exemplary research and practice’ at SDSU.
Dr. Sadat Ahadi has worked in the sector of education for 18 years now both in the United States and United Kingdom. In 2009, she was known as one of the youngest instructional deans in the state of California. In the United Kingdom, she was a Sociology and Psychology lecturer. For two consecutive years, she received an award for ‘teacher of the year’. She also got promoted as an interim deputy head and curriculum manager at the college she worked at. In 2014 she moved back to the United States with her husband and identical twin daughters. She emphasizes to her daughters on the following message: “little girls with dreams become women with vision”.
Dr. Sadat Ahadi has led numerous professional development workshops and presented at various conferences on dismantling barriers for students in education. She also continues to elevate and empower others with her mentorship and leadership in the sector of education. She strongly believes that “empowered women empower women”. She is a campus lead for the San Diego Chapter of the American Association in Women in Community College. She sits on Academic Senate for California Community College, Relations with Local Senates Committee. In 2019, she received Faculty Service Award by the Academic Senate at Palomar College, for her continuous contributions and advocacy for student equity and success. This year, Dr. Sadat Ahadi was awarded the “Under 40 Award” from American Association for Women in Community College.
Woman Breaking Barriers Award Winner
Rita de la Fuente is the Director of Government & Community Affairs for the San Diego Convention Center. She has a broad background in stakeholder relations, community outreach and nonprofit advocacy.
Since joining the Convention Center in 2016, she has built awareness of the purpose and impact of the 2.6 million square foot facility by engaging government officials, educational institutions, community organizations and business groups. Rita serves as the Center’s legislative affairs specialist and creates volunteer opportunities for staff to give back to the community.
Prior to the Convention Center, Rita worked for nearly a decade at the Port of San Diego managing several effective outreach campaigns around the San Diego Bay, from public policy initiatives to large-scale development projects.
Rita is a familiar role model in the community through volunteer work and non-profit leadership. She serves on the leadership council of Latina Giving Circle and is a member and previous mentor for MANA de San Diego. She’s also served on volunteer committees such as Family Health Centers’ Baby Boutique and the San Diego Foundation’s Opening the Outdoors Initiative.
Women’s Advocate of the Year Award Winner
Tina Rountree is a lifelong learner and expert at multi-tasking between work and being a mom of four. She fills multiple roles in the office and on the home front, such as coach, teacher, cheerleader and motivational speaker, to name a few.
Tina has been a leader in a variety of male-dominated industries, as her career started in Finance where she spent decades developing and managing relationships with large accounts such as Enterprise Rent A Car. She’s now passionate about being a student of technology and says she eats, drinks and breathes Microsoft.
With over fifteen years of experience working with the small business community in San Diego, Tina has a deep understanding of how the right technology and systems can have a profound impact on the growth of an organization.
In her free time, Tina loves trying new restaurants and spending time with her husband, children, and cats.
President’s Award Winner
Dolores C. Jackson is the only daughter of Dolores and Joaquin Farfan who founded Lolita’s Restaurants in 1984. After working a few years in the legal profession, Dolores joined the family business in December of 2001. In July 2012 she was named President of Lolita’s by the founders.
Since then, Dolores has begun to transform Lolita’s from a neighborhood taco shop in Chula Vista into a fast-casual Mexican food restaurant in San Diego County. Under her leadership, Lolita’s began to implement many new disciplines needed to build the current business and grow new locations. This included bringing the Farfan family together to clearly identify their Core Purpose and Values. Recipes were codified, food suppliers who could ensure quality product was delivered every day were identified and an Operations Manual and Training materials were created. These disciplines led to opening two additional stores and a food truck demonstrating an updated look and feel of the Lolita’s Brand, with the same great product and guest experience.
Awards, including – 2019 California Restaurant Association Gold Medallion Award – Best Casual MexicanRestaurant; Chula Vista Star News Best Burrito; Chula Vista Star News Best Mexican Food; City Beat Best Burrito
Recognition – San Diego Claims Burrito Supremacy – Zagat, March 26, 2015; Not Mom and Pop Tacos Anymore – On the Front Burner Podcast, October 16, 2019
Business Affiliations – California Restaurant Associations Board of Directors; Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce; Sage Executive Group
Dolores was born and raised in Chula Vista, CA. She attended local schools and earned her Associates Degree in Business Administration and Accounting from Kelsey-Jenny Business College in 1990.
Author of Influence Award Winner
Megan Fenyoe is an Air Force Veteran, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Therapist (LCSW), Speaker, Host of The Blonde Bombshell Podcast and I Am Enough TV, Founder and CEO of the international I AM ENOUGH movement ™ which is a 501c(3) Non-Profit Organization and Freedom Haven.
She is an Amazon Best Selling Author and recently published her book You Are Enough: 5 Steps To Move From Struggle To Strength. She has been featured on SiriusXM Radio including the Jenny McCarthy show as well as multiple TV/Radio Shows and podcasts.
Megan has gone through many struggles throughout her life most recently being involved in a narcissistic abusive marriage. She was left traumatized and this is when she began questioning if she was enough. For many years she was living a life without meaning and purpose.
Megan’s life began to change when she finally said yes to herself and walked away from the abuse. She has successfully transformed every area of her life using her proven 5 Step System and is now am living a vibrant, beautiful life. A life where she truly believes she is enough.
Working as a Mental Health Therapist for the past 15 years, Megan is considered an expert in her field. Her area of expertise is the mind and the way it affects behavior and well-being.
Through coaching, leadership, consulting and speaking engagements, Megan has helped hundreds of people accurately assess their challenges and identify ways they can change – capitalizing on the strengths they already have while building new ones.
Megan focuses on cognitive restructuring and reality testing thoughts as well as a host of other Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques (CBT). She has a sustained commitment to facilitating positive transformation and human-to-human connection with each person she works with.
Megan’s passion and purpose is to help you (1) build confidence, (2) find clarity in getting what you truly want in life (3) get inspired to take action towards building the life of your dreams, and (4) empower you to believe you are enough!
Emerging Woman Owned Business Award Winner
Alessandra Lezama started at the bottom both professionally and personally. Not only has her 24-year career taken her “from the sales floor to the board room,” but Alessandra, Founder and CEO of TOOTRiS, was also a minority immigrant in a new country and a single mom striving for a better future for her family. All while making her way through a career in a male-dominated industry – Technology – Alessandra’s journey has been an odyssey of obstacles and shattered glass ceilings. Despite the challenges, she worked herself up the ranks of many of the largest telecom companies in the world, including Comsat International, which was acquired by Lockheed Martin during her time with the company. Her first executive roles included EVP and COO, after which she proceeded to hold four CEO positions before founding TOOTRiS. She owes much of her success to her drive and creativity, instilled in her by her father, a professional bullfighter, and her mother an exceptional artist, but more so to her determination to make a positive impact in people’s lives.
Alessandra is a disruptor and a true Game Changer. She has reengineered the business model at every company she’s led and has driven exponential growth transforming local businesses into technology powerhouses.
During her 19 years in San Diego, she has created more than 2,000 jobs. Her management style is subservient, and she genuinely cares about improving PEOPLE’s lives. She is an extraordinary speaker and inspirational leader, committed to our community and to the development of women in STEM and their success in the workforce.
Alessandra was named to the 2016 & 2017 “Women Who Mean Business” award by the San Diego Business Journal and was bestowed the 2018 CEO of the Year Award among over 400 other CEOs.
After exiting her most recent success as CEO of AbacusNext, where she stepped into a small software company with less than 29 employees, and in less than four years transformed it into a disruptive global organization with over 500 employees, Alessandra shifted her focus to a new cause; Helping to Solve the Child Care Crisis. Today, Alessandra is working alongside federal, state, and local organizations, industry experts, early childhood center directors, and most importantly, parents, to deliver an invaluable service that matches the expectations of today’s digitally empowered families, making Quality Child Care and Education affordable convenient and on-demand.
As a veteran technology executive, Alessandra’s hands-on leadership across industries has earned her a reputation as a rainmaker. She lives in Scripps Ranch and is an angel investor to San Diego based early-stage companies. Alessandra currently serves on the Board and Management Council of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the California Preschool Business Advisory Council to the office of the Governor and is a senior member of the Board of Directors of Doors of Change, a non-profit helping to break the cycle of homeless youth. Daily, Alessandra makes significant contributions by inspiring, innovating, and leading the world around her.
Lifetime Legacy Award Winner
Vera Howell is the Community and Citizenship Director 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 Affairs, 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.
The SAN Terminal 2 West Expansion project consisted of the addition of approximately 490,000 square feet of new public and nonpublic areas, providing ten (10) additional contact aircraft gates. Vera played a dynamic and dedicated role in the outreach program for this design-build project for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (SDCRAA) that achieved 86% local business participation, 48% of which were Prime Contracts that went to small businesses.
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 such as the Mexican American Professional Business Association, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business Enterprises, San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce, Black Contractors Association, North San Diego Small Business Development Center Advisory Board Member, Home Aid Essentials Board Member, National Association for Minority Contractors Volunteer Committee, National Association for Women in Construction as a past President, and the Council for Supplier Diversity as a Past Board Member. Vera has been a finalist for both the San Diego Magazine, “Women Who Move the City” as well as the San Diego Business Journal, “Women Who Mean Business”.
Veteran of Influence Award Winner
Dr. Antoinette (Toni) Marengo joined Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest as Medical Director in 2018. She oversees the health care of nearly 130,000 people across three large counties in Southern California. Dr. Marengo is a board-certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist with over 15 years of post-residency clinical experience.
Prior to joining PPPSW, she was the Associate Residency Program Director, and Director of Family Planning at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. Three years of her clinical experience were gained while on active duty in the United States Navy. Dr. Marengo also formerly served as the Associate Residency Program Director for the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Marengo received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University, her MD from Northwestern University, and completed her residency at the University of Colorado.
Outside of her role at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Marengo is actively involved in the American College of Ob/Gyns and serves on the executive committee for District IX as the secretary. She is a board examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is an Associate Clinical Professor on the teaching faculty at the University of California, San Diego.
Dr. Marengo is married and has four children. She enjoys travel, tennis, kickboxing, and reading.
Connected Woman of Influence Award Winner
Sashi Whitman is a wife, mom, educator, and dreamer. She is currently a business and marketing instructor at UCSD Extension and San Diego Miramar College. Sashi has also taught at the University of Phoenix, the Art Institute, and San Diego Christian College. She was the founder of a digital magazine, Affinite.
Sashi received her MBA from San Diego State University, and a Bachelors in Psychology and Sociology from UC San Diego. Her background is in marketing, specifically market research, social media strategy, and product management. She found her passion for business overseas in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where she was a sales representative for Issham Trading, an entrepreneurial business that focused on importing luxury American products to the Middle eastern market.
Sashi has been a past SUE Talker, and currently serves as a lead coach on the SUETalks coaching staff. She is currently embarking on a new endeavor, SUE Rising, a non-profit focused on giving girls and young women (middle school through college) a platform to master the art of telling their story.