Women of Influence Awards – 2015 Highlights and Award Winners

Congratulations to our 2015 Women of Influence Award Winners!

Gamechanger Award Winner

cindy gomper gravesCindy Gompper-Graves
President & CEO
South County Economic Development Council

Cindy Gompper-Graves is the president and CEO of the South County Economic Development Council. She assumed this position in December of 2003 as the first full time CEO for this 26-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to economic development in South County.

When she took over, there was less than $35,000 in assets. There is now more than $1 million. Cindy has grown South County EDC’s membership from 50 to almost 400. She has worked on major projects, including the Cross Border Terminal, the Chula Vista Bayfront and the border crossing.

Cindy has also been recognized nationally by the American Economic Development Council as a leader in economic development. Cindy has tirelessly advocated for San Diego’s South Bay. Her efforts have helped advance the region through land use development, major business and lifestyle projects, bringing new jobs to the region, advocating for investment in South County, highlighting the importance of bi-national endeavors and more. She has guided more than 60 interns through the South County business world and strives to give each intern the experience, skills and knowledge necessary for success upon entering the workforce.

Woman to Watch Award Winner

Melinda dicharryMelinda Dicharry
CEO & President
Paradigm Mechanical Corp.

When asked what is your main leadership strategy, Melinda Dicharry, at 32 years of age replied, “Invest in your people, empower them, and work their strengths – honor your commitments – lead by example.” Melinda was being interviewed for the August 2014 Inc. Magazine 500-5000 Fastest Growing Companies.

As CEO and President of Paradigm Mechanical Corp., Melinda was one of the top 10 women industry leaders in the United States. Her heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), controls, plumbing, energy management firm would rank at #4 for the fastest growing construction company in the US in Lemon Grove, California. With overall three-year sales growth of 2,349.54%, the increase qualified Paradigm for the prestigious No. 168 rank on the 2014 Inc. 500 list.

Melinda founded Paradigm Mechanical Corp. at 28 years old. She has been active in the construction industry for more than 10 years. After getting her undergraduate degrees in business administration, she received advanced mechanical trade education at UCSD – HVAC System Design and DDC Controls, as well as at the Turner School of Construction. She set out to establish Paradigm as a young, vibrant company with experienced leaders at the helm.

The biggest challenge she has faced is being a female in the male-dominated construction industry – it’s her primary goal to pave the way for women and minorities in the industry. The caliber of
work Melinda has contracted for Paradigm spotlights her innovation and mirrors her enthusiasm for serving the region and specialized industries. Here is a sample of clients – Lyceum Theatre, Scripps La Jolla Green Hospital, Camp Pendleton, Coronado / Point Loma Naval Base, Rady Children’s Hospital, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, Solar Turbines, and the City of San Diego.

She’s big on education and training and is committed to championing solid, good paying careers for women in construction – job titles such as, project manager, project coordinator, field supervisor, electrical and automated controls installation and more. Melinda believes women need to be educated on the opportunities that exist in construction. Over the next 10 years,
she will continue to serve with organizations like NAWIC, possibly on the national level – bringing her leadership skills to the table to help the organizations grow. She will mentor and over the long-term work to grow Paradigm Mechanical Corp. while teaching construction finance and construction contracts.

Women’s Advocate of the Year Award Winner

TiffanyEnglish_PrintTiffany English
Ware Malcomb

When Tiffany joined the Ware Malcomb Northern California office in 2001 as a project manager, it was obvious to all those around her that there was something special about her. Typically a
project manager is the lead for managing projects, client relations, and staff relations. Tiffany took it a step further and made sure her female colleagues were an integral part of the project as she led by example. She would often encourage female designers to work side-by-side with her on projects and then entrust them to manage these projects. This helped foster the growth of many female designers within Ware Malcomb.

In 2007 she was asked to relocate to help grow the Interiors practice in our San Diego office. Through the recession Tiffany remained focused on winning new projects and investing time in mentoring her team, along with other Ware Malcomb employees. This strategy paid off as she helped develop a talented team and significantly expanded the office’s market share. Tiffany continued to mentor staff throughout the firm and collaborated with several offices to help them win and successfully execute work. Tiffany has helped win high-end design projects and large corporate accounts, overseeing 200 retail bank projects, which have generated work for multiple offices spanning several years.

Tiffany’s success at growing the San Diego Interiors practice and her contributions to expanding Ware Malcomb’s national corporate accounts, led to her promotion to Principal in 2013. As Principal, Tiffany is responsible for expanding the firm’s design services across the San Diego region, as well as overseeing the growth of the Phoenix and Latin America Interiors Studios. In addition to navigating her teams through the completion of hundreds of projects year-round, Tiffany is also a driving force in the growth and evolution of interior best practices across Ware Malcomb. She serves on the Interior Advisory Group (IAG), where she provides strategic insight for companywide initiatives focused on evolving and growing the firm’s interior design practice.

As a champion of women within the commercial real estate industry, Tiffany’s kind spirit and caring attitude have propelled her forward in the advancement of women. She is generous with her time in helping women succeed, and never hesitates to lend a helping hand. Such characteristics, as well as her success in the male dominated industry of commercial real estate, inspires and empowers all those that know her.

President’s Award Winner

sara katzSara Katz
Founder & CEO
Katz & Associates, Inc.

Over the past 29 years, Sara Katz has amassed a body of work worthy of recognition by the Women of Influence Awards. After serving on former Mayor Pete Wilson’s staff and then as a
successful political consultant, in 1986, Sara M. Katz opened the doors of Katz & Associates, Inc. Since then, Sara has proudly served as the owner, president and CEO of Katz & Associates, providing public affairs and strategic communications services. She has grown the firm from its solo practitioner status to one of the largest firms of its kind in California.

Sara has helped revolutionize the way government decision makers inform and involve the public in environmental, transportation and public works projects. Today, the results of Katz & Associates efforts can be seen throughout San Diego County and statewide in the form of successfully implemented projects that carry the support of involved communities and policymakers. This passion for public engagement and helping all levels of government make better decisions has touched local, state and even federal government initiatives.

Sara’s visionary approach to her work has led her all around the world to share her experiences and advances in her field. She is a keynote speaker and motivational champion for the evolving concepts of water recycling, and for many other fields such as transportation and environmental issues management. The name Sara Katz/Katz & Associates is synonymous with outstanding achievement in this field.

Sara’s reputation for engaging the community through innovative public involvement programs has led to the firm’s expansion into markets throughout the United States. For over 20 years, Sara has
worked with the Southern Nevada Water Authority to address water needs for the country’s fastest growing metropolitan area. Public agencies in Tampa, Detroit, Houston, El Paso, San Antonio and Atlanta have also called upon her talents to tackle complex water resource and environmental policy issues.

Emerging Woman Owned Business Award Winner

Jayla Sicilianojayla siciliano 1
CEO & Founder

Jayla founded Bon Affair, a premium wine spritzer with added electrolytes, zero sugar, and half the calories of the average wine. Her mission is to help people live healthier, active, and social lives and Bon Affair is a product that can help them do that. Jayla left her stable (high paying) job, cashed in her 401k, and poured her life savings into starting the company. She ran into major bottling issues that ruined her first round of production and left her with two options: give up or find a creative way to raise money and awareness of her product. She applied for Shark Tank and was selected to participate. She walked away from the experience with national exposure and a deal with Mark Cuban.

She has grown the company from retail in one state to retail in 5 states and online orders shipping to 37 states. Bon Affair recently went international.

Woman Breaking Barriers Award Winner

Business HeadshotsJessica Yaffa
Director of Community Education
Practical Recovery

Ms.Yaffa has overcome the sorts of circumstances that most of us have only read about in fiction books. Not only did she survive remarkable odds, she has turned these
circumstances into a triumphant mission that has impacted the lives of thousands. Jessica is a survivor of horrific domestic violence, as well as rape, and now stands as a beacon of hope, light, and encouragement for those that have been stigmatized and de-valued as a result. She travels the country, bringing with her a movement of change, education, and awareness around the way we address these issues in a while giving a voice to the voiceless, and speaks affirmatively to all people struggling with their sense of value or worth. Not only has Ms. Yaffa spoken at many large college institutions, Jessica has also shared this message with the U.S. Military, Starbucks Headquarters, networking groups, television producers, radio broadcasters, and anyone else that will listen.

Jessica’s non-profit, Nosilence Noviolence offers free support groups, therapy, legal resources, food, clothing, gas cards, and more to survivors in need. Jessica Yaffa’s life is a representation of passion, drive, determination, and selflessness in a way that affects all who know her, as well as those that have never met her.

Connected Woman of Influence Award Winner

linda amaro 2Linda Amaro
Co-Founder & CEO
Klarinet Solutions, Inc.

Linda is an experienced business leader with more than 25 years of bringing technology solutions to business processes and organizations. She is skilled at strong user adoption of solutions, employing behavior diagnostic tools for individual, team, and organizational development to ensure implementation success. She has worked in various industries including manufacturing, transport, insurance, finance, technology, bio/pharma and automotive.​

Lifetime Legacy Award Winner

Bobbi DePorter 2015Bobbi DePorter
President & Founder
Quantum Learning Network

Bobbi DePorter is an early pioneer in the field of accelerated learning. With knowledge gleaned from co-founding a highly successful business school she went on to apply those same strategies to school-age children.

In 1982 Bobbi cofounded Quantum Learning Network, a leading education organization producing SuperCamp summer enrichment programs that help students relearn how they learn and reshape how they live their lives, now with 70,000 graduates and programs in 14 countries delivered in English, Mandarin, Spanish, and Korean; and Quantum Learning Education, with schoolwide programs for teachers, administrators, and students. She has positively impacted over 100,000 teachers reaching ten million young people through these programs over the last 30+ years. Programs include a third world model funded by our US Department of Labor and US Aid.

Bobbi is also president of Learning Forum International, a non-profit organization that delivers 8 Keys of Excellence character programs to families and schools and provides teacher-training and SuperCamp scholarships, with more than 800 scholarships provided to deserving students to-date.

Champion of Women Award Winner

Qualcomm Technologies Inc.Qualcomm

Qualcomm Women in Science and Technology (QWISE) was established by Navrina Singh in 2006. QWISE’s mission is to promote the personal and professional growth of women in technology at Qualcomm and in the community. Initially the group was focused on women engineers and scientists, and has since expanded to include all women at Qualcomm including business, legal, and marketing. Today, QWISE supports over 1600 Qualcomm women across 12 global chapters, including India and Europe. In San Diego, we have over 900 active members, QWISE champions include Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf, Jim Thompson EVP Engineering, and other executive team members. The QWISE board is composed of 13 volunteers who partner with Global Inclusion & Diversity, Human Resources, and other internal teams to make Qualcomm the number-one place for women to work.

Established in 2014, and sponsored by our CIO Norm Fjeldheim, QFINITY (Qualcomm Females Influencing Information Technology) is our newest employee network with over 255 members. While it shares many common goals with QWISE, QFINITY’s goal is to promote opportunities for women specifically in Information Technology (IT) positions. Their mission is to inspire a more diverse IT organization by increasing awareness of opportunities and to encourage leadership, mentorship and career development for women in IT. In 2015, QFINITY will celebrate their 1 Year Anniversary with an event that will include a panel discussion on “Moving the Needle for Women”.

Qualcomm’s Thinkabit Lab is a dedicated space at Qualcomm headquarters to provide hands-on experience in engineering and exposure to the many different types of careers associated with the success of an engineering company. The classroom is equal parts art studio and engineering lab. The Thinkabit lab provides a “makerspace environment” where students are led by an engineer as they create, manipulate, collaborate and present their crafty robotic creations.

Women Enhancing Technology: In 2013, Qualcomm announced the Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech) program at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting with the Institute of International Education and other public/private sector organizations. At the event, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the stage with partners to announce the program, which aims to build a healthy pipeline of girls in Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education and women in Information Communications Technology (ICT) careers. At Qualcomm, WeTech activities include middle school girls participating in a Qcamp for Girls in STEM, high school girls getting involved in the Technovation Challenge and college women engaging with ICT professionals through an online mentoring program. Qualcomm women volunteer for all three programs through speakerships, mentorships and field trips. To date, both the girls in the program and the Qualcomm employees have reported that they have been engaged or highly engaged throughout the experiences.

Author: Michelle Bergquist

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