Chief Pet Officer, Nationwide
Heidi Sirota serves as Nationwide’s Chief Pet Officer, leading the nation’s first and largest provider of pet insurance protecting more than 1 million pets. She joined Nationwide in 2018 as vice president of marketing for the Retirement Solutions business and led an expansion of its capabilities and markets.
Before joining Nationwide, Heidi transformed consumer experiences in human health care. As UnitedHealth Group’s Optum Bank vice president of marketing, she pioneered the retailization of health savings accounts, and as a marketing executive at Aetna and ConnectiCare she introduced new, engaging ways for consumers to shop for health insurance and get care.
Heidi started her career in commercial bank operations, then moved into investment and insurance marketing leadership at The Phoenix Companies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Loyola Marymount University and completed executive education from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Heidi sits on the Board of Trustees of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), the Board of Directors of Second Harvest Food Bank in Orange County, California, and is a Board member of The Bradley cinema in Bradley Beach, NJ. Also she is an Advisory Board member for the University of California Santa Barbara-Extension, Customer Experience Certificate Program and the executive sponsor of Nationwide’s Pet Advocacy and Wellness Support (PAWS) Associate Resource Group.
Heidi was also selected as an honoree for the 2022 Digital Insurance Women In Insurance Leadership award, recognizing women who demonstrate innovative and managerial excellence in the insurance industry.
Cultural Master, Kindness Catalyst and People Innovator Independent Board Member - Krispy Kreme
Marissa Andrada is a master of activating organizational hyper-growth and turnaround through the transformation and creation of dynamic, diverse and inclusive cultures.
With over 25 years of experience of integrating people and leadership capability into the foundation of business strategies, she has energized brands to codify their purpose and values while accelerating company growth and industry-wide change, inspiring a movement for employee well-being and opportunity.
Marissa is passionate about leading with authenticity and helping people and organizations unleash human potential to lift personal and overall company performance. She has been the key catalyst in transforming cultures and driving performance at a multitude of consumer brands, most recently as the first chief people officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill. As the former chief diversity, inclusion and people officer, Marissa activated a culture strategy that was co-created with the workforce - including the launch of a debt free college degree and education program and access to mental healthcare. Prior to Chipotle, Marissa led human resources at Kate Spade & Company and partner resources at Starbucks Coffee Company. Earlier, she served as senior vice president and head of human resources at GameStop Corporation and at Red Bull North America. She is currently serving as an independent board director at Krispy Kreme, Inc. where she is also the chair of the Remuneration and Nomination Committee. She also serves as the chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board at the College of Business and executive in residence at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. Marissa holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and an undergraduate degree from California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. She is a founding member of the Society for Human Resources Executive Council, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Workplace Dignity Council and the CNBC Workforce Executive Council and a 2020 American Business Award Gold Stevie winner.
Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles County
Fesia Davenport was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles County in January 2021. She is responsible for managing the strategic direction and day-to-day operations of the nation’s largest municipal government, including the oversight of Los Angeles County’s $44 billion- plus budget and coordinating implementation of key priorities of the Board of Supervisors.
In a County career spanning more than two decades, she has successfully facilitated cross-departmental, public-private, and inter governmental collaborative efforts aimed at implementing a range of major initiatives involving data sharing to prevent homelessness and track outcomes for justice involved individuals, probation reform, and providing legal defense services for undocumented residents at risk of imminent removal.
She also played a leadership role in the launch of several new organizational units within the County, including the Office of Child Protection, the Center for Strategic Partnerships, the Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Chief Sustainability Office and the Women and Girls Initiative.
As Chief Executive Officer, under the direction of the Board of Supervisors, she has led LA County’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic across multiple departments, overseeing $1.22 billion in CARES Act funding and $1.9 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funding to bring urgently needed equity-focused assistance to residents, small businesses and hard-hit communities.
She is responsible for leading the County in carrying out a series of transformative Board-directed initiatives, including the AntiRacism, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative and the Poverty Alleviation Initiative, both housed in the CEO’s office. At the Board’s direction, she coordinated across multiple County departments in a successful landmark effort to return the valuable oceanfront property known as Bruce’s Beach to the rightful descendants of the family that had been wrongfully stripped of their property 100 years ago.
CEO Davenport has also been instrumental in establishing the Board’s Care First, Jails Last vision as a budgetary and operational policy, and in assisting with the launch of an unprecedented four new County departments in a single year.
Prior to her appointment as CEO, she served as acting CEO; Chief Operating Officer and Assistant Chief Executive Officer overseeing the CEO’s Strategic Integration Branch; Interim Director of the Office of Child Protection; Chief Deputy Director of the Department of Children and Family Services; and Chief Attorney/Chief Deputy of the Child Support Services Department.
A graduate of Cal State Long Beach, she earned a master’s degree in public administration from Cal State Northridge and a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law. Ms. Davenport is passionate about history, especially family history, and when she is not working on behalf of Los Angeles County, you can find her on genealogical websites or perhaps at a touring production of “Hamilton,” which she has seen six times—so far.
CEO, Adopt a Pet
Jeannine joined Mars Petcare’s Kinship in June of 2017 and has been their CEO of Adopt-a-Pet since April 2022. Formerly, she held the positions of Head of Digital Health, followed by Head of Business Development & International. Kinship was created by Mars to lead the transformation of the pet care experience for consumers and pet health professionals.
Previously, Jeannine worked for Banfield Pet Hospital for over 17 years. Jeannine joined the organization in 2001 to oversee marketing and sales for Banfield’s former pet insurance company — True Paws — which soon after evolved into an inside insurance sales team of three associates to a team of 16 associates today. Jeannine held several leadership positions within Banfield -- most recently as Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing. In that role. Jeannine was responsible for managing the company’s marketing and sales functions, call center, and wellness plan offerings. In addition to
promoting and advertising the organization’s products and services, Jeannine also worked to develop strategic business plans and strategies to attain corporate sales and profit objectives.
Prior to joining Banfield, Jeannine held a variety of account services positions working for Topak Marketing, Inc. and DVM Worldwide, both Philadelphia-based marketing agencies. During her time with both agencies, Jeannine was responsible for day-to-day client coordination, production and creative oversight, database management, and marketing campaign strategy
She and her husband, Kent, reside in Portland, Ore. where they enjoy exploring the city, and shops and restaurants in their neighborhood, Portland’s Pearl District. Jeannine also enjoys watching movies, reading and cooking. She has a cat, Rudy, who is 10.
VP, Brand Marketing of Tito’s Handmade Vodka
VP, Global Workplace Programs at Google
Michiel Bakker is an accomplished senior strategic, multi-disciplined, global ‘services and experiences’ business leader, grounded in hospitality with a touch of technology. As the visionary behind Google’s celebrated flagship Food@Work program, he brings deep experience in global operations, people, project, program, design / development, change management and food systems.
He presently leads Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services’ (REWS) Global Programs Team (= Food, Transportation, Sustainability, ‘Global Events, Amenities and Guest Services’, Health and Performance and Placemaking) with overall responsibilities for the ongoing delivery of REWS global workplace programs & services to over 250K+ individuals around the world (55+ countries).
He is an active contributor to various Advisory Boards around the world, including the Culinary Institute of America (USA) Menus of Change Business Leadership Council, the Yale Center for Customer Insights’ Advisory Board (USA), the EAT Advisory Board (Sweden), and the Food & Nature Board of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. He is also an Executive Advisor for the Future Food Institute (Bologna, Italy), a member of the James Beard Foundation Board of Trustees and a member of the Dutch startup Orbisk Supervisory Board.
Before joining Google in 2012, Michiel spent two decades in global hotel and food and beverage operations, creating and building out partnerships, leading hotel F&B developments, openings, and food experience design.
Michiel holds an Executive MSc degree in Real Estate and Construction Management from the University of Denver Daniels College of Business (CO), a Master of Hospitality Administration degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas), a MBA degree from the University of Bradford, United Kingdom) and a Bachelor’s Degree Hotel Administration from the Hotel Management School Maastricht (The Netherlands).
Founder of Geolabs and Bestselling Author of 'Competing in the New World of Work'
President, Petco Love
As President of Petco Love (formerly Petco Foundation), a nonprofit changing lives, Susanne leads a team dedicated to making communities and pet families closer, stronger, and healthier.
In 2005, Susanne took her decade of corporate law experience and her passion for animals and served as the Executive Director of the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, where she transformed the open-admission SPCA into an award-winning, nationally recognized lifesaving model. Prior to that, Susanne held several positions at Capital One Financial Corporation and was an attorney with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Brown & Wood.
Since joining Petco Love in 2013, Susanne's thought leadership in the animal welfare field has helped raise the bar and set a new standard for animal sheltering in our country. Industry-wide, she champions foster care and fights to celebrate and recognize those organizations that are the most productive and effective at saving lives, leading the Petco Love team to develop a new innovative model to ensure investments have the most lifesaving impact possible. She is also the Vice-Chair of HABRI's Board of Trustees (the Human Animal Bond Research Institute).
In 2016, Pet Age recognized Susanne as a "Women of Influence" for her contributions to the pet industry. Susanne holds a bachelor's degree in Finance and a Doctorate of Law from the University of Houston. She is based in Petco's San Antonio Support Center where she shares her hill country home with her pack of dogs and various foster pets.
BVSc, MRCVS, is Chief Veterinary Officer at Nationwide
Jules Benson is a veterinary industry strategist focused on ways technology and data can transform the veterinary profession and the lives of animals. A member of the Veterinary Innovation Council Board of Directors and MentorVet Advisory Board, he has nearly 20 years of experience in privatepractice, start-ups, marketing, and pet health data.
Former VP, Well-Being at Aetna
Kay retired in 2019 as VP, Well-being, at Aetna, a CVS company. In that role, she led a team responsible for integrating a holistic well-being approach into their products and experiences to help employees, consumers, and communities achieve their best health. Kay believes that “health” is broader than the traditional definition of “the absence of illness” and focused on all aspects of our lives that help us thrive and flourish. Developed through a research collaboration with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, she led a groundbreaking approach that looked beyond physical, emotional, and financial health to include such determinants of well-being as social connectedness, purpose, and character strengths.
Kay is an agile leader, having served in diverse senior leadership roles over her 25+ years with Aetna, and is considered an innovative thought leader in the health care industry. She led Workforce Well-being and Inclusion where her team introduced cutting-edge benefits and well-being programs to support Aetna’s strategy and drive engagement and the bottom line. Prior to joining HR, she led Aetna’s Health Care Reform Program Management Office, served as chief of staff for the Office of the Chairman & CEO, and held leadership roles in product development, health analytics, pricing, and underwriting.
Her passion for well-being extends beyond her corporate roles and includes volunteer leadership roles with numerous organizations, including the American Heart Association, Blue Zones Project, and Pet Partners. In 2017, Kay joined the Board of Directors of Pet Partners, the nation’s largest organization committed to improving human health and well-being through the power of the human-animal bond.
Kay earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from The Pennsylvania State University, and is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries. Kay, her husband Mark, and their 6 year old Tibetan Terrier Ozzy, are enjoying snowbirding between Connecticut and Naples, FL.
President, Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI)
Steven Feldman is the President of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). His love of animals and his curiosity about science led him to HABRI where he gets to explore all of the ways that pets and people are good for each other. As the leader of the only research organization focused solely on the human-animal bond, he has developed significant expertise in communicating the science of human-animal interaction and its practical application in society. He is frequently published and quoted on this topic in healthcare and veterinary publications, including his role as a chapter co-author of the Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy. Steven also serves as liaison to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Steering Committee on Human-Animal Interaction, helping develop policies and resources to help strengthen the human-animal bond. Under his leadership, HABRI co-founded the Pet Inclusive Housing Initiative, helping create more homes for pets.
Steven is an experienced non-profit executive, strategist, and coalition builder with a deep understanding of the policy-making process. Prior to joining HABRI, he helped lead the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, growing the organization, serving as the spokesman for zoos and aquariums around the world, and developing significant expertise in wildlife conservation and animal welfare. Prior to this, he worked at Powell Tate, a leading public affairs firm, where he served as a counselor to many Fortune 500 companies. He also served as a staff member in the United States Senate, working for the Chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
Steven holds a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and a master’s degree in Political Management from George Washington University. He has a dog named Scout, a cat named Winifred, and a wife and two children.
Managing Director of Business Development, Gallup
Kristen Lipton is a Managing Director of Business Development at Gallup. Kristen leads the U.S. sales team that provides learning and development programs and consulting services to organizations seeking to improve business performance through employee engagement, strengths-based development, management and leadership. She brings Gallup's mission to life through this work, leveraging analytics, advice and education to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems by developing a deeper understanding of the attitudes and behaviors of employees, customers and citizens.
Kristen brings a wealth of sales and management expertise to her clients. Before joining Gallup, she served as a trusted adviser to large consumer package goods companies where she crafted consumer promotion and advertising campaigns. She also spent five years in sales and management in athletic footwear and apparel, managing key account relationships and flagship retail store sales.
Kristen received her bachelor’s degree in political science with minors in French and business administration from the University of San Diego. She received her master’s in business administration degree from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.
Chief Development Officer, Pet Partners
Traci Pryor joined Pet Partners in 2014 and serves as the Chief Development Officer. In this role, Traci works closely with many of Pet Partners’ collaborative partners including generous national corporate and strategic partners. Traci is also responsible for creating many national signature events and initiatives for Pet Partners including the Animal-Assisted Workplace Well-being program, the World’s Largest Pet Walk and National Therapy Animal Day. In 2021 Traci was named a PetAge Magazine Woman of Influence.
Prior to joining Pet Partners, Traci has served in various non-profit executive roles at organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Special Olympics International and the Arthritis Foundation. Traci holds a degree from James Madison University and a certificate in non-profit management from Virginia Commonwealth University. She lives in Richmond, VA with her husband, two sons and their beloved basset hound Frisco.
Pet Partners is the national leader in demonstrating and promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted therapy, activities, and education. With thousands of registered teams making more than 3 million visits annually, Pet Partners serves as the nation’s most diverse and respected nonprofit registering handlers of multiple species as volunteer teams.
Director, Wallis Annenberg PetSpace
Throughout her life and career, Gabrielle Amster has been dedicated to animals. Prior to joining Wallis Annenberg PetSpace as director in 2021, Gabrielle spent over 15 years in animal welfare. She served as the executive director of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter and previously held leadership positions with the Santa Fe Animal Shelter in New Mexico, Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo, and Animal Trustees in Austin, Texas.
In addition to leading multi-faceted animal welfare teams, Gabrielle has established inclusive animal adoption processes; reduced the length-of-stay of shelter animals by enhancing canine and feline enrichment programs; and implemented innovative marketing campaigns to help increase awareness and adoption rates. Gabrielle is not only focused on the welfare of animals, but also invested in providing support to pet owners and finding solutions and resources for both.
During her first year at PetSpace, Gabrielle – along with her amazing team – increased adoption and transfer intake rates by nearly 50 percent. She established the agency’s Extraordinary Care Fund which allocates resources to shelter animals in crisis who are facing euthanasia due to life-threatening injuries or health conditions. Gabrielle is currently looking at ways to expand access to care by providing onsite spay/neuter surgeries for animals housed at Los Angeles Animal Services and establish high-volume spay/neuter and shelter medicine training for veterinarians.
Away from work, you can find Gabrielle hiking and exploring in Los Angeles and spending time with her family in Palm Springs. She currently has four dogs and a feral cat who has become a part of the family from a near distance.
Co-Founder & CEO, WUF World
Co-Founder & CMO, WUF World
Head Executive Recruiting , Whole Foods Market
Currently serves as the Head of Executive Recruiting at Whole Foods Market. During his tenure, Andres has also worked as the Vice president of People Operations at Super Coffee, Director of Recruiting and Institutional partnerships at Blackboard, as a corporate consulting recruiter for Microsoft retail, and as a Sr. Consultant at Talent Plus, a recruitment and assessment company based in Lincoln, NE. His portfolio of clients included fortune 500 companies such as Zappos, Cisco, Scotiabank, Komatsu, KPMG, Mercedes Benz, Loews Hotels, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, JW Marriott and Microsoft.
Andres has many interests. One is traveling. He was born in Bogota, Colombia, lives in Austin, Texas home of Whole Foods Market’s Global Support office office, and has and worked as a recruiter in Europe, Asia and Latin
He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in Education/Psychology, both from the University of Nebraska.
SVP, Omnichannel Experience at Petco
As SVP, Omnichannel Experience, Jenny is responsible for Petco’s overall customer experience, loyalty and recurring revenue programs.
To increase customer loyalty and lifetime value, Jenny works across the enterprise to develop differentiated, connected and seamless customer experiences through an objective, data-driven approach that aligns Petco pet care centers, digital capabilities, and Petco services.
Since joining Petco in 2010, Jenny has held various leadership roles across business units, including marketing, pet services, as well as retail strategy and operations. Prior to joining Petco, Jenny worked in the government and healthcare industries.
A passionate advocate for a workplace culture that prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and where all individuals are encouraged to bring their full, most authentic selves to work, Jenny is actively involved in Petco’s DEI efforts, and is a founder and executive sponsor of the company’s LGBTQ+ at Petco employee resource group.
Jenny holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of Florida.
Director II Business Development, Strategic Markets, & Pharmacy Contracts at Walmart
Gloria has 25 years of experience in the health care industry. Currently, she is responsible for Walmart's Health & Wellness business development, pharmacy sales and high level complex pharmacy contract negotiations nationally as part of the Sales, Strategy & Innovation team. Prior to joining Wal mart, Gloria was a Sr Director & contract negotiator in the Network Management Division at United Health Care.
Ms. Diaz holds a bachelor's degree in Health Care Administration, a master's degree in Business Administration; she has two post-graduate degrees, in Health Care Administration and Global Management. Ms. Diaz is also a paralegal and a certified medical manager. She has been with Wal mart since July 2006.
Senior Marketing Director at Mars Petcare North America
Fernando Silva is a global marketing leader with more than 15 years of experience in consumer goods. Currently, Fernando serves as Senior Marketing Director at Mars Petcare North America, overseeing the CESAR® and SHEBA® brand strategies, marketing communications, purpose initiatives and growth plans for two of the most beloved global pet nutrition brands. During his tenure at Mars, he has held roles in Latin America and the US, with local, regional and global scope across sales, innovation and marketing functions.
In his current role, Fernando leads the CESAR brand’s advocacy for making the world a more dog-friendly place and the SHEBA Hope Grows initiative, the world’s largest coral restoration project.
With an entrepreneurial background, Fernando is known as an agile and creative thinker. His collaborative leadership style has proven to energize cross-functional teams to build stronger brands and deliver complex projects. Fernando has also served on the Board of PEDIGREE Foundation, where he co-led the Advertising and Consumer Engagement committee, advancing the Foundation’s commitment to supporting shelter dogs, as well as the Mars Petcare ambition to end pet homelessness.
Currently a board member of the Harpeth Conservancy, Fernando is passionate about nature conservation and spending time in the water. On the weekends, he can be found kayaking, wading or fishing in any river, lake or puddle in the Tennessee area.
Fernando and his wife Carina live in Franklin, TN, along with their two daughters, Anna and Julia, their crazy-fast whippet, Sardine and their miniature Dachshund, Halibut.
Senior AVP of Growth Expansion and Development
Nationwide Pet Insurance
Mariel Devesa is the Senior Associate Vice President leading Growth, Expansion and Development at Nationwide Pet Insurance in Brea, California since March 2021. In this capacity she is responsible for building partnerships, creating new distribution channels as well as developing new offerings.
Previously, Mariel has held multiple senior roles within the insurance and the start up space. She has developed multiple industry 1st products from the 1st national insurance product for rideshare drivers and the 1st mobile phone telematics offering to include phone distraction in how its is priced. She thrives in developing new products and expanding into markets generating multiple hundred million-dollar programs from conception through launch. Additionally, she is a CPA and a graduate from UCLA
Director, Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control
Marcia Mayeda applied her lifelong love of animals to developing a career of more than 35 years working in the animal welfare field. She has led the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) since July 2001. DACC is the largest animal care and control agency in the United States, serving all unincorporated Los Angeles County and 45 cities that contract with DACC for service. DACC operates seven animal care centers to provide services to more than three million residents across 3,300 square miles.
Under Marcia’s leadership, DACC has transformed from a traditional “dog pound” approach to being recognized as a national leader in animal care and control, employing industry best practices to provide services to its communities and the animals in its care. DACC has received many local, State, and national awards including the 2022 National Association of Counties Achievement Award for DACC’s Pets Are Family program. Marcia is passionate about investing in leadership development to empower and engage staff to exemplify DACC’s mission, vision, and values.
Marcia also leads the efforts of the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation (www.lacountyanimals.org), a private nonprofit that raises funds to support animal care and services at DACC animal care centers. The Foundation enables DACC to provide resources to keep pets and families together and enhance the care and environment for animals in DACC’s care.
Prior to joining Los Angeles County, Marcia was on the senior leadership team of the Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley for eight years. Before that Marcia served as the Executive Director for the Helping Hands Humane Society in Topeka, KS and was Director of Animal Care at the Houston SPCA.
Marcia is a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) and a member of the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement (AAWA). She serves on the board of directors for the California Animal Welfare Association (CalAnimals) and is president of the Los Angeles County Management Council. She holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Western Illinois University and a master’s degree in nonprofit administration from the University of San Francisco.
Marcia and her husband share their home with three Great Pyrenees dogs and one Golden Retriever, all of whom were adopted from rescue groups or animal shelters and come to work with her where they play with other office dogs and are adored by the humans that work there.
Chief Communications Officer, WW
Joe Quenqua joined WW in June 2019 as Chief Communications Officer, where he leads internal and external communications globally across all stakeholders. Mr. Quenqua has more than 30 years of PR and strategic corporate communications experience across a diverse portfolio of film, television, music, tech and lifestyle brands. Prior to joining WW, he worked with a vast array of clients in both the tech and entertainment industries, serving as a Managing Director at 42West, one of the entertainment industry's leading PR firms, and before that, as Executive Vice President and head of the national entertainment practice for DKC/Dan Klores Communications. Until 2013, Mr. Quenqua served as a Vice President at Walt Disney Studios where he spent over a decade leading the national media strategies across all film titles and brands including Marvel, Pixar, Disney Animation and live action. Additionally, he served as the head of worldwide communications for Disney Theatrical Group, the company's global stage division.
Producer & CEO of Cosmic Picture
Taran founded Cosmic Picture in 2005 to produce IMAX and giant screen documentary films for the global network of IMAX and giant screen theaters located in the world’s most visited and influential museums and science centers. In 2018 Cosmic established a distribution arm and secured the distribution rights to National Geographic’s library of giant screen documentaries.
Cosmic is now in post production on New England and the Sea of Stories (wt), an Omnimax film for the Boston Museum of Science, slated for release in October 2023. Cosmic´s next film in distribution is Jane Goodall´s Reasons for Hope (2023).
Cosmic’s last production, Superpower Dogs (2019) is the inspiring true story of the world’s most extraordinary dogs, is co-distributed by Cosmic Picture and IMAX Entertainment, and grossed the largest box office on the giant screen in 2019. The film won Best Film and Best Marketing at the 2019 Giant Screen Achievement Awards, and inspired the release of a multi book deal on Superpower Dogs with the publisher Little Brown.
Taran also produced the giant screen films Jerusalem (2013) and Journey to Mecca (2009), securing over US $20 million for both projects from private investors, charitable foundations, distributors and tax credits.
Distributed by National Geographic and described by the Washington Post as “awe inspiring and intimate” and the Boston Globe as “a mesmerizing vision”, Jerusalem has broken attendance records in several markets in North America since its release in October 2013, and has earned nearly US $15 million on approximately 120 giant screens in 5 years.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi hosted the world premiere of Journey to Mecca on the world’s largest outdoor screen with seating for 1,500 people, specially constructed for the event. The documentary is the first IMAX film to showcase the most sacred sanctuary of Islam and was only the second film to be publically shown in Saudi Arabia since theaters were closed there in the 1970’s. Described by Total Film as ‘Wondrous to Behold’ and Sight and Sound as “something never before seen on such a breathtaking scale”, Journey to Mecca is an epic IMAX documentary featuring 4,500 extras and the largest animal caravan ever assembled on film since the movie Lawrence of Arabia.
Under the banner of his film company Wicklow Films, which he founded in 1994, Taran has produced, directed and written several critically acclaimed films for television and theatrical release. His first documentary, Around the Sacred Sea, told the story of his five-month horseback expedition to ride around Siberia's Lake Baikal. While on this journey, he developed a fascination with Russia, its southern borderlands, and the many cultures and religions of the region, especially Islam. Taran subsequently made documentaries about the history of Islam and the life of Muslims throughout much of the Islamic world. His next documentary, The Land Beyond the River, about his journey through Central Asia, was the first film shot entirely in Hi 8 to be broadcast nationwide by PBS in the United States.
In the mid 1990’s Taran left the world of filmmaking for Wall Street for 5 years where he worked as an investment banker with Loeb Partners, a merchant banking firm, where he arranged financing for venture capital deals in the communications, media and real estate industry. Working a block away from the World Trade Center, he witnessed their collapse on 9/11, quit his job, shelved plans for business school, and picked up his camera again and decided to make films that might shed light on conflict, its causes and effects.
Taran’s Afghan Stories, a feature documentary, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2002, and was described by the New York Times as “invaluable” and the Anthology of Cult Movies as one of the best documentary films ever made. He then completed the documentary Mountain Men and Holy Wars, "an eye- opening look at the centuries-old roots of Russia's bloody struggle with Islamic separatists in Chechnya and Daghestan," which premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His films, described by TV Guide as "Must See TV," were all featured on the Sundance Channel in 2003.
Taran has been a Board Member of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) for several years, and was Chairman of the GSCA’s Industry Development Committee from 2018-2020.
Born in New York, Taran lives in London with his wife and three children.
President & Producer, Invention Studios
May W. Jensen
May W. Jensen
VP, Labor Relations - North America Retail at Starbucks
May W. Jensen is the Vice President of Labor Relations for North America Retail at Starbucks. May has been with the company for over six years, starting in 2012 as the Regional Director of Partner Resources.
May has a long history in Human Resources, starting their career as the Corporate Employee Relations Manager at Ameristar Casino in 2001. May then spent four years as the Director of Human Resources at the W New York Union Square before moving to Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2007. At Starwood, they held the position of Corporate Senior Human Resources Manager for one year before being promoted to Director of Human Resources at the 5-star, 5-diamond resort in south Laguna Beach. May left Starwood in 2010 to join The Light Group as their Vice President of Human Resources.
May has been married for 20 years and has two teenage daughters. In their free time, they enjoy spending time with their family, traveling, and reading.
May W. Jensen has a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Hospitality Administration/Management from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a degree in Hospitality Administration/Management from the Australian International Hotel School.
L.A. Bureau Chief of Insider
Alison Brower is the L.A. bureau chief of Insider, where she leads coverage on the business of entertainment and the digital disruption of Hollywood and media, as well as oversees the creator economy team. Previously, she was the deputy editor for arts and entertainment at the Los Angeles Times and deputy editorial director at the Hollywood Reporter. Before moving to Los Angeles in 2014, Brower was the founding editor-in-chief of Dr. Oz The Good Life at Hearst and worked in the editorial leadership of magazines including Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Seventeen.
Entertainment Director at 1 Hotels
Founder & CEO of FluentPet
Leo Trottier is a unique blend of cognitive scientist, software engineer, product designer, and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of FluentPet, a science and mission-driven company that builds tools and community for catalyzing two-way communication between humans and the animals they live with. His products have been featured in the BBC, on CNN, in the Wall Street Journal, and in the NY Times, among other outlets. Using cognitive science-based research and insights, FluentPet makes it possible for people to teach their dogs and cats to "talk" with recordable sound buttons through a system of programmable HexTiles. He’s also an alumnus of San Diego's EvoNexus and the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator (powered by Techstars). He has degrees in cognitive science from the University of Toronto and UC San Diego and started CleverPet while a Ph.D. Candidate at UCSD. Since its launch, FluentPet has generated over $15M in revenue and can be found in almost 150,000 homes.
Los Angeles Fire Department
John Paul Hilsabeck
John Paul Hilsabeck
Los Angeles Fire Department
Chief Chad Sourbeer
Chief Chad Sourbeer
Los Angeles Fire Department
Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Search Canine Team
Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Search Canine Team
LA County Fire and Rescue K9 Team
Chief People Officer at REI Co-op
Apple Musni joined REI in March 2023 as its Chief People Officer. Apple is responsible for the full expression of REI’s people-first strategy. She leads the teams that create a best-in-class experience for employees, shape the co-op’s industry-leading compensation and benefits offerings, provide HR business partnerships, design innovative talent strategies and advance the co-op’s racial equity commitments.
Prior to joining REI, Apple spent the last year and a half at Chipotle Mexican Grill leading their field people experience strategy, initiatives, and roadmap. She was instrumental in redefining their staffing strategy, launching new data-driven recruitment marketing programs and workforce planning processes, and building capabilities. Over the last 23 years, Apple has held progressive leadership roles overseeing HR and Operational functions most of which was at McDonald’s Corporation and Target Corporation. Apple is known to be a change agent and an agile learner and has achieved award-winning results for transforming operations and employee culture through strategy, execution and talent management. She has a proven track record of delivering innovative and sustainable solutions that grow businesses, optimize processes, improve customer experience and drive revenue growth.
Apple holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in Business from the University of Southern California (USC). She serves on the board of United Way of California and is a member of the Chief Women’s Network and CNBC Workforce Executive Council.
Chief People Officer, Sweetgreen
Adrienne Gemperle has successfully led people functions for a large scale global Fortune 500 company as well as high-growth, disruptive, start-ups. Adrienne’s passion is to enable organizational success through building progressive, mission-driven culture where people thrive and grow.
Adrienne joins Sweetgreen from Soulcycle where she served as Chief People Officer. SoulCycle is a leading fitness brand differentiated by talent and its mission to “move people to move the world.” At SoulCycle, Adrienne led the talent strategy and built a people function for global expansion and the innovation and launch of the digital bike.
She served as CPO for Plated, reporting to the Founders and led people strategy through a period of high-growth and positioning for sale. Plated is a leading meal-kit service servicing fresh, delicious meals to the US market through subscription and in-store pick up. Plated’s funding included investments on Shark Tank and was acquired by Alberstsons in 2018, making Plated Shark Tank’s most profitable venture.
A former Starbucks executive, Adrienne spent 10 years in a variety of leadership roles serving as SVP HR, Partner Resources for the US and Americas, Global HR Operations and Head of Global Stafing.
Adrienne led a dynamic team of over 150 HR professionals responsible for the partner experience strategy serving over 100,000 retail partners (employees) and 10,000 stores.
Adrienne holds a BA, Communications from Washington State University and a MA, Management from Antioch University.
She lives in Los Angeles with her Husband James and their two children Rachel and Max and two dogs Leo and Friday. They are a family inspired by food, fitness and travel.
Z-Best Pet Logo
Best Pet Workplaces
Improving the lives of pets today. Investing in the workforce of tomorrow.
Come be a part of history at Best Pet Workplaces where you and many other corporate leaders will share ideas, connect with top decision-makers, and learn about how pets make us all better leaders.
Presented by WUF (With U Forever), a lifestyle brand dedicated to uniting communities through dogs, and powered by Nationwide Pet Insurance, the nation’s leading provider of corporate pet insurance benefits, Best Pet Workplaces will showcase how pets provide physical, mental, and fiscal benefits for employees at every level and across every industry.
Join us on May 18, 2023 in Play Vista, CA and experience the future of pets in the workplace.
Apply now to join Best Pet Workplaces.
Be a part of the groundbreaking gathering celebrating how pets make better companies.