2018 CONNECT SPEAKERS
VP, Private Brands | Boxed Wholesale
Jeff Gamsey is the VP of Private Brands at Boxed.com, an online wholesaler bringing the bulk-shopping experience online. Jeff joined Boxed as its 10th employee, and built the company’s private brand business from the ground up while simultaneously serving as the company’s General Counsel for two years. He currently leads the private brand team and has commercialized over 80 ultra-premium CPG products and built an innovative, award-winning brand, Prince & Spring. Jeff was also part of the executive team that raised a $100 million Series C.
Managing Director, Customer Engagement & Innovation | Citi
Mary Hines is the Managing Director of Customer Engagement and Innovation within Citi’s U.S. Cards division. She is responsible for maximizing Citi’s relationship with its cardholders by cultivating trust, communicating value, and delivering customer-centric innovation to drive sustainable client-led growth for the U.S. Cards business. Among her many accomplishments during her six years at Citi, Mary has led the transformation of Citi’s U.S. ThankYou and Global Rewards Program. Prior to joining Citi, she was with American Express for nine years, most recently as Vice President of Charge Product Management. And before joining Amex, Mary held several roles with Inductis, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Accenture etc.
VP, User Experience Design | Macy’s
Willy Lai is an award-winning user experience design leader with over two decades at top tech companies in Silicon Valley including Apple, Samsung, PayPal, Intuit, and eBay. He has had in-house, agency, and consulting experience across mobile, tablet, wearables, TV, web, and desktop. He currently leads omnichannel user experience design as VP of UX Design for Macy’s, and concurrently leads product design as Chief Design Officer for Haggleland. Prior to Macy’s and Haggleland, Willy held Director of UX Design positions for Apple’s FileMaker business software and Samsung’s Milk Music streaming music apps. Willy has also led large-scale, global redesigns for PayPal, Intuit, eBay and AOL.
Former Head of Narrative & Partnerships | Lowe’s Innovation Labs
Amanda Manna is an innovative leader and formerly head of narrative and partnerships for Lowe’s Innovation Labs, which has established a global reputation for breakthroughs including the first AR/VR home design tools, in-store autonomous robotics, exoskeletons for store employees, and the first store in space – a 3D printer aboard the International Space Station. Her team’s responsibilities included a narrative-driven approach to innovation strategy, an extensive applied neuroscience research program, partnerships, and marketing and communications.
Chief Visionary | Sizmek
Nikos Acuña is an award-winning author, producer, speaker, and futurist. As Chief Visionary at Sizmek, a company that creates advertising solutions of the future, Nikos uncovers the hidden connections between brands and audiences, and encapsulates his findings in the daring video series, Symbiosis. Nikos is the author of numerous research papers on AI and digital transformation, as well as several books, including The Predictive Business and Mindshare, which received Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award and the USA Best Book Award. Nikos is also a strategic advisor and consultant to brands, agencies, and companies seeking to become exponential organizations.
Senior Brand Manager | Freshii
Michelle joined Freshii in December 2015 and has helped lead the brand through their extreme growth ever since. She started as the brand’s first Experiential Marketing Manager, focused on store-level marketing support & developing customized marketing plans to the 300+ franchise partners. She now oversees Global Brand strategy, including partnerships, advertising, menu innovation and is responsible for managing all brand communication touchpoints. Prior to joining Freshii, Michelle worked for WE, a global non-profit, running executive fundraising events and prior to that, worked in sport & brand licensing for IMG & the Toronto Blue Jays.
Director, Mobile Strategy | Caesars Entertainment
Lisa Ajdini has over 15 years’ experience in mobile, interactive marketing, digital products innovation and loyalty marketing. Experienced leader in campaign development strategy and marketing technology. Focus in automotive, gaming and hospitality. She currently is Director, Mobile Strategy at Caesars Entertainment where she leads strategy for mobile marketing, push and SMS. Prior to joining Caesars Entertainment, she worked with BBDO agency on the DaimlerChrysler account in International Marketing.
VP of Sales | Chatmeter
Lee Auerbach has almost two decades of experience building and leading sales teams to success. After pivoting half way through his career to the digital sector (Tribune Interactive, Economist, Motivequest, Groupon), he now focuses on Big Data and how to convert analytics into action. The key learning is that 92% (and rising) of consumers vet local options via maps like Google Maps If you can organically rank better, review better, socialize better, and moderate better… Then you will win the vetting race every time for every store. Winning a customer naturally is more powerful than any advertisement.
Manager, Marketing Products & Innovation | Caesars Entertainment
Brenda Barré is the Manager of Marketing Products and Innovation at Caesars Entertainment, the world’s most diversified casino-entertainment provider and the most geographically diverse U.S. casino-entertainment company. Brenda brings a strong knowledge of enhancing the guest experience through mobile technology having successfully launched Ivy, the real-time guest text messaging program, at twelve (12) Caesars Entertainment resorts to date comprising over 20,000 rooms. Brenda has been with Caesars Entertainment since 2012 and has served in various roles within the organization including Executive Assistant to the Chairman, President & CEO and Executive Marketing Associate to the Chief Marketing Officer. Brenda won a Caesars Award of Excellence in 2018.
Digital Manager | A&W Restaurants
Liz Bazner is a self-proclaimed foodie who currently serves as Digital Manager for A&W Restaurants, the nation’s oldest franchised restaurant chain. Liz leads the development of digital & social campaigns to increase brand awareness & drive measurable traffic to A&W locations across the country, as well as overseeing the consumer-facing website & email marketing program. After graduating from Vanderbilt University with a degree in political science & public policy, Liz worked for a variety of public officials doing PR & campaign management work before joining the A&W team.
Digital Product Manager | Allstate Insurance
Jennifer Bowser is a Digital Product Manager at Allstate Insurance where she specializes in product development for consumer facing apps. Jennifer began her career in mobile in 2010 when she created Allstate’s first mobile quoting tool as a pilot program, and she’s been passionate about all things mobile ever since. Her current app programs include GoodRide, a motorcycle enthusiast app, and Digital Locker, a web and app based home inventory platform. She also serves as the iOS product lead for Allstate Mobile.
Sr. Product Manager, Apps & Online | Pampered Chef
Eric Buckner is a Senior Product Manager responsible for Apps and the Party experience for Pampered Chef. Prior to working for Pampered Chef he worked for companies such as Sears/Kmart, Groupon, and Redbox. He launched the first redbox apps and was running cart and checkout at Sears/Kmart just prior to Pampered Chef. Eric has over 10 years as a product leader creating solutions to deliver value to companies and consumers alike.
Director of Global Payments Strategy | Hyatt Hotels
Jayson is the Director, Global Payments Strategy at Hyatt where he is responsible for the development and management of payment acceptance capabilities, guest experience, vendor management and financial performance of both traditional and emerging payment acceptance across Hyatt’s global hotel properties. Prior to Hyatt, Jayson was a manager in Ernst and Young’s Payments Advisory group and he previously held positions at HSBC Bank, PwC and Citigroup in product management and advisory roles. Jayson received his Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
Principal, Mobile Development & Digital Transformation | Capgemini
Matt Cava is a Principal, Mobile Product and Digital Transformation, at Capgemini. Currently, he is acountable for global mobile product development and delivery; as well as product strategy, management, and engineering. Matt has deep experience in using design thinking and customer centric approaches to develop digital products and services. He has been deeply engaged with all phases of native mobile application development projects for the past 8+ years, focusing on both customer experience and driving m-commerce. Prior to Capgemini, Matt was with McDonald’s Corp. developing and launching their mobile commerce app in the US, and several international markets. He also spent many years at Razorfish, as Mobile COE lead.
Director of eCommerce | Taco Bell
As Senior Manager of eCommerce Innovation at Taco Bell Corp, Derrick Chan oversees the user experience strategy and design for multiple platforms across the company including TacoBell.com and Taco Bell’s mobile app. Derrick joined Taco Bell, with over 9 years of experience designing and building eCommerce websites in almost every industry, to help re-imagine the customer experience from ordering ahead online to pick-up in-store. In addition to user experience, Derrick also oversees online merchandising, digital content and SEO for the brand.
Principal & Head of Mobile Strategy | Punchkick Interactive
Billy Collins is a Principal and Head of Mobile Strategy at Punchkick Interactive. Billy has more than a decade of experience helping retail, financial services, hospitality, and media companies develop comprehensive, user-first mobile strategies that drive real customer value using emerging technology and best practices in user experience design and development. Most recently, Billy has been exploring how contextual, cross-platform chat can help brands boost customer satisfaction and deliver a massively differentiated experience across each of a brand’s digital channels.
VP of Integrated Marketing & Customer Engagement | Potbelly Sandwich Works
Speaker bio coming soon!
Director of Digital Product Management | Great Wolf Resorts
Melissa Douros began as a product owner for third party collections and then moved into the digital space, focusing on collections and then credit card. Recently hired to lead the Digital Product team at Great Wolf Resorts, she is leading a digital transformation including building a mobile app. In parallel, Melissa is a Human Computer Interaction Masters’s Candidate at Iowa State University, founded the Brett Robert Jostes Scholarship for Girls Going Into STEM, is a three year running WebAward Judge and named Top 50 UX Experts to follow on Twitter.
SVP, Events | Networld Media Group
David Drain has more than 20 years of experience in association management, event planning, writing and speaking. He has served as executive director of the Digital Signage Association (a group he co-founded), the Self-Service & Kiosk Association and the merged organization, Digital Screenmedia Association. Previously he was EVP for the Foodservice Consultants Society International. He currently oversees five summits for Networld Media Group ranging from mobile, interactive customer experience, bank CX, restaurant franchising and fast casual restaurants.
Consumer Foodservice Analyst | Euromonitor International
Stephen Dutton is a Consumer Foodservice Analyst at Euromonitor International, analyzing the global foodservice industry. In this role, Stephen provides insight into the consumer trends, key markets, competitive landscape and growth opportunities in the global foodservice space to help companies make informed business decisions. Stephen has a master’s degree in international affairs from The George Washington University and has spent years working and traveling abroad.
Director of Marketing | Kount
Melayna Gabiou is the Director of Marketing at Kount and been with the company since 2014. She is responsible for the digital marketing team activities. Her experience working with fraud professionals has founded a new passion to bring-to-market best practices and solutions related to stopping criminals online. Launching fraud mitigation strategies that include a creative voice and compelling message is what drives her everyday work. Prior to joining Kount, Melayna managed events and demand generation activities at Clearwater Analytics. Melayna Gabiou grew up in Boise, Idaho and attended Boise State University earning a BBA in Marketing.
Managing Director | ICX Association
Christopher Hall is Managing Director of ICX Association. Prior to this position he was managing editor of content for B2B publisher Networld Media Group, and the editor of DigitalSignageToday.com, the leading news portal for the digital signage industry, covering digital out of-home advertising, digital billboards, experiential digital branding and digital signage hardware, software and displays. An award-winning former newspaper reporter and magazine writer, Christopher is a seven year veteran of the digital signage and kiosk industries who has consulted for and spoken on the digital signage industry sector-wide.
Digital Brand Manager | Fazoli’s
Will Hanrahan is the Digital Brand Manager at Fazoli’s. He oversees growth of the Fazoli’s Rewards Program since the launch of the brands Mobile Ordering App in November 2017. Will leads the digital strategy for America’s largest Italian elevated QSR chain including email and digital campaigns, web content and social media.
Regional Director of Americas | Apigate
Kashif Haq has an extensive experience of successfully launching innovative and leading-edge products and services around the globe. He played a key role to incubate and productize the apigate platform that supports apigate pro and apigate hub products. As a Regional Director of Americas, he is responsible to grow the apigate business and support the rapidly expanding client base. As the CTO of Axiata Digital, he has also played a key role in launching two sister companies, Boost Malaysia and ada-asia. He has played executive level roles as the CITO for Celcom & CIO for Brighhouse networks.
Digital Marketing Manager | Marcus Hotels & Resorts
Cortney Heimerl is the Digital Marketing Manager for Marcus Hotels & Resorts based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she oversees the digital strategy of the 20 hotel portfolio and 2 spy-themed restaurants called SafeHouse. Cortney works to understand and accomplish digital marketing goals to engage an audience, create brand affinity, monitor progress and tie data to action. With advanced knowledge in social media content and strategy, SEO and strategic research, she brings nearly a decade of experience developing brands through the digital marketplace. Prior to joining Marcus, Cortney was known for developing digital communities in an effort to drive action offline.
Editor | Mobile Payments Today
Will Hernandez has more than 15 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of Mobile Payments Today, he spent two years as the content manager for PaymentsJournal.com, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. He spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia’s Payments Group based in Chicago including ATM&Debit News, CardLine, PaymentsSource.com, ISO&Agent Weekly and American Banker.
COO | Bloom Intelligence
Robin Johnston is COO at Bloom Intelligence, a customer analytics and marketing automation company that uses data from Wi-Fi and other systems to create robust guest profiles and trigger marketing protocols. He handles product development, and oversees the marketing and field operations teams from Bloom’s Tallahassee, Florida-based operations center. Robin is a Ph.D. candidate, holds an MBA in marketing and corporate strategy from the University of Toronto, and is a Certified Management Consultant and member of the National Speakers Association. He was previously Chief Marketing Officer for Verian, a global leader in procure-to-pay automation technologies.
Co-Founder | Balance Grille
Prakash Karamchandani is a self-proclaimed foodie and technology junkie who co-founded Balance Pan-Asian Grille, a nationally-acclaimed fast-casual Asian fusion multi-unit concept based in Ohio. Prakash oversees development and finance, as well as leads the brand’s marketing and technological innovation efforts. Since starting the venture in 2010, Prakash has been recognized as a Top 24 Fast Casual Executive and a 20 Under 40 recipient as recently as 2017. In addition to meeting his co-founder at the University of Toledo, Prakash met his wife and is a father of two.
Director of Interactive & Innovation | Quiznos
Tim Kraus is the Director of Interactive and Innovation for Quiznos. As the Director of Interactive, Tim overseas Quiznos Toasty Points loyalty program, digital media planning & buying, and interactive strategies for Quiznos consumer marketing. Tim also manages Quiznos SEO strategy, email marketing, online ordering, and is the webmaster for Quiznos.com.
Communications Coordinator | Skogen’s Festival Foods
As Communications Coordinator at Skogen’s Festival Foods, Kaela Kucera oversees the strategy, execution and maintenance of affinity groups. Under her leadership, mobile clubs grew from 59,000 to 97,000 subscribers in only 13 months. In addition to expanding mobile communications throughout 30 Festival Foods locations, Kaela manages digital and intellectual assets and supports key programs, such as ecommerce and the website. She has a talent for using technical platforms to resolve complex issues to win guest loyalty, helping cement Festival Foods’ reputation as a top-notch grocer. With over 10 years of grocery experience, Kaela earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication.
VP of Marketing | Marcus Hotels & Resorts
Prior to joining Marcus Hotels & Resorts, Erin Levzow served as VP of customer relationship marketing, loyalty and marketing for Hathway, a customer service experience company specializing in helping billion-dollar brands develop mobile-first strategies. Erin’s extensive marketing and digital experience also includes leading digital, social, CRM and e-commerce for Wingstop Restaurants and serving as VP of marketing and technology for Freebirds World Burrito. Erin began her career in Las Vegas for MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Palms Casino Resort & Palms Place Hotel and Spa.
Digital Platform Manager | Home Credit US
Jordyn McQuaide is the Digital Platform Manager for Home Credit US. She joined Home Credit in 2016 and was a pivotal player in the ideation, development and successful release of the initial MVP of their mobile application. Currently, she is responsible for expanding Home Credit’s digital presence to new and innovative levels within the consumer finance sector. Prior to Home Credit, Jordyn was at Commerce Bank and Kana Software where she gained a decade of experience in product development, system integration and consumer platform implementations.
Global Digital Product Marketing | McDonald’s
Desmond Overstreet is a digital native and trusted advisor with +15 years of experience in B2C product management leadership, digital customer engagement, mobile messaging and social, growth / performance marketing, and data analytics. He has digital commerce experience spanning across financial services, retail/consumer products, travel/hospitality, and casual dining. He possesses deep domain expertise in the orchestration of omnichannel experiences especially data-driven growth acceleration and cost optimization. Desmond is passionate about unified communications (push/SMS/email/chat/IVR), data science, APIs & web services, connected IoT SmartDevices. He is currently a Sr. Digital Product Marketing Manager focused on Engagement, Customer Data & CRM/Loyalty.
Senior Manager, Customer Experience | Kohl’s
Dennis Schleicher is Senior Manager Customer Experience Design at Kohl’s where his team focuses on the experiences for buy online pickup in store, the Yes2You Loyalty program, and the private label Kohl’s credit card. His customer centered approach centers on understanding and designing inside of retail ecologies for families using his background in business and industrial anthropology. He has worked with Sears/Kmart both customer and associate facing experience, Ford.com and the My Ford Loyalty program, Chrysler, General Motors, Comcast, Dominos, and various non-profits.
Digital Marketing Manager | Duffy’s Sports Grill
Dylan Schmer is the Digital Marketing Manager for Duffy’s Sports Grill. Based in Palm Beach County, Duffy’s operates 33 full-service, casual-dining restaurants throughout Florida. The family-owned company has become a regional market leader known for top-quality casual-dining with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. Dylan is responsible for creating maximum visibility and engagement across all digital mediums. When he’s not tweeting, you’ll find Dylan dancing For The Kids to end childhood illness as the Southeast Alumni Director for Dance Marathon at the University of Florida. Dylan’s passion for all-things-digital is guided by a desire to tackle this constantly evolving digital landscape.
VP, Director Emerging Technology & Innovation | Leo Burnett
As VP, Director of Emerging Technology and Digital Strategy at Leo Burnett, Tod Szewczyk helps bring new platforms, partners and ways of working into the agency. He provides insight and best practices to successfully integrate new technologies into marketing initiatives that create immersive and engaging brand experiences. Tod has led the agency’s development of the proprietary Leovative content platform, founded Arc’s Retail Innovation Lab and Leo Burnett’s new technology Lab along with producing FutureShop/Leovative expo events. In addition, he also leads the agencies’ strategic partnership with Google. Tod’s writing has been published on the Chicago Ideas website under the “Future Today” series, in the Chicago Tribune and through Leo Burnett’s Leo Scope program.
Mobile Marketing & E-commerce | GUESS
Haseeb Tariq is currently leading the Mobile Marketing strategy and focuses on mobile analytics, engagement, and partnerships for GUESS? Inc.’s mobile division. He brings over 10+ years of experience in founding internet startups and business ventures. In terms of growth, he has helped brands achieve $5M eCommerce Sales, 800k app downloads and taken SaaS companies to over $200k MRR / $1MM ARR.
Co-Founder | Cora Home
Sara Taylor-Demos is the Co-Founder/CEO of Cora, where you can visually search 100s of furniture sites at once by using their proprietary computer vision/AI tech. Sara’s passion for CX and technology has led her to found Cora, stemming from 11 years experience in strategy and building digital projects (products, mobile apps, websites, data). In her last role, Sara was a Sr. Digital Strategist at innovation consulting firm Solstice, advising Fortune 500 companies on digital transformation and emerging technology.
User Experience & Design Manager | Lowe’s
Taylor Webster has over two decades under his belt as a UX and design leader building best-in-class experiences in e-commerce, video games, publishing, aircraft, banking and many other industries. He has in-house, agency and consulting experience with mobile apps, web, tablet, wearables and augmented reality. Taylor has lead full redesigns of Lowe’s mobile apps and helped set the standard in mobile product-finding among major retailers. Today, Taylor is a UX and Design Manager for Lowe’s Home Improvement where his team is designing the future of omnichannel retail experiences for both customers and associates.