Thirteen of San Diego County’s technology innovators were recognized at the 13th annual Top Tech Awards which honors the region’s “unsung heroes” of information technology in the areas of business, education, government and nonprofit organizations.
For the first time ever due to the pandemic, the event was hosted in an immersive virtual environment with collaborator VirBELA, where nearly 400 attendees created their own avatars to celebrate the county’s outstanding information technology executives. Cox Business Vice President Duane Cameron and USS Midway IT Director Joe Gursky delivered opening remarks at the virtual event. Gursky served as the 2020 Top Tech Awards Judging Chair. The event was hosted by Heather Myers, morning anchor and weather reporter for CBS 8 in San Diego.
Rich Coppa, vice president of infrastructure and facilities and CIO for The Arc of San Diego received the Lifetime Achievement award. Jake Fields, co-founder and chief technology officer for Platform Science, received the Cox Business Exemplary award.
The 11 category honorees, selected from nearly 300 nominations, include:
- Private Micro (0-50 employees): Anthony Zoblescin, Pacific Debt Inc.
- Private Small (51-150 employees): Jerry Creekbaum, Expedition Communications
- Private Med (151-300 employees): Brook Benson, Balboa United
- Private Large (301+ employees): Michael Singer, Veyo, LLC
- Private Extra-Large (501+ employees): Ram Patrachari, Viejas Casino and Resort
- Education: Stephanie Casperson, San Marcos Unified School District
- Government: Scott Daeschner, City of San Diego
- Start-up: Larry Heminger, MemComputing, Inc.
- Nonprofit: Jeffrey Hamilton, Mental Health Systems
- Public Small (0-300 employees): Feliks Dushatsky, ImprimisRx
- Public Large (301+ employees): Amy Deford, WD-40 Company
“Now more than ever as we face new ways of working, learning and living, IT departments are critical to an organization’s ability to be innovative and agile, and the Top Tech awards recognize those exceptional IT leaders who bring modernization to their teams and our San Diego region,” said Duane Cameron, vice president of Cox Business, which has recognized local technology leaders with the awards since 2008.
Honorees for the Top Tech Awards were nominated by their peers and customers and selected by an independent judging panel.
In addition to presenting sponsor Cox Business, sponsors included San Diego Business Journal, ScaleMatrix, AdTech, Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), Better Business Bureau (BBB), Startup San Diego, San Diego Tech Hub and Tech San Diego.
About the Top Tech Awards
Since 2008, Cox Business has lauded the incredible information technology innovators in the San Diego. The Top Tech Awards pay homage to the wealth of talent in our local community who have vision, take risks, and implement new cutting-edge technologies, all in the name of making their organizations more connected, more productive, and more successful. Since its inception, the Top Tech Awards has grown expansively and stands today as the premier information technology event in San Diego. In 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 all presiding mayors of the city declared the event day as “Top Tech Exec Day” in San Diego, recognizing the city’s information technology leaders and their amazing contributions to our community. For more information, visit www.toptechawards.com.
Top Tech Award Honoree Summaries
Top Tech Lifetime Achievement Award:
Rich Coppa, Vice President of Infrastructure & Facilities and CIO
The Arc of San Diego
Rich Coppa championed the conversion of the Arc’s Case Management System in 2011 from a cumbersome paper system to the industry leading electronic system – Therap Services. Therap is an Online SaaS Solution for Providers Supporting People with Developmental Disabilities for Effective and Efficient Documentation, Reporting and Communication. The Arc is now tracking the Case Management needs of over 2,500 clients electronically – allowing instant access to this data by over 500 Arc users – while maintaining State Licensing, HIPPA, and HITECH Compliance.
Going above and beyond, Rich completed the requirements for his B- General Building Contractor with the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and the American Academy of Project Management – Master Project Manager (MPM2). His classifications added to Arc’s landscaping license will allow Arc the ability to contract for government set-aside NISH and JWOD contracts for Arc’s clients served. He developed the site requirements, architectural bid process, architect selection, numerous committee reviews, and the CUP process. His efforts directly resulted in major project revisions that culminated in project scopes that matched the needs of the clients as well as ensuring the flexibility for Arc to change program offerings in the future.
Top Tech Cox Business Exemplary Award:
Jake Fields, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer
Throughout the 2019-20 year, Jake Fields has continued to lead Platform Science to extraordinary consumer response and industry accolades, coinciding with the numerous awards received by the company. Last fall, Field’s played a significant role in securing the partnership between Platform Science and one of the nation’s largest trucking companies, Schneider. Through this partnership, Platform Science deployed its innovative technology onto Schneider’s fleet, which is responsible for moving 9.3 million freight miles per day. This integration enabled the easy deployment of new applications and services to respond to evolving compliance requirements, while enhancing the overall quality of the driver experience. More recently, Fields’s was instrumental in driving and securing the partnership between Platform Science and Daimler Trucks North America, the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer in the world. Announced in May 2020, Platform Science will be the primary on-vehicle fleet management software development and distribution partner across Daimler fleets, enabling customers to purchase and utilize third party telematics solutions and connectivity services directly from their trucks without aftermarket hardware installation. Implementing the solution as the default offering when the truck is produced gives Platform Science the opportunity to become a default ELD and telecommunications platform for a large percentage of the Class 8 trucking industry.
Top Tech Award – Nonprofit:
Jeffrey Hamilton, Director of Information Technology
Mental Health Systems
Jeffrey Hamilton was instrumental in the transformation of information technology and security to secure, grow and enhance business services for 120 behavior programs across California. He has completely transformed the company’s infrastructure and technology service offerings that are grounded in Azure Cloud Services, Microsoft 365 and new strategic relationships with its vendors. The transformation began with a complete infrastructure over hall of firewall, switches and implementation of Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) to all site locations in 90 days. Additionally, on all premise’s hardware (25 servers/VM) was migrated to Azure cloud servers eliminating nearly $400,000 in necessary capital expenditures to replace out of warranty and specification hardware.
Hamilton spearheaded VOIP transition to Microsoft Teams telephony service from another vendor resulting in a nearly $144k cost savings. This strategy yielded a reduction of physical phone hardware from 1100 physical units down to 120. Most employees were transitioned to using headsets as part of the deployment resulting in significantly lower startup costs programs. The VOIP Teams implementation was negotiated through a new strategic partnership with Mobiz, Inc., that included a custom development solution to redesign the intake, client management and record – keeping currently based in excel to an Azure based SaaS Solution. Hamilton has strengthened the organization’s information security posture by deploying industry security proven solutions. These deployments have been instrumental in crippling viruses, malware, phishing, impersonation and other cyber-attacks.
Top Tech Award – Private Micro (0-50 employees):
Anthony Zoblescin, Director of Information Technology
Pacific Debt Inc.
Anthony Zoblescin has planned, developed and delivered an integration between Pacific Debt Inc.’s (PDI’s) online sales funnels, Experian’s credit pull APIs and PDI’s Sales CRM, allowing prospective consumers to pull their own credit, prequalify for services and receive a prospective savings estimate during lead submittal, strengthening contact rates during the prospecting sales process.
Zoblescin also developed an additional process of automation for internal sales tracking processes that further reduced administrative costs tied to data collection, manipulation and reporting. His work upgrading the internal network infrastructure to future proof the business and provide additional layers of network security has served the company well, in addition to interviewing and evaluated various VoIP and Internet service providers to deliver the best feature set and business value possible while lowering monthly variable costs. He has truly implemented business continuity planning at all levels of IT systems + infrastructure which has now paid dividends in 2020 with Covid-19. Right now, 100% of call center workers are remote. Business has not declined, and there have been no layoffs under his direction.
Top Tech Award – Private Small (51-150 employees):
Jerry Creekbaum, Chief Technology Officer
In a short period of time since joining Expedition Communications Jerry Creekbaum has hit the ground running by advancing the company’s entry into the Satellite Broadband Internet market. The focus of his efforts has been to gain market share for Nomadic Satellite Disaster Recovery for emergency responders in the United States and to develop business continuity solutions for businesses in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. For the business continuity line of service, Jerry has on-boarded an entirely new team with a new product for the company. This has created a new division of the company and diversified the company’s income stream. Creekbaum’s contribution has been the ability to look at this age-old industry challenge and recognize a competitive solution. He spent the first few months at Expedition Communications collaborating with the company’s satellite capacity partner. With his leadership, a new business model for first responders was formed. As a result, Expedition Communication now offers a unique cost-effective solution that breaks from tradition and offers first responders a pooled plan allowing an unlimited number of Nomadic satellite terminals to be configured within the plan and one simple annual fee for the bandwidth. At the current pace, Jerry’s team will exceed 2020 forecasts and successfully corner the Caribbean market for Business Continuity solutions.
Top Tech Award – Private Med (151-300 employees):
Brook Benson, Manager of Information Technology
For a little over a year, Brook Benson has performed extensive discovery across the organization’s 25+ locations. Benson selected a new IT managed services partner to help only with targeted items and projects. This move created extensive savings, while mitigating future risk, but was extremely difficult to accomplish. It was a challenge to pivot away from a long-term IT Partner who ran the IT infrastructure and operations for over 10 years. Benson also delicately moved 23 virtual servers and all their non-static data over to a new Virtualized Cloud Environment. This was done with little to no help and no root access. He also negotiated the new Infrastructure as a Service deal with flexibility built in. This initiative saved expenditures, gave the company 100% access to their data, and allows for flexibility to increase ROI. While many of the projects Benson completed in 2019 may sound like “table stakes” to an IT professional, he was able to transform the entire company’s IT strategy in 12 months with little to no help. Not to mention the company has over 25+ locations supporting critically ill patients.
Top Tech Award – Private Large (301+ employees):
Michael Singer, Executive Vice President of Technology
In his role, Michael Singer evangelizes Veyo’s technology and has become a thought leader in the non-emergency transportation on topics ranging from AI and big data to the use of autonomous vehicles in this space. Singer believes in servant leadership understanding that a highly performant team can only be successful if all members of the team are successful, feel appreciated and are on a path to continuous improvement. Veyo’s platform and real-time controls enable us to manage a supply system of what we refer to as a “Virtual Fleet.” Veyo’s Virtual Fleet can scale up and down to meet changes in demand—within minutes—using the platform’s powerful predictive analytics to constantly understand demand patterns; it’s how we manage to keep member grievances at an all-time low. Our operations team monitors supply levels in all areas to ensure the right type and amount of supply is always available, with a car always around the corner from where it’s needed.
Top Tech Award – Public Large (301+ employees):
Amy Deford, Director of Operations
Amy Deford started at WD-40 in 2019. In a short period of time, she has transformed the IT Operations, Service Desk and Information Security departments. Under her global leadership she has disrupted the thinking of a lot of colleagues by being able to run a global company for areas under her purview completely in “the cloud.” Where many have argued that this approach is too costly or risky, she has proved them wrong. The company is now saving a great deal on expenditures since pivoting aware from the traditional on-premises approach. Deford has also been able to keep the solution secure and has provided for the ability to do full failover almost automatically to another part of the company should one part go offline. Additionally, she has established a solid change management process that all IT departments participate in on a regular basis. The result is not a single self-inflicted service disruption over her tenure.
Top Tech Award – Public Small (0-300 employees):
Feliks Dushatsky, Director of Information Technology
As the Director of Information Technology, Feliks Dushatsky manages people and projects in support of pharmacy staff to ensure they can manufacture/process orders and that patients receive their crucial medications. Dushatsky has overseen a number of successful projects, including setting up the infrastructure, storage, network of an off-site data center, switching the company network, firewall replacement and service desk migration to a new platform, and significantly raised our Microsoft security score in Office 365 with various measures. He has also upgraded its phone system and call center migration to a new platform, implemented ERP and pharmacy management software migration, overseen on-premise and cloud backup optimization, conducted audits for cost savings (Office 365, AWS) and implemented internal controls to assure compliance (HIPAA, SOX, PCI). Dushatsky also provides both hands-on help and strategic leadership to an animal hospital in East County San Diego. He regularly assists them with general IT work, networking, and security. In terms of networking and continuing education, one of his focal points centers around security. He is a member of the Palo Alto Networks FUEL user group and attends the Blackhat, DEFCON, Palo Alto Ignite, and ToorCon cybersecurity conferences to stay up to date on latest trends.
Top Tech Award – Education:
Stephanie Casperson, Director of Information Technology
San Marcos Unified School District
As the Director of Educational Technology, Stephanie Casperson serves in two roles gracefully and simultaneously: one of leader and one of supporter. She leads and serves through high expectations for herself and others. She is humble in taking credit for results yet takes things personally if results are not what she expected. She has shaped the culture of her team by example. Casperson is connected to work 24/7. She answers her phone, texts and emails immediately and then solves the problem just as quickly. The Information Technology team responds immediately to any issues at the schools; this is Casperson’s expectation. She understands the urgent needs of teachers and administrators as she has held both of those positions previously. She puts the learning and safety of students first and foremost in every decision and action. During the recent school closures, our district has transformed our system from a “brick and mortar” learning model to a distance learning model. Casperson’s hand has been in every step of this transformation as the leader of the Technology Department and without her, our plan would not have been successful. Her leadership was present in each stage of the transformation.
Top Tech Award – Government:
Scott Daeschner, Deputy Director in the Department of Information Technology
City of San Diego
Scott Daeschner is the City of San Diego’s Deputy Director in the Department of Information Technology and runs this GIS Division of IT. Last year Daeschner implemented a plan for centralization of GIS across the City to reduce costs, drive value from synergies of the GIS services, and bring efficiencies and innovation for public services. He received the ESRI Presidents Award in July 2019 and was selected out of ESRI’s 150,000 worldwide customers for his leadership and innovation in GIS technology. One of the recent projects Daeschner led was to comply with the Federal Communications Commission rule FCC-18-133 requiring municipalities to make available their assets for distribution of 5G equipment. The city’s permit issuance process had historically taken 6-10 months per assessment and the new FCC required award or decline of a permit in 60-90 days. Daeschner’s team supported the Development Services Department (DSD) within a very compressed development window to ensure equity and transparency to a process which impacts asset management, planning, public safety, sustainability and compliance monitoring. The technology also supports public interest and community engagement. Savings included improvements in data capture accuracy, governance and significant reductions in labor hours and redundant research. Daeschner is on the Management Committee of SanGIS which is the City of San Diego and County of San Diego Joint Powers Agreement in response to the increasing complexity of delivering efficient and effective municipal geographic information system (GIS) services to the public in the San Diego area, and the SDRGC Council, a forum for San Diego region public agencies to develop partnerships, and share information, ideas, strategies, and solutions regarding the management of GIS and related technologies to provide more efficient and effective service to our agencies and constituents.
Top Tech Award – Start-up:
Larry Heminger, Chief Information Officer
Larry Heminger has leveraged his strong technology and software engineering backgrounds to the benefit of MemComputing. Namely, Heminger has developed a technology roadmap and strategy to further develop the MemCPU SaaS into a truly multi-cloud architecture, providing the ability to scale our compute intensive applications across each of the major public cloud infrastructures including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM Cloud. This architecture provides MemComputing with nearly unlimited scale and capacity. Not only was the platform enhanced and secured by the end of 2019, Heminger was also able to add a significant feature to the SaaS, namely the ability to use GPU accelerated compute instances for our solver. Under his leadership, MemComputing has partnered with NVIDIA to utilize their most powerful GPU technology to provide another 40-100 times the performance improvement of our patented solver. The availability of GPU acceleration in the company’s SaaS has proven to be extremely valuable, by enabling the company to successfully complete computationally intense PoC projects, and to fulfill and its goal of providing futuristic Quantum Computing type of performance today, at an affordable price.