15th Annual 2022 Women Tech Award Recipients
On September 22, 2022, the Women’s Tech Council announced eight award recipients from its twenty one finalists. Each woman was recognized for their various accomplishments and influence in the technology sector in Utah.
Following are profiles and highlights of the eight award recipients:
Tech Leadership Award: Dr. Pallavi Ranade-Kharkar, Intermountain Healthcare
Dr. Pallavi Ranade-Kharkar currently works as the Director of Research Informatics and Precision Health for Intermountain Healthcare. She has 25 years of experience in enabling high-quality, safe, cost-effective, and patient-centered healthcare.
Ranade-Kharkar has worked as a research investigator for multiple federal grants and has written over twenty peer-reviewed publications. She has presented her research at both national and international conferences. She currently serves as the Advocacy Director on the board of Utah Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Here she works on the urban-rural digital divide and equity of access. She is also a national advisor to the Department of Veteran Affairs, helping implement clinical research technology.
When asked to give advice for young women Ranade-Kharkar says, “Go for it. The path may be hard, but if you think you have the passion for it, just go for it. Take one day at a time when things get hard, and you can do it. You can absolutely do it.”
Transformation Leadership Award: Travis Anna Hallstrom, PassiveLogic
Travis Hallstrom is a co-founder and Director of Brand Communications at PassiveLogic. As Co-Founder of the first autonomous building platform, Hallstrom wears a lot of hats, including operations lead, product manager, capital fundraiser, and head of marketing.
About her job Hallstrom says, “I regularly look for ways to give growth opportunities through stretch goals with my team. I was thrilled to promote an employee from an intern to a full time… I love that my team members have a holistic support system and feel comfortable sharing that with me as their leader. I want my people to know that their whole selves are welcome at work.”
Hallstrom has a passion for using technology to solve climate crisis problems and has served on the board of the energy management program at Salt Lake Community College. She also serves with FIRST Robotics Program and SheTech.
“Events like this are really meaningful because they bring together a lot of young people who want to achieve great things and to see that it’s possible is really important, because representation matters,” says Hallstrom. When asked to give advice to girls coming into the STEM sector, Hallstrom says, “Make choices that give you opportunities to do what matters to you. Let your career be an expression of your values.”
Trailblazing Innovator Award: Kirsten Timms, Myriad Genetics
Kristen Timms is the Senior Vice President of Biomarker Discovery at Myriad Genetics and has worked on several disease areas including diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disease. For the last 12 years Timms has focused on cancer genetics. She leads a team of lab researchers who work on research projects or run production assays for patient samples and works with other stakeholders in the company to ensure processes make sense and are on the right track.
Timms received a bachelor's degree with honors at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand and went on to get her PhD there, studying abroad in Berlin for a year as a German Academic Exchange Scholar. Timms did a post-doctoral study in Richard Gibbs lab at Baylor College of Medicine, where she worked on the early phases of the Human Genome Project.
“It was a huge honor to be included among this impressive group of individuals,” says Tims. ”Increasing the visibility of women in tech is extremely important as it provides students and younger women in STEM the opportunity to see role models, which helps to break down gender stereotypes in what has traditionally been a male dominated field.”
Education Excellence Award: Kristina Yamada, Utah State Board of Education
Kristina Yamada is a CTE Education Specialist for the Utah State Board of Education. She has worked in education for the past 21 years, is a licensed educator, and adjunct professor at Utah Valley University. Currently, Yamada oversees the K12 Computer Science Grant Program and manages legislative funds to expand K12 Computer Science education to every school district in the state. So far, Yamada has implemented 21 CTE programs and aims to reach 100% of students through her work.
Yamada is also passionate about alternative education and is the current Executive Director of the National Alternative Education Association. She works with students in youth custody centers to learn computer skills and help keep them from recidivism.
When receiving her award Yamada called out to every company, CEO, and person in the building saying, "I need you to step up and give all of my students, and all the students across the state, an opportunity to come to your business and give them an internship or an introduction. That's my challenge to everybody in this room."
Leadership Excellence Award: Kiva Allgood, Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corporation
Kiva Allgood is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corporation. She oversees the development and implementation of Sarcos products and works with company partners, customers, and stakeholders.
“I literally have the best job in the world,” said Allgood at the Women Tech Awards. “I get to build robots, and I do that on a daily basis, but the thing that makes me most excited about our upcoming launch is that our teleoperated products help reduce harm and injury to the people who do very dangerous and dirty jobs.”
Allgood has more than 20 years of experience managing complex, commercialized technologies and has served as Global Head of IoT and Automotive for Ericsson, as Chief Commercial Development Officer for GE Business Innovations, and as Managing Director at GE Ventures for GE Ventures and Business Innovation.
Innovation Trailblazer Award: Sarah Wiley, Hightop
Sarah Wiley is Co-Founder and leads the Product organization at Hightop. She helps design and build a consumer bank replacement that bridges the gap between fiat and crypto, connecting traditional finance to decentralized finance (DeFi). Wiley has grown the product development team to over 20 people with a focus on building diverse teams. One of her achievements was building a world class backend engineering team that is 80% female.
Wiley has over 20 years of experience in product and engineering and is a registered patent holder. In 2021, Wiley was invited onto the Governor’s Fintech Council of Utah.
When asked for advice for girls going into STEM, Wiley says, “You know yourself better than anyone else knows you. If you know that you rock this space and you are good at it, then own it, be proud of it, and lean into it. Put yourself in the position to take advantage of opportunities. Stand alone when you have to and bring others along with you when you can.”
Operation Excellence Award: Manu Sood, AvidXchange
Manu Sood is the Senior Vice President of Platform Delivery & Operations at AvidXchange. Sood leads both the Technical Platform Engineering teams and the Site Reliability Engineering teams, working with the company’s hybrid cloud platform and the company’s continuous transformation to Devops.
“One of my goals is to demystify technology,” says Sood. “When people think of technology they think it's complicated, it's too big, it's only programming, but tech is so much more than that.”
Sood brings 21 years of experience in the technology industry and most recently served as Head of Engineering at Varo Bank, overseeing the build-out of the first national chartered digital bank, as well as its customer service experience.
“The women tech council is doing a great job of changing the landscape of Utah and highlighting what women are doing and what they can do,” says Sood. I brought my two daughters with me today so they can experience this first hand and see that the world is ready for them and it will embrace them if they are ready to take on challenges.”
Rising Star Award: AJ Brau, Wander
AJ Brau is the CEO and Co-Founder of Wander, a software platform that lets individual destinations build custom map experiences.
“When my daughter Lucy was born, I wanted to travel the world with her and I became frustrated at how difficult it was to discover and plan travel experiences, the kind that I wanted to have with my family,” explains Brau at the Women Tech Awards. “I found myself wanting a new kind of map experience that could help me do that. Being an engineer, after my daughter would go to bed at night I started building a prototype.”
Brau raised a $3 million seed round just 18 months after starting Wander and has grown her company to 20 employees. Brau has been passionate about the mapping industry since she was young and built an interactive map for Lake Powell.
Lifetime Achievement Award, Ruth Novak
As mentioned in Ruth Novak’s introduction at the Women Tech Awards, “no resume or bio could do justice to all she has done through aerospace, defense systems, space exploration, women in tech, girls in STEM or the technology industry as a whole.”
Novak is a mathematician, physicist, and statistician who received her Master’s degree in Mathematics in 1960. During her extensive career, Novak rose to VP of Navy programs, designed rocket motors and boosters for tactical, strategic, and space missiles, and developed guidance navigation systems for the lunar lander. She oversaw the transition of the defense systems in the Cold War to space exploration in the space race.
Novak has a passion for inspiring students to get into STEM and has Co-founded several STEM education advocacy groups. She was also a part of multiple technology education boards.
When receiving her award Novak humbly said, “I’m overwhelmed and I really appreciate this opportunity. All I’ve got to say is, thank you.”
Student Pathway: Jessica Stratton, Weber State University
Jessica Stratton is a computer science student at Weber State University. She discovered her love of technology early and graduated high school with knowledge of five different programming languages. Despite trials in her life, leaving her homeless for a time, Stratton works hard to keep a 4.0 GPA and works as the only woman on a team installing technical hardware.
While taking the maximum credits in her program, Stratton also works full time, and is a part of several academic and engineering organizations including the Society for Women Engineers in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
Stratton dedicated the award to her mom who recently passed away from cancer. When receiving the award, Stratton says, “It is amazing to see everybody here. It’s so powerful to see all of the other students and to see all of these women come up here and just own it. I love all of these role models and I love to look at each one of you and say, ‘That’s where I’m going.’ When I get there I want to be what you all are to me.”