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2010 Athena Pinnacle Awards - Technology

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Congratulations to our 2010 nominees. Athena would like to thank everyone who nominated and contributed the following excerpts for these exceptional candidates.

Nancy Aitkenhead

Vice President/Deputy Operations Manager


Nancy Aitkenhead successfully worked her way up the corporate ladder during a period when women were a rarity in the defense industry to her current role as deputy operations center manager with SAIC. This makes her one of the more senior women within the corporation, and her leadership and caring over her 25 years with SAIC helped pave the way for the advancement of other women in the company.

As an active member in Women in Defense and SAIC Women’s Network, Aitkenhead continually looks for ways to support and mentor women and other minorities to advance in the work place. She is regularly recognized for her outstanding leadership and professional development activities, most recently as the recipient of the prestigious Tribute to Women in Industry award. She actively pursues opportunities to assist in the advancement of women within SAIC, such as taking part in SAIC’s Invest in Our Employees Future Campaign, which selects highly talented young women and minorities to benefit from corporate-sponsored higher education programs to further their careers.

Aitkenhead is extremely supportive of those who work with her, frequently taking extra steps to personally mentor and guide individuals, ensuring their success. She is currently spearheading the implementation of a formal Mentor-Protégé Program within her operation center to foster the professional development and advancement of junior women to achieve high levels of leadership in their careers.

Dawn M. Andrews

Managing Attorney, Labor and Employment

Sempra Energy

Dawn Andrews has been active in promoting diversity in the legal profession during the past several years.

She has been heavily involved with San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co.’s diverse business enterprise (DBE) program. In 2009, under her direction, those utilities spent almost $3 million with DBE minority-owned legal vendors. This amount was more than 10 percent of the legal expenses incurred by those utilities during that year.

In mid-2008, Andrews formed the Sempra Energy legal department’s Diversity Committee. She has been the chairwoman of the committee since that time.

As chairwoman, she successfully urged Sempra to become one of the few corporate participants in the pilot program for the San Diego County Bar Association’s Diversity Fellowship Program. She directly participated by interviewing applicants and providing input as to how the San Diego Bar Association should organize its new program.

Andrews has also promoted flexible work arrangements for women. At Sempra, she drafted and advocated a flex-time policy for all attorneys, but primarily aimed at working mothers. She also helped craft the maternity leave policy.

This year, Sempra acknowledged Andrews’ value as a legal counselor and promoted her to managing attorney of labor and employment. The promotion itself, in a company dominated by male officers and directors, is an inspiration to other female employees that they can succeed while trying to effect changes at the company.

Kuan Collins

Program Manager/Lead Systems Engineer


Kuan Collins is a program manager and lead systems engineer for SAIC, supporting the Army Communications on the Move (COTM) program. Collins’ success stems from extensive experience in systems engineering and integration, and government acquisition, as well as a proven record of demonstrated success in programmatic and leadership positions achieving high levels of productivity and efficiency.

Collins is an outstanding leader and manager possessing exceptional communication, organizational, administrative, technical and people skills. Her demonstrated ability to motivate and form high-performance teams of both genders to solve significant problems is part of why she is respected within the DoD MILSATCOM community. As a model for continued excellence in the workplace, Collins is clearly an inspiration to women who seek leadership positions in high-level engineering forums within the DoD community.

She is the military satellite communications terminal lead for a joint level analysis of alternatives (AoA) effort as well as a CAIV modeling effort all in support of PM WIN-T. She developed and presented GRA principles at the Airborne Networking conference in Las Vegas, Nev., in March 2009, Department of Defense Enterprise Architecture in St. Louis in June 2009, Software Defined Radio Forum in Detroit in June 2009, and MILCOM 2009 in Boston in October. As the chair for the GRA Systems Working Group, she presented the GRA to the Army G6/G8, TRADOC, DoD CIO, OSD NII and OSD ATL staff.

Jaye Connolly


A-Life Medical Inc.

Jaye Connolly has been a strong proponent of women in the workplace, especially in management. Growing up in the oil business, she was used to being the only woman at meetings. Since those Texas days, she has actively led the effort to bring women into leadership positions at the companies with which she has been affiliated.

At A-Life, she has helped advance the career of the most qualified individuals into management roles, regardless of their gender. When Connolly started at A-Life, there were no women on the management team. After five years, the most qualified candidates have been promoted into management, resulting in women making up 50 percent of the management team. As the only woman executive and a single mom, Connolly has continued to encourage women to continue to push their careers beyond their expectations.

In 2009, she was named CFO of the Year in the private company category by the San Diego Business Journal, and was promoted to the additional post of chief operating officer reporting directly to the board of directors. This year Connolly received notification she was selected as an Innovations in Healthcare ABBY Award Finalist in the Innovative Information and Telecommunications Technology category.

Connolly possesses extensive finance and acquisition experience, having served in key roles at six publicly traded corporations as well as at startup entities. Throughout this time she garnered significant IPO experience and also has led 18 accretive acquisitions adding more than $1 billion to revenue. For more than 25 years, she has demonstrated leadership across a variety of roles spanning the health care sector including those in diagnostic imaging, clinical laboratory, physician practice management and hospital services.

Karen Conti

Vice President

Lockheed Martin MS2

Karen Conti is widely recognized as a pioneer for women within the male-dominated defense industry. As president of Women In Defense (WID), Conti matched women at all intervals of career progression with U.S. Navy admirals Ann Rondeau, Gretchen Herbert, Sandy Daniels, Marine Corps General Angela Salinas and Wall Street coach Cynthia Burnham to share personal insights in career and personal development.

Conti most recently created, organized and led a diverse team of San Diego defense industry professionals from large and small companies in winning the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) development contract worth $1 billion. Her team includes Vektrel, a San Diego-based 8(a) certified woman-owned, minority-owned, disadvantaged small business.

Conti is the professional mentor for many female Lockheed employees, including Kate Naber, a young business development professional. Conti placed Kate in a leading capture management position for a $500 million opportunity, and guided her to success.

Engaged with NDIA and AFCEA, Conti sponsored small-business panels and networking socials. Her lead sponsorship of the NDIA Gold Coast Small Business Conference led to more than 60 San Diego-based small businesses engaging with the Technology Collaboration Center – West, providing many women-owned small businesses pursuing government contracts with invaluable opportunities to connect with large integrators and government program offices.

Ed Cotter

Executive Vice President, Human Resources/Facilities/Transformation

Sony Electronics

Ed Cotter has created a culture at Sony Electronics where women can develop and grow into senior management roles. During his 10 years at Sony, he has helped grow the number of women in management and senior level roles to more than 43 percent. He has personally promoted and hired four of the six women senior VPs at Sony Electronics including corporate planning, HR, finance and retail. His overall organization is now comprised of 70 percent females.

Cotter actively supports Sony network groups, including the WAVE (Women of Action, Vision and Empowerment) group, which is 210 members strong. During his more than 30 years of HR leadership, Cotter was one of the pioneers in implementing flextime, giving women and men flexibility in their work schedules. He also has served as a mentor for hundreds of women and men in various organizations. At Sony, he mentors six women at varying levels within the organization.

Cotter seeks to empower by sharing professional and personal experiences to drive decisions, while ensuring equal opportunities for visibility, opportunity and inclusion. He serves on the Sony Diversity Council board, is a regular lecturer at UCSD Rady School and a supporter of the San Diego YMCA. He endorses Women Unlimited, a national development-training program where Sony sends a select number of high-potential women to further their development.

Most importantly, Cotter is an approachable and open-minded leader. His willingness to implement employee ideas, creatively solve problems and provide women with opportunities for growth are exemplary forms of leadership and empowerment at Sony and the San Diego community.

John C. Deal

Vice President, C4ISR-ISP Solutions

BAE Systems

John C. Deal, vice president of C4ISR-ISP Solutions at BAE Systems in San Diego, has given his leadership and guidance to women on the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) proposal for a $15 million Navy contract.

Deal has been working with and guiding Thena Fantasia, capture manager of multiple opportunities; Robyn Decker, CANES prototype lead; Becca Minshew, CANES program controls; and Maggie Gallandt, executive administration of C4ISR Solutions, to lend his experience, domain knowledge and guidance to women across the organization. He has specifically empowered and promoted women in the workplace by providing the opportunity for them to excel in leadership positions. He continues to identify key individuals and allows them to take on risky challenges while providing the guidance necessary for them to grow and learn under any outcome.

Deal participates in numerous San Diego events including NTC Promenade events, Navy social and industry events, and industry organization events such as AFCEA and SDMAC. He seeks to include women at varying levels within BAE Systems at these events, to increase their visibility and understanding of the customer and industry community. He has also demonstrated his mentoring skills by guiding a high school student interested in engineering and a military career. He has gone above the norm by including his mentee in industry events and technical discussions.

Kim T. Folsom


ShowUhow Inc.

Kim Folsom is a highly accomplished entrepreneur who leads by example to mentor, train and promote women as well as educate girls to become capable adults.

She is founder and CEO of VC-funded ShowUhow, which provides a video platform used by Costco and BestBuy to show consumers how to set up and assemble products easily. Folsom actively advances the careers of all 15 employees, half of them women, including all four executives. Folsom inspires a high performing team by setting clear objectives, providing hands-on management and a can-do attitude. In addition, she actively mentors women entrepreneurs in the San Diego community and is on the faculty at University of Phoenix, where she teaches business strategy and finance.

Not only has Folsom built many businesses across San Diego and mentored, recruited and promoted the women on her teams, she also is committed to educating young girls about financial independence. Six years ago, she launched a foundation called LIFT that teaches high school senior girls about responsible credit management. Folsom named its annual essay/scholarship program “Having It All” to reflect her beliefs that women must have faith, family, fun, a fabulous career and financial independence.

When she is not at work founding companies and giving back to women in the community, she’s a devoted mother, wife of 25 years and aspires to own a professional football team -- but settles for working as a Holiday Bowl committee member for now.

Delia Haust

Planning & Operations Director

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.

Many people have heard of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ “Predator,” the spectacular unmanned aircraft deployed in war zones and disaster areas. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) is one of the most well-known defense companies in San Diego. While defense organizations are typically male dominated, there is an organization that stands out with a department where women comprise more than 50 percent of the staff. That department is under the leadership of Delia Haust. Haust joined General Atomics in 2001 as technical editor at a time when the Lynx radar group had only 30 employees. Now she is in charge of planning and operations of GA-ASI’s Reconnaissance Systems Group and directly manages internal support functions such as administrative services, program finance, publications and coordinates corporate GA-ASI support functions at RSG such as purchasing, contracts, accounting and IT. A successful company needs a great support team that works to help coordinate efforts. Haust has recruited, trained, promoted and helped women function effectively. She has combined her supervisory skill in both scientific and administrative settings to deliver exceptional results. Her attention to detail and logical thinking help her achieve effective results and has won her the respect from this male-dominated environment. Importantly, while she has achieved a successful career, she has actively opened doors for many women.

Deborah Lawrence

Vice President, Customer Care

Cox Communications San Diego

Throughout her career, Deborah Lawrence has visibly balanced her passion for her profession alongside a devotion to motherhood, family and community. As vice president of customer care for Cox Communications San Diego, Lawrence’s unique family-focused values and approach to her work has helped to inspire and empower women around her.

Lawrence is dedicated to helping women achieve success, and is candid about the need for women to be well-rounded and to take on today’s challenges and opportunities. For the past three years, she has been a senior leader mentor to three women in leadership roles at Cox.

Since the mid-1990s, Lawrence has hired and developed women to help manage customer service activity and technical support functions needed to support Cox’s growing customer and product base. Today, 60 percent of her leadership team is comprised of women who hold roles as supervisors, managers and directors.

An example of her passion for the advancement of women is the progression of Ann Grausam’s career at Cox. Grausam was hired by Lawrence to lead the vital information technology department at the call center, typically a male-dominated role. Lawrence ensured that Grausam gained the right technical and operational experiences that helped her achieve the position as director of business innovation and standardization. Lawrence is an advocate for work/life programs that help recruit and retain talented women, including offering sick-rooms for working parents, lactation rooms and on-site wellness programs. She is viewed as a dynamic leader within Cox and has been co-chair of Cox San Diego’s Diversity Council for the past two years.

Deanna Lund

Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc.

Deanna Lund is Kratos Defense & Security Solutions executive vice president and chief financial officer. She has been an inspirational and dedicated mentor of women. During the course of her 20-year career, she has been an instrumental player in the success of several significant, industry-leading San Diego-based public companies, including the Titan Corp., Wireless Facilities Inc. and now Kratos.

At Titan, Lund was part of the core team that drove the company’s growth from a domestic to global enterprise that had $120 million in revenue and an equity value of $45 million in 1996, and $2.3 billion in revenue and $3 billion in market capitalization nine years later when Titan was sold to L-3.

In an industry where management is predominantly male, she achieved promotion to executive management. Lund’s success and mentorship directly influenced other women to achieve promotion to senior and executive management positions across several industries in San Diego. Recently, Lund has been a successful leader in the complete transformation of WFI -- a company that supported commercial wireless networks -- into Kratos, a large national and homeland security government contractor. She was directly responsible for divesting approximately $300 million in businesses in an industry experiencing consolidation and commoditization with resulting gross profit reductions from approximately 45 percent to 12 percent. Concurrently, Lund had primary responsibility in securing more than $100 million in new credit facilities during one of the most challenging financial lending environments in our country’s history, and completing four acquisitions. This created what Kratos is today: a $350 million national defense and security solutions provider.

Gioia Messinger


Avaak Inc.

At the helm of Avaak, Gioia Messinger pioneered the use of an advanced wireless technology and transformed it for the consumer electronics market. As a leader in a male-dominated industry, she had the vision to migrate this technology from previous applications in the defense industry to the home and family. The emphasis of her work included adapting the hardware to a consumer-friendly design, engineering mass production and capital funding to bring the Vue personal video network to retail.

Messinger inspires through her entrepreneurial spirit, business management expertise and community involvement. She also founded and led SUMMIT Design Technologies and MedSmart Inc., two other technology companies that thrived under her leadership. Outside of the office, Messinger has been involved in the community. She served as a speaker at San Diego’s High Tech High charter school, discussing women in the technology field. Additionally, she has been a lecturer at the Rady School of Management at UCSD, where she led a seminar discussing women-owned businesses and how to creatively fund a new startup. Messinger champions women in the technology space as a mentor for other women looking to follow the same successful path she has forged.

Barbara Noerenberg

Vice President, Program Management

Qualcomm Inc.

Barbara Noerenberg’s willingness to share what she has learned encourages other women along their own career paths in engineering and management. Noerenberg is intimately acquainted with the notion of being a working woman in a man’s world. Throughout her 26-year career, Noerenberg has worked to redefine perceptions and elevate expectations of a woman’s place in both the technical industry and executive managerial work force. Her tenure reflects a wide breadth of experience, navigating through small startups, large corporate buyouts, owning her own business and rising from a keypunch operator to Qualcomm’s vice president of program management.

She is now responsible for managing all program aspects of the R&D organization with a $130 million budget and more than 500 employees. She directs key areas of strategic planning, new research opportunities and 30 existing development programs. Noerenberg is passionate about encouraging others to realize their full potential, to adopt a can-do approach to every new task and a willingness to excel through ambiguity when dealing with uncertainty. She credits her success with the desire to learn something new every day, strong organizational skills, active peer-mentorship, as well as partnering with her male counterparts.

Noerenberg actively contributes time to organizations that take a similar approach, and acts as a knowledge-sharing resource for others interested in following a like-minded, proactive career path. Noerenberg was recognized for her advocacy by the YWCA and in 2005 presented with the Tribute to Women and Industry Award. She is vice-chair of Whispering Winds, a 160-acre campgrounds and conference center in Julian, Calif., and also serves on the board of directors of Athena.

Linda Routson

Technical Account Manager

Microsoft Corp.

DigiGirlz is a program that focuses on inspiring high-school and middle-school girls of all backgrounds to take science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, attend college and consider technology-related careers. Linda Routson, a technical account manager for Microsoft U.S. Services, is the initiator and program lead of the San Diego DigiGirlz camps.

Although 2009 was the first year for the San Diego DigiGirlz camps, this year’s event has tripled in attendance, reaching hundreds of girls from four diverse communities. The event, which was held April 2, included MySQL, small basic and game design sessions, as well as robotics and X-BOX demos and career speakers.

Through her drive and passion to bring more young women into the technology field, Routson has recruited innovative instructors to provide hands-on classes and labs, partnered with National University and QuickStart Intelligence Training Centers and coordinated volunteers from the high-tech industry to make the events come together.

Navrina Singh

Senior Engineer


Navrina Singh is senior engineer at Qualcomm and president of the Qualcomm Women In Science (QWISE) organization, which provides guidance to women at all levels.

The professional development of technical women spurred Singh to form the QWISE organization three years ago. Its mission is "to promote personal and professional growth of women in technology at Qualcomm and the community.” The group has grown from a few people to more than 300. Under Singh’s leadership, QWISE has formed a board to further the mission of the organization; established a mentorship program benefitting female interns; worked on science programs with K-12 students in Project Lead the Way; provided leadership development workshops for female employees; created communication tools, a newsletter and a website; and assisted with recruiting employees.

Singh has gained recognition and support for QWISE throughout Qualcomm, engaging Chairman and CEO Paul Jacobs in demonstrated support of its mission and establishing regular meetings with senior leaders of both genders to gain their participation in the group.

Singh leads by example, and motivates others to walk the extra mile and think outside their jobs.

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