Ben Podbielski is a member of the Innovation team at Protective Life where he focuses on applying entrepreneurship principals to internal proof of concepts, with a specific focus towards artificial intelligence. Ben is a 2017 graduate of Birmingham’s Project Corporate Leadership, was honored as one of the EDPA’s “iMerging” Young Leaders in 2018, in 2019 he was one of 90 people, representing 32 different countries, from around the world selected to be part of MIT’s Technology and Innovation Bootcamp in Japan, and was appointed by Governor Ivey to serve on the Technical Advisory Committee on the Alabama Committee for Credentialing and Career Pathways.
Ben currently holds a bachelor’s in computer science from LaGrange College and also earned his master’s in information technology, master’s in business administration, and master’s in project management.
Even as a teenager writing code to improve inventory management for his Dad’s small business, Donnie knew that he wanted to dedicate his talents to helping people solve problems--to make lives better--through the application of technology. From that humble start, he went on to solve difficult problems for businesses large and small, including stints as a web developer, programmer/analyst, and management team lead at some of the nation’s most recognized automotive, healthtech, fintech, and consumer brands.
Wanting to take what he’d learned and apply it to business challenges that could impact even broader audiences, he set out to form Two Ravens, an innovation consultancy that puts problem solving through design thinking at the heart of every project. And doing it in a way that isn’t internally disruptive for the client, even though the results of those efforts can have that effect on the client’s industry.
So whether it’s helping a start-up better understand the end user experience or coaching a Fortune 500 company through the research and development process towards an innovative new product or internal process, Donnie is going to be found at the center of activity, guiding the team to ensure that great ideas have the best possible chance of becoming amazing experiences.
Chris Sims, founding team member and CEO of Sigao Studios, found his stride as a software engineer and project manager during his management information systems studies at the University of Alabama. Now, with over 20 years of programming and 16 years of project management experience under his belt, Chris confidently leads his team to identify complex problems and push the boundaries to achieve high-performing, innovative and sleek solutions.
Chris leverages his mastery of project management and mentoring techniques to build collaborative and creative project teams that are empowered to deliver dynamic results. His passion is watching clients-from startups to $60 million IT projects-succeed at agile software development through Sigao's technical solutions. As part of building strong teams and projects, Chris has worked with a broad range of Workforce Development initiatives ranging from regional programs such as the Central Six IT Apprenticeship Consortium to nationwide initiatives with significant advocacy in Washington DC and beyond.
In 2019, Chris trained with Dr. Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum, to join the prestigious team of global Scrum@Scale instructors. Chris is currently only one of a handful of Scrum@Scale trainers in the world.
Emily Wykle works in the Office of the President at UAB, serving as project director on issues related to community engagement, government relations, and economic development. As the liaison between UAB and community and corporate partners, Emily works to connect Birmingham with UAB’s assets and expertise and vice versa. She serves as the Principal Investigator for UAB’s CCAMPIS grant program (Child Care Access Means Parents in School) and chairs UAB’s Civic Giving program. Prior to her current role, Emily led UAB’s leadership development program and internal coaching practice.
Before coming to UAB, Emily worked at Equal Measure, a consulting firm headquartered in Philadelphia that partners with foundations to advance social change. During her time at Equal Measure, she worked with clients including Aspen Institute, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on initiatives related to strategy development, evaluation, and capacity building in the philanthropic Space.
Emily graduated from Davidson College and received a Master’s in Public Administration & Policy from the University of Georgia. She also completed an executive coaching credential through Columbia Business School.
Owner/Partner, ITAC Solutions
ITAC Solutions is a recruiting and staffing company headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama with additional offices in Mobile, Huntsville, and Nashville, Tennessee. ITAC specializes in the temporary, contract, and direct placement of accounting, information technology, corporate and administrative professionals.
Mr. Branch joined ITAC in 2003 and is active in the overall strategic leadership of ITAC while also serving as the Director and Partner over the IT Services line of business. Ben received a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Auburn University in 1991. He sits on numerous boards, such as Tech Birmingham Board and Executive Committees, as well as with many startups in the Birmingham eco system. Mr. Branch is also an entrepreneur, and invests and supports many local startup businesses in pre and post revenue funding.
- ITAC was founded in 2000 in Birmingham, Alabama
- Named a 2010, 2011& 2012 “Best Company to Work for in Alabama” by Best Companies Group
- Won “Best Small Employer” category in 2013 in “Best Company to Work for in Alabama” survey.
- Recognized 3 consecutive years by Inc. magazine as one of America’s Fastest-Growing, Privately-Held Companies
- 2015 and2016 Top Tiger Distinction by Auburn University
- 2016 “Best of Birmingham” Finalist
- Hexagon Small Business Supplier of the year 2016
CEO of Red Thread Consulting
Rebecca Dobrinski is the CEO of Red Thread Consulting, a community engagement firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs deliver, manage, and leverage their stakeholder engagement, as well the Director of Membership & Special Events at TechBirmingham. She returned to Birmingham in 2003 to finish her BA in History at UAB, then went on to earn MAs from SCAD (Historic Preservation) and UAB (History).
She is the organizer for TEDxBirmingham, a member of Leadership Birmingham (2017), a Co.Starters graduate, a member of the inaugural cohort for the Birmingham Entrepreneurship Academy, a serial volunteer, and a speaking coach for The Big Pitch, TEDxBirmingham, Your Big Idea, F*ckUp Nights Birmingham, Ignite Birmingham, and private entrepreneurial clients.
CEO and co-founder
With a career spent rising in the ranks as a product manager, Delphine has worked on technology products in the start-up phase to legacy solutions. Her background in creating highly effective teams and maximizing group synergies speaks directly to Boulo’s unique solution. Boulo matches professional women, mostly moms, seeking to maintain their professional careers while being caretakers with companies seeking experts and offering flexible work cultures. Her own experience trying to balance career aspirations and family commitments drives her passion for ensuring that women have more options than the career off-ramp.
BBVA / Executive Estrogen
Known as a cross-collaborative influencer, change agent & motivating force to be reckoned with, Martha Underwood, is regarded as a transformational leader in today’s fast-paced and challenging global software arena.
From Florida to Silicon Valley and now Birmingham, Martha proudly serves as the Head of Retail Software Engineering at BBVA USA. She is also the excited Founder of Executive Estrogen, a consulting firm that provides women with the tools and strategies that lead to their career advancement. When she’s not advising, giving a keynote or coaching, she can be found at the baseball park watching her husband coach her 2 young boys.
Amanda Stewart Raney
Financial Advisor, Morgan Stanley
Amanda Stewart Raney brings many years of experience serving clients, and also training, developing, and supervising Financial Advisors as they serve theirs. She is passionate about using her knowledge of the broader organization and its resources to bring the breadth and depth of Morgan Stanley’s offerings to clients. Amanda is deeply engaged in the start-up community in Alabama, and enjoys mentoring executives as they grow. She also serves her community in the Shades Valley Rotary, as a board member for the Mountain Brook YMCA, and on the Advisory Council for STREAM, an education-based non-profit. She has also volunteered as a judge for the EDPA’s Alabama Launchpad competition. Amanda has been in the industry for 13 years. She was most recently First Vice President and Associate Complex Manager for the Alabama and Florida Panhandle offices of Morgan Stanley.
She also serves her community in the Shades Valley Rotary, as a board member for the Mountain Brook YMCA, and on the Advisory Council for STREAM, an education-based non-profit. She has also volunteered as a judge for the EDPA’s Alabama Launchpad competition. Amanda has been in the industry for 13 years. She was most recently First Vice President and Associate Complex Manager for the Alabama and Florida Panhandle offices of Morgan Stanley.