techNL presents


Innovation Week 2023 Speakers

Ramy Nassar is an author and award-winning keynote speaker and facilitator who helps organizations leverage the transformative power of AI + Emerging Technology and Strategic Foresight. With nearly 25 years experience in technology, and as the former Head of Innovation for Mattel, he leads presentations and workshops with organizations around the world to drive innovation and transformative growth. 

Ray Rashed is a multifaceted individual with a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, building thriving ecosystems by support and backing Canada’s most daring innovators and idea generators . As a dedicated father of three wonderful girls, he not only excels in the professional world but also cherishes his role as a parent. Ray’s commitment to a balanced life extends to his love for fitness, which he actively pursues. With a strong drive and a desire for innovation, Ray continues to make a meaningful impact on the business and tech communities by helping companies scale and disrupt.

RBCx is the tech and innovation banking arm of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). The RBCx team supports tech companies of all sizes, across all stages, with specialized products and services. It leverages the bank’s deep institutional knowledge, scale and capital with its own extensive network of highly specialized tech industry advisers, ecosystem partners and investors to back some of Canada’s boldest and brightest innovators.

Cathy Bennett is the Co-Founder and General Partner of Sandpiper Ventures. Among the first all-woman GP venture fund firms in Canada, Sandpiper invests in women entrepreneurs who bring diverse perspectives and unique insights leading to more creative solutions to complex global and industry challenges and potential for superior financial returns.

With over 35 years of business leadership, her own company, Bennett Group of Companies, grew from a small group of service businesses to operations in commercial and industrial construction, industrial manufacturing, human resource support, service, retail, industrial supply, and real estate investments and operations.

She has served on more than two dozen private and public corporate boards with interests in real estate, natural resources, manufacturing, industrial construction, technology, and business services and banking. She is currently an Independent Board Director Marathon Gold.

As a Member of the Newfoundland & Labrador House of Assembly, Cathy served in Cabinet as Minister of Finance, President of Treasury Board, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Focused on supporting start-ups, Cathy is an associate fellow with the Creative Destruction Lab, and a board member with Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s Virtual Accelerator, a mentor with the Pei BioAlliance and serves as a director with Public Policy Forum.

Sarah Murphy is a Partner with Pelorus VC, a pre-seed and seed-stage venture capital firm that invests in Newfoundland & Labrador-based innovation companies. Sarah has a background working with early-stage startup companies, including, and as a founder of her own construction-tech startup, Sentinel Alert.

She was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Propel ICT, an Atlantic Canada accelerator, and has mentored startups throughout Atlantic Canada through groups like Propel, Volta, and Creative Destruction Lab.

Sarah is one of the co-authors of the Gender Diversity Playbook, a collection of best practices that startup companies can use to build more diverse and stronger performing organizations.

Mike Winter grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, earned his engineering degree from Memorial  University in 2008. Drawn by entrepreneurship, he collaborated with Sir Terry Matthews at the Wesley Clover incubator to found Cambrai Solutions.

After its acquisition by Mitel Networks, Mike spearheaded its businesses growth, scaling it to $150M annually with 500 employees. Later, in the health tech sector, he served as the Head of Engineering and Product Management at Mavencare, which was subsequently acquired by a Bayada, the largest homecare agency in the US.

Now, as the CEO of based in St. John’s, Mike is harnessing AI to democratize performance and redefine coaching and training.

John Hill is the current Evangelist and former VP of Network for Techstars, a company that dreams big, global and accelerates the growth of tech companies. Techstars is a mentorship-driven seed stage investment program. To date, thousands of companies have gone through a Techstars accelerator, and he’s charged with telling their stories. He’s also a former Higher Education Evangelist for LinkedIn and Director of Alumni Career Services for Michigan State University. As a speaker, he’s often implored others to have the audacity to “Dream Big”. Techstars opened the door for him to live that mantra while supporting others to do the same.

Sedef Akinli Kocak is a Director of Professional Development at Vector Institute. She leads suite of programs aimed to build workforce capacity in artificial intelligence and integrating advanced technologies into current and future work streams. Prior to this role Sedef was a Senior Project Manager & Technical Translator at Vector where she engaged industry partners on Applied AI projects. She has led several large scale multi-industrial projects at Vector such as Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, and Privacy Enhancing Technologies.

She is listed in Top 25 Women in AI: Canada Edition, nominated DMZ Women of the Year Annual Award 2022, and listed as a Finalist Women in AI in North America 2023 for her inspirational work, accomplishments, and contributions to create impact on the Canadian tech ecosystem. Sedef completed her PhD at the Data Science Lab at Toronto Metropolitan University. Sedef is also an accomplished researcher in the area of sustainability design in software intensive systems and a part time Data Science and Analytics lecturer and supervisor at the Toronto Metropolitan University. She served as a member of the Compute Ontario Board Advisory Committee and AI program development advisor at the Continuing Education, University of Toronto.

She also served as a chair and co-organizer of many academic conferences and workshops including AAAI Workshop on Responsible Language Models, IEEE Conference on Autonomic Computing and Self-Organizing Systems, ICT for Sustainability, and many more.

She is a member of ACM, IEEE, Engineers for Sustainable World, Women in AI, AI4 Good and academic advisory committee of several AI related initiatives.

Danielle Graham is General Partner of Phoenix Fire and Co-Founder of The Firehood, an angel stage fund and network focused on women in technology. She created Fierce Founders Programs — the first women-focused accelerator and bootcamp series in Canada. Previously, she managed Ontario Centres of Innovation’s Market Readiness Fund and Board Member at GTAN , Warerloo’s angel network. Danielle supports underrepresented founders looking to scale their tech businesses as a member of the angel community network, investment officer and advisor to tech incubators. Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Wilfrid Laurier University, a Masters of Arts (M.A.) from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from Trinity College, University of Toronto. Executive in Residence for Capital at BVZ by TMU, Foresight, CDL and ventureLAB’s Capital Investment Program.

Johanna Brown has been working in enterprise B2B technology sales for the past 13 years. Working with clients across North America, while based in St. John’s, NL. 

Johanna is the Vice-Chair of techNL, LP at Women’s Equity Lab (Atlantic), currently works in Enterprise Sales at Verafin and also consults with the startup community – helping companies create their sales playbook, expand their client base and build their revenue path to scalable growth. Johanna has worked across many industries, including highly regulated industries like healthcare, cybersecurity, financial compliance and govtech. Johanna thrives on creating value between companies and their respective customers and users, enabling them to increase their growth.  

Johanna is an advocate for increasing diversity and women in technology. She advises and coaches individuals seeking entry or advancement in the tech sector by helping them identify and harness their transferable skills.  

Johanna holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Memorial University in conjunction with the University of Tasmania in Australia – which coincidentally is where she met her wife. They now both live in NL and work in the tech sector.  

Born and raised in Paradise, NL Ryan Thistle leads Venor’s technology recruitment practice in Newfoundland & Labrador. He graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from Memorial University of Newfoundland before relocating to Toronto. There, he joined an international recruitment firm, specializing in Digital, Marketing, and Communications recruitment. In this capacity, Ryan managed the entire recruitment process for clients across Canada, spanning various industries such as Technology, Real Estate, Government, Consumer, and Retail.

Subsequently, Ryan transitioned to a boutique executive search firm, where he led their Client Engagement team and concentrated on supporting Private Equity clients and their portfolio companies with their technology leadership hires throughout the United States.

Ryan’s ability to listen and provide a consultative approach to recruitment, for both his candidates and clients, enables him to effectively identify the right talent. This ensures that his clients can meet their short-term and long-term business goals.

Outside of work, you’ll find Ryan on the soccer field or embarking on adventures with his wife and their two miniature dachshunds.

Ajay Pande brings over two decades of experience in advocacy, entrepreneurship, and international tech placements. He currently serves as the Director of Industry Engagement at Keyin College, where he supports the mission to shape the future digital workforce with industry-relevant skills. Additionally, Ajay is Co-Founder of Veristart Technologies Inc., a construction-tech startup based in St. John’s, Canada, focused on improving access control and security for heavy equipment. 

Ajay has extensive business development experience, notably as Vice President Business Development at Stepped Care Solutions (SCS) where he expanded mental health services access, achieved market share milestones, and helped the team reshape the narrative on mental health. He also served as Global Head of Business Development at Nokia, overseeing the development of Nokia’s Digital Experience portfolio and driving growth through strategic campaigns and cross-organizational initiatives while being based in both Canada and Belgium. Ajay also served on the Board for TechNL, where he served as the 2017 Board Chair, advocating on behalf of a $1.6 billion-dollar tech sector in Atlantic Canada.  

Ajay holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Master of Business Administration from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.  He also holds a patent for, “Multicasting High- definition Content to Consumer Storage”.  Ajay and his wife reside in St. John’s, Newfoundland with their daughter, son and two Boston Terriers.  On weekends they can be found hiking and exploring many of its amazing ocean trails. 

Steph Burry has spent over 15 years helping people and companies grow.

With the majority of her experience in the technology industry, working with companies in early and hyper-growth stages, she believes in fostering and promoting value-based cultures that put people first and in unlocking the potential within each of us to achieve greatness.

Tessa Whelan is CoLab Software’s resident recruiter. She has spent many years recruiting top talent at fast growing organizations, predominantly in the technology industry.

Tessa has a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Arts from Memorial University and spent 4 years living and working in Vancouver. Relocating back to the East Coast, Tessa is excited to be home and helping to grow the local tech sector.

Charlene Brophy is President and CEO of FONEMED, an international tele-medicine company offering a patient-centered platform inclusive of disease-specific algorithms, as well as tele-medicine support and remote bio-metric monitoring services. Charlene has brought her hands-on knowledge of our health care system into developing countries and communities which otherwise would not have access to medical care including Manila, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Singapore. Fonemed’s team of several hundred employees support their Canadian, US and international operations, providing health care access to care to more than 40 million individuals worldwide, managing in excess of 100,000 remote patient visits every month.  

Charlene has been recognized by multiple organizations for her success in the business community. She was awarded Newfoundland and Labrador’s Organization of Women Entrepreneur’s (NLOWE) Entrepreneurial Excellence Award in November,2020.  She has been the recipient of four Business Excellence Awards from The St. John’s Board of Trade. She was awarded the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Innovator of the Year by Atlantic Business Magazine in 2017 and recognized as one of the Top 50 CEOs in Atlantic Canada from 2017-2021.  In May of 2021 Charlene was inducted into the Business Excellence Hall of Fame by Atlantic Business Magazine. 

In addition to her business commitments, Charlene has a profound sense of community and believes in giving back to the country, province, and the communities that have supported her over the years. She supports various local and national charities through her hands-on approach, and she is proud to continue to grow her business from St John’s, NL. 

Carolann Harding

Carolann Harding ICD.D is a dynamic leader and team player, that thrives on creativity, problem-solving, collaboration and engagement. As CEO of SmartICE, Carolann is leading a diverse coast to coast to coast award-winning team focusing on meeting SmartICE’s social enterprise mandate, strategic directions and social impacts. Carolann is currently the Chair of FoodFirst NL, a Director on the Pinnguaq Board, Director on the Memorial Faculty of Business Advisory Board and Vice Chair of the ICD NL Chapter Executive. Carolann is a graduate from both Memorial and Dalhousie Universities. In March 2021, Atlantic Business Magazine, named Carolann as one of Atlantic Canada’s 25 most Powerful Women in Business.  

Dan Sweeney holds a Bachelor of Technology and a Diploma in Ocean Mapping from the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Dan is currently leading the Customer Success Group and managing local, national, and international product and service delivery projects at Kraken Robotics, a marine technology company headquartered in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador. He has been with Kraken Robotics for more than three years, has held various positions within the offshore and onshore survey teams, and regularly supports business development initiatives worldwide.

Dan has nearly 10 years of combined experience in the Offshore Energy, Defense, and Marine Robotics sectors. His experience with remote operations ranges from leading R&D field testing scopes focused on remote operations systems to supporting customers who deploy Kraken’s technology in remote-operated capacities every day.

Dr. Armin Strobel

Dr. Strobel has worked in the field of Unmanned Aerial Systems since 2003 as part of the “Technology Transfer Centre for Aerodynamics, Aircraft and Lightweight Constructions,” which developed target drones for Airbus Military. While at the Technical University of Darmstadt as a PhD candidate he was responsible for the development of a very stable multi-rotor, which won first place in the 2009 European Micro Aerial Vehicle outdoor competition. Further, he is a founding member of the Darmstadt Robot Rescue Team, which is now called HECTOR. HECTOR accomplished multiple impressive results in competitions such as RoboCup Rescue competition. In his research for his PhD, he focused on swarming UAVs. The result of his research is a framework that allows the definition of high-level objectives for UAV swarms with potential fields and fulfillment reliability of said high-level objectives with a modified Model Predictive Control (MPC) approach. He also worked on other types of vehicles while applying a similar AI approach to minimize the collision probability of Autonomous Surface Crafts under extreme conditions. Most recently he is working on combining AI with the fully autonomous UAS system for a multitude of applications in his venture StrobelTEK.

Murray Brown is employed by Horizon Maritime Services Ltd. in the capacity of Innovation and Technology Advisor, based in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. With operations in both Norway and across Canada, Horizon Maritime is positioned to serve the unique challenges of Canadian waters as well as harsh and deep water environments internationally. Murray has more than 30 years of offshore engineering and operations experience, including management and executive roles with oil and gas companies and research and development organizations. In addition to several ongoing initiatives for marine operations, Murray is also leading projects for digital technology applications and renewable energy development for Horizon. Residing in St. John’s with his family, Murray is a Registered Professional Engineer in Newfoundland and Labrador and an active volunteer and Board member with several local charities. 

Paul Griffin

Paul Griffin is President and CEO of C-CORE. Since 1975, C-CORE has been providing research-based advisory services and innovative technology solutions to a wide range of players in the energy, space, defence, and other industries, and has developed solutions to problems quite literally from the seabed to hundreds of kilometers in space. 

Paul has over 20 years of senior management experience in small, medium and large organizations in the technology and transportation sectors. Prior to joining C-CORE, he was the President and CEO of Marine Atlantic. Paul holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Memorial University and is a member of the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador.

He also completed the Marketing Management Program (MMP) at the Ivy School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and the Directors Education Program (DEP) at the Sobey School of Business at St. Mary’s University. 

An active volunteer, Paul serves or has served on the boards of a variety of business and community organizations, including the Stella’s Circle Foundation, the Industry Advisory Committee of the Marine Institute of Memorial University, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) Newfoundland and Labrador, the Atlantic Canada Aerospace and Defence Association, and Cygnus Gymnastics Training Centre. 

Rebecca Cook

Rebecca is a driven Human Resources practitioner leading Avalon’s HR team with over fifteen years of experience working with business leaders, to support them in achieving their business strategies through effective human resource programs and talent strategies. Over the course of her career, Rebecca has also supported clients in executing on their talent strategies by helping them ensure they have the right people, with the right skills, in the right positions at the right time. In a fast-growing tech ecosystem, Rebecca’s main goal is to build, drive and own people initiatives and programs including employee engagement, recruiting, compensation planning, training & development, retention, culture and diversity.  

Lesley Chard

Lesley graduated from Memorial University with a B.Sc. in Computer Science and Geography in 2015, and has been working in product design and frontend engineering since graduation. Currently, she works as Vice President of Design and User Experience at St. John’s/Pittsburgh-based EdTech company, Carnegie Learning.  

Lesley is passionate about expanding diversity in the tech sector. In 2021, Lesley helped found Digital Waves NL, a non-profit organization dedicated to showing youth the potential impact of a career in technology. Through this work, she delivers coding, design, and entrepreneurship workshops to young women, gender-diverse and 2SLGBTQIA+ youth throughout the province. 

Rachel Tobin

Rachel Tobin is an electrical engineering graduate from Memorial University with experience ranging from med tech to research, construction, project management, and product design in Newfoundland, Labrador, and London, UK. With the latest technology boom, she is optimistic and driven to improve healthcare experiences and minimize frustrations for healthcare providers through additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping at PolyUnity!