Collective Spotlight

9 Trailblazing Black Founders & Operators

Caroline Caswell

This Black History Month, we are honored to celebrate the stories of 9 outstanding individuals in the OpCo community who are shaping the future of AI, product management, people leadership, edtech, and so much more. Get to know these founders and operators - their innovation and success is paving the way for future generations and changing the face of tech from the ground up. 

Donnel Baird

CEO & Founder, BlocPower 

Donnel is the founder and CEO of OpCo PortCo BlocPower, a climate technology company that analyzes, finances and upgrades homes and buildings in underserved communities. In 2022, Donnel was named TIME Magazine’s inaugural “Dreamer of the Year”, and BlocPower was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential Companies and the #4 Most Innovative Company in the World by Fast Company. He is a graduate of Duke University and Columbia Business School. He spent four years as a political and community organizer, and two years managing a national initiative to leverage American Reinvestment and Recovery Act energy efficiency investments in underserved communities. He is a member of the board of directors of several organizations including the New York Federal Reserve Bank Second District Board, the Climate Reality Project, and the Coalition For Green Capital. 

Michelle Grover

Chief Technology Officer, Slalom

Michelle is Slalom’s first ever CTO, overseeing infrastructure, product engineering, and architecture. She has an incredible technical background spanning three decades, most recently as Chief Information Officer at Twilio and prior to that, as SVP of Software Development for TripIt and Mobile at SAP Concur. Michelle also sits on the boards of WORKOPTI and Onymos.

Wendy Johnson

VP of Pricing, PagerDuty

Wendy has been leading the pricing transformation of Fortune 500 companies for the past decade.  She began her pricing career almost 20 years ago at IBM.  Prior to that, Wendy worked as a Consultant at Accenture, managing system integrations for Mergers & Acquisitions.  Wendy holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Florida A&M University and an MBA in Finance from Howard University.

Tekedra Mawakana

Co-CEO, Waymo

Tekedra leads the overall company strategy for the autonomous driving technology company Waymo, with a primary focus on ensuring Waymo’s transformational technology, the Waymo Driver, is commercialized and widely adopted. Tekedra is a board member at Intuit, as well as an advisor to Lyte, Boom Supersonic, the Consumer Technology Association, and of course Operator Collective. She’s an expert in navigating complex high-profile issues and previously led global teams across five continents at eBay, Yahoo, AOL, and Startec. 

Shannon Nash

Chief Financial Officer, Wing (an Alphabet Company)

Shannon is a C-suite leader with deep experience in financial operations, fundraising, M&A, strategy, compliance, contracting, governance, treasury, cash management and scaling companies for successful exits. She is the Chief Financial Officer of Wing, a drone delivery company and subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL). As Chief Financial Officer, Shannon taps into her history of scaling companies for growth through strong financial and operations leadership and is responsible for all corporate finance, accounting, investor relations, fundraising, and regional/partner operations.

Deon Nicholas

CEO & Co-Founder, Forethought

Deon Nicholas is the CEO and Co-Founder of OpCo PortCo Forethought, a 2018 TechCrunch Disrupt winning company and named as a Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startup in 2021. It is the leading Generative AI platform for customer support automation whose mission is to transform customer experiences with human-centered AI. Before starting Forethought, Deon built products and infrastructure at Facebook, Palantir, Dropbox, and Pure Storage. He also crushes it on the karaoke stage!

Window Snyder

CEO & Founder, Thistle Technologies

Window is the Founder and CEO of OpCo PortCo Thistle Technologies, a security company built for developers. She has been building security technologies into platforms and operating systems for more than 20 years - and is responsible for the security on systems that we all use today, including Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, and Firefox. Window is a security industry veteran and former Chief Security Officer at Square, Fastly and Mozilla. She’s also the co-author of Threat Modeling, a manual for security architecture analysis in software. As an advocate for security and cyber safety, she frequently speaks at conferences, and continues to encourage women to explore the field.

Francessca Vasquez

Vice President, Professional Services and GenAI Innovation Center, AWS

As the Vice President of Customer Experience and Technology for Amazon Web Services (AWS), Francessca oversees the sales and delivery P&L of AWS consulting services, consulting offerings, and management of customer engagements across the worldwide public sector, commercial, industries, and partner business.  Prior to AWS, she spent 11 years at Oracle, most recently as the Group Vice President of the North America Cloud Infrastructure team. Francessca also serves as the Executive Sponsor for the AWS Global CIO Council and is a co-founder of AWS' Workforce Transformation STEM and customer initiatives fostering untapped talent development and representation in tech equity.

Tracy Williams

Chief People and Diversity Officer, New Relic 

Tracy oversees New Relic’s people and DEI strategies in support of the company’s business goals, culture, and core values. She leads all people programs with an eye on ensuring representation of diverse perspectives and experiences — through talent acquisition and org design as well as rewards, operations, and social impact. Tracy has more than 15 years of HR experience including leadership positions with Target (Mervyns) and Michaels Arts & Crafts stores.  

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