Madeline Allen, 25
Professional Achievements: Manage an agile scrum development team delivering various modern technology solutions focused on digital transformation and innovation across multiple industries; Transitioned from a business and quality assurance analyst role to a delivery manager at Lunavi; Graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems in 2020 and continued education to obtain a Master of Business Administration in 2022; both from the University of Nebraska at Omaha; Co-founded the Lily Pad Collective with the goal and vision to give young women who are starting out in their careers the resources and community to support one another to navigate professional lives and entrepreneurial goals in Omaha.
Community Involvement: The Lily Pad Collective co-founder & board member; Nebraska Humane Society foster parent; Startup Omaha Week speaker; and University of Nebraska at Omaha Maverick Venture Fund mentor.
What is your advice for young professionals? Find opportunities to venture outside your comfort zone. Continuously taking steps outside of your comfort zone allows you to grow as an individual. Extending your comfort zone will allow you to acquire new skills, present new opportunities, meet new people, and adopt a growth mindset.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? Omaha is a great place to build your network and has a growing number of tech-based companies and startups. Innovation and entrepreneurial activities are supported and encouraged within the community.
Favorite quote and by whom? “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” – Sara Blakely
Emily Barr, 35
Nebraska Coalition for Patient Safety
Professional Achievements: Earning Board Certification in Gerontology through the American Occupational Therapy Association; Co-leading the startup of a new rehabilitation facility; Founding director of an online doctoral program; Earning a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt; National and regional professional presentations, Participation in Leadership Omaha Class 43; Launching organization’s electronic reporting software program; Dementia Capable Care Certification.
Community Involvement: Junior League of Omaha in various roles; Girls Inc. Guild Board member and past Treasurer; Duchesne alumnae board member and current president-elect; Past Nebraska Occupational Therapy Association board member and vice-president of Academia; Past American Occupational Therapy Association Gerontology Special Interest Section coordinator.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Joy Doll, a mentor that I have had since graduate school, is a former faculty member of mine, turned colleague, turned friend. She has continued to be an advocate for me, supporting and guiding me along my professional journey.
What is your advice for young professionals? Stay open-minded about new opportunities, both professionally and personally. While it is important to align your professional aspirations with your core values, stepping outside your comfort zone to new experiences can provide unexpected opportunities, new connections, and help you find true fulfillment.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I was born and raised in Omaha, and it has been amazing to experience the growth of our area and expose my family to all our community has to offer. Lastly, I love that Omaha has many nonprofits serving our community.
Shelby Beers, 39
Escrow Operations Manager,
Ambassador Title Services
Professional Achievements: Over a span of 10 years, being promoted from receptionist to processor to processing manager to escrow operations manager at Ambassador Title Services; Nebraska Insurance Producers license; Managing partner/member of Sreeb Properties, LLC.
Community Involvement: Assistance League of Omaha-Style Show committee co-chair; CREW (Commercial Real Estate for Women); Teammates mentor; Indian Pointe HOA board treasurer; St. Patrick’s room mom and school/parish volunteer; Lead organizer of yearly office food drive for Open Door Mission.
What is your advice for young professionals? Failing is sometimes a part of success. If you fall down, ALWAYS pick yourself back up. Have confidence in yourself and take risks. Find mentors to collaborate with and seek advice from. Don’t be afraid to speak up with your ideas and go after you dreams! Stay humble and kind.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I love that Omaha is a big, yet small, city filled with many kind, welcoming and supportive people – #NebraskaNice! There are a variety of opportunities for education, business, the arts, sports events, kids activities and more. It’s a great place to raise a family. There truly is no place like “hOmaha!”
What is something about you that not everyone knows? I used to be very shy and quiet and I LOVE frogs!
What is your favorite quote? “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, ‘I’m possible!” – Audrey Hepburn
Blake Berke, 33
Integrator & COO,
Professional Achievements: Four consecutive years on Inc 5000’s fastest growing companies, 250% growth over the last six-plus years; Traction EOS implementation and facilitation; Spearheaded multiple acquisitions in 2021-22.
Community Involvement: Citylight Church finance board; Sports officiating including multiple National Championships, bowl games, and playoffs; Real estate development work; Annual sponsor/donor for United Cerebral Palsy; Make a Wish Nebraska, & Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Whereas some may have one specific person who they’d name as a mentor, I feel fortunate to name a peer group as my most influential mentor. The group consists of a handful of influential decision makers covering a broad spectrum of business sizes and types. I am able to hear perspectives coming from solo-entrepreneurs and larger organizations that can be adapted and applied to my business and personal life.
What is your advice for young professionals? Find resources who can help guide you on what you choose to work on and who you choose to work on it with. So often we think there’s a hack to get to where you want more quickly — make more money, get that next promotion, etc. More often, it’s spending time preparing for opportunities that present themselves at completely unknown and unexpected times.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? The most fulfilling stretch of my career was shortly after transitioning from public accounting to the private sector with McGill Restoration. I was able to consistently find ways to bring value to the team which opened new doors. Big picture decisions made during that time frame have helped set up the organization for long-term success.
Sarah Cano, 36
Professional Achievements: Featured in a series of New York Times articles that brought awareness & attention to key issues facing the construction industry; Forbes article feature on women leaders in the construction industry; Surpassing our company’s charitable giving goal through our Raise The Roof donation program and local giving back initiatives; Opening Rooforia Headquarters & Distribution Center allowing consistent year-over-year growth in both revenue and workforce.
Community Involvement: Greater Omaha Chamber Economic Diversity Council Member; and Entrepreneurs’ Organization board member.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Through a series of serendipitous connections, I met a successful local real estate developer who had a significant impact on my path as an entrepreneur. Ultimately the single, most impactful thing he did that changed the trajectory of my life and business career is introduce me to the Nebraska chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? The year we launched our roof donation program, we selected a woman who had just lost her husband of 40-plus years and had recently retired from a lifelong career at OPS. Through a series of unfortunate events, the home her husband built for their family was deteriorating. Her warm heart and smile were contagious. The moment I will never forget was showing up on our last day of work and our team presented her with a Thanksgiving dinner and all of the fixings to celebrate at her home, and to our surprise, she had also prepared a full Thanksgiving dinner for our entire team and invited everyone into her home to enjoy together and I knew that we were truly leaving each neighborhood better than we found it.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? I used to be a fire twirler.
Kelli Cavey, 39
Vice President of Donor Services,
Omaha Community Foundation
Professional Achievements: Vice president of donor services; Omaha Community Foundation, 2018 – present; Fitzgerald, Schorr, Barmettler & Brennan, P.C., L.L.O., of counsel attorney, 2014 – 2018; Marks Clare & Richards, LLC, partner, 2008 – 2014; The American College of Financial Services, CAP Designation; University of Nebraska College of Law, Juris Doctor.
Community Involvement: Project Houseworks, board member; DIBS for Kids, vice president; CAP advisory board; Women Investing in Nebraska; Omaha Venture Group; Leadership Omaha – Class 42; Association of Charitable Gift Planners, board member; Nebraska State Bar Association, member; Omaha Estate Planning Council, industry representative; Omaha Bar Association, member.
What is your advice for young professionals? You will make mistakes. Own them, ask for feedback, learn, and move on. When there is conflict, get curious about it. Ask thoughtful questions and listen to the responses even when it is uncomfortable. Be a connector and a champion of others. Assume everyone is doing the best they can and treat them as such. Ask for help when you need it, and you will need it. Finally, and most importantly, know yourself and what drives you. Just because you are good at something does not mean it’s a good fit for you long term.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? My most fulfilling career moment has been launching and leading the Omaha Community Foundation’s Impact Investing Program. Through this program, our team developed a Community Loan Fund that makes flexible, affordable loans to local nonprofits.
What is your favorite quote? “A sign of a good leader is not how many followers you have but how many leaders you create.” -Mahatma Gandhi
“I am ready to face any challenges that might be foolish enough to face me.” – Dwight Schrute, “The Office”
Darius Christensen, 33
Sales Team Leader,
Professional Achievements: DEI committee member; Sales team leader.
Community Involvement: YP Council Member for three years (recruiting chair, development chair, overall chair in 2022); YP Summit Planning Committee for five years, (overall chair in 2022); Greater Omaha Chamber public policy committee member, a seat on the Greater Omaha Chamber board, seat on the Greater Omaha Chamber executive committee.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. It’s hard to pick one in my life — I feel like I am surrounded by amazing people in my life. Make sure you get mentors that are not necessarily in your field of work, and at different stages of life when you are both younger and older. It’s important to have as much diversity when trying to get different perspectives as possible.
What is your advice for young professionals? My advice to young professionals would be get comfortable being uncomfortable. There’s going to be a lot of times in your career when you have to have tough conversations. Do not shy away from those, embrace them and they will make you better for it in the long run. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there —it’s important to get exposure in different areas.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? I would say becoming a team leader was a very fulfilling part of my career. It really meant a lot to me that my company trusted me to lead and develop our sales team going forward.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I would say the passion in the city. Whether it’s about public transportation, or supporting local shops, there seems to be a burning passion to band together and fix issues that come up and support others in this community.
Rebecca Deterding, 39
President & CEO,
YMCA of Greater Omaha
Professional Achievements: Obtained CPA Certificate; Served on the task force to acquire the Center in Council Bluffs; Helped navigate the YMCA through significant financial issues during the pandemic; Integral part of team in charge of opening three, going on four, YMCA’s.
Community Involvement: Millard Superintendent Business Advisory Group; Champions for Child Protection; YMCA Heartland Alliance board member; United Way JAG presenter; Young Professionals Quarterly Roundtable; Parent volunteer.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? The most fulfilling moment in my career was stepping into the CEO position at the YMCA. I had served as CFO for about seven years prior and as interim CEO during the leadership transition. I am so passionate about our community and the work we do as an organization, and to be able to take that passion and expand the impact I can have and empower our leaders, it’s truly a blessing. I am also honored to serve as the first female CEO for our organization in its 155-year history.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? I spent about five years modeling starting at age 15. I had agencies in Minneapolis, New York and Athens, Greece and had the opportunity to spend a summer in Athens and traveled around the US. I didn’t appear in anything notable, but it was definitely an experience to remember!
What is your favorite quote? “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brene Brown
Veronica Doga, 39
Professional Achievements: I started my career at Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) as market research specialist, working with small businesses on bringing their innovative ideas to market. In 2010 I established the International Trade Assistance Services at NBDC, which supports businesses interested in growing their sales through international trade. Currently, I serve as the director of the NBDC Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) helping businesses sell their goods and services to federal, state, and local governments.
Community Involvement: I am currently serving on the board for the Society of the American Military Engineers (SAME) Omaha Post, as the small business liaison. I recently joined Grow Nebraska’s Women’s Business Center (GNWBC) board of directors. I also serve as a Professional Review Committee member for the Association of the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC).
What is your advice for young professionals? Be resilient and always keep evolving. Success will eventually find you.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? Throughout my career I’ve witnessed hundreds of small businesses pour sweat and tears in everything they strive to achieve. The small part I played was showing them the path to sales growth through market research, international growth, grant funding, or government contracting. Growing businesses is my passion, and their success is my reward.
What is your Favorite quote? “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy
Tamara Draeger, 39
Owner & CEO,
Professional Achievements: Third-generation family business owner; Vistage member since 2011; TIA member; Certified Transportation Broker; Certified to administer the MSCEIT (Certified Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence); 10 Year member recognition from Vistage; Board member of the IWLA-Insurance Company for six years and have been on the executive board for four; As of the summer of 2022, 100% woman-owned business.
Community Involvement: Jewish Business Leaders of Omaha board member; JCC building and grounds committee; Temple Israel Youth Learning Programs steering committee chair and executive board member; Annual giver to the Nebraska Humane Society and Omaha Gives; Lois Jeanne Schrager Young Leadership Award winner; 2022 Sacred Partner award recipient from Temple Israel.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. I have been fortunate to have several impactful business role models up to this point in my career. From my dad, Jon Meyers, and cousin, Bruce Meyers, who taught me all of the foundational pieces of our businesses and have encouraged me to stretch beyond my comfort level; to my Vistage chair and board, who also gently pressed me to move past the “easy” and “safe” options in business and lead with my heart in all areas. And most recently, Chuck Wolfe, who has taught me so much in the area of emotional intelligence.
What is your advice for young professionals? Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Showing your human qualities in an open and authentic way will be such a rewarding experience and can get you farther than you might realize.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? One of the most fulfilling moments in my career was making the transition from second generation to third generation of family ownership.
Nick Engelbart, 33
Professional Achievements: Became CFO of a large enterprise at age 30; Led the process of Bain Capital investing in Carson Group; Executed 15-plus M&A transactions at West and 20-plus early-stage investments at Dundee Venture Capital; Built out and developed a team of M&A professionals and expanded our M&A strategy; Navigated the COVID downturn in 2020 after being named CFO and while building a new headquarters in Omaha.
Community Involvement: Muchemore Foundation board; Coach and mentor youth sports.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Early in my career, I was able to learn from Mike McCarthy, Patrick Duffy, and Mark Hasebroock at McCarthy Capital and Dundee Venture Capital. Then, I was able to learn from Dave Treinen at West Corporation/Intrado. Most recently, I have been fortunate to learn from Ron Carson, Aaron Schaben, and Teri Shepherd at Carson Group. Finally, my parents and my wife’s parents have shown what it means to be a great father and husband.
What is your advice for young professionals? My advice for your professionals is to seek what you love and learn as much as you can. You must do the fundamentals but take the opportunity to accelerate your learning curve. Seek out individuals that you regard as your heroes and try to learn from them and their core values. Finally, take the time to give back to the next generation.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? Early in my career, I did not have confidence and did not enjoy speaking in public or receiving the spotlight. In the first few years of my professional career, I just always assumed I did not know the answers in meetings or that others always did. I also was afraid of making a mistake. I have learned that you need to be thoughtful but amplify your voice and use your voice as a tool to amplify others.
Alex Epstein, 39
Executive Vice President,
Professional Achievements: Represented seller and sourced buyer for 10601 S. 15th St. (370,000 square feet) – (Tenant: Blue Buffalo Co.) – Transaction: $24,400,000; Represented seller of 10488 South 136th St. (237,680 square feet) for $19,929,875; Represented seller of 7417 North 101st St. in a sale leaseback to an undisclosed buyer for $8,500,000; Represented seller of Westroads Pointe (1015 N 98th St): $8,000,000; Represented seller of 72 units (Marshall Apartments) in Lincoln, Nebraska for $6,900,000; Represented seller of 13333 Lynam Dr. in a sale $6,500,000.
Community Involvement: Founder and president of the board of directors – Jewish Business Leaders; Advisory board member – Cornhusker Bank; Former Vice Chairman CRE Summit (2016-2020); Member – Leadership Omaha Class 40.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. I’ve been blessed with many mentors in many different facets of my life, but I would not be in commercial real estate if it were not for Allan Murow. Allan was founder of N&M Brokerage and a partner in Grubb & Ellis/Pacific Realty and participated in more than $3 billion of transactions. Allan always gave me his time. He shared with me the triumphs and hurdles of dealings in his career, which helped accelerate my growth in this industry. He provided constructive advice as I came across hurdles both personally and professionally. Most importantly, it was never just words, but Allan leads by example.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? Circa 2013 I had built one of the largest Twitter followings (at that time) in the country as a college humor brand. Email me to get coffee and I’ll tell you more…
What is your favorite quote? “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”- My late grandfather Harold “Bae” Epstein
Sam Friehe, 38
Co-founder & President of Organizational Development,
VirtuActive 3D Drafting & Design
Professional Achievements: Started a business at the age of 25; Grew VirtuActive from five employees to 30; Largest residential drafting firm in Nebraska; Built over 75 custom homes in under seven years; Street of Dreams builder; Part of a remodel team on a Frank Lloyd Wright home; Lead superintendent at the age of 23 on multi-million dollar construction projects.
Community Involvement: Metro Omaha Builders Association; Home Builders Association of Lincol; Build Omaha -Habitat For Humanity; Angels Among Us; Open Door Mission; National Association of Home Builders.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. I come from a farm family so growing up my dad was always teaching us things whether it was working on projects around the farm, creating things out of wood or rebuilding cars and I always liked to draw. So, I know my passion and drive comes from him who still to this day is the hardest worker I’ve ever met in my life. But if there’s one person who has truly been a guiding light for me through everything it’s my wife, Kayla. I can say with absolute certainty that Kayla is that person for me. Having her as a sounding board for ideas is crucial for me.
What is your advice for young professionals? Outwork your competition, have a business plan and learn when to pivot. Having a business plan was something I lacked early on and something that I desperately needed. I eventually figured out that these four things are absolutely essential keys to having long-term success: know your metrics, know your employees, know your market, learn to plan ahead. Know when to pivot.
What is your favorite quote? “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs
Shannon Gilroy, 39
Vice President of Advancement,
Professional Achievements: Creighton University Master of Science in Organizational Leadership; Graduate Certificate in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution; Leadership Omaha, Class 37; Caesars Entertainment Chairman’s Award winner, Superior Internal Service (2010); Caesars Entertainment Chairman’s Award winner, Community Service (2009); Marketing Key Contributor for Harrah’s and Horseshoe Council Bluffs, (2007); Harrah’s & Horseshoe Service Champion, (2007).
Lauritzen Gardens board member; Maha Festival board member; Nebraska Civic Engagement Table board member; National Alumni Association of the Sacred Heart Central regional director; Marquette Club of Omaha Alumni Association past president; Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart Class Ambassador; Resister Sister Committee member; Nebraska Mission of Mercy Host Site liaison; Past volunteer with the Eastern Nebraska Medical Reserve Corps, Heart Ministry Center, Habitat for Humanity, Girls Inc., and MICAH House.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career?
In March of 2020, we made the decision to convert our in-person gala fundraiser to a virtual format. In addition to raising funds for BT, we made the decision to share a portion of proceeds with four community nonprofits who were on the frontlines of supporting our community through the pandemic.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community?
Omaha is uniquely positioned in its ability to combine our city’s philanthropic spirit with our community’s deep commitment to education. The combination of these foundational principles have opened the door for opportunities in my career.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you’re crazy enough to do what you love for a living, then you’re bound to create a life that matters.” – Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines founder
Claudia Granillo, 27
Community Wellbeing Specialist,
The Wellbeing Partners
Professional Achievements: Aided in the development of a toolkit for Latino Markets to increase the usage of Double Up Food Bucks; Aided in the development of national strategies and resources that helped effectively implement Safe Routes to School programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Community Involvement: Nebraska Civic Engagement Table board; Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership board; MAPA Transportation Alternatives Program Committee and the Safety Committee.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Sheena Helgenberger is a person that I consider a mentor and who has had a positive impact on my career. She leads by example and fosters growth in every person that she works with. Over the past three years, I have learned so much from her and I have been able to take many of my skills to the next level thanks to her mentorship. Under her supervision, I have been able to flourish as a young professional. I hope that in the future, I can share with others what she has taught me and hope to lead by example as she does.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? What I love about the Greater Omaha community is that there is always someone willing to help. I see this every time I meet and work with community members. No one is a stranger in the Greater Omaha area. There is so much kindness here and that is what I love the most.
What is your favorite quote? “The point is not to pay back kindness, but to pass it on.”- Julia Alvarez
Cole Groteluschen, 39
Senior Vice President,
Community Involvement: QLI; Completely Kids.
What is your advice for young professionals? The most powerful thing you can do for yourself is show up every day. Some days are tough, some discouraging, some exhausting, but showing up and doing the work will get you to the next level. It’s easy to get distracted by the noise around you, but it’s important to stay focused on yourself and your goals.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? I am blessed to have a wonderful team that I work with and clients that make my job fun. I remember the early days of staring at the clock, waiting for the minutes and hours to pass. I can honestly say I have not felt that way in a long time. It might be not a single moment, but it is incredibly fulfilling to have a career I love and truly enjoy.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I moved to Omaha when I was 18. I had just started college and knew very few people here. As time went on, I found that people here genuinely care about each other. They want their community to thrive and work together to make it a better place. It’s incredible to see Omaha continue to grow and change in many different and positive ways. I am proud to raise my family in this community and call it home.
Trishonna Helm, 30
Mixins Rolled Ice Cream
Professional Achievements: Opening an ice cream business, being open now for four years, growing a large social media following, helping other entrepreneurs grow and establish their businesses.
Community Involvement: Working with the youth.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Julian Young & Greg Poor are two great mentors who had a huge impact on my career.
What is your advice for young professionals? Be disciplined now so that you have the life that you want later.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? Not many people know that I’ve been an entrepreneur since 6 years old and that I come from a family full of entrepreneurs.
Adam Hoebelheinrich, 39
Regional Vice President,
Professional Achievements: I grew up on a family farm near Hartington, Nebraska, and spent a summer working at the company my grandfather started, Radec Construction, which confirmed my interest in construction. After college, I had an opportunity to be part of the management teams on prestigious Omaha projects such as TD Ameritrade Park, The Durham Museum – Truhlsen Lecture Hall, and the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center. I joined Project Control in 2011 as a project manager and quickly advanced to a senior project manager. At 33, I received another promotion to regional vice president. I have managed the Midwest office into a growing and successful project management and owner’s representative firm with more than $800 million in completed Midwest projects.
What is your advice for young professionals? My advice to young professionals is to enjoy the challenges. Working in an industry prone to unforeseen issues and continuously developing solutions has led me to appreciate the need to overcome challenges. As you work hard, make the correct choices, and choices you would take back, it is all part of your experience and constant improvement.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? I cannot pinpoint one moment, but to me, it is grand openings on projects that everyone involved has found the project process enjoyable and successful. I would also say that being part of some incredible projects in my still young career and playing a role in their success makes me that dad who always has to point them out to my wife and kids in the car.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I grew up in a small farming community/town, and I have always appreciated the community feel of knowing your neighbors and helping each other out in times of need. I truly never thought that would be the case in Omaha when I moved here after college. But in truth, my wife Brittany, our kids, and I have found several small communities and groups where we know our neighbors and are there for each other.
Jade Jensen, 27
Professional Achievements: NBDC 2021 Champion of Small Business Award for Appsky; 2022 SBA Small Business Persons of the Year Award; Acquired a business in 2020.
Community Involvement: Co-Organizer of Omaha’s 1 Million Cups; Co-Organizer of Startup Omaha Week 2022; Member of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s College of Business Young Alumni Advisory Council; Member of Omaha Executive Association; Member of the Nebraska Tech Collaborative; Member of the Greater Omaha Chamber (and previously of the Engagement Council); Judged for pitch competitions and the 2022 Get Started Omaha Startup Showcase; Member of CityLight Midtown Church.
What is your advice for young professionals? As a young professional, I think the best advice given to me was to learn how to say no and don’t be afraid to prioritize yourself. I am a firm believer that you can’t help people if you don’t know how to help yourself. That means spending time figuring out what you value, what your goals are, and working towards living out those values. It also makes it easier to say no to things that don’t align. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about other things, it just means you’re working toward what you’re passionate about. It’s better to do one or two things well, rather than stretch yourself thin trying to do all the things.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? When I came to Omaha for college, I quickly fell in love with Omaha and the people in it. I love how easy it is to find mutual connections with other people, whether it’s a person you both know or similar interests you share. I appreciate how friendly people are and how most people are willing to meet with you if you just ask.
What is your favorite quote? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21
Drew Kamp, 35
President & CEO,
Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce
Professional Achievements: Iowa Small Business Development Centers State Advisory board chair, Southwest Iowa SBDC Steering Committee member, Southwest Iowa Entrepreneurial Task Force, Professional Developers of Iowa board of directors, Professional Developers of Iowa Executive Committee, Professional Developers of Iowa Board chair, Iowa Chamber Alliance board member, Iowa Chamber Alliance Executive Committee member, Iowa Chamber Alliance board chair, 2021 American Chamber of Commerce Executives 40 Under 40 awardee, 2017 Ames Chamber of Commerce 40 Under 40, Leadership Iowa Class of 2016-2017, University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute graduate, Heartland Economic Development Course graduate, Story County Economic Development Group chair.
Community Involvement: Ames Miracle Field and Playground Committee; Rotary Club of Ames; Rotary Club of Ames Board Member; Council Bluffs Rotary; Youth Mentor for YSS in Ames.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Former Omaha City Councilman Chris Jerram and former Nebraska Governor and United States Senator Ben Nelson. Chris truly ignited my love and passion for politics in 2007, when he pushed me to get involved in local politics and subsequently assist in his successful 2009 Omaha City Council campaign. That love and passion grew when I started working for then-Senator Ben Nelson in December of 2009 and assumed the role of his Senior Aide in 2011.
What is your advice for young professionals? Identify mentors and professional organizations or networks in your respective field or of deep personal interest and leverage and maximize those relationships. As you grow and develop in your profession, take it upon yourself to serve as a mentor and serve in the leadership of organizations that have helped you along the way to grow the talent pipeline and cultivate leaders of the future.
Jenn Kanne, 34
Great Southern Bank
Professional Achievements: Top producer (Debt & Equity) at Great Southern Bank 2022; CRE Summit panelist 2022; CREW Omaha Luncheon panel moderator 2022.
Community Involvement: Completely Kids Guild board treasurer; CREW Omaha treasurer; Sandoz Elementary PTA volunteer; Supporter of Great Plains Colon Cancer Task Force.
What is your advice for young professionals? My advice for young professionals is to show up and try. It’s okay if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing in the beginning, but if you show up and are engaged in your work you’re already a step ahead of the crowd.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I am passionate about my love for Omaha, and I’m not afraid to talk to everyone I meet about our city whenever I’m traveling for work or pleasure. I love that Omaha has so much to offer in terms of community events, experiences, restaurants and sporting events, with community leaders always dreaming of the next big thing to draw others to our city. I also love that even with our growth Omaha is small enough that I know I have connections all over the city. I think business leaders in Omaha are willing to take a meeting or a call with a new connection and enjoy offering their insight and advice, and I love that.
Favorite quote and by whom? “Work hard, know your [stuff], show your [stuff], and then feel entitled.” – Mindy Kaling
Jaci Lindburg, 39
Associate Vice Chancellor,
Professional Achievements: Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration; Keynote address at Western Nebraska Community College’s commencement; Co-author of “Allies for Inclusion: Disability and Equity in Higher Education;” Presented the national Lead From Where You Are Award from the MOR IT Leadership Program; Named assistant VP at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; Collaborated in envisioning, shaping and coordinating the Open Nebraska initiative across the University of Nebraska System; Tapped in 2022 to launch a new division at UNO, the Division of Innovative & Learning-Centric Initiatives.
Community Involvement: Westside School District Teaching and Learning Key Communicator Committee; Teaching Junior Achievement curriculum in elementary school classrooms; Women Investing in Nebraska leadership team.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. I had the great privilege of working with the late Rick Fredericks for several years through a professional development program. He taught me that “leadership is not a spectator sport” and would always challenge me to “get on the balcony” when it was critical to zoom back and take a systems approach to solving complex problems.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? All of the roles I’ve played in higher education during my 15-year career have been those that require innovative, strategic thinking in order to shape the next-generation of higher education learning environments. I absolutely love this work, mostly because of its direct impact on access, affordability, and degree attainment for college students. One of my favorite things to do as a leader is to build high-performing teams through hiring extremely well, developing rock stars, and nurturing a great team culture.
Josefina Loza, 39
Lozafina Marketing and Public Relations
Professional Achievements: Journalist with more than 20 years of experience: Omaha World-Herald, Associated Press, Colorado Springs Gazette, Omaha Magazine, Huffington Post, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Momaha.com; Named one of Omaha’s most influential Latinas in Media; Omaha Jaycees 2022 Ten Outstanding Young Omahans; Former diversity fellow for the Society for Features Journalism.
Community Involvement: Lambda Theta Nu, faculty advisor; Global Leadership Africa Summit, director of communications; The Gateway Student Newspaper, guidance and mentorship and manager of student publications; UNO’s Student Life and Wellbeing Division Leader; Midlands African Chamber, VP of marketing and public relations; 50 Over 50 NE, director of marketing communications; Fitucate Foundation, VP of marketing and communications.
What is your advice for young professionals? I want you to fail. Making mistakes is a part of life. Part of the human experience is owning your truth and navigating your resilience which is forged under fire. Look inward. Learn. Listen to others. Foster curiosity. And, most importantly, remember that the strongest mettle is forged in the crucible of chaos. So, ultimately it’s okay to be a hot mess as long as you’re evolving.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? People fascinate me. I absolutely relish the time I get to spend getting to know someone – be that a longtime friend or a stranger I met a few minutes ago. I have this uncanny ability to spark a conversation with just about anyone. I enjoy hearing their come-up stories and life experiences.
What is your favorite quote? “To know oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” – Oscar Wilde
Joshy Madathil, 39
Professional Achievements: More than 15 years in railroading industry; Promoted to senior director IT – operating systems in 2020; Moved into a role in December 2021 helping progress technology in the engineering, mechanical and wayside areas.
Community Involvement: UP’s Asian Employee Resource Organization (AERO) vice president, president in 2023; Volunteer work doing various refugee family resettlements, restocking food banks, and partnering with other organizations that help the community.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. While I was completing the MBA program at Washburn, I had the privilege of taking a business ethics course taught by Professor Jim Haines. In addition to deep conversations on understanding one’s moral compass in a chosen profession, he taught us about how to be pragmatic in the business world. The processes are rarely perfect, but if we can get results in the right way, we will ultimately succeed.
What is your advice for young professionals? Be willing to take time to connect with people. Actively listen to the wisdom they share as everyone has something they can teach you. What you learn from them can have profound effects later in life.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I appreciate that the Greater Omaha area is a very giving and open community. This extends to the organizations that we help with, such as Together, to the community groups, churches and faith-based support groups that help us, such as F3 Bell Tower Group in Bellevue where we live. The variety of people with diverse backgrounds is truly a blessing for us.
Assan Manneh, 37
Vice President of Retail Banking,
Cobalt Credit Union
Professional Achievements: I lead the operations of seven branches in the south region including branches in Bellevue, Gretna, Papillion, and Omaha. It was a sense of accomplishment to have successfully opened the Cobalt Credit Union Gretna branch in June 2021, and the additional Installation of Interactive Teller Machines (ITM) at our headquarters, Papillion, and 36 and Q Supermercado branches to continue to serve our members; 2019 Cobalt Credit Union RISE Award recipient.
Community Involvement: Greater Omaha Chamber YP Council member 2019 to 2021; Current board member, League for African Advancement, Inc.; Teammates mentor Gretna Public Schools; DEI Committee member Cobalt; Member of Nebraska Gambians; 2022 Global Leadership Africa Summit scholarship and student engagement chair.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. There are so many amazing people who have had a positive impact in my career. My boss Keli Wragge, chief operations officer at Cobalt Credit Union, has been a positive influence in my career. She challenges me and encourages me to see things from a different perspective. She’s passionate about our members at the credit union.
Of course, my parents are the ultimate mentors. They have always taught me to work hard, be disciplined and education comes first. They preach the importance of building and maintaining relationships.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I don’t have a middle name.
What is your favorite quote? “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela.
Brandon Miller, 38
Professional Achievements: Started Hullabaloo Music Festival in 2011; Leased the Hullabaloo Music Festival venue, Sokol Park, in 2015; Purchased the venue Sokol Park in 2016 and changed it to Falconwood Park; Opened the Falconwood Park Drive-in Movie Theater in 2016; Purchased the neighboring Gene Eppley Camp in 2021; Opened the expanded Falconwood Park in 2022; Became an owner of the inaugural Outlandia Music Festival in 2022.
Community Involvement: I donate or reduce the costs for use of the park to organizations for use as a fundraiser venue.
What is your advice for young professionals? Don’t ever think you are too old to get started and don’t ever think you are stuck in doing what you are currently involved in. I knew back when I was working automobile sales that it was not the life I wanted or my destiny. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and try something new or different, it could lead you to a place and happiness you weren’t aware existed for yourself.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? In looking for a new venue to host Hullabaloo in its third year I found what was then Sokol Park and its neighboring property the Gene Eppley Salvation Army Camp. I called my friend Jon White to join me at the two properties and while walking around I told him I am going to own these places someday, which was a TALL order at the time. This year not only did we add and open the newly added Salvation Army property to Falconwood but I got to join a dream team of owners to start Outlandia Music Festival on the property.
What is your favorite quote? “I don’t know karate but I know ka-razy!” – James Brown. Any other quote I would be lying about because I would be looking something up to look or sound smart.
Rachel Morehead, 38
Marketing and Engagement Manager,
Community Foundation for Western Iowa
Professional Achievements: Oversee the entire process of the Community Foundation’s new brand and name change; Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional of the Year award in 2022; Graduated from the Leadership Council Bluffs program in 2015 – Class 27.
Community Involvement: Current member of the Young Professionals Iowa board, Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce’s Women Inspiring Women Committee, and Council Bluffs Schools Foundation Alumni & Friends Committee. Previously served on the Morningside College Alumni board, CHI Mercy Council Bluffs Patient and Family Advisory Council, and Midlands Humane Society’s Marketing and Events Committee. Former board secretary for the Council Bluffs Guild of the Omaha Symphony board and past member of Council Bluffs Centennial Rotary Club of Council Bluffs.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I love my hometown of Council Bluffs, especially our nonprofit community. It is inspiring to see our young professionals and leaders collaborate and lift one another up on a regular basis – by telling their stories, attending events, and empowering one another. In working at the Community Foundation, it is encouraging and rewarding to see the individuals and businesses who are so supportive of our local nonprofits, and who value the importance of their work in the Council Bluffs area.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? My husband and I both met when we were members of the Morningside University golf team, and to this day, we continue to play in couples tournaments, or as a family with our two children.
What is your favorite quote? “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo
Tania Murrell, 28
Triage Nurse Manager,
OneWorld Community Health Centers
Professional Achievements: Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Valdosta State University; UCLA/Johnson & Johnson Community Health Advocate Management Program graduate from Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles; ANCC – Ambulatory Care Nurse – Board Certified (AMB-BC).
Community Involvement: American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing active member; Latinx Healthcare Professionals Panelist.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? Recently one of my direct report’s mother became very ill. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer and the prognosis was poor. When her mother was first diagnosed, the prognosis was unclear and the first natural instinct was to keep busy and distracted. I saw myself in her, and I intervened. I convinced her to take intermittent leave and eased her mind so she could see that she needed to be home, with her mom, not at work. Several months later, she came to me and thanked me. She said that because of me, she got to enjoy her mother a little longer and this she would never forget.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? I am a first-generation immigrant. My parents sacrificed a comfortable lifestyle in their home country to give my sisters and I a chance. A chance that changed our lives. Now that I have children of my own, I understand why my parents did this and furthermore, I now understand that no matter what I choose to do with this gift, my parents will be proud and it will be worth it.
What is your favorite quote? “You’re you, and the universe will only ever witness one of you and that is all the universe will ever get, please let the world return to you at least half of what you gave.” -Whitney Hanson
Kyle Osborne, 39
Director of Financial Literacy,
Professional Achievements: Created in-school bank with supplemental classroom programming for K-12 in Iowa; Worked with Governor’s task force to create and integrate financial literacy standards as a graduation requirement in Iowa; Established Iowa teacher continuing education and master credit class; Created diploma plus program with Council Bluffs Community School District where students receive three American Banker; Association certificates; Offering free financial coaching to southwest Iowa residents.
Community Involvement: President, Council Bluffs TeamMates; Schools President, Woodland Acres Neighborhood Association; VP, Programs Chair, 4 Corners Community Foundation; Pastor, Gospel Community Leader and Finance Team; Member, First City Church; Iowa Jump$tart Coalition Board; Green Hills Area Education Agency Business Advisory Committee Chair; Iowa Western Community College Accounting, Marketing, Management/HR Advisory Member; Graduate of Leadership Council Bluffs – Class 27; Chair of SW Iowa Chicago Federal Reserve Planning Team.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Keith Anderson led spiritual formation at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa while I was in college. He taught me to listen, ask the right questions, speak the truth in love and lead by example.
What is your advice for young professionals? When you find a mission worth living for, and you can do that with others, you can create a world-class team. I would encourage you to find that team or build it and grow from there.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? Having a person who was in one of my community classes come up to me and share how they put into practice the financial education they learned. It was fun to celebrate how they went from being homeless to landing a job, getting an apartment, and buying a car within a year.
Ryan Pankoke, 39
BluePrint Advertising Agency
Professional Achievements: Founded BluePrint Advertising Agency; International bestselling author in the category of Business & Advertising; #1 Advertising book in all of 2021 in the U.S.; #1 U.S. Business book in November of 2021; Appeared on TV station KPHO in phoenix to be interviewed.; Won “Best of Omaha” in the category of Advertising Agency four years in a row; Bought and built commercial property on 156th & Dodge Streets.
Community Involvement: Served on board for the largest youth sports program in Nebraska; Volunteer basketball coach; Volunteer soccer coach; Pro bono websites and press releases for nonprofits; Fundraising efforts for Junior League of Omaha; Pro bono work for “Nebraska for Medical Marijuana.”
What is your advice for young professionals? Be willing to learn new things and willing to adapt. Taking the initiative and becoming self-taught can take you a long way.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? I left my six-figure job and started my business one week after my twin boys were born with no investors and no backing. I wasn’t afraid to fail and I knew what I wanted. As long as I had a strong work ethic and treated people the way I wanted to be treated, I knew I would be successful.
What is your favorite quote? “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffett
Josh Planos, 30
Vice President of Communications & Public Relations,
Better Business Bureau
Professional Achievements: Helped KETV NewsWatch 7 earn awards from the Associated Press, Nebraska Broadcasters Association and Radio Television Digital News Association; Published in the Atlantic, FiveThirtyEight, New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. Regular contributor for CNN Philippines; Presenter at colleges and universities on a variety of topics; Helped more than 20 social media accounts grow their audience in excess of 1,000% in the first year. Earned media strategy has resulted in 85% year-one growth in two different industries; Spokesperson of the Better Business Bureau’s International Investigations Initiative.
Community Involvement: Public Relations Society of America; iHeartRadio Local Advisory Board; Lancaster County Crime Stoppers Board; Department of Insurance Senior Health Insurance and Information Program Fraud Prevention Committee; Elder Rights Coalition; Business Ethics Alliance Business Program Committee.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. I have benefited immeasurably from excellent bosses at each stop in my career: Jonathan Garcia, Maggie Cunningham, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Arnold, Jennifer Worthington and Jim Hegarty.
What is your advice for young professionals? It’s ok to intermittently pull the rip cord to allow yourself to evolve in a new space. In my experience, there is no single roadmap to follow, nor is there a linear path worth pursuing. Some people work for the same company or in the same industry for their entire careers. For me, the joy has always been in the edges of a circuitous journey, and mine has been one marked by transition.
What is your favorite quote? “Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.” – Cormac McCarthy
Crystal Rush Cardenas, 36
Director & Partner,
Professional Achievements: Founding the CNW Alliance with my husband, William Rush, to serve youth in crisis by providing day and evening reporting and family support services; Co-host for Community Connecting through Conversations Podcast for the South Omaha Community Care Council; VP and Development chair.
Community Involvement: VP, South Omaha Community Care Council; Treasurer, Latino Economic Development Council; South Omaha Violence and Intervention Prevention; Las Voces member; Empowering Girls Group; Human Trafficking Awareness advocate; South Omaha Community advocate and volunteer; Family 4 Life Support Group leader.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career.
My constant mentor and friend throughout my career has been Gina Ponce, Director of El Camino Latino at Bellevue University. The biggest piece of advice she has given me was to seek the truth and never compromise my values. This is advice I give to other young professionals.
What is something about you that not everyone knows? People see me as a career driven woman but the most important job I have been given by God is to be a mother. I did not always understand the importance of my role. I realized the importance of being a mother when I came across this quote by Forest E. Witcraft, “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”
What is your favorite quote? “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Denisha Michele Seals, 32
Professional Achievements: International Award Winning Filmmaker; Published Children’s Book Author; First Generation College Graduate; Founder of Water2Spirit LLC.
Community Involvement: My goal is to serve marginalized communities directly without institutional structures.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. I have been blessed to receive my guidance from God and my Ancestors.
What is your advice for young professionals? Utilize their gifts and talents to impact the world.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? I am the first Afro-Indigenous woman to been published by Boystown Press.
Erik Servellon, 36
Vice President of Operations and Development,
Professional Achievements: Non-Commissioned Officer, Nebraska Army National Guard; Combat Deployment to Afghanistan, Flight Medic; Mobilization to Texas for relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey; Army Commendation Medal, Air Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal; VP of Operations and Development, Tri-Faith Initiative; Councilmember, Learning Community Council; Master of Public Administration; Ten Outstanding Young Omahan 2018; JCO International Ten Outstanding Young American 2019; Civic Nebraska Community Builder Award 2019; Rising Leaders Institute, NAM/ynpnGO, 2019; Nebraska Latino American Commission Inspiration Award.
Community Involvement: National Association Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, board of directors; OneWorld Community Health Centers, Inc., board of directors; Greater Omaha Chamber, CODE Policy Subcommittee; Latino Economic Development Council, steering committee; Leadership Omaha, Class 45; Metro Young Latino Professionals Association, immediate past president; Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership, past board member; Omaha Mayor’s Office, Millennial Advisory Committee; Omaha Community Foundation, ONGP Selection Committee; Omaha Jaycees, TOYO! Judging Committee.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Wendy Goldberg, executive director of Tri-Faith. Not only am I a growing professional, but I have also learned an incredibly important lesson: two conflicting truths can exist at the same time. Our job is not to figure out which is “right” or “wrong,” our job is to listen, understand, empathize.
What is your advice for young professionals? Find your “why.” The power that this brings to you in your career and in life is incalculable.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? During my deployment I completed an evacuation of a U.S. soldier wounded in a battle. Months later, I found out that that soldier made a recovery and ran the U.S. Flag out during a Seattle Seahawks game!
Mia Silva-Laustrup, 38
Council Bluffs Schools Foundation
Professional Achievements: I am proud of the work happening in the STARS Scholarship program. As a STARS graduate, and now as the program director, I understand what this program offers low-income parents and families pursuing higher education. I am proud to give back to the program that has set me on the trajectory I am on today.
Community Involvement: President of Impact CB’s Executive Committee; Vice President of the Lewis Central Education Foundation board; Chair of the Communications Committee for the Human Services Advisory Council; Board member at large for All Care Health Center; 712 Initiative, Quality of Life Committee member; Share My Smile fundraising/gala committee member; Metro Young Latino Professionals Association member; Young Not-for-Profit Professionals of the Midlands member; Rising Leaders Institute for Young Not-for-Profit Professionals of the Midlands, Cohort 1; Leadership Council Bluffs, Class 33; Cohort 1 of Women of Color Academy, sponsored by the Iowa West Foundation.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. While I’ve had many mentors, the one that stands out above the rest is Chris LaFerla, Executive Director of the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation. Chris has opened the door for countless opportunities, provided me with guidance, and empowered me to embrace and share my story. He challenged me to take control of my narrative and use it as a tool to empower others.
What is your advice for young professionals? Surround yourself with people you admire and those who have the skills you want to learn or strengthen. Being willing to receive diverse opinions and perspectives from knowledgeable individuals allows us to grow and flourish.
What is your favorite quote? “A strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars.”-Carly Simon
Justin Spooner, 32
Professional Achievements: Leadership Omaha Class 44; Bruce Fellman Memorial Young Leadership Award; ADL Volunteer of the Year; $2 million in transaction volume in first year licensed as a commercial real estate broker; Broke and held record for sales volume for an inside sales rep while at Hudl; Raised over $5 million dollars as a professional fundraiser; Staffed for both Senators Mike Johanns and Ben Nelson.
Community Involvement: Leonard & Shirley Goldstein Supporting Foundation Board of Directors; United Way of the Midlands Emerging Leaders Executive Steering Committee, Fundraising Chair; Omaha Jaycees Member; Temple Israel Synagogue Building and Grounds Committee; B’nai B’rith Youth Organization Advisor/Mentor; Staenberg Family Foundation Anything Grants Committee, Chairman; Jewish Federation of Omaha Annual Campaign Cabinet, Young Adults Co-Chair; Lincoln Council for International Visitors Board of Directors; TeamMates.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. Michael Staenberg, a real estate developer and philanthropist, taught me the importance of hard work, perseverance and the importance of giving back to the community. Tom Fellman, of Broadmoor Development, taught me to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? I had a client who was looking to expand into Omaha. We tried to find the perfect location but kept striking out. Finally, over a year later, we succeeded and he signed a lease. Seeing the excitement in him, his family, and the community is something I think about often.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I love that our community thrives on helping others and making a difference. I’ve lived in other cities and states, and none of them have come close to what we have in Omaha.
Tara Sprakel, 37
Chief Marketing Officer,
Fusion Medical Staffing
Professional Achievements: Staffing Industry Analysts 40 Under 40 honoree; SIA Conference speaker 2019 and 2022; First and youngest female leader on Fusion’s executive leadership team; Fusion Medical Staffing Impact Player of the Year Award.
Community Involvement: Member of Leadership Omaha class 45,ICAN advocacy and sponsor, Community volunteerism in various organizations.
What is your advice for young professionals? Be authentic to who you are and where you are in that moment. There will be times to chase the next thing and times to continue learning new skills, but the fun is had along the journey. I spent years chasing what I thought would make me happy because “I finally made it.” After achieving goals and moving on to the next, you realize that there is joy in the journey and living in the present will make you much more at peace with your life than trying to control the future. If you feel imposter syndrome because of inexperience, confidence, or skill, know that we all do at some point or another. This is all part of the journey that we are on.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? The greatest moments of my career have been watching team members or colleagues grow into their best selves. I have seen junior-level employees develop into strong leaders and the strongest leaders become the greatest version of themselves through pursuing their passion. The best people I have worked with possess all of the talent and skills already; they just need a strong leader to give them nudges along the way to make them the best version of themselves and live in accordance with their values.
What is your favorite quote? “Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things.” -Brene Brown
Kimberlee Tom, 35
What is your advice for young professionals? Ask questions from people who know what they’re talking about. One of the best and worst things about running your own business is being able to make all of the decisions. However, you soon realize that you don’t know what you don’t know. While this blissful ignorance, in the beginning, makes it easier to sleep, it also makes a lot of other aspects of the business arduous and frustrating. I’m most proud of not being afraid to ask questions and let others know when I’m up against something I have no experience in. What’s important, however, is asking the right questions to the right people. Seek advice from seasoned professionals in their respective industries.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? While there have been so many “pinch me” moments, the most memorable was the day we moved into our 5,000-square-foot office. I couldn’t believe that something I had started in my basement had led us here. That day, and for weeks after, my husband and I spent hours walking every inch of that building dreaming and designing our future. It’s been almost two years since, and that empty building looks vastly different. Our team has helped us create an inviting and productive workspace as our business grows.
What is your favorite quote? “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”-Unknown
Lauren Watson, 38
Director of Practice Management,
Makovicka Physical Therapy
Professional Achievements: Doctor of Physical Therapy, Creighton University; Evidence in Motion Institute of Health Professions Orthopedic Residency Program; Orthopedic Certified Specialist; Functional Dry Needling Certified; Credentialed APTA clinical instructor; Clinical lab educator Creighton University Doctor of Physical Therapy Program; Initiated Makovicka Physical Therapy Emerging Leaders Program; Initiated Makovicka Physical Therapy Clinic Director Onboarding Program.
Community Involvement: Nebraska Physical Therapy Association Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee; Nebraska Physical Therapy Association Practice Management Committee; PT Moves Me Chapter Ambassador for the state of Nebraska; Partnership for Kids Service League leadership team member; American Physical Therapy Association Orthopedic Section member; American Physical Therapy Association Private Practice Section member; Makovicka Physical Therapy Best Practice Committee.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your career? The times that I look back and feel pride for my impact center around mentoring and developing staff to assist them in building a skill set around their strengths as an individual. At Makovicka Physical Therapy, I developed and implemented a leadership program that started with our first cohort in 2021, the Emerging Leaders Program.
What do you love about the Greater Omaha community? I was born and raised in Omaha, and I take great pleasure in seeing the city grow and offer more opportunities while maintaining the small-town feel of our community. There is always someone willing to help you succeed in your personal and professional goals; usually, all you need to do is ask.
What is your favorite quote? “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nikki Wulff, 36
Assisted Living Locators of Omaha
Professional Achievements: Dementia Care certified; Top 3 in the nationwide franchise in 2021; Top 10 in franchise in the last 3 years.
Community Involvement: Community partner and advocate of The Dreamweaver Foundation in Omaha.
Tell us about a mentor who has had a positive impact on your career. The biggest mentor in my career has been another fellow franchisee, Dustin Baker. He is based out of Arizona and has been pivotal in my success. I will always be grateful for his honesty and guidance especially when the times were tough. Even though we are hundreds of miles apart, he’s only a phone call away.
What is your advice for young professionals? My advice for young professionals is to make yourself believe that failure is NOT an option. If you work hard and keep that in mind, you will not fail. Starting any business is the most difficult thing you will ever do but it’s also the most rewarding thing you’ll ever experience! I see a lot of young professionals getting paralyzed by over analyzing their market, competition or just negative self-talk in general. If you keep your head up and push through, what’s on the other side will be very fruitful!
What is something about you that not everyone knows? Something about me that not everyone knows is that I grew up riding horses and barrel racing. They were some of my best memories!