Zipporah Allen

VP, Digital Experiences, Taco Bell

VP, Digital Experiences, Taco Bell

As a senior marketing executive at Yum! Brands, Zipporah (Zip) Allen has a passion for creating experiences that consumers will love and creating environments that bring out the best in people. Now Vice President, Digital Experiences at Taco Bell, Zip’s responsibilities center around driving the customer experience through the brand’s digital channels – kiosk, app, web and delivery.

Prior to relocating to her native Southern California for her current role at Taco Bell, Zip was Chief Marketing Officer for Pizza Hut U.S., based in Dallas. She was responsible for driving brand relevance and business growth for Pizza Hut’s 7,500 U.S. locations. In that role, Zip and her team led the national marketing campaigns, brand purpose initiatives, and brand partnerships for Pizza Hut. She overhauled the company’s pricing strategy to regain market share, orchestrated a multi-year sponsorship with the National Football League and launched the first-ever rewards program to drive incremental visits to the brand.

Prior to Pizza Hut, Zip held various global marketing and strategy roles at McDonald’s Corporation. Most notably, she spent three years in Australia re-structuring the company’s approach to business planning and launching the award-winning “McDonald’s becomes Macca’s” campaign.

Zip earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from USC and her MBA in Marketing and Finance from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. She lives in Southern California with her husband Jason and their two young children Millie and Emmett.

Wade Allen

Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, Brinker International, Inc.

Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, Brinker International, Inc.

Wade Allen serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer for Brinker International, Inc. where he oversees information technology, data security, and analytics. His team bridges technology and marketing to create a seamless digital experience for Chili’s® Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy® Guests and Team Members. During his tenure, Wade served as vice president of digital Guest experience and analytics for Chili’s where he led the implementation and continued the advancement of tabletop devices, My Chili’s Rewards and Chili’s mobile app and website.

Prior to joining Brinker in 2014, Wade served as president of CouponFactory, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rockfish Interactive. He held positions as vice president of retail for Rockfish Interactive and as an account director/solution lead at the integrated marketing agency, RAPP, where he worked on a number of Brinker brands. Wade enjoys reading about emerging technology, politics, and history. Wade serves on the digital innovation advisory council for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® and is an active member of his church. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University.

Glenn Allison

VP AI, Automation and Innovation, Tractor Supply Co.

VP AI, Automation and Innovation, Tractor Supply Co.

Glenn Allison is Vice President, AI, Automation, and Innovation for Tractor Supply Co., the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the United States with over 1,900+ stores and approximately $8 billion in annual revenues. Tractor Supply is leveraging Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Innovation to personalize the customer experience in-store and online, as well as leverage machine learning to meet and anticipate shopper’s needs.

Prior to Tractor Supply, Glenn worked at Kellogg Company, where he led global architecture and engineering functions to support supply chain modernization. Glenn also previously held several leadership roles at W.W. Grainger, one of the largest eCommerce retailers in the United States.

Glenn received his MBA from the University of Chicago and a Masters of Science in Information Technology from Northwestern University.

He currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Technology Leadership Council for the National Retail Federation (NRF), Board of Directors for the Nashville Technology Council (NTC), and a lifetime member of the FFA. For his work with technology and innovation, he was named to the “40 Under 40” list by the Nashville Business Journal.

Sumit Anand

Chief Information Officer and Chief Strategy Officer, At Home

Chief Information Officer and Chief Strategy Officer, At Home

Sumit Anand began serving as the Chief Information Officer of At Home in 2018 and has recently added Chief Strategy Officer role to his set of responsibilities.

Prior to joining At Home, Mr. Anand was the Senior Vice President of Information Technology from 2015 to 2018 at Signet Jewelers, a large specialty jewelry retailer in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom with over 3,500 stores. In that role, Mr. Anand was responsible for leading the Technology Modernization and Transformation initiative across 8 global brands and several capability areas, including stores, e-commerce, omnichannel, supply chain, analytics, merchandising, HR and finance.

Before this, Mr. Anand served as an executive in Accenture’s Retail Digital practice from 2007 to 2015. Mr. Anand was the Strategy Account Lead for Accenture’s largest retail client and worked with various national and international organizations including Best Buy, Signet, Neiman Marcus around their corporate strategy, supply chain, financial services, M&A integration and digital and technology transformational initiatives.

Mr. Anand received his MS – Information Systems from the University of Colorado.

Julie Averill

EVP and Chief Technology Officer, lululemon

EVP and Chief Technology Officer, lululemon

Julie Averill is lululemon’s Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. Ms. Averill joined lululemon in May 2017 and brings more than 25 years of experience leveraging innovative technology to transform retail businesses and enhance guest experiences.

Ms. Averill comes to lululemon from REI, where she most recently served as the brand’s first-ever Chief Information Officer. While at REI, Ms. Averill led the company’s technology strategy, overall IT operations, and technology transformation that enabled its member and employee base to more deeply connect with its purpose for people to enjoy the outdoors.

Brett Bonner

Former Vice President R&D and OR, Kroger

Former Vice President R&D and OR, Kroger

Brett led a team focused on creating sustainable competitive advantage by inventing advanced technologies and developing projects for retail and logistics that individually have at least a $50 million contribution.

Before his time at Kroger, he served 25 years at Federal Express in various positions Technical Fellow, Managing Director of Scanning Technologies, and VP of FedEx Internet Technologies. During his time at FedEx, he invented and developed many diverse systems and his profit contribution for such systems exceeds $600 million per year.

Brett serves on the ZigBee Board of Directors and the TechPoint Advisory Board. His FAST Alerts system won a 2015 CIO 100 award and ranked #3 in InfoWorld Elite 100 for QueVision for 2014. He is honored to be a 2013 Franz Edelman Laureate for Achievement in Management Science and a 2010 Planet Retail Innovator of the Year. He is honored to have received many awards from Federal Express during his time there. Additionally, Brett is a named inventor on 23 US patents from Federal Express and Kroger.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Memphis and attended graduate school at Rensselaer and Western Michigan, in addition to studying law at Concord School of Law. He is a professional engineer registered in Tennessee.

Karime Benaissa

SVP, Digital and e-Commerce, Neiman Marcus

SVP, Digital and e-Commerce, Neiman Marcus

Karime Benaissa is Neiman Marcus’ Senior Vice President of Digital & e-Commerce. Mr. Benaissa joined Neiman Marcus Group in Summer 2019 and brings more than 20 years of experience in turning around, transforming and accelerating the growth of digital platforms through the creation of seamless, intuitive and business-accretive omnichannel experiences.

Previously, Mr. Benaissa spent 3 years at Petco, where he turned around a fledgling e-Commerce business, bolstering both growth rates and EBITDA, while focusing on LTV-driving programs like its subscription business. Mr. Benaissa also spent many years at Amazon in key leadership positions across the Retail and Ad-based businesses, accelerating the growth of key retail businesses in Amazon’s nascent years.
Mr. Benaissa received an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and a Master’s of Sciences in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota.

Steve Carley

Board of Directors, Big 5 Sporting Goods and former CEO, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

Board of Directors, Big 5 Sporting Goods and former CEO, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

Steve is a seasoned and effective member of multiple Boards in both independent and executive roles for public, private and hybrid (private equity with public debt) companies. He has experience as a Chief Executive Officer/C-level executive across a range of industries including restaurants (QSR, Fast Casual and Casual Dining), Entertainment (multi-unit family and national theme parks), B2C web-based technology and CPG. He earned his MBA in Marketing from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Rich Carryer

SVP Information Technology and CIO, Giant Eagle

SVP Information Technology and CIO, Giant Eagle

Rich Carryer serves as the Senior Vice President of Information Technology for Giant Eagle Inc. In this role, Rich is responsible for all technology that supports all areas of the company. Rich also leads Giant Eagle’s technology R&D and innovation group. Rich has worked for Giant Eagle for 20 years in various roles all within IT. Prior to working for Giant Eagle Rich has worked at PNC and Allegheny Technologies.

Carl Ceresoli

Chief Technology Officer, Pacers Sports and Entertainment

Chief Technology Officer, Pacers Sports and Entertainment

Carl has been focused for the past 20 years on pushing the technological envelope redefining what’s possible and will spend the next 20 pushing even harder. His career has been a balance of startups and Fortune 50. This combination taught him the value of an intellectual property, the importance of the necessary process, and the power of scale.

Right now his professional life is all about retail technology and team building at Microsoft. He had the privilege of serving on the Microsoft Retail Technology Group’s leadership team for almost two years and is looking forward to the build-out of our new Flagship facility in Manhattan.

Nitin Chaturvedi

Chief Digital Transformation Officer, KFC Global

Chief Digital Transformation Officer, KFC Global

Nitin serves as the Chief Digital and Technology Officer at KFC Global. He joined Yum! in 2019 and spearheads the digital transformation of KFC globally. In his role, he is defining a digital vision, a strategic agenda and working in partnership with markets and franchisees to drive the execution of our digital agenda.

Nitin’s prior work experience includes roles with I2 Technologies as a Solution Architect and McKinsey and Company as an Associate Partner. He later joined Google and managed global retail sales and operations, and rose to become Director (GM), Chrome OS, US and led the US business and operations for Google’s Chrome operating system.

Nitin received his Bachelor of Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Master of Science from Purdue University and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Varadheesh Chennakrishnan

Chief Information Officer, Joann Stores

Chief Information Officer, Joann Stores

Varadheesh joined Joann as CIO in March 2019. He is responsible for all technology solutions at Joann that advance the initiatives of integrating customer-facing technologies into the stores and interacting with customers on their connected devices. Prior to joining Joann, he was SVP – Applications and Enterprise Architecture at ULTA Beauty.

Gary Class

SVP, Virtual Channels Group Strategic Analysis, Wells Fargo

SVP, Virtual Channels Group Strategic Analysis, Wells Fargo

In his work with the retail bank management team, Mr. Class analyzes customer preferences and behaviors to help Wells Fargo respond to customers’ banking needs and to develop new financial services that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. A key milestone was the bank-wide adoption of customer-centric models of: customer retention, product cross-sell, sales channel preference, deposit balance growth and customer lifetime value.

Mr. Class developed and deployed an environment that allows Wells Fargo to have an exhaustive understanding of its customers’ channel interactions – leveraging structured, semi-structured and unstructured data -- to assess the bank’s efficiency and effectiveness in resolving customers’ banking tasks. This environment is instrumental in identifying the key strategic imperatives for the bank to enhance customer engagement in the self-service channels and to stimulate the adoption of digital payments.

Previously, Mr. Class was responsible for Branch & ATM location planning & analysis throughout the Wells Fargo franchise and played a lead role in the development of Wells Fargo’s innovative branch delivery strategy, including the offsite ATM and supermarket banking program. In addition, Mr. Class was responsible for development of branch staffing & scheduling applications as well an early customer relationship management tool for branch bankers called “Prospector”.

Earlier, Mr. Class played an integral role in the evaluation and eventual purchase by Wells Fargo of credit card loan and mortgage servicing portfolios as well as the acquisition of several banks in southern California.

Mr. Class has made guest presentations at the University of California, the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, MIT, the Oxford Said Business School and he was an Executive-in-Residence at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Class received his MBA in Finance from the Haas School, University of California, Berkeley and his B.A. cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania.

Cari Covent

VP, Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Automation, Canadian Tire Corporation

VP, Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Automation, Canadian Tire Corporation

Cari is currently developing and leading Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Automation at Canadian Tire, with a focus on the art and science of engaging and serving customers, employees, and suppliers by leveraging artificial intelligence technology and a human-centered approach. She has held multiple leadership roles at IBM Canada and Canadian Tire.

Albino Feijo

VP Process Innovation and Automation, Target

VP Process Innovation and Automation, Target

Albino joined Target in 2016 and he is one of the leaders of the Strategy & Innovation team. In his position, he is responsible for the implementation of cross-functional projects across Marketing, Merchandising, Product Design, and Sourcing teams to deliver on the company’s strategic roadmap.

Prior to joining Target, Albino worked for MetLife, The Coca-Cola Co as the Latin American Leader for Operational Excellence and as a consultant for McKinsey & Co.
Originally from Brazil, Albino received his B.Sc in Mechanical Engineering from Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica in 1996 and his MBA from Insead in 2001.

Cy Fenton

Senior Vice President, IT Security & Infrastructure, Chief Information Security Officer, Ralph Lauren

Senior Vice President, IT Security & Infrastructure, Chief Information Security Officer, Ralph Lauren

Cy Fenton is Senior Vice President IT Security & Infrastructure, Chief Information Security Officer at Ralph Lauren. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President and CIO of Books-A-Million, Inc., and President of Booksamillion.com. While at Books-A-Million, Cy held various roles including VP of Store Technology and SVP of Internet Operations. Prior to joining Books-A-Million, Cy was Founder and Principal Consultant of THS, a technical consulting firm serving the music industry in Nashville. He also co-founded NetCentral, Nashville’s first Internet marketing and development agency, which was acquired by Books-A-Million in 1999. He was named 2014 Public CIO of the Year for Middle Tennessee by the Nashville Business Journal.

Cy is very active with industry, government and community groups. He is the Chairman of the National Retail Federation’s IT Security Council and serves on the executive committee of the NRF CIO Council. He is a member of the Department of Homeland Security CyberStorm V Planning Group for the Retail Sub-sector and a member of the Orvis Innovation Forum. Cy serves on the Advisory Board for Atlanta based non-profit TechBridge.

He is a member of the MIS Advisory Board for the University of Alabama – Culverhouse College of Commerce, the Industrial Advisory Board for the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University, and the advisory board of the Retail Analytics Council at Northwestern University. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University.

Dave Finnegan

Customer Experience Officer, Orvis

Customer Experience Officer, Orvis

Most recently Dave joined The Orvis Company where he is the Customer Experience Officer. Prior to Orvis, he held a senior leadership role with Build-A-Bear Workshop, serving as Chief Information and Interactive Officer for the company. He was instrumental in the development of the award-winning, Build-A-Bear Workshop Store of the Future, an innovative blend of digital technology and store experience. Dave currently serves on the Executive Committee of the National Retail Federation-Chief Information Officer Council. The CIO Council is an invitation-only group of many of the most influential CIOs in the retail industry. Dave also serves as the CIO chairman of the Knowledge@Wharton program, which brings together thought leaders and academics throughout the retail industry.

In 2013, Dave was named to the “Top 100 CIO” list by CIO Magazine and was nominated as “Innovative CIO of the Year” by Retail Information Systems magazine. He was also nominated as “CIO of the Year” by Oracle Retail in 2012 and 2011. In 2011, Dave was named an honorary Arch Angel by WiredKids.org for his meaningful service on their board, including testifying before Congress on internet safety for children.

Dave’s work has been featured in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Retail Information Systems News, Integrated Retailer, and Retail Connections. Dave has been a contributing author of two books. The Thomson Reuters book “Inside the Minds,” focused on Dave’s involvement in the development and successful launch of the newly imagined Build-A-Bear Workshop store and “The Strategic CIO: Changing the Dynamics of the Business Enterprise” (Taylor and Francis), which focuses on the role that CIOs play in innovating in today’s ever-changing business environment. Dave serves as an advisor/mentor at Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley, a tech start-up incubation company that has a long history of incubating innovative companies including Google, PayPal, and DropBox.

Derek Gaskins

Senior Vice President, Merchandising and Procurement, Yesway

Senior Vice President, Merchandising and Procurement, Yesway

Mr. Gaskins directs all marketing, merchandising and procurement efforts for the Yesway brand. He leads the effort to establish a marketing and merchandising playbook to improve the organization's go-to-market strategic plan. He also helps to further cultivate the growth and stewardship of the fast-growing Yesway brand with a keen focus on ensuring the organization's social, mobile, and loyalty initiatives are best in class.

Prior to joining Yesway, he served as Chief Customer Officer for Rutter’s convenience stores & Dairy business. Mr. Gaskins holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Iowa and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Martin Gilliard

Global Director, Facebook Reality Labs

Global Director, Facebook Reality Labs

Martin Gilliard, leads the direct to consumer strategy and growth of Facebook Reality Labs, focused on building and executing an omnichannel strategy which leverages our e-commerce platform as well as owned physical retail stores. Previously, he was the Facebook’s Head of Industry for Retail, where he developed the company’s strategy for the largest big box and grocery store retailers in the U.S. Martin’s background has revolved around the intersection of media, data, and technology, previously serving as Chief Information Officer at Barneys New York managing all company infrastructure, e-commerce operations and digital marketing. Martin also led DATAMYZE, a business intelligence platform, as Chief Executive Officer, and was recognized as one of the top 40 under 40 diverse tech executives in Silicon Valley.

Jerel Golub

Vice-Chairman of the Board, Price Chopper Supermarkets

Vice-Chairman of the Board, Price Chopper Supermarkets

Jerel Golub, Vice Chairman of the Board of Price Chopper Supermarkets, began his career in the supermarket industry in 1973 when, at the age of fifteen, he bagged groceries and collected shopping carts at the company’s Central Market store in Schenectady, NY. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Boston University and completing General Electric’s Financial Management Program, Mr. Golub began his full-time career with Price Chopper in 1982. He later took the time to earn his MBA degree from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, which he completed in 1985.

During his career with the company, Mr. Golub’s responsibilities have spanned the marketing, merchandising, and operational side of the business, as well as finance and administration. As Vice President of Marketing, he led the company’s efforts to use its loyalty card data and other research to better understand its customers, as well as to develop more meaningful, targeted promotional offers. On the administrative side of the business, he led a number of store acquisitions during the late ’90s and early 2000s. Named Executive Vice President and COO in 2008, he was a driving force behind the company’s efforts to refine its brand vision. He served as President of the company from 2010 to 2015, and CEO from 2012 to 2016.

Jerry’s professional activities have also extended to the broader business community. He is currently a Board member of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), as well as a Board member of the Business Council of New York State. In the past, he served on the committee that established FMI’s Future Leaders conference, which is designed to attract, educate and inspire both current and future industry leaders. In addition, he served on the Coca-Cola Retail Research Council for North America, which completed a major study in 2011 on social media and its implications for the supermarket industry.

Jerry is also actively involved in the community. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Albany Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he is a member of the Finance Committee of the United Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York Endowment Fund.

Tariq Hassan

Chief Marketing Officer, Petco

Chief Marketing Officer, Petco

As Chief Marketing Officer, Tariq is responsible for leading Petco's enterprise marketing strategy. His mission is to provide pet parents with a seamless pet care experience, so they can focus on the joy their pets bring to their lives.

With more than 20 years of experience in global brand strategy, communications, innovation and insights across diverse categories, customer segments and markets, his expertise lies in harnessing and leveraging data to build long-lasting relationships with customers.

Prior to joining Petco, Tariq served as head of brand for Bank of America, led Merrill Lynch’s marketing team and held global leadership roles with Hewlett- Packard and Omnicom. He began his career in advertising, progressing through international assignments with D’Arcy, Leo Burnett and FCB before helping found Element79 Partners, the largest advertising agency start-up in U.S. history.

As a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, and firm believer in the power of the arts, Tariq sits on the board of directors for Education for Employment, an organization dedicated to empowering marginalized youth across the Middle East and North Africa through vocational training and job placement; as well as on the board of Noor, a woman-founded and -led community theater. Additionally, he worked with the Obama administration on efforts to counter-message young Americans at risk to religious extremism and systemic discrimination.

Tariq holds an honors bachelor’s degree in international political science and philosophy from the University of Western Ontario, and a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University. He is based at Petco’s National Support Center in San Diego.

Joe Hartsig

EVP, Chief Merchandising Officer, Bed Bath & Beyond and President, Harmon Stores

EVP, Chief Merchandising Officer, Bed Bath & Beyond and President, Harmon Stores

Joe Hartsig is EVP, Chief Merchandising Officer at Bed Bath & Beyond and President, Harmon Stores. Previously, Joe served as Senior Vice President of Merchandising at Walgreens, where he managed all marketing, brand strategy, and digital commerce units. He has also held positions as Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer at Essendant, Inc., a Fortune 500 wholesaler of office supplies and Senior Vice President at Walmart.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Hillside College and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Kathy Hilt

Division Vice President, Macy's

Division Vice President, Macy's

Kathy spent her formative years in the business as a merchant and then running high volume department stores, initially single locations and later as a District Vice President. She transitioned to a corporate leadership role in 2012 as Senior Vice President of Customer Experience and Specialized Selling, a newly expanded role at Macy’s. In this capacity, Kathy drove the store's organization forward into the age of digital transformation. She created executive mobility by supplying tablets, greatly enhancing store management effectiveness. She pushed for custom application development that automated, streamlined and simplified administrative processes.

Exceptional passion for delivering differentiated customer experiences has been a hallmark of Kathy’s career. She shepherded the development of a modernized Clientele system to enable Macy’s best store associates to optimize their relationships with the best customers. She transformed Macy’s legacy personal shopping service to appeal to a broader customer demographic, rebranding it as My Stylist @ Macy’s, and created a hybrid concept called Connect @ Macy’s to scale a personalized shopping experience to more stores. Kathy enhanced the focus of Macy’s Wedding & Gift Registry by injecting a “total lifestyle” approach to drive increased customer lifetime value. She partnered with Macys.com to add “store mode” to their consumer mobile app to more seamlessly integrate the physical and digital customer experience.

In her recent transition to leading the flagship Herald Square location, “The World’s Largest Store,” Kathy will continue to innovate and transform the customer experience for the Macy’s Brand. Kathy received her BS in Marketing from Penn State University.

Simon Hughes

Senior Data Scientist, The Home Depot

Senior Data Scientist, The Home Depot

Simon Hughes is a senior data scientist at The Home Depot, where he works on personalization, ranking, and project shopping for the core recommendations team. In his time at Home Depot, he has built a number of different recommender systems including a personalized deals recommender, a model for recommending essential accessories for core products, and a solution for recommending ‘how to’ guides for customers working on DIY projects. Simon has a Ph.D. in Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing from DePaul University.

Blaine Hurst

Vice Chairman and former CEO and President, Panera Bread

Vice Chairman and former CEO and President, Panera Bread

Blaine Hurst, recently retired CEO of Panera Bread, a four-time Fast Casual Mover and Shaker, is a one of highest impact restaurant leaders of recent times, leading two of the largest restaurants in the U.S.

At Panera, he led the team that revolutionized guest experience through technology, (Panera 2.0), rolling out the largest loyalty program in the industry – MyPanera, on-line ordering, rapid pickup, and delivery from 2010 to 2015. Digital ordering at Panera exceeds $2 billion annually. He also grew Panera’s catering business to be the largest in the nation. As a result, Panera was named the most innovative restaurant and named the 23rd most innovative of all companies by FastCompany.

As President of Papa John’s in the 90’s, he oversaw its rapid growth from 450 stores to nearly 3,000 in the US and 9 international markets. And in 1998, he rolled out the first online ordering system available nationwide for any restaurant chain, generating more than $1 billion of annual revenue.

Blaine was a partner with Ernst & Young and founded one of their two research centers, the Center for Information Technology Planning and Development.

Today’s Blaine is the Vice Chairman and an advisor to Panera Bread. He is a board member of Women in Foodservice Forum, a board member of Oath Pizza and an investor/advisor for the Shepherd Hotel, a hotel project in Clemson, SC that has partnered with ClemsonLIFE in the employment of individuals with special gifts. Blaine’s son David, a special gifts young man of 32, inspires much of his work today.

He is also the author of 8 patents, has been a frequent speaker on the national stage and is a thought leader for restaurants, technology, big data, leadership and diversity and inclusion. He is a proud Kentucky Colonel.

And after a high impact career of leading innovation and transformation, in retirement Blaine is combining his passion for food and his compassion for people to make a difference.

Michael Jacobs

Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, J.Crew

Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, J.Crew

Michael S. Jacobs is a 25-year industry veteran who recently joined JCrew after 4 years leading the Infrastructure team at Ann Inc. Prior to the role at Ann, Jacobs held technology leadership positions with Kaiser Permanente, Warnaco, and GE Retail Finance.

Matt James

Chief Operating Officer, Hickory Farms

Chief Operating Officer, Hickory Farms

Matt James is the Chief Operating Officer at Hickory Farms, where he is responsible for leading the Strategy, Product Development & Merchandising, Supply Chain, and Technology functions. In this role, Matt leads the efforts to drive growth at Hickory Farms and build the infrastructure, process, and analytics to support it.

Previously, Matt was SVP of Operations and Merchandising at Redbox. Matt’s team at Redbox consisted of over 1,400 employees nationwide and was responsible for inventory stocking and optimization, kiosk repair, and preventative maintenance, as well as, route optimization, kiosk and employee telecom, fleet management, spare parts fulfillment, inventory management, and merchandising analytics to support new growth and operational efficiency initiatives.

Prior to joining Redbox, Matt worked in strategy consulting at Bain & Company and Marakon Associates. He earned a bachelor’s degree in the Integrated Science Program and economics from Northwestern University and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Rajeeve Kaul

Corporate VP and Global Head of Pricing, McDonald's Corporation

Corporate VP and Global Head of Pricing, McDonald's Corporation

Rajeeve is McDonald's Corporate Officer with global responsibility for all aspects of pricing strategy. Rajeeve has over 20 years of experience leading high-performance organizations in delivering breakthrough P&L results across multiple industries through the application of advanced analytics, pricing, and go to market strategy.

Prior to joining McDonald's, Rajeeve served in multiple executive roles at companies including G4S as Senior Vice President of Strategic Transformation and Analytics, OfficeMax as Senior Vice President of Pricing and Strategy, Cardinal Health and AutoZone among others. Rajeeve holds an MBA and a Master’s degree specializing in Statistics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Charlie Larkin

Senior Director, GameStop Tech Institute

Senior Director, GameStop Tech Institute

Charlie Larkin serves as Senior Director of the GameStop Technology Institute (GTI). GTI is a business unit focused on creating affiliations with leading technology corporations and academic institutions to discover and deliver business innovation and technology solutions to better address the needs of today’s empowered consumer.

In this role, Charlie is accountable for accelerating business growth through the application of emerging technologies that create next-generation customer experiences. Current research and development activities are focused on connected smart-store experiences and digital marketing within the retail space.

Larkin has more than 15 years of retail technology experience and a knack for combining emerging technology, business strategy, and innovation to solve big problems. He previously led GameStop’s retail digital sales eco-system and formed strategic partnerships with digital vendors leading the technology advancement of GameStop’s brick and mortar stores.

Sean MacCarthy

Executive Director of Global Analytics and Store Segmentation, Claire's

Executive Director of Global Analytics and Store Segmentation, Claire's

Sean MacCarthy is the Executive Director of Global Analytics and Store Segmentation for Claire’s Inc. Sean has worked in Retail, Operations, Supply Chain and B2B Analytics and Strategy for the last five years across the Home Appliance, Chain Drug Retailer and Fashion Accessories Industries with a focus on utilizing cross-functional data and insights to drive company strategies. He has been the “boots on the ground” cleansing the data and building the models, the leader in introducing emerging technologies and working with IT to implement them and the strategist who utilizes his team’s insights across their various functions to provide company direction. Prior to his corporate work, Sean was a Philosophy Professor whose area of concentration was epistemology.

He completed his Philosophy graduate work at Fordham University and his undergraduate work at Miami University (OH).
Sean resides in the Chicago, Illinois area with his wife and three children.

Rafeh Masood

EVP and Chief Digital Officer, Bed Bath & Beyond

EVP and Chief Digital Officer, Bed Bath & Beyond

Rafeh joined Bed Bath & Beyond in May 2020 and is responsible for establishing an omni-always shopping experience for Bed Bath & Beyond. This includes overseeing the end-to-end customer journey from e-commerce merchandising and user experience optimization, to customer contact management and support.

Prior to Bed Bath, Rafeh served as SVP and Chief Digital Officer at BJ’s Wholesale Club where he reset the company’s vision and strategy for its e-commerce and omnichannel efforts. Under his leadership, BJ’s rapidly expanded its omni capabilities including Shop BJs.com – Pick Up in Club, Add-to-Card digital coupons, same-day delivery and the BJ's mobile app.

From 2013 – 2017, Rafeh served as Vice President, Customer Innovation Technology at Dick’s Sporting Goods. During his tenure there, he was responsible for store systems, strategy and applications, eCommerce, mobile, collaboration tools and emerging technologies across five retail brands. Previous roles included Vice President of Integrated Retail Solutions at Sears Holdings, Chief Procurement Officer and Head of Facilities Management at BAWAG PSK along with managing e-Sourcing programs and customer relationship management for several retail clients while at GNX (now Agentrics). RIS magazine named Rafeh as one of the top ten movers and shakers in retail in 2017 and a pacesetter in retail technology in 2012.

Bill Mayo

Chief Administrative Officer, Wakefern Food Corp.

Chief Administrative Officer, Wakefern Food Corp.

Bill Mayo is the Chief Administrative Officer of Wakefern Food Corp., the largest food retailer-owned cooperative in the United States. Bill joined Wakefern in 1995 after five years working in logistics for the energy and oil corporation Hess. He started his Wakefern career as a member of the company’s Leaders in Training program.

Bill has led many different areas during his two decades at Wakefern. Bill has served as Procurement Manager of General Merchandise, Procurement Manager of Produce, Vice President of Health and Beauty Care (HBC) and Pharmacy, Vice President of Dairy and Frozen and Senior Vice President of Fresh Foods. In 2014, Bill was named Senior Vice President of Wakefern’s Logistics, Technology, Engineering, Product Integrity/Replenishment and Wholesale divisions. He moved into his current role of Chief Administrative Officer in 2018.

While working at Wakefern, Bill earned a master’s degree in marketing from Saint Joseph’s University. He also completed Cornell University’s Food Executive Program – the food industry’s premier training program. Bill received his bachelor’s degree in business marketing from William Paterson University. Bill currently serves on the Saint Joseph’s Academy of Food Marketing Board and the William Paterson University Business School Advisory Board.

Bernardo Meza

VP Marketing/Head of Marketing, Payless ShoeSource

VP Marketing/Head of Marketing, Payless ShoeSource

Bernardo joined Payless ShoeSource in 2018. He leads all advertising, media, market research, and public relations efforts domestically and internationally. In his position, Bernardo is responsible for generating in-store and online traffic, as well as, developing the Payless brand worldwide. Prior to joining Payless, Bernardo spent over 20 years in roles of increasing responsibility in developing brand strategy and marketing plans at P&G, Anheuser-Busch, and MARS.

Originally from Mexico, Bernardo received his B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from ITESM, his M.Sc. in Business from Foundation EPF, and his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.

Mario Mijares

Head of Customer Insights & Analytics, 7-Eleven

Head of Customer Insights & Analytics, 7-Eleven

Mario currently heads the consumer insights and analytics practice for 7-Eleven. He has over 25 years of experience --both in consulting and senior level positions-- across retail sectors including grocery, convenience, apparel, and specialty. He has worked with many of the leading retailers in the U.S., Canada, France, the UK, Australia, and Mexico. Mario received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and an MS in Engineering from UIA in Mexico City.

Robert Mills

EVP, Chief Technology, Digital Commerce and Strategy Officer, Tractor Supply Company

EVP, Chief Technology, Digital Commerce and Strategy Officer, Tractor Supply Company

Rob Mills is a highly respected technology executive with a distinguished career spanning more than 20 years in strategic technology planning, digital channels, and operations leadership in customer-oriented environments. His expertise leveraging custom and package solutions —including SAP, ATG, JDA, Manhattan, SAS, IBM WebCommerce and open source technologies — enables Mr. Mills to outpace competitors and establish new industry standards by providing high-level direction to drive innovation and direct market-leading products and services. He offers a proven record of success in developing strong teams and organizational structures to build CRM applications, loyalty programs, finance, pricing analytics, and Web/mobile platforms and analytics solutions, as well as improving customer experience through the design of leading-edge Web, mobile, and retail integration.

Mr. Mills joined Tractor Supply Company in 2014 as their SVP, Chief Information Officer, where he quickly made substantial impacts on IT performance, e-commerce platform stability, and merchandising analytics. Upon joining Tractor Supply Company, he initiated a major overhaul to IT and Engineering operations, including consolidating and streamlining roles, implementing an on- and off-shore model, and establishing career development paths to maximize his team’s potential. Mr. Mills also developed a comprehensive three-year technology plan to manage the rapid and aggressive expansion of both the retail and e-commerce business. Mr. Mills was recently named the 2015 CIO of the Year by The Nashville Business Journal for the Public Company category. He was one of two honorees.

Prior to joining Tractor Supply Company, Mr. Mills served as the Chief Information Officer at Ulta Beauty and at Sears Holdings Corporation. At Ulta, he supported the growth of over 400 retail locations, accelerated their e-commerce growth, introduced mobility and CRM capabilities throughout the organization, and modernized their ERP solution. In his final role at Sears as Chief Information Officer of the Online Business Unit, Mr. Mills was instrumental in positioning the Sears and Kmart brands as key players in retail and e-commerce sectors. By continually incorporating emerging technologies and strategies, including in-store mobility, integrated mobile applications, social media and analytics, and a centralized call center, Mr. Mills vastly improved relationships with existing and new customers. During this time, he also achieved dramatic improvements to IT operations and processes through the implementation of Agile methodologies, improved team collaboration, creation of formal architecture and project governance boards, and recruitment of top talent within the United States and abroad. Mr. Mills was a member of the Sears and Kmart merger team; he was instrumental in managing the consolidated technical roadmap to ensure a seamless transition and integration.

Mr. Mills’ early career includes technology and customer-focused roles with Allstate Life Insurance, Rockwell International and Household Finance Corporation (HSBC North America).

Mr. Mills has two patents with the United States Patent Office — System and Method for Providing Self Service Checkout and Product Delivery Using a Mobile Device and Systems and Method for Managing Orders Made via a Computer Network. Mr. Mills possesses a Master’s Degree from DePaul University and holds a Leadership Certification from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. He is an active member of several professional and industry organizations.

Sherif Mityas

Former Chief Experience Officer, TGI FRIDAYS

Former Chief Experience Officer, TGI FRIDAYS

Sherif Mityas is the former Chief Experience Officer for TGI FRIDAYS who oversaw the brand’s Strategy, Marketing, Operations, Technology, and Digital efforts. Mr. Mityas has more than 20 years’ experience in the retail and hospitality industries in both senior consulting and executive industry roles. Prior to his time at TGI FRIDAYS, Mr. Mityas served as the Managing Partner for JS Consulting and as the Chief Executive Officer for Hollywood Video/Movie Gallery. Mr. Mityas received a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering from Boston University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and an M.B.A. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

George Nahra

Former SVP Strategy, Business Development & International, Chico's

Former SVP Strategy, Business Development & International, Chico's

George Nahra served as SVP, Strategy, Business Development, and International at Chico’s FAS. In that role, George oversaw strategic planning, innovation, new business development opportunities, strategic program management, and international operations for the Chico’s, White House I Black Market, and Soma brands. Chico’s FAS is a $2.5B+ retailer with 1,500+ owned stores and approximately 80 franchised locations.

Before joining Chico’s FAS, he advised several companies in the consumer space. Work included defining consumer trends for a mass retailer, identifying growth opportunities for a plus-sized retailer, and re-imagining pricing strategies for a global athletic apparel/accessories brand. He also served as Vice President of Strategic Planning and Customer Insights at Abercrombie and Fitch., where he formulated A&F’s long-range strategic plan, built a Program Management Office to manage the overall strategic planning process, and built a Customer and Competitive Insights Team.

Prior to joining A&F, George held senior roles at Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund with roughly $170B in assets under management, and McKinsey & Co., where he was an integral member of the Retail and Marketing & Sales practices, serving clients in grocery, consumer electronics, specialty apparel, specialty pharmacy, wholesale jeanswear, and other retail sectors. George started his career in merchandising at A&F.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and English from Duke University and an MBA from The Wharton School.

Gregory Otte

Head of Americas Retail Operations & Strategy, Google

Head of Americas Retail Operations & Strategy, Google

Greg has more than fifteen years of international supply chain experience working in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. At Google, he combines his broad operations experience honed as a management consultant at McKinsey, combined with deep industry experience in retail (Marks and Spencer), 3PL (APL Logistics) and tech/consumer electronics (Google). Greg received his MBA from Vlerick Business School (Belgium).

Jateen Patel

SVP, Digital, Personalization, Loyalty and Analytics, Peapod Digital Labs

SVP, Digital, Personalization, Loyalty and Analytics, Peapod Digital Labs

Jateen “Jat” Patel is the Senior Vice President of Digital, Personalization, Loyalty & Analytics for Peapod Digital Labs, an Ahold Delhaize USA company. In his role, he enables the local brands of Ahold Delhaize USA to deliver world-class data-driven personalization for our customers while strengthening brand loyalty. Jat provides overall strategic leadership through advanced analytics, data science, digital analytics, loyalty, personalized marketing, and enterprise campaign management. Innovation play a vital role in the growth of Delhaize USA and a key part of his role is the contribution to the design of a digital innovation roadmap and solutions that advance Ahold Delhaize USA's digital and e-commerce platforms through Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning application development and deployment.

With more than 20 years of experience in analytics, consulting and customer strategy, Jat is an expert in delivering best-in-class, customer-centric thinking in grocery retail having worked with several retailers across the globe. A proven team builder, he has stood up numerous new teams, functions and programs.

Mark Patton

EVP & CTO, Scout & Cellar

EVP & CTO, Scout & Cellar

With over 30 years of technology implementation and leadership experience, Mark draws on unique perspectives from industries such as manufacturing, telecommunications, insurance, retail, and entertainment. Mark has managed and architected solutions that exploited the benefits of multi-tiered computing and service-oriented architecture with such telecommunications giants as Motorola, Sprint, and Cingular/AT&T – yielding a U.S. patent and awards recognizing his contributions to the wireless standards community.

Over the past 10 years, Mark has focused on establishing Enterprise Architecture, Business Intelligence, and System Integration practices at companies such as HealthMarkets, JCPenney, and GameStop, both as a consultant and as an IT Executive. Today, Mark is EVP & CTO of Scout & Cellar, an online wine merchant, where he leads all technology innovation, development and operations in the fast-growing and exciting industry of full-service, dine-in cinema.

Mark earned his B.S. degree in Computer Science from Sam Houston State University and his M.B.A. from the University of Dallas.

Ram Peddu

SVP, Head of Intelligent Automation & Advanced Analytics, Citizens Bank

SVP, Head of Intelligent Automation & Advanced Analytics, Citizens Bank

Ram Peddu is Head of Intelligent Automation & Advanced Analytics at Citizens Bank, working in Enterprise Data Office. Ram has over 16 years of experience leading various analytic initiatives across multiple functions in banking, having worked for companies such as JP Morgan Chase and American Express. He is passionate about bringing automation and analytic transformation by getting the right people together to solve business problems at the bank. Ram has a master’s in Computer Science and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Ram is a long-distance runner and loves to play tennis with his kids.

Anu Penmetcha

Global Product Marketing Lead-Retail, Facebook

Global Product Marketing Lead-Retail, Facebook

Anu Penmetcha has over fifteen years of experience working with retail companies in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. Anu has worked with numerous Fortune 100 retailers helping them to grow their digital business and implement omnichannel strategies.

Currently, Anu serves as the Global Product Marketing lead for Retail at Facebook, working across sales and product teams to drive a customer-focused vision for retail. Prior to her current role, she was at HBC where she was responsible for digital merchandising, dropship, strategic planning, and driving innovation & omnichannel efforts across four banners (Saks, Saks off 5th, Lord and Taylor and The Bay). Anu holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and an MS in Computer Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Rob Price

Sr. Director, Data Science and Software Engineering, Walmart

Sr. Director, Data Science and Software Engineering, Walmart

With over 30 years of technology implementation and leadership experience, Mark draws on unique perspectives from industries such as manufacturing, telecommunications, insurance, retail, and entertainment. Mark has managed and architected solutions that exploited the benefits of multi-tiered computing and service-oriented architecture with such telecommunications giants as Motorola, Sprint, and Cingular/AT&T – yielding a U.S. patent and awards recognizing his contributions to the wireless standards community.

Over the past 10 years, Mark has focused on establishing Enterprise Architecture, Business Intelligence, and System Integration practices at companies such as HealthMarkets, JCPenney, and GameStop, both as a consultant and as an IT Executive. Today, Mark is Vice President & CTO of Studio Movie Grill where he leads all technology innovation, development and operations in the fast-growing and exciting industry of full-service, dine-in cinema.

Mark earned his B.S. degree in Computer Science from Sam Houston State University and his M.B.A. from the University of Dallas.

Diane Randolph

Former Chief Information Officer, ULTA Beauty

Former Chief Information Officer, ULTA Beauty

Diane Randolph served as ULTA Beauty Chief Information Officer from October 2014 to September 2020. She was responsible for advancing the company’s strategic goals through technology-solutions delivery and operations support for all functions including marketing, merchandising, stores, distribution centers, e-commerce, inventory management, desktop and data centers.

Prior to joining ULTA Beauty, she was Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Reitman’s (Canada) Limited, Canada’s largest specialty apparel retailer with nearly 900 stores. From 2003 to 2004, Diane served as an independent consultant for several retailers, providing strategic and tactical counsel on initiatives ranging from new concept start-up to warehouse implementation. Previously, she spent 25 years in roles of increasing responsibility at NSB/STS Systems (now Aptos), a leading supplier of retail software and professional services. Her roles at NSB/STS Systems included Vice President of Software Development.

Wesley Rhodes

VP R&D and Technology Transformation, Kroger

VP R&D and Technology Transformation, Kroger

Wesley is the Chief Operations Officer for Sunrise Technologies, a Kroger commercial technology venture company that invents and licenses Kroger advanced technologies to other companies. He also serves with Kroger Corporation as the VP of Technology Transformation, with a focus on the application of new technologies, paradigms, methods, and innovations to better serve Kroger customers.

Prior to joining Kroger, Wesley had an eighteen-year career with IBM, where he served in numerous capacities including as the Chief Technologist in Artificial Intelligence, Cloud & Cognitive computing, as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Sensemaking, as the CTO for Corporate Strategy, as the Deputy CTO for US and NATO National Security and Defense, as Director of IoT and the Network Science Research Centers. Wesley specialized in managing high-risk projects, architectures, and technologies for advanced insight in Retail, Financial Services, Oil & Gas, Energy Services, Manufacturing, and for National Defense and Intelligence domains. Throughout his tenure with IBM, Wesley was assigned by the CEO and executive staff to IBM’s largest customers as a subject matter expert to resolve their hardest business and technical issues.

Wesley holds numerous academic appointments in the fields of Cyber Security, Health Informatics, Supercomputing Applications, and advanced R&D research. Wesley holds the required Federal security clearances to work on hard National Security and Defense topics for the US, UK, and NATO.

Wesley graduated with an MBA from the University of Houston, an MS in Project Management from the University of Western Carolina, an MS in Technology Commercialization from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland, University College.

Karen Adler Ryder

Vice President, Growth & Category Management, Michaels

Vice President, Growth & Category Management, Michaels

Karen Adler Ryder is the Vice President of Growth and Category Management at the Michaels Companies. In this role, she works across functions and divisions to identify and execute organic and inorganic growth opportunities.

Prior to Michaels, Karen served as Global Head of the Retail Development division at rewardStyle + LIKEtoKNOW.it, the world's leading influencer marketing platform. At rewardStyle, her team partnered with 500+ top retailers across the world to drive sales and return on marketing investment. Before that, Karen drove innovation and corporate strategy at The Estee Lauder Companies and spent time at Target, Brideside, and the Boston Consulting Group. She holds an MBA from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a BA from Rice University.

René Saroukhanoff

Senior Director of Global Merchandise Planning Reporting and Analytics, Levi Strauss & Co.

Senior Director of Global Merchandise Planning Reporting and Analytics, Levi Strauss & Co.

René Saroukhanoff is the Senior Director of Global Reporting and Analytics at Levi Strauss & Co. He has been in retail for over 15 years with extensive experience in inventory management, systems implementations, and data analysis. He is currently driving a global transformation of reporting and analytics at LS&Co.

He has a BS in Finance from the University of Southern California and lives in Pleasanton, CA with his wife and three children.

Vijay Sankararaman

Vice President, Product & Technology Supply Chain, Lowe's

Vice President, Product & Technology Supply Chain, Lowe's

Vijay is responsible for Product & Technology solutions for the supply chain at Lowe's Inc. In this role, he drives digital innovation and technology capabilities for customers in integrated demand/supply planning, connected logistics of inbound and outbound transportation, and automated distribution that encompasses global warehouse management solutions. Prior work experience includes leadership positions at Walmart, Home Depot and Sprint. He holds a Master degree in Chemical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Information Management from Arizona State University. He is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School.

Matthew Seitz

Head of Insights & Analytics, U.S. Retailers, Google

Head of Insights & Analytics, U.S. Retailers, Google

Matt’s team focuses on developing innovative insights for Google’s largest retail clients. Areas of focus include mobile, omnichannel, media attribution, merchant/category insights, and store health. Matt has also worked with telecom and consumer electronics on performance and brand analytics. He has a bachelor’s degree from Miami of Ohio and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Prior to joining Google, Matt has a background in consulting and held full-time positions with McDonald’s and Abbott Laboratories.

Tarang Sethia

Chief Digital Officer, 7-Eleven

Chief Digital Officer, 7-Eleven

Tarang Sethia serves as the Chief Digital Officer at 7-Eleven. His focus is on all digital consumer experiences and the stakeholders who serve them (Franchisees & Store Systems, and Field Teams). He also builds and leads the User Experience and Design Teams that support 7-Eleven International. He received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, an MS from the University of Texas, Dallas, and B.E. from Bhavnagar University.

AJ Sutera

Executive Vice President, Chief Information and Technology Officer, The Finish Line

Executive Vice President, Chief Information and Technology Officer, The Finish Line

AJ Sutera is the EVP, Chief Information and Technology Officer at The Finish Line, where is responsible for the leadership and long-range strategy of Finish Line’s technology, customer experience, analytics and innovation functions. Previously, he served as CTO of the Hudson Bay Company, where he was responsible for consumer experience and engagement strategies, as well as omnichannel technologies for all banners of the Hudson’s Bay Corporation including Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Off5th, Lord and Taylor, Hudson’s Bay and Home Outfitters.

Prior to joining HBC, Mr. Sutera has held a variety of executive technology positions in organizations including JetBlue Airways, General Electric, and Volvo North America.

Mr. Sutera is a graduate of Montclair State University with B.S. degrees in Accounting and Finance, as well as advanced degrees from Stevens Institute of Technology.

Maria Pople Toliopoulos

Vice President, Real Estate Strategy, Ulta Beauty

Vice President, Real Estate Strategy, Ulta Beauty

Ms. Toliopoulos is responsible for retailer intelligence and all national account relationships, overseeing multiple leasing related functions, including portfolio reviews, legal leasing review, and processing, as well as big data analysis and technological advancements in the industry.

She received her B.A. in English Literature from Loyola University of Chicago and her J.D. cum laude, from The John Marshall Law School, where she also received her L.L.M. with honors in Information Technology and Privacy Law. Ms. Toliopoulos is a licensed attorney and member of various trade organizations, including the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), where she holds a Certified Retail Property Executive (CRX) designation and has presented on various topics including big data and technology. She has also presented and been published on various topics from technology and privacy to commercial leasing.

Charlotte C.J. Tsou

Global Head of Marketing & Channels Analytics, HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation)

Global Head of Marketing & Channels Analytics, HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation)

Charlotte Tsou has more than 17 years of business experience, including 15 years in the retail banking and financial service industry, with a special emphasis on consumer lending and credit card marketing strategy and product management. Her core expertise is in analytics problem solving applied in setting strategies for consumer-facing international corporations. As Senior Vice President at HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Tsou currently heads up the Analytics and CRM function in the Latin Americas Region. She is focused on transforming the organization by centralizing the analytics resources, commercializing the data-driven strategies, building digital platforms, developing customer insights, and driving revenue growth for the region. She leads a team of 150+ analysts and data scientists across five countries.

Prior to joining HSBC, Tsou led a Mortgage to Consumer CRM function for Principal Mortgage (Citi Mortgage), responsible for direct-to-consumer lead generation and optimization. In this capacity, she was responsible for developing an integrated marketing program for both the contact center and digital channels. Before joining Principal Mortgage, Tsou was a Funding Manager with a Venture Capital firm in New Jersey.

AJ Udechukwu, Ph.D.

VP, Data & Artificial Intelligence, Walgreens Boots Alliance

VP, Data & Artificial Intelligence, Walgreens Boots Alliance

A Data Science thought leader with a successful track record of building high-impact teams and transforming business functions, AJ joined Walgreens Boots Alliance in September 2019 as Vice President, Data & Artificial Intelligence.

Prior to joining WBA, AJ was Senior Director of Data Science for Lowe’s Companies in Charlotte, NC. He led enterprise data science within the Data, Analytics & Computational Center of Expertise. Areas of focus included large-scale optimization problems such as store associate scheduling and supply chain flows, and large-scale forecasting such as item demand forecasts by location and store traffic forecasting. A prior role with Lowe’s was Director of Analytics, providing thought leadership for digital initiatives including Personalization and Product Recommendation Algorithms, On-site Search Innovation and Improvements Leveraging Data Science, and Digital and Customer Analytics.

Before joining Lowe’s, AJ was Global Head of Content Analytics for Amazon Video in Seattle, supporting digital video products spanning transactional video on demand (TVOD), subscription video on demand (SVOD) and ad-supported video on demand (AVOD), offered in the US, UK, Germany, and Japan. With T-Mobile, he led Device Financing & Strategic Analytics. Earlier roles include Strategic Retail Analytics with Guitar Center and Director of Forecasting & Analytics for Fox Interactive Media (News Corp), and Advisory Services with PricewaterhouseCoopers and Arthur Andersen.

AJ has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Calgary, an MSc in Computer Science from the University of Windsor, and a BSc in Computer Science & Economics from Obafemi Awolowo University.

Sasha Verbitsky

VP Digital and Customer Analytics, Panera Bread

VP Digital and Customer Analytics, Panera Bread

Sasha is currently VP Digital and Customer Analytics at Panera Bread, where he is accelerating applications of data and analytics in support of Panera’s digital product, loyalty/recurring revenue, and performance media initiatives. He also oversee Panera’s marketing and data technology, leads SEO strategy and agency oversight, and is directly involved with performance digital marketing audience strategy and measurement.

Prior to Panera, Sasha held the role of VP of Data Science at Marriott International, where he oversaw all aspects of analytics, insights and data science for digital, distribution, revenue management, and global sales. Prior to Marriott, he built best in class analytics and optimization practice at Abercrombie & Fitch, as well as progressive digital and customer/CRM analytics leadership roles at Lands’ End, Victoria’s Secret and Chase.

Brooke Wagner

Brooke Wagner, SVP, Merchandise Planning & Allocation, Designer Brands

Brooke Wagner, SVP, Merchandise Planning & Allocation, Designer Brands

Brooke Wagner is serving as the Senior Vice President of Merchandise Planning and Allocation for Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) and Camuto group; one of North America’s largest designers, producers and retailers of footwear and accessories. She joined DBI in 2018 leading the DSW group. She is currently responsible for developing product growth strategies that leverage data, technology, and innovation. Her groups include Advanced Analytics, Merchandise Planning, Demand Forecasting, Allocation, Pricing, and Merchandise Operations. Prior to joining DBI, Brooke was a senior leader with Victoria’s Secret (NYSE: LB) where she led Omni channel MP&A for their Lingerie Division.

Brooke is a member of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA). She holds her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio for Marketing and Business Economics.

Emily Xu

Vice President, Strategy and Enterprise Business Intelligence, Crate & Barrel

Vice President, Strategy and Enterprise Business Intelligence, Crate & Barrel

Emily Xu is Vice President of Strategy and Enterprise Business Intelligence at Crate and Barrel, an industry-leading home furnishings specialty retailer, known for its curated design, superb quality, and excellent customer service. She joined Crate and Barrel in 2015 to lead the eCommerce business strategy and analytics function. She is currently responsible for developing strategic growth solutions and customer experience innovation via data and technology. Prior to joining Crate and Barrel, Emily worked at Sears Corporation and Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, where she managed eCommerce and omnichannel customer experience. Prior to Sears, she worked at AT&T BellLabs/Alcatel-Lucent, at various capacities in their R&D and service organizations.

Emily is a member of the National Retail Federation Digital Council and RTech Center for Innovation at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, a master's degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois and a bachelor's degree in Engineering from the Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

Daqing Zhao

Former Dir. Advanced Analytics, Macys.com

Former Dir. Advanced Analytics, Macys.com

Daqing Zhao has over 20 years of experience in analyzing and taking actions on very large data. Trained in data analysis and large scale simulations on molecular systems, he gained extensive expertise in customer-centric marketing, optimizing for all stages of customer experience in acquisition, conversion, and retention. He has worked on segmentation and predictive modeling on banner ads, weblogs, search keywords, emails, transactions, call center data, for insights as well as personalization, media optimization, and customer lifetime values.

Daqing was the Director of Advanced Analytics at Macys.com, leading the predictive analytics, test and experimentation and data science teams. He previously held senior management and technical leadership positions at Ask.com, the University of Phoenix, Tribal Fusion, Yahoo, Acxiom/Digital Impact, and Bank of America. He also worked on client analytics projects for Intel, HP, Wells Fargo Bank, SBC, Dell, T-Mobile, MSN Search and Travel, Intrawest, PayPal, wine.com, MasterCard and others. He also served as a coach for data science teams and graduate students.

Daqing received his Ph.D. from Stanford University, specialized in scientific data processing, simulations, and optimizations.