Meet Our Mentors

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Rana Komar President of the Central Region at Weber Shandwick 

Rana Komar is President of the Central Region for Weber Shandwick, a global marketing communications and digital engagement agency, where she oversees client relationships, operations and talent management.  

Under Rana’s leadership, the client work has garnered numerous industry awards including Webby’s,  Digiday Awards and Cannes Lions. And the Chicago office, with its unique culture, has been recognized as both a Top Workplace by Crain’s Chicago Business and on the Chicago Tribune Best Places to Work for multiple years. 

Rana is on the board of directors for the Design Museum of Chicago and the Chicago Police Foundation, serves on the CEO Council of Chicago United and was twice named to the Chicago Techweek 100. Rana is deeply passionate and engaged with Off The Street Club, championing community service – and she spends her spare time mentoring young talent across tech and the arts.  Rana is a graduate of Northwestern University with a double major in political science and music. She lives in the city with her husband and daughter.  

Neal Sales-Griffin, CEO, CodeNow

Founding Member & Co-Chair

In 2010 Neal Sales-Griffin left a position as founder-in-residence at a venture capital firm to fulfill a three-part desire: solve problems, make things, and have fun doing it.  His company was the first to work in the 1871 Chicago incubator space, and one year later launched The Starter League with his partner Mike McGee, one of the first code boot camps, with the goal of helping people solve problems through technology and code. Since The Starter League's launch in 2011 up until its acquisition by Fullstack Academy this March, over 1,500 students learned tech and entrepreneurship skills through the program. Now the duo is bringing that philosophy to a new audience: middle school and high school students.

Neal and Mike are taking over CodeNow, a Y Combinator-backed nonprofit that hosts coding workshops for students from low-income backgrounds in six cities across the US. Neal will be CEO (and will help Fullstack part-time with their Chicago operation) and Mike will be director of programs. The two will join a team of six full-time and two part-time employees. Current CEO Ryan Seashore will join the board of directors. Jumping headfirst into CodeNow, Neal and Mike aim to retool the program to focus on problem solving software and to expand to new cities, including Chicago.

Charles Adler, Designer, Entrepreneur, and Technologist

Charles Adler is a social entrepreneur, Cofounder and former Head of Design at Kickstarter, and Founder of Lost Arts. Kickstarter, the groundbreaking crowdfunding platform, revolutionized how creative projects are funding globally. Lost Arts, a new experiment in the future of creative work, aims to drive innovation through open support of creativity.

As a leading entrepreneur and designer, Charles’ work ranges from systems design to interaction and community design, interface design to information architecture.

In 2013 Charles was named as one of Forbes magazine’s Top 12 Most Disruptive Figures in Business. Charles cofounded Kickstarter in 2009 shaping it into the world’s largest platform funding independent creative endeavors. Since its inception, Kickstarter has raised over $2 billion from over 6.4 million people for over 75,000 successful projects ranging from computer games to music albums, technology, fashion, educational projects and full length feature films.

Charles previously cofounded the online art publication Subsystence, and founded Source ID, where he operated as Principal Creative Director from 2003 to 2009.

Sharon Burdett, Senior Marketing Designer, Evive, Co-Owner/Principal Designer, Strand Design, and Co-Founder, League of Women Designers

Sharon blends her background as a skilled graphic designer and brand strategist with a strong material and formal sensibility in her work. Motivated by the desire to create timeless, functional objects of the highest quality, Sharon approaches the design process with an emphasis on human centered design. Sharon is an SAIC alum and former instructor in AIADO at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

Kendra Foley, Executive Director of Individual Giving, SAIC

Founding Member

Kendra Foley spent 20 years in New York working for arts and education institutions such as Ubu Repertory Theatre, the Guggenheim Museum, Thirteen/WNET, and Cambridge in America before coming to SAIC in August 2013. Her experience runs the gamut from actress to administrator including audience development, community outreach, marketing and fundraising. She established the MakeWork Council in the spring of 2015 to support the innate ability of artists and designers to become entrepreneurs.

Gretchen Gscheidle, Design Director, Herman Miller

Founding Member

Gretchen Gscheidle is a well-grounded rationalist and an eternal optimist. She leads Herman Miller’s team of researchers as the Head of Insight and Exploration. Championing research and creativity in the earliest phases of Herman Miller’s product development efforts, Gretchen leads the team that explores unmet customer needs and responds to strategic questions identified by various organizational leaders.

As the research link in all of the company’s seating introductions beginning with the Aeron chair in 1994, Gretchen brings a strong record of participation and contribution in product development at Herman Miller. Her ergonomic research focuses on laboratory studies of pressure distribution, thermal comfort, kinematics and usability, as well as field ethnography and user trials. Gretchen is a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and represents Herman Miller on the Office Ergonomics Research Committee. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals.‌

Matthew Hoffman, Artist

Matthew Hoffman is a Chicago based artist and designer whose public works have been exhibited internationally. His ideas and work have been included in Good, the New York Times Magazine, and Ready Made. He has been published in books by Gestalten, Droog, and Taschen, and was featured in a segment on the Oprah network.

Matthew has created large scale public installations for the City of Chicago, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Albright Knox Gallery, as well as companies like Facebook, Zappos, Groupon, and Cards Against Humanity. There are close to 30 of his outdoor installations currently up in the Chicagoland area.

Matthew is the Custodian of You Are Beautiful, a project to better the world in little ways. The message has reached every corner of the globe, with over three million stickers shared by the community. The hope is for us to share uplifting thoughts with each other.

Chris Jones, Head of Creative Technology, Facebook

Founding Member

Chris Jones is an entrepreneurial executive experienced with leading product development and design teams across large and early stage organizations. He has a passion for combining user centered product design with emerging technologies including mobile, social media, ad tech, sematic web, natural language processing, and machine learning.

Gregg Latterman, Entrepreneur, Founder/CEO, A squared Management

Gregg is a music and entertainment industry entrepreneur. Upon graduating from Kellogg School of Management, Gregg negotiated a joint venture with Columbia Records and signed Train, Five for Fighting, John Mayer, and Mat Kearney to his independent record label, Aware, founded in 1993. Aware/Columbia has sold over 25 million records worldwide. In 1999, he built A-Squared Management that directed the careers of artists such as The Fray, Michelle Branch, Liz Phair, Brandi Carlile, Jack’s Mannequin, Mat Kearney, and Five for Fighting. Gregg was one of the early entrepreneur’s to combine music with television, film, and advertising campaigns.

Gregg graduated in 2013 with a Masters in Positive Psychology at The University of Pennsylvania under Martin Seligman and now teaches “Positive Entrepreneurship” at Northwestern University as well as NUvention: Entrepreneurship for the Arts; In addition, Gregg is an Adjunct Lecturer of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School of Management as well as Program Lead for the Zell Fellows (2nd year MBA’s who are building companies) New Venture Track.

Claire Lew, Know Your Company

Claire Lew is the CEO of Know Your Company, a software tool that helps business owners overcome company growing pains and get honest, ongoing feedback from employees. Her company, Know Your Company, has helped over 15,000 people in 25 countries at companies like Airbnb and Kickstarter. Know Your Company also runs an online leadership community called The Watercooler with 400+ leaders and 700+ conversations on hiring, firing, business growth and more. Claire’s mission in life is to help people become happier at work. She speaks internationally on how to create more open, honest workplace environments, and has been published in Harvard Business Review, CNBC, Inc, Fortune, among others. Claire is also an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Northwestern University.

Emily Lonigro, President and Owner, LimeRed Lab & Studio

In 2004, Emily founded LimeRed Studio with a plan to prioritize high-quality design, user experience and meaningful social impact. Today, LimeRed is the only UX agency in the world that is both a Certified B Corporation and Certified woman-owned.

Her 14 years in business spans design, sales, operations, user experience, branding, marketing and strategy in both online and offline programs for multinational corporations, nonprofits, universities, startups and consumer brands.

She is also an advisor and formerly VP of the Board of We Will, a lobbying organization in Illinois for women and children’s rights. She’s Adjunct Faculty at Columbia College Chicago in the Communications, Media, and Innovation Department. She’s an Advisory Board member for the startup DesignerShare. She’s an experienced tech accelerator coach and facilitator, and business mentor at 1871. She’s a published writer and teaches workshops for entrepreneurs and social changemakers. Emily is also regular speaker and panelist at national and regional conferences.

Elizabeth Lukehart, Associate Director of the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northwestern University and a lecturer in the McCormick School of Engineering

Elizabeth has a law degree from the Pritzker School of Law, as well as a master’s in journalism from Medill. She has practiced law in a boutique firm providing legal services for tech startup companies and has held a variety of positions in marketing and communications. Lukehart has worked extensively with clean tech and sustainability-focused startups and also has experience in the nonprofit and social enterprise sector. 

Lukehart is particularly interested in guiding students through the customer discovery process and using lean startup methodology and human-centered design to complement each other. She is also deeply passionate about teaching students the value of storytelling in business. Drawing on her experience in journalism and creative writing, she teaches students how they can use narrative techniques to develop brands, communicate values, and effectively lead organizations. 

As an avid supporter of the arts, Lukehart is also leading the initiative within the Farley Center to explore and grow opportunities at the intersection of the arts, entrepreneurship, and technology. 

Sandra Malec, Trend and Development Manager, CB2

Founding Member

Sandra Malec’s work combines research and reporting on trends, and focuses on the home furnishings industry and fashion. Much of this entails travel to trade shows to research trends and meet with designers, like the Milan Salone, ICFF, Maison et Objet. Sandra oversees freelance designers and artists, vendors, and agents, which kickstarts a new product development season. At CB2, Sandra acts as a liaison between Product Managers and Product Developers and Freelance Designers.

Sandra initiated the launch for and currently supports the marketing team as facilitator on its new format:, also known as Idea Central.

Mike Moyer, Adjunct Professor, Entrepreneurship, Booth Business School, University of Chicago

Founding Member

Mike Moyer is an entrepreneur who has started a number of companies including Bananagraphics, a product development and merchandising company, Moondog, an outdoor clothing manufacturing company, Vicarious Communication, Inc, a marketing technology company for the medical industry,, a site that helps students find the right college, and Lake Shark Ventures, LLC, which provides publications, angel investments, and software.

In addition to his experience as an entrepreneur he has held a number of senior-level marketing positions with companies that sell everything from vacuum cleaners to financial data services to motor home chassis to luxury wine. Mike is the inventor of Slicing Pie—a model for creating perfect equity splits in bootstrapped companies that is used all over the world. He is the author of a number of books including How to Make Colleges Want YouPitch NinjaTrade Show SamuraiSlicing Pie and The Slicing Pie Handbook. He has an MS in integrated marketing from Northwestern University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He lives in Lake Forest, Illinois with his wife, three kids and the Lizard of Oz.

Mike Oren, Sole Proprietor

Mike’s passion is to improve technology. He works to ensure organizations are set up to maximize the empathy for their customers. This translates consumer pain points and opportunities into well designed solutions. He helps bring stakeholders across the organization together, working to democratize data to focus on the core problem. This makes the best solutions for our customers.

He is a believer in giving back to society, focusing on underprivileged youths. He has served as a Big Brother mentor and has chaired the associate board of Citizen Schools of Illinois. Currently, he is focusing on design education by serving as a mentor for Northwestern Segal Design Institute students. Additionally, he runs a MeetUp for user & design researchers, Innovation in the Data Economy speaker series, and teaches at the Institute of Design.

In his spare time, he is building out, a company seeking to end the tyrannical control our device addiction seems to hold over our social interactions.

Erin Pierce, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Pluralsight

Founding Member

Erin Pierce has over 11 years of experience in digital marketing and tech platforms.  Throughout her career she has held marketing and public relations positions at Ruder Finn, Adobe, and now Pluralsight, an on-demand technology learning platform.

Beth K. Rosen, Creative Director and Co Founder SparkFete Media and ChicagonistaLIVE

Founding Member, MakeWork Council

Beth is a leading edge Social Media strategist whose versatility and expertise in media and the promotional arts allows individuals and companies to realize their full potential on various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram as well as through podcasting and blogging/ vlogging.

Sam Rosen, Founder, Deskpass

By the age of five, Sam was most likely to be found behind his Mac trying to get all those ideas out of his head and into the world.

Born and raised in Chicago, Sam spent the better part of the last decade starting businesses all centered around people and design. Formally trained as a designer, these days he spends more time at the business end of things. He prides himself on a keen ability to connect great people with lovely ideas, spaces and other great people all with the goal of making meaningful work and hopefully making the world a better place along the way.

Danny Schuman, President, Twister

Danny Schuman is the President and Head Twister at Twist, a marketing consultancy in Chicago. Twist works with brands ranging from small non-profits to Fortune 100 companies, helping them develop successful brand strategy, focus their message, and achieve maximum impact through superior ideas and execution.

At his heart Danny is a writer and entrepreneur. His book The Worst Business Model in the World: A New Kind of Guide for a New Kind of Entrepreneur helps people who aren’t naturally born entrepreneurs find success on their own paths. He mentors entrepreneurs at the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul University and workshops entrepreneurship at the Polsky Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago.

Before founding Twist, Danny wrote and creative directed marketing campaigns that helped build iconic brands like Quaker Oatmeal, Coors Light, and Gatorade. He and Michael Jordan started working on Gatorade on the same day. Michael called Danny “Peanut Butter Jelly Boy,” but that’s a story for another time.

Aaron M. Tucker, Chief Investment Officer, Tucker Development

Aaron Tucker is responsible for all investment and development activities for Tucker and its affiliates.  Mr. Tucker’s role includes the oversight and implementation of Tucker’s strategic objectives, including financial analysis, project design, construction management, leasing strategy, asset management and legal matters. 

Prior to joining Tucker, Mr. Tucker practiced law with Kirkland & Ellis LLP. At Kirkland & Ellis, Mr. Tucker focused his practice on commercial real estate including development, finance and leasing matters relating to complex real estate transactions. 

Mr. Tucker received his Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs, with a concentration on International Economics, from The George Washington University and his Juris Doctorate from Chicago-Kent College of Law. 

Elena Valentine, CEO, Skill Scout

Workplace storyteller, #HRAgainstLame movement builder, and Design Researcher, Elena spends her days leading the team at Skill Scout to bring jobs to life on video. Every workplace has a story to tell about the team, skills, environment, and output. Elena helps tell those stories to attract the right candidates for the job, and showcase candidates' skills. As CEO, Elena wears many hats, but really geeks out on: new media (360, VR, POV videos, silent storytelling), partnerships, and building Skill Scout’s diverse workforce!

Steven Wang, Executive Director, High Concept Labs

Founding Member

Steven Wang has over seven years of experience within the consumer packaged goods industry, helping Fortune 500 companies develop and grow their store brands. His experience spanned the realms of retail execution, new product development, market research and analytics, and category management for such retailers as Kroger, Office Depot, Safeway, and Kmart.

His passion for opera—and the desire to find ways of getting younger generations involved in the art form—influenced him to pursue his MBA at the University of Cambridge in the UK, specializing in Culture and Arts Management. During his studies, Steven produced a modern interpretation of Dido and Aeneas, and worked as a budgeting consultant for the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. After his program, he assisted the Aldeburgh Music in Suffolk on multiple consulting projects, including a revamp of their marketing message to improve their recruitment strategies for the Aldeburgh World Orchestra.

Steven also holds a BS in Marketing (Honors) and Economics from Arizona State University.

He joined High Concept Labs in 2015.