The eighth annual Las Vegas Top Tech Exec Awards, a collaboration between Cox Business and VEGAS INC, recognize Southern Nevadans who are helping shape the future before our very eyes. These are people who are often on call 24-7, asked to solve problems that may never have happened before in a rapidly evolving industry.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
CIO • College of Southern Nevada
Raised in Sri Lanka and India, and a Southern Nevada resident for the past decade, Mugunth Vaithylingam said it all started with high-fidelity sound equipment.
“I got interested in building my own tube amplifiers, so I decided to study applied electronics in college at Bharathiar University in India,” said Vaithylingam, who earned a bachelor’s of science in the discipline. “I decided also from an early age that I had a passion for leadership, so I always looked for opportunities to meld these two interests, which is why I pursued my MBA from the University of Hartford after beginning to work professionally in higher-education technology.”
With previous experience as a systems analyst and later a manager in the application department with the University of Hartford, and as director of enterprise applications at Valencia College, Vaithylingam — a 2017 participant in Harvard University’s Emerging Leaders program — originally joined College of Southern Nevada as chief technology officer in February 2009 and was promoted to chief information officer just seven months later.
The recipient of the Most Influential Global CIO Award at the Global CIO Leadership Summit in August 2018, Vaithylingam developed and led implementation at CSN for a new web presence that includes public-facing, marketing-driven content; an internal site that separates college community content from external persons seeking information about the institution; and a single sign-on portal for easy access to commonly-used web-based applications and platforms.
In addition, Vaithylingam is receiving his second Top Tech Exec Award. He previously won in 2015 in the Education category.
He also spearheaded a partnership with Cox Communications for SIP trunking, with 150 trunks implemented — burstable to 300 — that will provide CSN with additional standard capacity and result in a savings of nearly $3,500 a month in recurring service fees over the prior POTS.
Vaithylingam — who supports Nevada Youth Network, Three Square and Opportunity Village — said 2019 will bring new technology-driven student unions with the tools to help students success. CSN is also partnering with the City of Las Vegas to integrate the collage into its Smart City initiative.
President / Owner • Dreamland LLC
Growing up in Cocoa Beach on Florida’s Space Coast, Christopher Crescitelli developed an early appreciation for technology, future tech, space exploration and science-fiction storytelling.
“As a child of the early ’70s, my parents were cool enough to bring the first home video games into my life, starting with Pong,” said Crescitelli, who 40 years later worked with Pong creator Nolan Bushnell on the first virtual reality version of the game
Crescitelli traces his creative endeavors back to the fifth grade, when he learned to shoot and develop black and white film, jumping to video arts in high school then going on to attend the Valencia Film Program in Orlando.
“The program was created by the state to train film workers for Disney and Universal, and was a huge break that launched me headfirst into the Hollywood machine,” he said.
In the mid to late 2000s, he was heavily involved in the roll-out of 3-D technology, including founding the world’s first 3-D film festival, 3-D fashion show and 3-D nightclub experience, which opened doors to other immersive technologies.
“We work with most major casinos and Fortune 500 companies to assist with future tech needs and experimentation, and also produce the world’s first Virtual Reality Festival, now in its fifth season.”
He is currently working to build a new brand and franchise model called VR Arcade, as well as new gaming initiatives for casinos.
Chemistry Honors Teacher • Coronado High School
A self-described geek, Ellen Noto admitted that it all started with the game Pong, and only grew more intense from there.
“My embarrassing claim to fame is that I was one of the original members of the ‘Commodore 64 Club’ for our town when I was only 12,” said Noto.
Raised in rural Western Massachusetts, Noto holds a bachelor’s of science in chemical engineering from Tufts University, a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in education leadership from WGU.
After graduating from Tufts, Noto worked as a chemical engineer in the environmental field prior to participating in the Mid-Career Math and Science program at Harvard. She moved to Southern Nevada in 2012 and joined Coronado High as a chemistry teacher in 2014.
She currently teaches chemistry honors and AP research and serves as the department chairwoman. With her love of technology and engineering, she is also the advisor for the award-winning Coronado Robotics Team.
“I am especially encouraged by the number of young women who have joined robotics,” said Noto. “We have grown to 35 percent of our membership is female as compared to the national robotics average of 23 percent and STEM professional average of 18 percent.”
The educator serves as advisor for Dreams Come True, a student-led organization that supports Make-A-Wish.
Vice President of IT • Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino
Jason Stump developed a taste for technology as a seventh-grader in rural Illinois, when he got his first computer and couldn’t get a video game to run.
“I remember having a feeling that technology would be the future,” said Stump.
Over the past 25 years, Stump has worked in leadership-level positions at Harrah’s, Argosy Gaming Co., Pinnacle Entertainment, Affinity Gaming and Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino, which he joined in March 2017 as vice president of information technology.
At Westgate, he has been instrumental in spearheading several initiatives.
“Over the past 12 months, we have invested millions of dollars in technology, and were the first in Nevada to roll out a new casino management system version that included a new loyalty program called WoW=World of Westgate, where customers can earn points for almost anything they spend their money on at the resort, including sportsbook bets,” Stump said.
“Parallel to these efforts, we rolled out mobile apps to our employees that translated into improving the guest experience, and also rolled out promotions such as the Manilow Spin that enabled our customers to spin a virtual wheel on the slot machine.”
Westgate Las Vegas is also one of the few casinos with a sportsbook offering cashless wagering on a mobile app, he said, and is also going green with automated digital coupons.
Stump currently serves as president of Technology & Diversity for Charity, which raises funds for nonprofits that focus on children and teenagers.
Vice President of Development • Caesars Entertainment
After receiving a bachelor’s of arts degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, Mike Harty turned to business consulting as a means of gaining broad exposure to various industries and business functions.
“Over time I focused more and more on technology, as the field was fascinating, and I realized I was pretty good at solving tough technology problems,” said Harty, who moved to Southern Nevada in 2009.
After graduating, Harty spent a decade with consulting firm Accenture, primarily focused on consumer products and travel/transportation companies. Along the way, he was instrumental in helping Caesars Entertainment build a precursor to its Total Rewards loyalty program — and was offered a job with the company in 2003 as director of information technology with responsibility for marketing applications. He has served in numerous capacities since then, having held the post of vice president of development for three years.
“We are in the midst of a major technology-transformation initiative, and as part of this effort are replacing a substantial set of our marketing, hospitality, finance, and HR products,” he said. “These are complex initiatives involving hundreds of employees, so helping lead these efforts is challenging and fun. For example, in the past year, we’ve migrated our decades-old financial and HR systems to new cloud-based platforms. These new applications provide the foundation for Caesars to build a more global, diverse business.”
Looking ahead, Harty said the company’s technology transformation is ongoing, with a focus on marketing and hospitality, and will enhance customer service and business capabilities.
“Technology and technology-based innovation is critical to our overall success, so I anticipate no lack of exciting initiatives and growth opportunities,” said Harty, who is also chairman-elect of the Spina Bifida Association and sits on the advisory board of the local chapter.
Chief Healthcare Informatics Officer • Steinberg Diagnostics
A Nevada resident since age 2, Rachel Papka developed an interest in technology while working in radiology at Northern Nevada Medical Center.
“In the early 2000s, Universal Health Services decided to implement an electronic health record and I was asked to be a superuser at a time when EHRs were new and clinicians were being introduced to no longer using paper charts,” said Papka, who holds a bachelor’s of science in business management from the University of Phoenix and a master’s degree in healthcare administration with a concentration in informatics from Saint Joseph’s University. “I fell in love with the idea of using technology to help patients.”
After 15 years with UHS, Papka was part of the team at Healthinsight that brought HealtHIE (health information exchange) Nevada to fruition. She joined the 60-year-old Steinberg Diagnostic Medical Imaging in May 2014 as director of health systems. She now serves as chief health informatics officer.
“I collaborate with all departments constantly to be in a stage of reinvention,” she said. “Some 2018 accomplishments include a patient portal leveraging images, results and financial information on one platform; real-time patient reminders with the ability for patients to provide feedback on their most recent visit; and the completion of a major interface project to include real-time ordering with Southwest Medical Associates.”
Active with Tech Impact and a mentor at Cimarron High School, Papka said 2019 will bring new atools for patients of SDMI, with a focus on ensuring staff are equipped with the necessary technology to provide the best patient experience.
IT Manager • Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada
Growing up in San Diego, it didn’t take a crystal ball for Cesar Guerrero to realize that technology was going to play a pivotal role down the road.
“I knew it was the wave of the future, and unknowingly it became the most important field in the future,” said Guerrero, who majored in computer science, attended Methodist College and moved to Southern Nevada in 1996.
He joined the 75-year-old nonprofit Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada in June 2007 as office coordinator for the IT department. He ascended the ranks to supervisor prior to being promoted to IT manager five years ago.
According to Guerrero’s nomination for the Top Tech honor, Catholic Charities’ multiple campuses in Southern Nevada were operating on a very old legacy phone system that was ready to crash. Guerrero was tasked with finding a system that was cost effective and had all of the requirements that they needed to effectively run their organization.
“I upgraded our entire telephone system, but instead of purchasing the phones and the servers and software, which would have cost the agency $150,000, we partnered with Cox Communications and got the upgrade and they put all the money — invested — upfront, which allowed us to use the savings to help more people,” said Guerrero.
Looking ahead, “We are planning a renovation that will allow us to help even more people,” he said. “The Fertitta family has been gracious to us and is going to fund most of it so we can help get people off the streets and into a stable environment that is safe for kids, our future.”
CIO • Desert Radiology
Hailing from upstate New York, Paul Smith has always been interested in technology and tinkered with writing code.
“Early in my career in Nashville — which has the moniker of the Healthcare Industry Capital because of the diverse number of healthcare companies headquartered there — I was a marketing director at a technology start-up and the lead programmer quit the day before a major demo, so I spent the entire night reprogramming the systems and databases,” said Smith, adding that the experience shifted his interest and focus away from marketing. “Since then, I have been leading technology groups to achieve strategic business goals.”
Smith is a former management consultant with a global consulting firm and co-inventor on multiple systems, methodologies and business processes for identifying population health trends. He joined Desert Radiology as chief information officer in August 2015, pioneering the CIO role and overseeing a complete transformation of the information technology and services business function and platforms.
“We have created one of the largest, most reliable and most scalable medical imaging platforms in the country and deliver managed technology solutions that support enterprise-wide imaging to dozens of healthcare entities throughout Nevada and across several Western states,” Smith said. “This impacts healthcare throughout the region by expediting the time to deliver and report on patient imaging from clinics, hospitals and emergency rooms, and helps our physicians diagnose more quickly so that clinicians at hospitals and medical offices can develop treatment plans and ensure patients get their results as quickly as possible.”
Desert Radiology is an official community partner of City Impact Center and supports charitable events such as Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest and the American Lung Association’s Scale the Strat.
Special Projects Coordinator • Boulder City
As a child in Livermore, Calif., Brok Armantrout remembers tinkering with technology with his father.
“I remember sitting on his lap while he played with his ham radio, using an oscilloscope to fine tune his equipment,” said Armantrout, who was born in Oregon and holds a B.S. in geography with an emphasis on urban planning from Brigham Young University. “He bought me an old stereo amp that wasn’t working and together we figured out which tubes needed to be replaced. I was hooked and became the ‘go-to’ kid in elementary school to help the teacher run the projectors.”
He launched his career as the city planner/zoning administrator for the City of Sandy, Utah — often assisting the IT department with software problems — and moved to Boulder City in 2004, when he joined the City of Boulder City as community development director, responsible for supervising city planning and building permitting as well as oversight of the municipal airport, the redevelopment agency and, from 2012 to 2017, the city’s IT division and its government-access television station, also serving as the primary liaison for the world’s first public droneport. He was named contracts/real estate officer in 2017.
“I work with our outside vendors for needed IT-related services,” said Armantrout, who was instrumental in instigating a project to connect city facilities to City Hall. “The project connected our fire station, airport and swimming pool complex to City Hall, and added high-speed fiber connection to the internet, which allowed the city to move our network servers to a hosted cloud service, instantly creating a disaster-recovery option for our workforce.”
Armantrout — who supports Habitat for Humanity and volunteers with Boulder City High’s broadcasting class — said the city’s next major project will be an upgrade of its current Cisco phone system to take advantage of VoIP and cloud technology.
Senior Vice President of Software Engineering • TransAct Technologies
For David Block, it all began with an electronics kit he received in the seventh grade.
“I used the kit to build a lie detector for a science project, and won first place for my ‘research’ on ‘Who Lies Better, Boys or Girls?’’” said Block, who was raised in the Bay Area, and still resides there, commuting regularly to Las Vegas.
“In 1975, when the first home computer kit, the Altair 8800, was introduced, I immediately became hooked and have been ever since, whether building a robotic, maze-solving ‘mouse’ for IEEE’s first MicroMouse contest in 1977, or developing electronic devices or software and seeing them in use today.”
Block’s Top Tech Exec nomination notes that he is one of the Web’s earliest bloggers, organizing a website that offered coverage of the grueling 1,200 mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race in 1996 and in 1997, when he himself traveled the length of the race by snow-machine and small plane.
Block — who supports Partners in Health — attended UC Santa Cruz for two years prior to transferring to the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley, and launched his career while still a student with a couple of early micro-computer companies. He joined TransAct Technologies in October 2015 as senior vice president of software engineering.
TransAct is a global leader in developing software-driven technology and printing solutions for high-growth markets.
“When I arrived at TransAct, software development split between Las Vegas and our Ithica, N.Y., office, and was under a single head of engineering whose background was mostly electronics, firmware and mechanical design, so bringing me on to take over the software aspect was a bit of a challenge,” he said, adding that software repositories were not used by all the teams, builds were not automated and other normal software development processes were not in use. “I put these processes in place, transferred all software development to Las Vegas, added a software quality department and helped double the size of our software team.”
Debbie Banko launched Link Technologies in 2000 with an old computer, a landline and a handful of clients, and has grown the company into a leading provider of professional services in information technology, engineering, business support, project management and cyber security/information assurance.
Laura Fucci joined the city of Henderson in November 2012 as chief information officer. A native of Henderson, Fucci earned her bachelor of science degree in computer science at Oregon State University and obtained a certificate in public management from the UNLV.
Lester Lewis is an IT strategist in the state of Nevada. Lewis proudly served in the United States Army where he held the position of telecommunications systems operator.
Les Ottolenghi is the executive vice president & chief information officer for Caesars Entertainment Corp. Ottolenghi holds a masters of business administration in internet and information technology strategy from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and a bachelor of arts and sciences in history from Duke University, where he also studied computer science.
As the executive director of information technology for the UNLV School of Medicine, Wonda Riner oversees a shared-services IT group that supports the academic, administrative, and clinical needs of the School and its affiliated clinics, UNLV Medicine. With over 15 years at UNLV, Riner has also contributed to the mission of the university by: coordinating the centralized delivery of a campus-wide course management system as the webcampus coordinator; updating business processes to support faculty reporting as the faculty support specialist; and serving as a representative for administrative faculty on various campus committees and as a faculty senator.