The fifth annual Las Vegas Top Tech Exec Awards, a collaboration between Cox Business and VEGAS INC, recognizes 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 in a rapidly evolving industry.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, UnitedHealthcare of Nevada
Open enrollment for health insurance is a crucial time for millions of Americans looking for the best health-care and insurance options. But for Bob Schaich, the CIO of UnitedHealthcare of Nevada, it’s a culmination point — a chance to see if years of preparation have paid off.
“It’s always a big deal for us to make sure our sales, our portals and website are up and running right,” he said.
Schaich started with Sierra Health Services in 1999, and stayed on with UHC after the national health care provider bought Sierra in 2008. Through the years he has led teams that implemented e-commerce in the health-care industry, electronic medical records (EMR) systems and has also overseen numerous clinical and managed care automation efforts. Prior to joining Sierra, he was the national director of health insurance and managed care technology solutions at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The tech veteran got into the computer field after abandoning his quest for a Ph.D in philosophy in the 1970s. He started in the field as a programmer trainee for Aetna in 1978.
“What really drives me is building things and making things happen, not so much the contemplative state required for a philosophy vocation,” he said. “I like the pragmatic, systems development, and helping to create things that make operations work better.”
Today, Schaich oversees about 100 people in Nevada for UHC, but his team’s reach extends far beyond the Silver State. It has completed projects for UHC in Utah, Arizona, Illinois, Wisconsin and Georgia.
Most recently, in only eight months, his IT group created all systems for the successful launch of Harken Health, an insurance and primary care offering currently operating in Illinois and Georgia with eyes on expansion in 2016. The project added 115 new servers to the hundreds already in place between three data centers in the Las Vegas Valley.
In Nevada, he is proud of the fact that UHC has established a positive online, real-time enrollment experience for consumers. Real-time ID cards are his team’s greatest accomplishment of late, he adds. Enrollees can now print ID cards and use them immediately after signing up for a plan instead of waiting 10 to 15 days for a card to arrive in the mail.
“We’ve worked through that this year to ensure our customers can have that peace of mind, getting immediate confirmation online, getting ID cards in your hand,” he said.
— Brian Sodoma
Community Exemplary Award
Director of Information Technology, The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain
It was a magazine article in the late 1990s about the coming explosion of computer jobs that nudged Tom Kramer out of the classroom and into the IT world. Kramer taught elementary school for several years but his itch to learn more about IT got the best of him. Kramer’s passion for teaching has also served him well in the computer world.
He became one of the first educational computer strategists in the Clark County School District and taught thousands of teachers how to better integrate technology into the classroom.
“It’s not enough to dump the computers in the schools. You have to train the teachers,” he said.
At the same time, he had his hands on numerous projects where he learned about networks, security and everything else technology-related in schools.
In 2011, Kramer was hired by the Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain and quickly became the school’s IT director. He has overseen the selection and implementation of a VOIP phone system, helped install a fiber network and numerous other projects.
One of his greatest accomplishments, however, has been the implementation of a one-to-one program that equips third through eighth grade students with MacBook Airs. Each grade also has about 20 iPads for in-class work.
But the school has a balanced approach to technology. There is dedicated pen-and-paper time and very much a focus on the learning content, not just the technology.
“We’re really knocking it out of the park. … Kids are blogging, creating presentations. It’s about engaging students in their lesson with technology. Technology is the tool, not the focus,” he said.
The implementation involved a complete overhaul of network servers, and now, each summer, he and his team of five are charged with wiping clean and refreshing about 800 devices for the following year.
“It was like building the airplane while you’re flying it,” he said of the implementation process. “I couldn’t have done it without my team. I have really outstanding, dedicated team members.”
Technology has influenced learning at Alexander Dawson in many ways. Drama teachers film videos of scenes for acting classes; science teachers use laptops for experiments involving Vernier tools for accurate measurements; third graders are even using an application called Aurisma to make an augmented reality of their Viking museum and other history projects; and a “midi lab” in music class allows students to create music.
“There is a lot of project-based learning going on. Not all lessons are that way, but a lot of those lessons can happen now because the kids just love those computers,” he added.
— Brian Sodoma
Deputy Chief Information Officer, Clark County
In Lester Lewis’ world there’s no such thing as a small project. When you oversee the technology for a county that covers 8,000 square miles and some 200 government buildings and provides services for a population topping 2 million people, every job is a major undertaking.
The long-time tech veteran recently led his team in the conversion of more than 7,000 laptops, desktops and other devices from the Windows XP operating system to Windows 7. It was an 18-month effort that, at times, required his team to run certain apps on virtual platforms temporarily for customer use until the app had an update that made it compatible with Windows 7.
“Those were just a few of the clever things we had to do to keep from having customer disruptions,” he said.
His team of 65 also recently reprogrammed more than 1,000 radios for a new phone system. A private radio system is needed for communication between Las Vegas Metro, the district attorney’s office, coroner, animal control and other agencies. Cell phone towers cannot be relied on, as they can become overloaded. Lewis also secured a 35 percent trade-in discount for radios that were replaced during the project.
“This is the type of project where you have to touch all of the devices. It is not something you can do remotely,” he said.
Lewis and his team also helped improved wireless coverage in the county’s government center and increased bandwidth in many county buildings.
Many may not know, but the county’s IT team also operates many microwave towers in remote mountainous areas of Clark County and also oversees the IGT (intergovernmental transport) network, a private governmental cloud only accessed by the county, Metro, the water district and others government or utility agencies.
Lewis said the goal is to continue refreshing Clark County’s infrastructure. The IT pro must pick his battles and make sure projects are done in small phases as to not compromise services. One project will allow Clark County online users to have single sign-in ID’s in the future, similar to apps where people can sign in using their Facebook ID.
“Network components can’t be replaced all at once. You have to do things in pieces because there are just so many users on the system,” he said.
— Brian Sodoma
Vice President of Information Technology, Resorts World
Les Leonard cut his teeth in the high-tech arena while serving in the U.S. Army, where he was assigned to the White House Communications Agency, a one-of-a-kind military unit dedicated to providing information services and communications support to the president, vice president and executive office of the president.
Upon retiring from the military in 1996 after nearly 22 years of service, the New Mexico native successfully parlayed that experience — and his inherent knack for computers and telecommunications — into a new career, working in top IT positions at Boyd Gaming Corp., Seneca Gaming Corp. and Genesis Health Ventures prior to assuming his position as vice president of IT last summer for Resorts World Americas division, which includes properties in New York and Bimini (Bahamas), and Resorts World Las Vegas, a $4 billion Asian-themed resort facility that broke ground in May.
“Since joining in July, we’ve mainly been involved in evaluating systems and opportunities for centralization and standardization,” said Leonard, who holds a bachelor of science in technology management and a bachelor of technology in technology management, both from the University of Maryland University College. “Most efforts have revolved around learning operations and existing technologies.”
The largest project on Las Vegas Boulevard in more than a decade, Resorts World Las Vegas — a wholly owned subsidiary of Genting Berhad — is being developed on 87 acres and will feature three hotels with approximately 3,500 guest rooms, more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space and a Chinese theme incorporating traditional Chinese architecture, design, structures and technology.
“The vision will mainly be to ‘build technology into’ the property, versus ‘bringing technology onto’ the property,” said Leonard, who is developing a wide area network (WAN) to provide enhanced connectivity across North American locations and includes improved disaster recovery and co-location services. “Everyone looks for the emerging technologies, and we will be no different. From an IT perspective, we’ll look to provide technology that sets us apart both from a customer-facing perspective, (and) also from an operational-efficiency perspective. I’m very excited for the ‘greenfield’ opportunity we have for Resorts World Las Vegas and look forward to building a world-class resort.”
— Danielle Birkin
Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President, Aristocrat
India native Manjit Singh spent the early days of his career working in Silicon Valley for numerous software start-ups including Sun Microsystems and Juniper Networks, garnering experience in multiple disciplines that ultimately helped him define his work style — with a bent toward customer relations — and also allowed him to hone his business-management skills.
Singh brought his acumen and tech-savvy to the Southern Nevada market in 2011 when he joined Aristocrat — a supplier of technology and services to the international gaming industry — as senior vice president of research and development of enabling technologies, assuming his current position with the company the following year.
“My work falls into two broad categories: technology adviser and functional head of research and development of core technology,” said Singh, who holds a master’s degree in technology from University of Hyderabad as well as a bachelor of engineering in mechanical engineering. “My role also involves championing the needs of the technology workforce and talent development to meet our business needs.”
Singh was recently a driving force behind the company’s award-winning development and launch of Helix, Arc, Double Arc and Behemoth — new cabinets designed and introduced for slot games — as well as Wonder Wheels, a community platform for delivering certain types of multiplayer games. He was instrumental in developing the underlying software technology that drives these new products, which has helped to boost Aristocrat’s reputation as a premier supplier of groundbreaking technologies and services for clients in Nevada and across North America.
“At Aristocrat, we are committed to creating the greatest gaming experience,” said Singh, who also oversees the development of the company’s wide area progressive infrastructure, which plays a critical role in attracting and retaining customers on the gaming device and also supports a significant portion of company revenue.
Singh also championed the company’s nCube remote game platform to meet the needs of Aristocrat’s interactive business, and also helped to develop and enhance Oasis 360, the company’s innovative casino management system.
“Technology has proven to be a great equalizer in our society and, compared to previous generations, it is now available to a broader population, (which) offers our customers and us greater opportunities,” Singh said. “At the personal level, I want to improve my contribution to social enterprises in technology and education — these have been wonderful for me and I want to share my knowledge and experience.”
— Danielle Birkin
Private Business With Fewer Than 100 Employees
Russell N. Suzuki
President/CEO, Falcon HealthcareSystems/Falcon Technology
Russell Suzuki is a local Air Force veteran who started his family-owned business a decade ago and, despite difficult economic times, has thrived and now provides a livelihood for 14 employees.
Suzuki leads his company in the development and deployment of technology that improves the quality and efficiency if health care delivery in Southern Nevada. As a result of his leadership, company profitability has doubled this year over 2014.
“In 2015, our medical billing division helped save a physician’s practice employing 30 people from bankruptcy,” he said. “Our IT division donated its time to recover hundreds of critical files for a local non-profit when they were attacked by a crypto virus. Our electronic health records division helped over 100 physicians transition to ICD-10, a new and more complicated disease classification system mandated by the government. As part of a volunteer steering committee, I helped organize a very successful 8th annual Nevada Healthcare Forum conference bringing together healthcare leaders from across the state and nationwide.”
Suzuki feels that the core values drilled into him while serving in the U.S. Air Force have driven whatever personal and business success he has achieved. “You are taught from the moment you step off the bus at the USAF Academy to maintain your integrity no matter what, to always serve others before yourself, and to strive for excellence in everything you do.”
On a more personal level, Suzuki’s parents and in-laws, who live in Las Vegas, “have continued to be my No. 1 mentors. My uncle ran an agricultural business in California, and his passing this year reminded me of the lessons in the value of hard work and humility he taught me during my first job working on his farm.”
Suzuki says he is looking forward to participating in new ways to spur collaboration and innovation within Nevada’s health-care community in the coming year. “Our company’s to-do list for 2016 includes moving to new offices to facilitate continued growth in our medical practice management services, and rolling out a new website and live text-based chat system for faster and more convenient customer service. Whenever our clients have a medical billing question or an IT issue, they will be able to send a quick text message from their phone and get an instant reply from the appropriate expert on our team.”
— Howard Riell
Private Business With More Than 100 Employees
Scott Seegmiller, CPA
Chief Financial Officer, WestCorp Management Group
Scott Seegmiller is considered one of the property management industry’s leading minds in developing programs to increase efficiency and lower redundancies.
Prior to joining WestCorp Management Group, he was a partner in one of the largest property management firms in the country. He has continued bringing his background in accounting to the property management industry and is a constant learner.
Over the past two years, Seegmiller has significantly improved WestCorp’s marketshare in providing outsourced accounting services to property management companies, developers and investment groups around the country. He developed WestCorp’s outsourced accounting program, which is a completely paperless program that provides all accounting services for multi-family or apartment developments. Indeed, WestCorp’s outsourced accounting services have been its biggest source of revenue growth over the past four years.
Seegmiller has consistently shown leadership in applying available technology to solve business problems in the property management industry. “I strive to find new and better ways to do what we have been doing for years,” he said. “I am continuously looking for new technology and ways to implement the technology into what we are already doing to achieve productivity gains and a better customer experience.”
During the year just ending, he expanded the firm’s service that is offered to property management companies, allowing them to outsource their entire accounting operation. “We have created strategic alliances with our software vendor and continue to expand our accounting services group,” he said. “We are only able to offer this because eight years ago we went paperless. We have streamlined vendor payments, employed positive pay, created workflows and taught efficiency in every process. My company’s outsourced accounting services have been its largest source of revenue growth in the past year.”
Seegmiller has made it his practice to collect knowledge wherever he goes. “I like to learn from what I read and what I see. I spend time at conferences, and time listening to product presentations. I do not always buy, but I always listen.”
His philosophy includes setting up processes that work, fixing ones that don’t “and then staying out of the way so the work can get done.” Employees are given the power and authority to do what they need to do with little supervision.
“Everyone here is encouraged to make good decisions. I allow flexibility in the work place so employees are happy and healthy. Personally, I relieve stress at the gym three days a week on my lunch-hour kickboxing classes.”
— Howard Riell
Dr. Kate Zhong
Senior Director of Clinical Research, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
As a youngster in her native China, Dr. Kate Zhong developed a passion for health care and honed her compassion for others, serving as staff physician to her dolls and stuffed animals.
“I loved to play with syringes — without the needles — and loved the idea of helping people,” said Zhong, who got her medical degree from the West China University of Medical Sciences and earn a master’s degree in pharmacology. She completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of Toronto, Canada, where she became fascinated by the human mind and human behavior and discovered a passion for her elderly Alzheimer’s patients.
Zhong went on to serve as a scientific consultant for multiple pharmaceutical, biotech and patient-recruitment companies and also provided multifaceted services to industry, academic centers and healthcare institutions worldwide prior to joining the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in 2010.
“I feel there is a tremendous opportunity to build an innovative clinical research hub right here in Southern Nevada, and become the leader in Alzheimer’s research, early detection and prevention,” said Zhong, whose commitment to promoting brain health through community engagement prompted her to spearhead the Healthy Brains Initiative and the development of HealthyBrains.org, which debuted in May and can be accessed online or through a mobile app.
The website — a first-of-its-kind platform to connect the community to crucial information and tips about lifestyle choices imperative to maintaining vigorous cognitive function — has helped Zhong revolutionize the way clinical-trial patients are recruited. Traditional recruitment methods such as doctor referral and media outreach can be slow and ineffective, but with personalized health and demographic questions, HealthyBrains.org is able to efficiently screen trial candidates and provide targeted recommendations.
“We’re always looking for ways to deliver better treatment to people with (neurodegenerative disorders), and innovation is truly the engine of science,” Zhong said.
— Danielle Birkin
Chief Information Officer, College of Southern Nevada
Mugunth Vaithylingam is an exemplary chief information officer because helps make the lives of students and staff at the College of Southern Nevada better via the latest in technology.
“I have always believed in making relationships a priority in my work,” he said. “The campus community, my team, and even our strategic vendor partners are as much friends as colleagues. This produces a more productive work environment as each person seeks the benefit of the other, and not merely thinking of their own advancement or gain. These kinds of associations have led to this nomination.”
With nearly 40,000 students and more than 3,000 faculty and staff, CSN requires technology solutions that bring maximum efficiency to everyone. It is currently engaging in a project using short-range radio frequency identifier tags. With the use of these tags and strategically positioned reading hardware, the college will be able to track assets and reduce the potential for loss.
Managing technology at a large and dynamic college provides great opportunities for moving things to the next level of innovation, Vaithylingam said.
“To deliver on these opportunities requires a talented and dedicated team, of which I have one of the best,” he said. “This year we have done some exciting initiatives to improve the teaching and learning for our faculty, staff and students. We instituted a new line-management system dubbed CoyoteQ to streamline the busy student services areas like financial aid and the registrar. Providing this kind of convenience to our students reduces frustration, protects privacy and improves student success.”
One way Vaithylingam keeps a finger on the pulse of technology is CSN’s Tech Connection, which brings in vendors to display advancements for the college community, as well as educational leaders from Nevada and the United States.
A technology department “needs to keep an eye on the future,” Vaithylingam said, “seeing where we need to go next to best educate our students as well as to make our faculty and staff most efficient.”
— Howard Riell
Information Technology Manager, Three Square Food Bank
Tony Caufield enables an organization known for doing great good to do even more of it.
Three Square is Southern Nevada’s only food bank and has rapidly expanded since launching in 2007. With more than 34 million pounds of food distributed in 2014 and nearly 100 full-time employees, technical operations are crucial to ensuring Three Square is as efficient as possible.
By adding Caufield to the Three Square team as the first designated information technology employee, the organization has been able to streamline duties and activities for employees. This allows Three Square to spend more time providing wholesome food to hungry people, instead of struggling to complete tasks outside of assigned roles.
“I’m not doing this job for awards or for any large recognition,” Caufield said. “I am simply just passionate about IT and helping my organization maximize its investments. Working for a food bank gives me the extra motivation to do what I do.”
Caufield is also the founder and organizer of Tech4Good Las Vegas, a group focused on joining together nonprofits to assist each other in technology related needs.
Caufield feels his greatest accomplishment of 2015 was migrating Three Square to the newest version of Ceres, which is built on Microsoft’s Dynamics NAV and provided by eSoftware Professionals in conjunction with Feeding America. “The version we utilized prior to the upgrade was running on a legacy style database. The system suffered from various issues and lacked features along with performance. The move to Ceres 4 allows us to be on a modern MS SQL Database that provides better performance and stability. The new features and enhancements to the product assist the food bank in better utilization and tracking of finances and inventory.”
The year to come should be equally fast-paced, Caufield predicts, and equally satisfying. “With our move to Office 365 I am working on setting up our intranet and a few team sites. I am focused on helping create more collaboration and better communication flow through the organization.”
— Howard Riell
Also nominated were: John Steffy, Findlay Auto; Allan Jocson, Agilitec IT, LLC; Charles Sattler, LV.Net; Greg Galyean, Quest Academy; Jeremy Schmidt, Retina consultants of Nevada; Jevin Sackett, SNH, Inc.; Jonathan Jenkins, OrderWithMe; Kristi Lutzenberger, Orbis Solutions; Leo Bletnitsky, LBA Netyworking Inc. dba Las Vegas Med I.T.; Randall Thomas, Clark County School District; Rich Belsky, Rolltech; Seth Wait, RevUnit; Tyson Mackay, Dot Vegas, Inc.; Susan Stone, Century Gaming; Dimitry Berg, BananaDog Media; John Domeraski, Nevada Orthopedic; Colin Sevier, Walker Funiture; Michael Feder, PrayerSpark.com; Lori Nguyen, HiTech Vegas; Jon Mathes, State of Nevada; Dennis Thornley, Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino; Shawn Hensley, AAAiTTECH; Kathryn Mulvey, Nevada State College; Paul Fedel, Fletcher Jones Management; Mark Haley, Smart City Networks; Christina Aldan, LG Designs; Duane Ogilvie, Cirque du Soleil USA; Ronen Hamatian, Madrivo; Jason Buckley, Jasco Technology; Dave Lawdensky, MGM Resorts International; Brian Henry, Brian Henry Design; Tim Williams, Aliante Hotel and Casino; Oai Duong, Nevada State Bank ; David Hernandez, Laboratory Medical Consultants - LMC; Angeline Cosca, Steinberg Diagnostics; Michael Cox, The Siegel Group; Lawrence Vaughan, Real Gaming; Peter Bacigalupi, Workforce Connections; Greg Russell, Las Vegas Paving Corporation; Zubin Damania, Turntable Health / ZDoggMD.com; Sean Connery, Orbis Solutions, Inc; Ray Ragle, Desert Sands Broadcasting ; Alan Woratschek, The Valley Health System; MIke Lubbe, YMCA of Southern Nevada ; Geoffrey Radcliffe , Post Launch; and Jonathan Fisher, NextStep Technology Solutions, LLC.