Published: May 1, 2024 By

Industry leaders and alumni from all over the country came to Leeds to share their wisdom and ignite the next generation of business leaders.

Justin Gold clenches his fist while speaking passionately into a mic

Over a decade ago, Justin Gold tapped into a network of natural products leaders connected to Leeds, who helped him draft a business plan for his nut-butter company, Justin’s. He’s been coming back to inspire students ever since.

Every semester, hundreds of speakers come to Leeds to share their professional experiences with students. They visit classrooms, judge case competitions, coach and mentor students, present at events, sit on panels, lead group discussions, and offer their time and support.

“Students learn so much from hearing the perspectives of industry leaders,” said Vijay Khatri, the Tandean Rustandy Endowed Dean at Leeds. “It’s essential to their holistic understanding of where business is today and where it’s going.”

Guest speakers are often alumni, board members and Leed’s corporate partners–the best and brightest minds from the Leeds community. The speakers this spring were no different.

“While many believe that the importance of inviting industry speakers lies in networking opportunities, the truth is that it also serves as inspiration,” said Patricia Martinez, a student success coordinator for graduate student services.

“Anyone can shake your hand and add you on Linkedin,” she said, “but taking the time to share their experiences, lessons in failure and advice on growth does far more for our students than an opportune networking event.”

Lessons from leaders

Shannon Blankenship

Shannon Blankenship, transfer pricing principal at Deloitte Tax, met with women in the MBA program and shared her experiences building a career in a male-dominated industry.

Shannon Blankenship of Deloitte is on the Leeds Advisory Board and won an alumni award in 2023. In partnership with the Graduate Programs Office and the MBA Women in Business Club, Blankenship revealed her experiences in a male-dominated industry. She and her fellow panelists discussed family, chosen family, mentors and time management while highlighting the advancements women have made in the business world. 

Albus Brooks, a real estate professional, visited the building this spring to help instill confidence in students in the MBA Real Estate Principles class. As the vice president at Milender White, Brooks has led change in the real estate industry, onboarding employees of color into a historically white industry. His speech about systemic racism and his thoughts on anti-racism inspired students to make the industry more inclusive and welcoming.

John Cumming spoke to a standing-room-only audience at the Startup & Sandwiches workshop on Feb. 1, hosted by the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship. The founder and chairman of POWDR, a leading adventure lifestyle company, Cumming shared how his entrepreneurship journey was shaped by his interests. “It’s important in life to be running toward something,” he said.

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"Anyone can shake your hand and add you on Linkedin…but taking the time to share their experiences, lessons in failure and advice on growth does far more for our students."

Patricia Martinez, student success coordinator for graduate students

Although he’s not an alumnus, Justin Gold, founder of Justin’s nut butter company, connected with Leeds through Boulder’s entrepreneur community when he was just starting out— and it was the people at Leeds who helped him develop his first business plan. Since then, he comes back to Leeds regularly to help students.  This semester, he visited an entrepreneurship class to tell the story of his business, the origins of his idea and the challenges he faced along the way. 

More talented leaders who visited this spring included:

Margo Black, Product Management, Forum Real Estate Group

Deanna Bratter, VP Global Head of Sustainability, Crocs

Allie Clifford, Solution Engineer, HubSpot

Eddy Connors, Co-founder, Goodie Bag Food Co.

Chelsea Culter, Sr. Managing Director, Capital Markets, CBRE Denver Office

Diane DeVilbiss Wein, Sr. VP, Global Business Development, Morningstar

Simon Egerton (MRelEst’21), Quantitative Analyst, Piper Sandler & Co.

Janet Foutty, Former CEO, Deloitte

Tyler Huggins, Founder, Meati Foods

John Kadiic, CEO, Parallel Path Digital Marketing

Humeera Khan, Marketing Director for Social Impact, Splunk

Mark Levin, Sustainability and Social Initiative Solution Owner, Apple 

Michael Memsic, Founder, Sanitas Brewing

Stephen O’Neal, Principal Solutions Architect, Rocket Software

Blake Ottersberg (Fin’04), Development & Advisory Services, Morgan Creek Ventures

Jim Packer, President, Lionsgate

Julie Pearl, COO, Denver Angels

Ivan Portilla, Former Watson Solution Accelerator Leader of Global Business Services, IBM

Jeannie Renne-Malone, VP, Global Sustainability, ProLogis

Claire Schaffer (Acct’20), Consultant, FTI Consulting

Lindsay Sutula (MBA’09), CEO, Top Fox Marketing

Lucas Thelosen, Head of Product, Data & AI Cloud, Google 

Jorge Velasquez, Senior Associate, University Talent Acquisition, KPMG

Ellonda Williams, Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, B Lab

Tim Wojtalik, Senior Advisor and Managing Partner, BSW Wealth Partners