Each year, the WICT Midwest Chapter recognizes four outstanding chapter members who have made an extraordinary contribution to our industry through volunteerism, technology, and leadership. The following are the award categories:
Chapter Volunteer of the Year
This award recognizes an individual who has shown exemplary volunteer support for WICT Midwest in 2020. This leader should show dedication to volunteering/serving to help grow the Midwest Chapter and inspire others in the community.
Woman in Technology
This award recognizes an industry woman serving in a technical position who has contributed significantly to her organization as well as the cable and telecommunications industry. In addition to her technical expertise, she is a valued team member who is committed to supporting and motivating others.
Rising Leader Award
This award recognizes an industry woman, considered a newcomer to the industry, who has demonstrated her own personal leadership style and has become accomplished in both her job and in her working knowledge of the cable and/or telecommunications industry.
and meet one of the following:
Spirit of the Midwest
This award recognizes an industry woman who has made significant contributions to the cable and telecommunications industry throughout her career, serves as a mentor and role model for others, exhibits leadership qualities that have made a difference in her organization, is a risk taker and a groundbreaker, and inspires others. This woman is highly regarded by her peers and teammates for career accomplishments and quality of work-life balance.
Anna Knobeloch (Volunteer of the Year nominee)
Anna Knobeloch set out from the world of accounting in search of a career full of adventure and excitement. She got lost, and then found her way into telecom about three years ago. Anna now combines a love of technology and problem solving with the persnickety detailed nature you’d expect from a former financial professional as a Sr. Sales Tools & Application Analyst at Charter Communications. She aims to bring the enthusiasm of a 1990s jock jam to all of her endeavors, where her efforts help drive revenue and efficiency within the sales organization through tools and technology. She is also an active member of WICT, regularly participating in programs and contributing to committees.
Anna holds an MS in Cybersecurity from Webster University, a double BS in Finance and Accounting from the University of Missouri, and occasionally her cute old dog when he deems her worthy.
Amber Schwiesow (Volunteer of the Year and Woman in Technology nominee)
Amber Schwiesow is the Director of Procurement, Supply Chain and Tower Management for Midco. In her current role, she applies automation and data science to the supply chain to build a system and team that complement the company’s strategic plans. Amber also oversees tower management and works on the team developing strategies for fixed wireless technology and operational execution. She previously held the role of Director of Business Engineering and Operations, where she led business engineering, sales engineering and technical operations. She launched private cloud services to expand Midco’s business service offerings by leveraging the company’s regional data center infrastructure. Amber is a current Women in Cable and Telecommunications (WICT) Midwest board member, a Society of Cable and Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) member, and an active participant in CableLabs (specifically the UpRamp Fiterator® program). She is passionate about women in technology and serves on the Dakota State University Cybersecurity Industry Advisory Board and the Career and Technical Academy Advisory Board. She also organizes technology-centered events as the WICT Midwest Tech It Out Chair – and was recently featured in a documentary series highlighting women in leadership positions in the technology industry.
Debra Malick (Volunteer of the Year nominee)
Debra is a 18-year professional within the consulting and staffing industry. As National Account Manager for Diversant, she supports clients in their talent acquisition needs. Diversant is a diversity-owned professional services firm providing IT contingent labor and consulting services. Diversant believes that diversity in all its forms leads to greater opportunities for consultants and partners, and to more innovative solutions for clients.
Debra joined WICT in 2018 with memberships in the Midwest, Rockies, and Carolinas Chapters. She quickly leaned into the program by volunteering for the Midwest Tech It Out, Spirit of Midwest, and Communication Committees as well as the Carolinas Chapter Ruby Circle Committee. Debra was elected to the Board of Directors for the 2020-21 term as the Midwest Ambassador.
Finally, Debra is a passionate supporter of Make a Wish, serving as a Wish Ambassador. This position allows her to meet children who are impacted with life-threatening illnesses, working to make their One True Wish come alive.
Emilie Gragert (Rising Leader nominee)
Emilie is a Senior Manager of Financial Reporting at Charter Communications. She is responsible for the 10K and 10Q filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, benefit plan reporting, and all other ad hoc reporting requirements. In this role, Emilie works closely with a variety of teams including Internal Audit, External Audit, Procurement, and Management Reporting to accurately report financial results.
Emilie has held roles in numerous industries during her ten years in the accounting field, including engineering and construction, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications. She joined Charter in 2016 and, in addition to her current External Reporting role, has experience in Charter’s Internal Reporting and Technical Accounting functions.
Emilie holds a Masters of Accountancy, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Finance from Truman State University. Emilie is a Certified Public Accountant. Since joining Charter, she has completed the Charter Manager Leadership Development Program and the WICT Midwest Premier Management Development Series. Emilie has received two Achievement Awards and one Distinction Award (awarded annually to 0.25% of employees) for her significant contributions towards achieving Charter priorities. She is also a member to the WICT Midwest Board joining this year as the Sponsorship Chair.
Emilie is a native of Saint Louis, MO where she currently resides. She is passionate about volleyball and coaches at a large club in the area, High Performance STL.
Holly Hall (Rising Leader nominee)
Holly Hall is experienced in supply chain, quality control, lean principles and transportation. Driven by a challenge, she takes pride in providing the best support possible to those she serves. After spending 15 years in the manufacturing industry she took on the challenge of transitioning to the telecommunications industry. Holly joined Midco last year and currently serves as the Strategic Sourcing Manager. Her goals include driving efficiency, increasing customer satisfaction and being fiscally responsible. In additional to her primary functions, Holly currently serves on the SCTE Dakota Territory Chapter Board of Directors. Holly was the first woman to hold a B.S. in Manufacturing Engineering and Technology from South Dakota State University.
Karen Zumwalt (Rising Leader nominee)
Karen Zumwalt currently serves as Senior Manager of Network Engineering for Charter Communications. Karen manages a development team supporting and maintaining a PostGresSQL environment to build and support the data sources and views used by the Network Operations analysts.
Karen is a data-evangelist – sharing the importance of accurate, actionable data to drive organizational decision making, and by mastering organized chaos she strengthens teams to produce exceptional results.
With over 30 years of diversified management experience in supply chain, purchasing, demand planning, supply planning, production scheduling, and data analytics/reporting, Karen brings a variety of assets to the table to support her team and her customers. Prior to joining Charter, Karen spent 5 years in healthcare analytics for BJC Healthcare, and over 12 years with Kimberly-Clark Professional.
Karen has a Six Sigma Green Belt Certification from Southwest Missouri State University, and holds the following certifications through APICS: Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) and Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP). Karen has an Associate’s degree in Accounting, a Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management, and will complete a Master’s degree in Data Analytics in June 2021 through Western Governors University.
Karen is a member of SCTE (Society of Telecommunications Engineers) and NAMIC (National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications).
Karen joined WICT in 2017, and has taken full advantage of the offerings provided by the organization. Karen attended the PMDS (Premier Management Development Series) through the WICT Midwest Chapter in 2018, and was recognized during the program graduation as the quickest to implement the learnings from the program. In 2019, Karen was selected to attend the WICT Rising Leaders Program, and would recommend this life and career changing program to anyone seeking to grow on a professional and personal level.
Karen currently serves on the WICT Midwest Chapter Board of Directors in the role of IT Webmaster.
Kristina Gustafson (Woman in Technology nominee)
Kristina Gustafson is a Director of Business Operations, Systems & Tools for the Spectrum Enterprise segment of Charter Communications, a Fortune 500 company. As the Director of business operations for Spectrum Enterprise, Kristina is responsible for ensuring a gold-star service and delivery experience for America’s largest businesses. Kristina leads a large team of highly-skilled resources focused on user experience enhancements and production support for business critical applications. Kristina has previously worked in Information Technology for 17 years in a variety of roles including Director of Operations, Manager of Reporting, Business Analyst, Data Analyst, Reporting Analyst and Project Manager.
Kristina earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree with an emphasis on Management of Information Systems (MIS) and a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute. From 2018 – 2020 (present) Kristina serves on the Women and Cable Telecommunications (WICT) board of directors as the Director of Programming for the Midwest chapter. Additionally since 2019 Kristina serves as the co-lead in event planning for the Spectrum Enterprise Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLDI).
Marcy Bursac (Rising Leader nominee)
People-Centered and Brazen. Marcy came to the IT world after spending 12 years in the nonprofit sector advocating for the underserved. After completing LaunchCode, she now uses her creativity, passion, and ingenuity to design software that allows call center agents around the country to serve and support more than 25 million customers. In the community, you’ll find her making art with her family, walking her two small rescues, teaching personal finance classes, and she will soon be publishing a book about foster care adoption.
Nicole Tupman (Rising Leader nominee)
Nicole Tupman is Assistant General Counsel at Midco where she strategizes with business leaders on contract negotiations, regulatory compliance, expansion opportunities, and new product offerings. With a strong background in commercial law representing a variety of industries, including Fortune 50 and 100 companies, Nicole has developed a well-balanced blend of legal expertise, business operations acumen, and people and process management. She is experienced in analyzing and prioritizing information and drawing accurate, sound, low-risk conclusions in a fast-paced environment.
Nicole received her B.A., with honors, from the University of Chicago in 2005 and her J.D., magna cum laude, from Saint Louis University School of Law in 2010. Prior to attending law school, Nicole taught Special Education with the Teach for America program in inner-city St. Louis, MO.
Renee Neyman (Woman in Technology nominee)
Renee Neyman is a Director of Reporting Governance at Charter Communications, where she partners with Business Unit Financial Planners, Internal and External Reporting and various application support teams to manage the financial reporting governance strategy, which consists of reporting business results in a meaningful way to drive alignment, consistency and accuracy. She oversees the corporate financial reporting hierarchies and ensures compliance with financial reporting governance policies, processes and controls. Renee has spent over 15 years in the cable industry with varying roles in different areas of accounting including Fixed Assets, Capital Reporting, Management Reporting and Governance, where she strives to continue learning, growing and leading others.
Renee enjoys working on special projects and collaborating with other teams. She has contributed to numerous corporate wide initiates, most recently the implementation of a new ERP system, SAP S/4 Hana.
Renee is a licensed CPA in the state of North Carolina and obtained her accounting degree from Pennsylvania State University.
Trish McCann (Spirit of the Midwest nominee)
At Midco, Trish McCann oversees residential, business and advertising sales; marketing, communications, web content, events, media relations and public affairs; as well as product development and Midco Sports Network®. With nearly 20 years of industry experience — involved in every aspect of branding, marketing, planning and research –Trish has a passion for building successful teams focused on serving customers and developing company culture. Trish was selected as the Sales & Marketing Executives Women in Business Excellence in Marketing award winner in 2017 and the EmBe Tribute to Women Business Achievement award winner in 2016. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from South Dakota State University.
2019 Volunteer of the Year – Lauren Ray, Technologist-Security & Compliance, Charter Communications
Lauren has gone above and beyond in the past year to support the communications team for the WICT Midwest Chapter. Lauren is extremely organized, dependable and always willing to help wherever needed. She has spent hundreds of hours helping to provide communications to membership about upcoming events.
Lauren is confident and fearless by challenging herself with new assignments like volunteering for the WICT board and taking on all of the planning and organization associated with that volunteer role. Lauren listens with her heart and mind to truly analyze a problem or discussion and often provides insightful feedback to improve an experience. Last year Lauren was heavily involved in the communication strategy for Tech it Out and Spirit of the Midwest awards and often provided suggestions to enhance the communication plan. Lauren has inspired many others to volunteer and get involved in WICT based on her personal involvement. -Kristina Gustafson, Director, Spectrum Enterprise Business Operations, Charter Communications
2019 Rising Leader – Tera Dubs, Supply Chain Manager, Midco
She is truly unique and brings her own spin on leadership to Midco. She is 100% herself and her unique style is what makes people drawn to her. She is a force within the department she is in which has helped to highlight her in other departments. When Tera walks into a room or speaks, people pay attention. Tera Dubs is a vibrant and energetic presence in our office. She is always willing to tell it like it is and push for the right answer and the right way of doing things. She backs up her opinions with facts and uses data to drive positive change. -Amber Schwiesow, Director of Procurement and Supply Chain, Midco
She has continued to encourage and support others as they reach out to her for assistance or guidance. She continually proves to be a solid decision maker and is willing to take risks to make changes happen. She is very self-confident, extends an open forum of communication to others and listens to others when they’re seeking to understand. Her overall mannerisms and charisma is motivating to others. -Jeri Kuhlman, Inventory Control Manager, Midco
2019 Woman in Technology – Maryann Eastman, Sr. Mgr. Network Engineering, Charter Communications
Maryann has worked with all levels within the telecommunications industry, from hourly technicians to Executive Vice-Presidents, and has proven to be an invaluable asset. She is always willing to share her knowledge and help fellow teammates and employees learn more about the industry and the role we all play in supporting our customers. She is an inspiration to everyone she works with, and sets a high bar for all of us to strive to reach.
Maryann demonstrates each of the touchstones of leadership on a daily basis.
She takes the time to listen to her customers, management, and her team to ensure that she is on the right path and helping others stay focused and on track. Maryann tackles any project with a fearless attitude, and is tenacious in her pursuit of accuracy and integrity of all her work products. She inspires her team and her co-workers to push beyond their perceived capabilities and strive for even greater heights. -Karen Zumwalt, Sr. Mgr. Network Engineering, Charter Communications
2019 Spirit of the Midwest – Jenny Massey, Regional Vice President Market Engagement, Suddenlink
Jenny Massey lives out every WICT Touchstone of Leadership throughout her daily interactions with team members, leaders, and business partners. Jenny’s contributions can been seen in all of those surrounding her. She has been an inspiration for so many women (and men) to challenge themselves and others in order to be successful.
Jenny models fearlessness as the only female regional VP in the West division of our company. While the majority of our VPs come from Technical Operations, Jenny utilizes her sales and marketing experience to maintain a fierce focus on the customer experience. Jenny inspires team members on all levels to be fearless and challenge the standard norms. She can identify leadership qualities in employees and will dedicate her time to develop that employee in a leader.
Jenny has been a strong woman to look up to during a season of change for her peers and team members. Her infectious positive spirit brings joy, compassion, and boldness to everyone she encounters. She has made significant and lasting impressions on the way we do business and on all coworkers who are lucky enough to cross her path. Because of her ability to challenge and inspire all of those around her, she is more than deserving of the Spirit of the Midwest Award. -Candace Kirkendoll, Community Engagement Specialist, Altice, USA
Volunteer of the Year - Katie LoRusso; Rising Leader - Sydney Smith; Woman in Technology - Julie Bent Spirit of the Midwest - Lisa Neuwirth
Rising Leader – Tara Anderson Woman in Technology – Marsha Gee Spirit of the Midwest – Kimberly Noetzel
Rising Leader – Jada Marcotte Woman in Technology – Erin Hayes Spirit of the Midwest – Pamela Hermann
Rising Leader – Lisa Shea Woman in Technology – Andrea Wegley Spirit of the Midwest – Melissa Morris
Rising Leader – Sally West Woman in Technology – Ginni Hartley Spirit of the Midwest – Theresa Sunde
Rising Leader – Katie Atkinson Woman in Technology – Julie Sparlin Spirit of the Midwest – Jean Edhlund