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Announcing the 2020 Culturati Fellows

Culturati Team
Feb 27, 2020 · 8 min read

We are pleased to introduce the 2020 Culturati Fellows. The Fellowship is a unique opportunity to shape the way corporations and communities approach the culture conversation.

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With a master’s in mechanical engineering and a software engineering background, Albert Swantner loves to create products bridging these disciplines. He has led projects with companies like Adidas, FOX, and Tiff’s Treats and co-founded multiple VC backed startups, including MobileTech RX and Sway Water. His work has won a Webby award and a SXSW Interactive award, and been covered by Wired UK, The Today Show, Forbes and Fast Company.

He is very active in the Austin community, was named 2016 Big Brother of the Year in Central Texas, is a Notley and Culturati Fellow and is on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Central Texas, Naturally Austin, and Knowbility. He lives in Austin with his beautiful wife Sarah and two sons Elliott and Everett.

What’s your super power?
The ability to create something from nothing

What’s your favorite book from 2019?
Favorite book I read — Countdown to Zero Day which is about the Stuxnet Virus used to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.

What’s one takeaway from Culturati Summit 2020?
My one takeaway was that we should focus on the whole person and help them to feel that they belong.

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Lauren is the cofounder and COO of Black Women Talk Tech, the largest membership organization and only conference for black women founders. She is also the cofounder of Fundr, a platform that automates seed investing by creating portfolios of vetted startups for angel investors.

Prior to this, Lauren founded KeepUp, a social listening platform. Her companies have won multiple awards including 43North and the Advanced Imaging Society’s Distinguished Leadership Award. She has been featured in The New York Times, Elle, Inc and Black Enterprise and has been listed as a top female entrepreneur in CIO Magazine, Essence Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine.

Lauren started her career as a special education teacher with Teach for America and went on to develop marketing and data strategy for over 100 global companies. She has her BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. She is on the board of advisors for SXSW Pitch and is the board chair of Talk Tech Association, Black Women Talk Tech’s non-profit arm.

What’s your super power?
Resourcefulness. I’ve always been able to do a lot with a little!

What’s your favorite book from 2019?
The Collected Schizophrenias. I think it’s so important to showcase different voices and perspectives, and mental illness is one of the last frontiers that deserves the spotlight. The author is honest, raw and enlightening without being self-pitying. The more we’re able to understand different perspectives and experiences, the better leaders we can become.

What’s one takeaway from Culturati Summit 2020?
That character is a critical point of leadership. We’re seeing this with a lot of companies lately whose leaders have shown questionable character and ultimately taken down their companies with it. I think the idea of growth and success at all costs has shifted to one of sustainability and morality- and that starts with the leader.

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Vaishali started her career nearly 20 years ago as a Consultant with the Gallup Organization where she used the organization’s thought leadership on employee engagement to help clients cultivate engaged leaders and cultures. After receiving her M.B.A and a career in Washington, D.C., she accepted a role at Whole Foods Market. At Whole Foods Market, she worked on a variety of talent management programs including co-producing its inaugural Team Member Innovation Challenge, facilitating Global strategic planning and stakeholder summits, and launching the learning and culture program for WFM’s new store concept, 365 by Whole Foods Market. She is most proud of her work in supporting WFM’s Academy for Conscious Leadership — an immersive leadership program designed to help leaders cultivate the tenets of Conscious Capitalism.

She is currently focusing on cultivating strong leaders in tech. She launched the manager development philosophy at Indeed.com and recently moved to Procore Technologies where she will focus on leadership development.

Vaishali served as President of the Austin Chapter for Conscious Capitalism and an instructor at The University of Texas Center for Professional Education.

Vaishali received her B.A from The University of Texas at Austin and her M.B.A from Rice University.

What’s your super power?
I can name almost any song from the 90's.

What’s your favorite book from 2019?
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

What’s one takeaway from Culturati Summit 2020?
That character is essential to impactful leadership.

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Jamie Catanach is a Venture Associate at Capital Factory where he sources companies for the CF Accelerator and CF Fund. Jamie’s previous experience includes working for an early-stage startup, called VisibleThread, and tech giant, Oracle. He has a passion for early-stage tech and solving customer problems.

Jamie, a Penn State University Alumni, grew up in PA before making his way down to Austin, Tx. A self-proclaimed networking nerd, he loves getting out into the community and meeting passionate entrepreneurs solving great challenges. In his spare time, he enjoys tasting new tequila brands, traveling to new places, and getting out in nature with friends, hiking and/or camping.

What’s your superpower?
Empathy

What’s your favorite book from 2019?
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

What’s one takeaway from Culturati Summit 2020?
Mindfulness as a leader and reflecting on areas where I’m being mindless

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Mitch McKay is a Strategic Business Development Manager at BigCommerce, a SaaS ecommerce platform that helps merchants sell more at every stage of business growth. In his role, he leverages tech strategy, problem-solving, and relationship-building to empower merchants through best in class tech partner solutions.

Mitch is the Co-Founder and Director of Player Placement for YesWeCollege, a sports management company fostering equity and visibility for international soccer talent. He does this by connecting elite student-athletes with scholarships at premier American Universities, building a pathway to high-level education through athletics.

As a player and coach, Mitch has 15 years of experience in college athletics. Building diverse, dynamic, talented teams, is what he’s most proud of in his career. “Culture is the unifying theme between success in business and sports. Which is why I couldn’t be more excited to join the Culturati family and their passion for building high performing corporate cultures.”

What are your super powers?
The ability to finish a good book faster than a speeding bullet. And staying calm and finding the positive in high-stress situations.

What’s your favorite book from 2019?
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

What’s one takeaway from Culturati Summit 2020?
Aubrey Blanche spoke about data-driven diversity and inclusion. That building balanced teams, with a common goal, and dynamic leadership is what leads to sustainability. Her approach resonated with me and sparked great dialog with other Culturati members.

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Suraj leads RTRX, a social movement built to empower business and individuals to do good. Founded in 2012, RTRX designs an annual gathering of business leaders, visionaries and mavericks from across industries, disciplines and geographies in a dynamic and energizing experience that inspires individuals and builds connections while accelerating funding for innovative cancer research. Since 2012, RTRX has invested more than $5 million in innovative cancer research through Pelotonia. Prior to joining RTRX, Suraj worked at the Columbus Partnership, a membership-based CEO organization of more than 70 CEOs from Columbus’ leading businesses and institutions. Suraj currently serves on the board of My Special Word and as the Vice Chair of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Young Professionals Council.

Outside of the office, Suraj enjoys drinking more coffee than one should consume, traveling, finding new restaurants and coffee shops, reading, and spending time on his bike. Suraj graduated from The Ohio State University in 2014 with a degree in special education and minors in leadership studies and philosophy.

What’s your super power?
I consider myself to be a fairly decent gift giver

What’s your favorite book from 2019 — fiction, nonfiction or even imaginary?
Know My Name by Chanel Miller

What’s one takeaway from Culturati Summit 2020?
Regardless of time, place, or field of work, leaders are dealers in hope, never fear.

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Caitlyn is the head of People Operations for Popspots, a retail tech startup solving core challenges in grocery and improving the way brands and retailers connect with their consumers. Prior to her current role, she managed the Entrepreneurs Foundation and helped entrepreneurs and their teams with employee & community engagement, philanthropy, and corporate culture. Caitlyn is extremely passionate about the role of work in our lives and dedicated to building strong teams rooted in purpose and belonging.

Additionally, she is a Fellow and a Chair for the Notley Fellowship Program, a board member of the Texas Mamma Jamma Ride, and a member of the Culturati programming committee. In her recharge time, she is knitting dinosaurs, doing a crossword, or catching the latest film at Alamo Drafthouse.

What’s your superpower?
My superpower is absolutely adaptability. I am extremely comfortable with change and can easily navigate chaos. If you are prepared for anything, you are ready for everything.

What’s your favorite book from 2019?
My favorite book that I read in the previous year was Isaac Asimov’s, The Sun Shines Bright. It is a collection of nonfiction science essays that tell fascinating stories throughout history. I still find myself thinking about his essay on how the discovery of sunspots was dependent on several coincidences coming together over centuries. Asimov is an incredible storyteller.

What’s one takeaway from the 2020 Culturati Summit?
An important takeaway from the 2020 Culturati Summit was regarding wellness from the keynote with Dr. Darren White (Aduro), Dr. Eileen McNeely (SHINE, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health), and Kathryn Farmer (Levi Strauss & Co.). During their conversation, the concept of employee wellness extending past the mental and physical really struck an important chord. At Popspots, we are continuously seeking new ways to support the wellness of our team, but the keynote showed us there are so many more ways we can bring value to the employees who deliver incredible value back to our company daily. In the near future, we’ll be exploring how to support the financial and social wellness of our team in an effort to continue building a strong startup team.

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