Keynote Speaker


Scott Fitzgerald
Associate Professor, Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Sociology, The University of North Carolina Charlotte
Co-author of Middle Class Meltdown in America: Causes, Consequences, and Remedies

Dr. Fitzgerald is an associate professor, associate chair and director of graduate studies in the Department of Sociology at UNC Charlotte.  He earned a Ph.D. (2003) in Sociology from the University of Iowa, an M.A. (1997) in Political Science from Iowa State University where he studied homelessness and public policy, and a B.A. (1994) from Luther College where he majored in philosophy, political science and sociology.  His research and teaching interests include: social inequality/stratification, social movements, religion, political sociology and ethics. His research examines social and economic inequality, religion, and social movements and has appeared in Social Forces, Mobilization, Sociological Spectrum, The Sociological Quarterly, American Behavioral Scientist, and Policy Studies Journal.


Other Speakers

Kirsten Butzow Instructor, Pragmatic Marketing
Kirsten has 20 years of experience at leading technology companies, including Fujitsu, Pearson and Blackboard. She has led teams of as many as 100 people and product portfolios with revenues of $150 million in the role of Vice President, Product Management and Marketing.

Kirsten is known for her zeal for effective product management and marketing and brings this strong executive perspective to her role as a speaker and Pragmatic Marketing instructor.

Kirsten holds a Master in Business Administration degree from the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and a Bachelor Degree in Marketing from Northern Arizona University

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Joe Cunningham, Research and Analytics Manager, Duke Energy
Joe leads Duke Energy’s Market Research and Analytics team, which provides strategic insight and consulting to the advanced product development group in both the residential and commercial and industrial markets serviced by the Fortune 250 electrical utility. His team manages the customer database and provides predictive modeling for all the corporation’s direct marketing efforts.  He also oversees all qualitative and quantitative research and data for the customer facing operations of Duke Energy, as the largest electric power holding company in the United States, supplying and delivering energy to approximately 7.2 million U.S. Customers.

Dan Simerman Product Strategist, Skookum Digital Works
an Simerman is a Product Strategist with Skookum Digital Works, an innovation and IT consulting firm in Charlotte, NC. Along the way, Dan launched a film festival in his home town, co-founded a guerilla marketing firm, developed a digital music publication as a DJ photographer, lived in India as an outsourcing trainee, and braved the Minneapolis winter as a business analyst before discovering the product world. It was ultimately his love of psychology, design and technology that drew him to product management, where he develops empathetic software for fortune 500 companies using a multi-disciplinary approach to product design.


Joel van Dyke, Managing Partner, Design Thinkers Group
Marc Bolick, Managing Partner, Design Thinkers Group

Joel Van Dyke's background in business and architecture positions him to think creatively about the application of design thinking and service innovation to business. In addition to his work with DesignThinkers group, he is also the Managing Partner at Freeman|Major Architects in Greenville, SC. Van Dyke works to inspire organizations and their teams to create human-centered solutions to their unique problems by re-thinking, re-imagining, and re-designing products or services. 

Marc Bolick has worked in all aspects of product and service creation for companies ranging from start-ups to mid-sized firms to Fortune 100 multinationals.  He has led teams through successful product and service design projects in multiple industries including high tech manufacturing, research and development, marketing, and field service prior to co-founding a startup mobile applications business. As Managing Partner of DesignThinkers Group, Bolick helps clients strengthen their capability to innovate and enable the co-creation of value with all stakeholders.


Ed Vargas , Vice President, Product Development & Innovation, Shurtape Technologies 
Ed has been active in the development and commercialization of new products for over 25 years. During his research and management careers with Exxon Chemicals and LyondellBasell Industries he was involved in the commercialization of new polymers for a range of industries including food and beverage, industrial packaging, medical, recreational, construction, agriculture, and automotive. In his role at Shurtape Technologies he is responsible for the research and development of pressure sensitive adhesive tapes for the industrial and retail markets, as well as for the innovation processes associated with new product development.

 He currently holds eight U.S. patents.

 Ed has been involved with PDMA since 2000 and is one of the founding members of the PDMA Cincinnati Chapter. He holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Houston and an M.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.


Brad White Partner, Prophet
Brad is a Partner at Prophet, a global brand, marketing and innovation consulting firm. He has led significant growth initiatives at clients such as Colgate-Palmolive, AT&T, Lowe’s, UPS, SC Johnson, Kimberly-Clark and many others. Brad spent several years with The Boston Consulting Group before starting a small innovation consulting firm that was acquired by Prophet in 2012. He was recognized as the Atlanta Marketer of the Year in 2007 and regularly lectures at Emory and Vanderbilt. Brad has an MBA from the Booth and a BS in Chemical Engineering from CWRU.  He also currently sits as the Secretary/Treasurer on the National Board for the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA.)


Michael Winnick  CEO, dscout
Michael Winnick is the CEO and founder of dscout,  a web and mobile service that makes it incredibly easy to engage audiences in sharing real-world experiences, in the moment ideas and real-time feedback. Prior to starting dscout, Michael served as Managing Partner at gravitytank, steering the firm through exponential growth. Michael is a subject matter expert in consumer electronics and the digital service landscape, and has a deep passion for developing high performance teams. Prior to gravitytank, Michael led product development efforts at Bay Area start-ups and media companies including Wired. Michael is an alum of IIT Institute of Design (ID) and received a BA from Stanford University. He speaks regularly on innovation in the U.S. and abroad, has taught graduate level courses on concept definition at ID, and serves as adjunct faculty at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Kellogg School of Management.

Clifton Vann CEO, Hyde Park Partners 
As CEO of Hyde Park Partners, Clifton Vann oversees Livingston & Haven, the 68-year-old industrial technology provider with $70 million in sales annually and 200 employees.  He is currently a member of several advisory boards including Bosch Rexroth.  He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Energy Career Academy of Engineering at Olympic High School and was recently named to the MeckEd Board of Directors and the NC Education and Workforce Innovation Commission.  Clifton graduated from NC State University with a B.S. in Business Administration.


Dave Biedermann Innovation Guide/Creative Problem Solving Expert, RockDale-Innovation Group 
Formerly the Director of Innovation at Electrolux NA (household appliances), located in Charlotte, NC Dave was in charge of long-term innovation pipeline and innovation processes.  Before then, he was a full-time consultant who helped companies build Innovation pipelines with financial sufficiency and the organizational capability to sustain them.  His expertise is based on 25 years at Procter & Gamble where he founded and led P&G’s Innovation Design studio (the ‘GYM’) to strengthen product and commercialization innovation plans for P&G’s billion-dollar brands.  David and his innovation partners advise companies on innovation processes, and design and facilitate innovation workshops focused on new product development.   They have guided hundreds of teams and trained thousands of managers. David graduated from Cornell University (BS chemical engineering), Xavier University (MBA), and led project initiatives and innovation pipeline development at P&G brands using formalized processes based on consumer needs.  He is a certified Creativity facilitator and holds 11 U.S. patents.

Steve Josey Director of New Products and Services, Railinc
In his role at Railinc, a leading information technology solutions provider to the multi-billion dollar North American railroad industry.  He is responsible for leading new product growth with a focus on the front-end of the product and service development lifecycle.   Notable accomplishments include establishing a new line of technology solutions to improve freight car repair management and leading the initiation of a multi-year rail industry program to use technology, data, and subject matter expertise to improve the safety and performance of railroad equipment.

Prior to Railinc, Steve was a new product portfolio manager and the Assistant Director for Innovation Growth at Crowe Horwath, one of the ten largest U.S. accounting and consulting firms.  Steve is a graduate of Colorado State University, a certified New Product Development Professional, and a PDMA of the Carolinas board member since 2010.