Meet Our Staff
Accomplished and effective leader, technologist, strategist, and advocate for transforming our culture to empower youth in STEM Robotics programs, with a focus on collaboration, innovation, teamwork, and gracious professionalism.
Lila Mowatt is the Director of Development & Community Relations at FIRST Washington, where she oversees all aspects of linking the organization to resources through donor stewardship, fundraising, and relationship building. Prior to FIRST WA, Lila was the Director of Philanthropy for Washington DECA. Lila has also held positions with the American Jewish Committee as Seattle Regional Director and with AIPAC in both Seattle and Houston. Lila earned her M.A. in History from the University of Haifa and her B.A. from New York University in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies.
Rob’n T Vazquez
Adrienne Collins became involved with FIRST in 2007 when her daughter’s high school started a robotics club. In 2010 she began coaching a FIRST Robotics Competition team where she developed a passion for working with students. In 2011, Adrienne joined the FIRST Washington staff as a part time program coordinator for FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition. She loves the way that FIRST can help shape young peoples lives in discovering a career pathway.
Jacque brings over 8 years of volunteer experience to FIRST Washington. As the Team Manager for her children’s hockey team she chaired the annual 2009 auction which helped to raise over $70 thousand for the Sno-King Amateur Hockey Association. She also has been very involved volunteering in FIRST Robotics competitions in a variety of roles like Pit Admin; Lead Queuer; Scorekeeper; Referee.
Mara is a Midwest escapee who’s lived in Washington for nearly 3 years. She got her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and History from Iowa State University, where she worked in community engagement and voter education on a number of local political campaigns. Since moving to Washington, Mara has worked as a Development Associate at the Washington Autism Alliance and EBC – Eastside Baby Corner. She is passionate about providing the resources kids need to live fulfilling lives, and believes access to quality, STEM education is an essential piece of providing education equity for all kids. In her free time, Mara likes to hike, camp, and cheer on the Seattle Storm.
Eric Van Buren
Eric VanBuren has been engaged with FIRST programs for over a decade starting as a parent and then mentor of his kids’ team and then moving into a FIRST Senior Mentor Role, helping new teams start their journey with FIRST. He is an incredible role model, always willing to help coaches/mentors solve challenges. In addition to managing FIRST Washington’s Fieldhouse equipment, he mentors an all-girls team at Holy Names Academy in Seattle.
Robert has been involved with FIRST for over 16 years, starting out in the Midwest and moving to Washington in 2006. He has been the Head Coach for Skunk Works Robotics for the past 11 years. He has done volunteer work for FTC, FLL, and FRC. He has been active in assisting teams across Washington in the areas of sustainability and team structure. Away from FIRST, he enjoys woodworking, gardening, fishing and Star Wars as a member of the 501st Legion.
Meet Our Board Of Directors
Christy Barwick has worked in finance and treasury for top multinational companies across multiple industries. She is an intellectually curious and proven finance leader with extensive experience in capital markets, Christy is a pioneer in the securitization of technology-related patent receivables. Christy is dedicated to supporting the women and girls in her community. For several years, Christy has been a leader in a professional women’s mentor circle, a volunteer for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, and Expanding Your Horizons. Christy has been recognized by the finance community, most recently the Adam Smith Award as the highly commended winner of Treasury Today’s Woman of the Year.
Jordan Charles is a Director and Deputy General Manager at Blue Origin where he leads the development of disruptive reusable rocket technologies. Jordan is an engineer and inventor at heart and holds a number of aerospace-related patents stemming from his work at NASA, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin. Jordan has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University, an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Jordan has a strong passion for improving DEI in STEM and a goal of making STEM careers more accessible to underserved communities.
Jamie Garza is a Veteran of the US Navy. When Jamie began his career after the Navy, he started as an Electronics Technician and Hardware Test Engineer. The technical background he gained, firsthand was invaluable when he eventually found his true passion which is working with people, business, sales, and services. He worked as a director in both sales and service organizations for more than 15 years.
Jamie built successful teams within those organizations utilizing his network of engineers and understanding business needs. Having technical depth in product development, consumer electronics, business, and a passion for sales, he can grow a successful team quickly.
He played a major role for companies in WA, one of which was nominated for the Fastest Growing Companies in WA state award. 2020 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies #3- Fresh Consulting, 2019 Eastside Fastest-Growing Private Companies #1 – Fresh Consulting, 2012 #14 Inc 5000 Engineering Industry Nationwide – Nytec, and 2012 Fastest Growing Companies in WA, Nytec
Jamie’s philosophy is that “People come first because they are the driving force of our success and growth.”
John Hotta is a retired technology leader, who co-founded a small professional-services firm, Capital Expert Services, LLC. His roots and professional experiences are in technology. He has over 20 years in technology leadership roles at Microsoft, Accenture, AT&T, and the RAND Corporation. John speaks to Fortune 500 and SME audiences on technology issues. He has a passion to implement automation and productivity tools; and an equal concern for workplace and employee impacts.
Patrick Jenny is an independent entrepreneur, technologist and community leader focused on increasing diversity and access for STEM education. He was previously an executive with F5 Networks Product Development. He was responsible for worldwide engineering operations and overall customer satisfaction. He is a proud graduate of the University of Washington with degrees in Computer Science and Biology (focus on molecular and cellular biology).
Christy Johnson is an entrepreneur and educator. She is currently building her third start-up, Artemis Connection, and facilitating a course on designing organizations for Creativity/Innovation at the Standford Graduate School of Business. Ultimately, she believes people are an organization’s most important asset and by having a diverse workforce, organizations will have the most innovative solutions. She has seven years of experience working in corporate strategy, including three and a half years at McKinsey & Co. Before this, Christy was an award-winning economics and mathematics teacher. In 2005, Junior Achievement recognized Christy as its National Teacher of the year.
Claudius Mbemba (mem'buh) is CTO & CoFounder @ neu (useneu.com). A Speaker & Tech Entrepreneur who advises early-stage founders and aspiring entrepreneurs using the tips and tricks he's learned along the way. He has a background in software engineering having previously worked as a top software engineer at Microsoft on Outlook, Cloud, Bots, and Emerging Technologies. Along with his CoFounder @ neu, Claudius was nominated for the GeekWire Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2020) and graduated from the Techstars Seattle Startup Accelerator. Claudius holds a Bachelors in Computer Science from The Ohio State University. Played D1 NCAA Football at his alma mater. And now sits on the Ohio State University Alumni Board of Seattle. He has a long history and passion for entrepreneurship having started entrepreneurship-focused student orgs, organized Startup Weekends, and founded 2 startups while he was in college. Claudius has been invited to speak to everyone from University students to CTOs/Engineering Executives at the Nasdaq in NYC. He is passionate about raising the number of marginalized people (BIPOC, Women, LGBTQIA+) in Tech & VC by paving the way, holding the door open, and paying it forward. Claudius believes the most important thing to do, is just get started. His personal motto is, "The sooner you start, The sooner you finish." He even has this tattooed on his arm! And in code, no less!
Viplav Mishra is the CTO at USAFacts, a civic initiative to provide our citizens with more access to public government data. He also co-founded Globalwarming.com, a project aimed at providing education and empowering discussions in the fight against global warming.
Viplav has spent the past decade managing various engineering groups at mid and small-sized companies like Amazon, Porch.com, and USAFacts. He has a passion for solving complex problems through investment in people. In his free time Viplav enjoys woodworking and spending time with his dog.
Viplav is an immigrant from India. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Bioinformatics from JUIT, India, and an MS in Computer Engineering from the University of Florida.
Carol M. Olsby, Author, MS, GPHR, GRP, CCP, SCM-SCP is a senior-level global and domestic human resources leader with over 25 years of experience leading, designing, and implementing progressive domestic and global HR strategies and programs for US and international global companies. Carol is the Managing Director of Carol Olsby & Associates, Inc. a consulting firm servicing clients located throughout the world. Prior to starting her consulting firm, Carol was Tieto’s Global HR Director – Americas & Asia where she led their high-growth Asia and North America expansion resulting in employing 2,500 new employees in her region in four years. Tieto a European software company and Microsoft partner with over 20,000 employees globally operating in over 30 countries. Carol has held HR leadership positions with Bainbridge Networks, WesTower, and Universal Avionics.
Kevin Ross is changing the lives of K-12 students across our state. While working as a senior design engineer at Microsoft, Kevin became concerned that enthusiasm seemed to be declining among entry-level engineers that are fresh out of college. While book-smart, they lacked passion. Around the same time, he began volunteering as a mentor for a high school robotics team as part of the nationwide FIRST program. In 2002 he founded FIRST Washington, which focuses on inspiring K-12 students to become science and technology leaders.
Susan is a seasoned general manager and leader who has lead businesses for global enterprises like Amazon, Mars, Campbell Soup and PepsiCo. Most recently, she led Amazon’s European fashion business based in London before coming back to Seattle. Susan joined FIRST Washington to pursue her passion for encouraging more girls and underrepresented minorities to pursue technology educations and careers. Volunteering for FIRST Washington, she hopes to inspire the next generations to embrace careers in technology and to create a more diverse environment.
Bruce Schafer is the Board Chair of Oregon Robotics Tournament & Outreach Program (ORTOP) which he co-founded as a university program 2001. He led ORTOP’s spin-out as an independent nonprofit corporation in 2014. Bruce has served as Executive Director of the Engineering & Technology Industry Council for the Oregon University system. Before retirement, Bruce founded a software company which licensed software to many of the top personal computer manufacturers. Bruce holds an MSEE with a computer science emphasis from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Rob Short is an effective and strategic volunteer who works closely with organizations that have bold visions and ideas to bring effective change. His passion for STEM education and getting industry and educators working together for Washington State students is what motivates Rob in giving of his time to FIRST Washington. Prior to becoming a volunteer and social and startup investor, Rob was a Corporate Vice President with Microsoft for 19 years where he leads the Windows Core Technology Team. In addition to FIRST Washington, Rob is active with the University of Washington, Equal Opportunity Schools, and Woodland Park Zoo.
Graham Smith is a twenty-year technology professional working primarily in the telecommunication and utility industries. Graham has spent the last few years actively involved in the project management practice building a Project Management Office within Avista Utilities. He has experience designing and managing large scale technology projects such as Customer Facing websites, Enterprise Voice Portal and Customer Information System replacements. Graham is a graduate of Central Washington University and has an MBA from Webster University. Graham is also an avid cyclist and electric vehicle enthusiast.
Bob Strasser is a strong senior technical R&D leader with real-world experience in creating and operating highly effective product development teams. Bob has a passion for people development, and for enabling opportunities for people to realize their full potential. He believes being engaged with FIRST Washington is an excellent avenue to give back and provide support, encouragement, visibility, and connection to both help students grow and compete successfully but also to realize a greater vision for their own gifts and ambitions.
Alex is a growth-driven executive leader with 20+ years of global, cross-functional P&L leadership, specializing in creating and commercializing new technology businesses in the Healthcare, Consumer Electronics and Semiconductor sectors. He currently serves as President of Sixth Sense, LLC – a business and technology consulting arm for technology start-ups. Prior to that, Alex was a CEO-In-Residence at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Before that, he led MicroVision, Inc as a President and CEO, and several global business units within GE Healthcare as a VP/General Manager for 12 and 11 years, respectively. Alex received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from University of Massachusetts and he’s a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Master Black Belt. Alex serves on two other companies’ boards as an independent director.
Mary- Pierre Waiss
Mary-Pierre Waiss is an experienced Corporate Director, CEO and senior executive with a strong track record of success in growing companies. She is an accomplished entrepreneur, organizational leader, and board member with a demonstrated track record of success helping biotechnology and life science organizations maximize their market potential. She has repeatedly developed strategies in early stage companies and achieved results through collaboration and management of employees and board members. Her extensive knowledge of the healthcare user and buyer, provider networks and practices enable strategies that develop new markets and models. These strategies have included capital raises and use of debt as well as developing products and teams.
Mary has been recognized throughout her career for a deep combination of both business acumen and clinical medical credentials—including expertise in the medical imaging space and the development of innovative, disruptive business models to improve healthcare access. Well-versed in all cross-functional business functions including sales, marketing, operations, IT, and finance—combined with an extensive network of industry contacts and history of leading fundraising efforts among the angel investing and VC communities.
Board Experience Highlights
- Broad and deep understanding of the intersection of technology, life sciences and industry.
- American Heart Association
- Took on pro bono leadership role to promote its signature women’s initiative—Go Red for Women—aimed at building a comprehensive platform to increase women’s heart health awareness and improve health outcomes for women globally.
- Precision Image Analysis
- Chairman of the Board
- Recruited diverse and highly accomplished board members with specific expertise
- Monitor Mask
- Worked with leadership team to position the company for acquisition by Salter Labs
Mary resides in Kirkland with her husband, Tom, of 38 years and their beloved labradoodle, KonaCoco. Outside of her corporate and volunteer roles, Mary enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, golfing, skiing, hiking and travel.
Dee Dee Walsh
Dee Dee Walsh, VP of marketing and business development and Mobilize.net, has spent her entire career in technology and has a long list of business products within Microsoft. Her software community roots run deep. She ran product management and marketing for ButtonWare, the first shareware company. Dee Dee served on the Washington Software Association (now WTIA) Board of Directors for many years.
Clayton Wood serves as CEO and President of the innovative automation company, Picnic. In this role, he oversees the strategic direction of the company and engages with the company’s partners, customers, and investors. Prior to joining Picnic, Wood served in C-level roles for a range of technology growth and startup companies between 2006 and 2018, including CEO at Synapse Product Development, President/COO at XZERES Corp, and COO at iUNU, Inc. He worked at Honeywell Aerospace for 12 years including running the industry-leading Flight Data Recorder Business Unit from 2000-2005. Wood earned his MBA from University of Washington Foster School of Business in 1998, and a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University.