16 mins read

Celebrating Women Leaders: A Q&A with Octane’s Community

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In honor of International Women’s Day, Octane is proud to highlight the extraordinary achievements of women leaders within our ecosystem and the broader community. As advocates for diversity and inclusion, we believe it’s crucial to celebrate the contributions of women, including Octane members, past speakers, and partners. Through a fun bunch of Q&A, let’s get to know these remarkable women and gain insight into the inspiring journeys behind their success.
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Kristan Ginther
Market Development Leader, RSM US LLP

 

Inspiration and Journey: What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and how did you embark on this path?
The inspiration on a marketing career lies with it being an ever-changing field. It’s never boring, and you need to keep your skills sharp.

Proud Achievements: Could you share a specific achievement or project that holds special significance to you?
My achievements that I am most proud of is on the people side – I get the absolute pleasure of leading a team of talented marketers, and it is gratifying to help them develop in this exciting career area.

Leadership Skills: What is one essential skill you believe every leader should possess?
Empathy – if you walk a mile in people’s shoes, you have stronger relationships that lead to better results.

Bucket List: What’s one goal you aim to accomplish in the coming year?
Becoming a better drummer – I took it up a couple of years ago and am still really bad!

Influential Women: Who is a woman who has significantly impacted your life or career journey?
It’s my sister – Professor Donna Ginther who has a list of accomplishments too numerous to name. She’s not in my field, but we connect on women in the workforce often as this is her specialty area of study.

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Marinela Gombosev
President, COO, SPARK Neuro

 

 

Inspiration and Journey: What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and how did you embark on this path?
I first started my career in Aerospace as a flight controls design engineer. This first career choice was a practical one. While the work was exciting, I aspired to have a direct impact on improving quality of life at scale. Over the last decade of my career I intentionally sought out and developed a genuine connection to the work that I do in medical devices. Specifically, witnessing my grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease seeded a passion for a preventive approach to brain health.

Proud Achievements: Could you share a specific achievement or project that holds special significance to you?
My proudest achievements are the result of our team developing, growing, and accomplishing ambitious goals. Our team at SPARK Neuro recently completed a clinical trial and achieved FDA 510(k) clearance for our first indication that supports clinicians in performing a cognitive assessment for patients who are concerned about their memory. 

Leadership Skills: What is one essential skill you believe every leader should possess?
While there are many essential skills, continually developing one’s leadership skills is more important than any one individual skill. This calls for willingness to listen, employing a growth mindset, and practicing humility. 

Bucket List: What’s one goal you aim to accomplish in the coming year?
As a female leader in start-ups, I proactively support other women who aspire to innovate and lead in healthcare and beyond. One of my goals is to become an investor in a venture fund that specifically invests in women founders and operators.

Influential Women: Who is a woman who has significantly impacted your life or career journey?
When I was 9 my mom decided to leave our war torn country of Bosnia and leave everything behind – her home, her career, her friends and family. Together with my dad, she demonstrated a willingness to take risks and face uncertainty in pursuit of an important goal. My mother’s actions have taught me the value of taking a bet on oneself, demonstrating that such risks are worthwhile. 

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Isabel A. Mattson-Pain
Managing Director, Chief Marketing Officer, Roth MKM

 

 

Inspiration and Journey: What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and how did you embark on this path?
Having been brought up and educated in Europe, a career on Wall Street seemed like a farfetched dream. My father was an investment banker and diplomat. Our house was always filled with distinguished guests from all over the world. As we socialized with them, I was curious how they got to their positions and built impressive lists of life accomplishments. When I was offered a job in New York in 1995 as a management trainee for a conference company after graduating from business school, I saw my chance to start building my career and follow in the footsteps of those who I admired growing up. I accepted that job, and my exciting journey began. The door was opened; the rest was up to me. I was a small fish swimming with giant sharks. The US is a land of opportunity. If there is a will, there is a way. Live your dreams.

Proud Achievements: Could you share a specific achievement or project that holds special significance to you?
Taking a group of “type A” US investors through a 10-day investor roadshow in Northern China with various weather issues and brought them all to safety despite terrifying circumstances. I learned a lot about listening to your gut – taking charge quickly of a bad situation, never panicking, and showing leadership all the way to the finish line, with a sprinkle of humor on top. BTW – I was one of three women in the group of 40 men from Wall Street. Having been at the helm of the Annual ROTH Investor Conference for the past 22 years is probably my most rewarding achievement. This conference takes place each year in Orange County and is one of the largest of its kind for growth companies and brings business and jobs to our local community. I was also offered the opportunity to become a shareholder at Roth Capital Partners LLC in 2014, which I accepted with pride.

Leadership Skills: What is one essential skill you believe every leader should possess?
I would recommend a few skills that every leader should possess to be effective:
1) Always listen to what’s presented to you and try to solve problems quickly – never let a problem dwell.  It will just get worse.
2) Lead from the bottom up.
3) Show compassion for your teammates.
4) Take calculated risks.
5) Learn from your mistakes.
6) 80% of success is showing up.

Bucket List: What’s one goal you aim to accomplish in the coming year?
Find more time for learning new skills – especially in technology – AI will surpass us if we don’t join in.

Influential Women: Who is a woman who has significantly impacted your life or career journey?
My mother – Karin Mattson, MD, and Professor in Thoracic Oncology, Mother of 4, Grandmother of 10. She never missed a beat. Although quite demanding, she was always present, and available to add her words of wisdom.

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Yari L. Mitchell
President, Y Factor Consulting, Inc.

 

 

Inspiration and Journey: What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and how did you embark on this path?
I can point to two distinct, and unexpected moments in time where my career path started to present itself.
First, was seeing the movie Baby Boom as a young girl.  If you can’t tell, this is the unexpected moment. In this film, the ever-amazing Diane Keaton played a character who was a powerful executive making her way in business.  Several obstacles are put in her path forcing her to reevaluate and pivot.  She never gave up and, in the end, she was able to have impact on her life and others. This film was my first exposure to a career in business and product development. I loved that she overcame everyone’s expectations of her, including her own, and forged her own path.
The second moment happened after college. I answered a one sentence advertisement in a newspaper for a role of an executive assistant to the CEO of a MedTech eye care company. When interviewing with the CEO, I learned for the first time what a cataract was and how it is a slow thief of vision. His passion ignited my interest in healthcare and winning the role was the catalyst for a very rewarding career in eye care product and business development. When I look back on my career path to date it is hard to fathom how I started as an executive assistant and over time moved through clinical research to marketing to commercialization to business development and am now an entrepreneur. I am forever grateful for the people along this journey who have opened doors and mentored me along the way.

Proud Achievements: Could you share a specific achievement or project that holds special significance to you?
In January of 2023, Bausch + Lomb acquired my company, AcuFocus. This event was the culmination of 13 years of work to develop a new intraocular lens for cataract surgery patients that could deliver vision improvement for an underserved population of cataract patients. While the transaction was the ultimate goal, I am most proud of what I was able to achieve with my team leading up to this event. We were able to build a new category in a mature market in the face of formidable competition. Leading the incredible commercial team and partnering with the rest of the executive leadership team to carve-out an uncontested space for our technology and offer a meaningful solution for patients is and will remain one of my proudest professional achievements.

Leadership Skills: What is one essential skill you believe every leader should possess?
I believe every leader needs to know how to listen first. No single individual, including leaders, have all the answers. As leaders our role is to ask questions and make decisions.  This means we need to truly listen to the feedback. By listening first, leaders gain a more in-depth understanding of the opportunities, challenges, and needs of their organization and team.  Through listening to diverse perspectives we can identify create solutions, avoid the trap of confirmation bias and building an open, inclusive, and respectful culture that allows our teams to grow and thrive.

Bucket List: What’s one goal you aim to accomplish in the coming year?
As I move into the entrepreneur phase of my career, I am focused on compiling and integrating learnings harvested from over 25 years in business and commercialization strategy, in preparation for launching something exciting soon.  

Influential Women: Who is a woman who has significantly impacted your life or career journey?
This is easy, Heather Ready. Heather is currently with STAAR Surgical heading their Global Market Intelligence. I first met Heather in the early 2000s when we worked together at VISX, the leading manufacture of lasers for laser vision correction technology at the time. Heather has a tremendous career spanning a variety of different healthcare industries with deep expertise in marketing, practice development, commercialization, and sales. She showed me how a woman leader can be both action-oriented and kind. As a connector at heart, she is always looking for ways to help others and make introductions building community. Her passion and steadfastness are inspiring.

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Ashley Mooneyham
President of Superior Medical Experts and Founder of Momease Solutions

 

Inspiration and Journey: What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and how did you embark on this path?
I pursued a PhD in Cancer Biology because I’ve always had a passion for utilizing scientific discovery to impact human health. Throughout my PhD program, I most enjoyed distilling complicated ideas into compelling stories, so after graduation I transitioned to a medical writing career as Director of Grants at Superior Medical Experts (SME). Grant writing gets a bad reputation as a grind, but for me it’s the dream career – it allows an incredible opportunity to learn about emerging scientific advancements and support their path to market by securing early-stage non-dilutive R&D funding. The potential impact feels limitless and exciting. Working with innovative small businesses even inspired me to start my own company, Momease Solutions, after I encountered an unmet need to improve the breast pump experience firsthand. Founding an SBIR-funded startup synergizes with SME by providing a well-rounded perspective from both the industry and scientific research point of view when I work with clients. 

Proud Achievements: Could you share a specific achievement or project that holds special significance to you?
I still remember the first time an SME client received grant funding as a transformative day. It proved we were providing a service with important tangible benefits, and that feeling fuels our work every day. That client went on to receive follow-on funding that supported their R&D efforts through exit and was directly tied to their overall success. It was an honor to play a supportive part in that journey from ideation to exit. 

Leadership Skills: What is one essential skill you believe every leader should possess?
Personally, I think it’s important for leaders to lead by example and value their team intentionally. My favorite mentors are the ones who walk side by side with their team through challenges and take the time to acknowledge work ethic and express appreciation for unique contributions. I strive to do the same in my role at Superior Medical Experts. 

Bucket List: What’s one goal you aim to accomplish in the coming year?
This year I will be welcoming a baby boy to our family in May. As I’m sure many working moms can relate to, my goal is to maintain my individual career aspirations and identity while embracing and investing into this special time as a family. Balance is the ultimate guiding goal. 

Influential Women: Who is a woman who has significantly impacted your life or career journey?
My PhD advisor, Dr. Martina Bazzaro, significantly impacted my career journey. She was an early-career ovarian cancer researcher at the University of Minnesota when I joined her laboratory as a graduate student. Throughout my thesis work, I was able to witness her tenacity in establishing herself as a scientific leader in her field and achieving tenure while maintaining passion for the work and an adventurous spirit. To this day, I use strategies I developed in her lab to prioritize tasks, ground my work within a bigger vision, and achieve goals.

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Maria Moskver
CEO, Cloudvirga Inc.

 

 

Inspiration and Journey: What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and how did you embark on this path?
I’ve always been fascinated by business, since I was a child. Probably because of immigrating from the USSR and understanding how lucky we were to be in America – the land of opportunity. I tracked stock movements for fun (not when I could afford investing in them either), ran investment clubs, loved my finance class etc. I did a JD/MBA dual degree when that program didn’t exist because I loved business. I started an insurance agency, had my own law firm for many years while also working as outside counsel for companies.  And I became fascinated with computers when I saw my first mainframe on a tour in elementary school. As a result, I always worked in the computer lab in undergrad and grad school, learned programming and kept up with the latest and greatest in tech. Throughout my educational and professional career, I worked in tech and business-oriented positions (as well as customer service; I feel that everyone should work in customer service at some point in their life). Although I was a general counsel for 20+ years, I remained an operational executive during each of those positions, meaning, I kept a range of knowledge in the business from technical, legal and operational and have had a ‘seat at the table before I was 25 years old. I didn’t inherently know I could be in business and tech position when I embarked on this path, but the sheer interest in both has been omnipresent throughout my life.

Proud Achievements: Could you share a specific achievement or project that holds special significance to you?
When I had my own practice and was of counsel to a mortgage servicer in 2012 in Colorado, I got a call from the CEO a privately held company in the mortgage industry that wanted to start a compliance business; I had been recommended for this role because of my background. So, after visiting the company and meeting the team, my husband and I packed up the family (two daughters, three dogs and a cat!), shipped our household, and rented an RV to make the move to Temecula, which at that time had a population of 100K. I then proceeded to develop a business plan, hire a team and build a new business within a company whose core business was printing borrower correspondence for banks. It took several years but we developed a solid client base and landed 9 out of the top 10 banks as our clients for the compliance business. But ultimately my biggest achievement was assembling and building out the compliance solutions team to carry out the vision of providing very important services to these banks. It was difficult and yet interesting to identify regulatory lawyers that were more entrepreneurial, but I am proud of the team we built. We sold the company in 2015 to private equity and I stayed through 2019. However, that team still exists and is providing compliance services today!

Leadership Skills: What is one essential skill you believe every leader should possess?
Integrity, without a doubt, that is one of my core values both in my personal and professional life. I believe that if you live your life with integrity, you can live your life fulfilled and without regrets. At the end of the day, if you make decisions on doing the right thing, that guiding principle will lead you, your teams and companies to success. Care about your team, your family, your community on a deep level and see how much clearer your objectives become.

Bucket List: What’s one goal you aim to accomplish in the coming year?
On a professional note, we are rebuilding our technology stack, which is a massive undertaking but can take us to the next level as a company. I am very excited to see the results of that project. For my personal bucket list, I am turning 50 this year, so will go on my first heli-skiing trip. I have been skiing/snowboarding for 30 years and have always wanted to do this.

Influential Women: Who is a woman who has significantly impacted your life or career journey?
I can’t say that I have had one; however, I have always observed and tried to emulate positive qualities from anyone that I meet. I got to shape my own vision and forge my own path, which is incredible. I am very thankful to have been around people with different qualities that I can learn from.


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Dominique Worthington
VP & GM Advanced Energy, CSF Management and Critical Care, Medtronic

 

 

Inspiration and Journey: What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and how did you embark on this path?
I started my career as a programmer and discovered I love the promise of improving everyday life through technology. I eventually stumbled my way into the medical device field and found my passion for improving patients’ lives by bringing meaningful technology to market.

Proud Achievements: Could you share a specific achievement or project that holds special significance to you?
I’m most proud of the work we’ve done to bring new products to market, particularly in the Neuro ICU space, designed to shorten the length of stay and improve patient outcomes. There’s a lot of courage and risk taking involved in working with novel technology and taking the steps to make it feasible and adopted. I’m proud of the partnering we’ve done with key hospitals and clinicians to change procedures and standard of care to keep up with the new technology.

Leadership Skills: What is one essential skill you believe every leader should possess?
Understanding the power of team culture is critical. Every successful business has one element in common: happy, engaged people who believe in the company’s mission. It’s my job as a leader to identify the culture necessary for the team to succeed and use my influence to create and enable it. Culture is something that must be cultivated organically; it can’t be forced. It’s important to me to make a positive impact on the employees who design, build, and sell our products. My goal is always to empower the team by creating an environment of psychological safety that encourages idea generation, knowledge sharing, and experimentation.

Bucket List: What’s one goal you aim to accomplish in the coming year?
This year, I have a personal goal taking the front seat. My twins are starting college in the fall, and I’m invested in helping them to start this next phase of their life in a place where they feel comfortable and can realize their potential. Ensuring these two young humans have the best start possible is first and foremost on my mind.

Influential Women: Who is a woman who has significantly impacted your life or career journey?
My mother, Donna, was a trailblazer. She was a computer programmer at the advent of computer programming and was one of few women in a very technical field. She found success both in the corporate world and as a business owner herself. The courage it took for her to show up and succeed in an area where she, as a woman, wasn’t represented and in fact was actively discouraged from participating, is inspiring.

 


 

On International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness about discrimination, and take action to drive gender parity. Remember, IWD belongs to everyone, everywhere, and inclusion means all IWD actions are valid. Thank you to all the incredible women within the Octane ecosystem and the broader community for your relentless pursuit of excellence and leadership.

 

At Octane, we’re dedicated to fostering a supportive environment for women in entrepreneurship and business leadership. That’s why we’re thrilled to have Women Leaders of Octane (WLO). The purpose of WLO is to grow the strength and impact of the OC innovation ecosystem by increasing the ranks of women entrepreneurs and business leaders, improving access to funding, and advocating for more influence on boards. Women remain underrepresented among entrepreneurs, and WLO exists to address this disparity and advocate for women’s positions in the workforce. WLO meets virtually every quarter.
Learn more here about how you can get involved and contribute to advancing women’s leadership in the innovation ecosystem.
Join us in honoring women’s contributions not just today but every day. Together, let’s create a world where every woman has the opportunity to thrive and succeed. Happy International Women’s Day!

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