This March, we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. During this month, on the IdentityMind Blog, we will feature profiles of the women who help make IdentityMind hum. We think these stories will inspire, and give you a glimpse into some of what women can achieve in the tech field.
-Garrett Gafke, Chairman and CEO, IdentityMind
Janie Diaz | SEO and Social Media Manager
Janie is the search engine optimization (SEO) and social media manager for IdentityMind. Within the marketing department, Janie works to hone and publicize the IdentityMind brand and message. To enhance our marketing efforts, Janie also contributes to content creation and PPC ad copy in English and Spanish.
Born in Winston-Salem, NC, Janie’s father is a Cuban political refugee and her mother is a North Carolina native. Janie’s family left the US when she was four, beginning their life abroad in Dubai. After three years in the UAE, the family moved to Antwerp before relocating once again to Mexico City, where they remained for three years until their move to Detroit. Discussing her reintroduction to American life, Janie says, “It was hard coming back to US culture. Other kids didn’t approve of my wardrobe choices and I was made fun of for taking notes in Spanish and for being a tomboy.” Things were not made much easier by her family’s move to Phoenix, but after completing high school in three years, Janie found college a much more welcoming environment. It was here that she co-founded a small, local magazine, which focused on publishing poetry, political articles, and short stories. Janie’s love of words landed her an opportunity as one of the SEO industry’s first-ever full-time content writers, a position she took in Los Angeles just before meeting her husband, Jose, with whom she now has two daughters, Hyzea and Zorayah.
After leaving her first SEO position in 2006, Janie began freelancing as a writer and SEO professional with a focus on reputation management and digital marketing for a host of clients, including small- to medium-sized startups and other businesses, as well as celebrities and athletes. But, after years as a contractor and consultant, she was looking for a career position — she wanted to do something that mattered. At IdentityMind, Janie says she feels fulfilled, knowing that what she does helps to stop financial crime and the crimes bad actors are no longer able to accomplish as a result of what the IdentityMind team does. “As women in technology, it’s critical that we make our voices part of the conversation,” Janie says, adding, “In something like RegTech, it literally saves lives, making it easily the most important thing I’ve been a part of in my career.”
Janie brings a unique perspective to the marketing department, including her focus on the importance of Spanish-language content for our Latin America marketing campaigns and an evergreen approach to social media campaigns, which she’s working to advance right now. “Janie is our SEO guru and a wizard of words. She is kind, funny, and fiery,” says Cristal Gonzalez, our Product Marketing Manager, adding, “She brings amazing talent and energy that can only be described as a natural gift. IdentityMind is blessed and thrilled to have her!”
When she’s not at IdentityMind, Janie can be found hanging out with her girls, playing with her dogs, and writing poetry in Tulare, CA.
Kelsey Zitterkopf | Controller
As the IdentityMind Controller, Kelsey handles all of the corporate financials, including all of our financial reporting, metrics, quarterly fiscal reports, and our internal and external financial audits. She works within the finance department, which is based in our Spokane office, where she manages our staff accountants alongside Paul McClure, who is the IdentityMind Head of Finance. In addition to her main workload involving audits and reporting, as Controller, Kelsey also manages all of our client payments coming from North America and Europe while she’s in the process of planning and organizing the accounting system currently used to manage accounts receivable for Mexico and Latin America.
As a Spokane native, Kelsey grew up spending her weekends with her family at their cabin on the Little Pend Oreille Lakes, where she enjoyed hiking, boating, and water skiing with her younger brother and sister. With a strong German and Norweigan background on both sides of the family, Kelsey grew up in a household where both parents worked full-time; her father as a public defender for the county who worked primarily with minors in the juvenile court system, and her mother as a medical office manager working for doctors in different health fields.
During high school, Kelsey enjoyed playing basketball and volleyball, and she also ran track. She landed her first job working at Quiznos during high school and continued to work all through college, beginning with a staff accountant position with the Pring Corporation — a commercial property management company in Spokane, where Kelsey handled full-cycle bookkeeping, including accounts payable and receivable and keeping track of company expenses.
Kelsey says she always had an affinity for numbers, and at a young age, when she realized her mathematical inclinations could make it possible for her to understand how a business works from behind the scenes, she knew she wanted to work with numbers professionally and in a business setting. After working at Pring for a couple of years, Kelsey graduated from Eastern Washington University with degrees in both accounting and finance, which led her to a senior audit associate position with BDO, a public accounting firm where she worked for three years helping clients complete audit statements and ensured their financials were correct after earning her license as a certified public accountant (CPA).
Working at BDO helped Kelsey understand the importance of getting to know a company from top to bottom and from the inside out in an effort to paint the most accurate financial picture. Along with her newly acquired CPA license, Kelsey went on to become the controller at International Aerospace Coatings (IAC), an aviation engineering and aircraft painting services company, where she primarily focused on financial analytics, dealt with a complex inventory, and handled the accounting associated with site and inventory managers.
Kelsey has been with IdentityMind for about one year, having started in April of 2018. She says her past experience and being an auditor and public accountant have made her uniquely qualified for the job of controller, which our Head of Finance, Paul McClure agrees with. “Kelsey is a fellow CPA, and I rely on her professional judgment on a daily basis. She is a true ‘RockStar,’ and we are blessed to have her on the team,” Paul says, adding, “She has a great attitude and is always willing to help and manage through the good times and bad.” Kelsey knows how to improve our processes and make things run more efficiently. There are always new financial projects, which Kelsey and Paul brainstorm about after the board has requested changes.
Kelsey is quick to tell you that she has worked with a lot of people talented in the finance field, and her colleagues would agree that she is among the talent they have collaborated with at IdentityMind. She has an innate love of numbers, which makes her incredibly gifted at the work she does every day. When she’s not at IdentityMind, you’ll find Kelsey hanging out with her kids and husband, hiking through her native Washington, and enjoying the outdoors around Spokane.
Pratibha Sharma | QA Engineer
Pratibha is a QA Engineer at IdentityMind, where she works in our eDNA Engineering department.
Pratibha grew up and studied in India. She began her career in software engineering in New Delhi, India, and continued to work in technology after moving to Fremont, California. After her second son was born, Pratibha took time off to take care of her new family, while also transitioning to the East Coast. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two children, both boys.
When describing how she came to work for IdentityMind, Pratibha explains, “I have known Cynthia for a very long time, she is a great friend. We have worked together at many different companies. In 2018, I visited California on a family vacation with my boys. I met Cynthia during lunch one day and was telling her that I was planning to go back to work in California and that we were planning to move back there by the end of the year. When we went back to Virginia after the vacation was over, I got a call from Cynthia, saying that IdentityMind was looking for a QA intern, and she asked if I was interested. Ecstatically, I told her, ‘Of course, I am!’ So, here I am, and I am so grateful to Cynthia, Chris, and the rest of the team who gave me this opportunity.”
Pratibha has now been a member of the IdentityMind team for almost six months. She says she enjoys working at IdentityMind with such a talented team — and the feeling is mutual, certainly from our Head of Engineering, Cynthia Tham, who helped bring Pratibha to us. “This is the third company that Pratibha and I have worked at together. She is a dear friend and a teammate I can count on,” says Cynthia, adding, “Pratibha gives it her all in everything she does, and always seeks feedback for professional growth. A month after she started at IdentityMind, she had already been recognized by her peers as a serious high performer. It shows that when you do good work, you can’t help but shine and be noticed.”
As of now, Pratibha is working remotely until the 2019 summer break begins, and has been planning for her move to California over the past few months; the team is eager to welcome her to the West Coast. Pratibha brings more than 12 years of software industry experience from across several diverse fields of networking, storage appliances, automation, and QA with her to IdentityMind. She loves to start new and unknown adventures within tech, where she enjoys diving into each new project she encounters, and always gives her best effort.
One of Pratibha’s favorite quotes is from author Lalah Delia, who said, “She remembered who she was and the game changed!” This perfectly encapsulates Pratibha’s motivation, desires, strength, and the intellectual wherewithal she brings with her to IdentityMind. When she’s not hard at work, you’ll find Pratibha enjoying nature walks and cycling around her neighborhood. She also enjoys birdwatching right in her own backyard, where she frequently sees blue jays, red cardinals, goldfinches, and many others who stop by her birdfeeder.
Rajani Gudi | Tech Lead for Third Parties
Rajani is the Tech Lead for our Third Party Technology Partners, and she works to integrate what they offer with the IdentityMind platform in our engineering department, working closely with other engineers, Cynthia Tham and Jun Liang, as well as our Chief Technology Officer, Kieran Sherlock.
Rajani was born in a small town in Southern India. After she was born, Rajani’s family moved to Mumbai as a result of her father taking a position working with the government in telecommunications. Her father was one of the first to test pagers and landline phones in the country. When asked about what it was like growing up, Rajani remembers being the middle child, which she says helped her learn how to be diplomatic. Growing up as she did and where she did, she says helped make her more capable of managing multiple issues at once. She says she makes an effort not to push her opinion, again stressing that being the “child in the middle” helped to teach her this kind of discipline. Rajani says she learned how to get her way while also ensuring others were happy, too, and this, she says, is compromise — a skill she brings with her to the workplace.
Rajani says where she grew up, it was rare for kids to go to English secondary school as she did, and English is something she considers her first language as a result of her formal education, but she also speaks three other languages, including Kannada, Hindi, and Marathi. Rajani’s mom was a stay-at-home mother, but she influenced Rajani to see the possibilities around her. Rajani knew that she wanted to be, in her own words, a “working woman,” as she knew keeping her mind busy would be the key to her happiness.
Rajani went to Mumbai University and majored in statistics, which she thoroughly enjoyed, and found herself working in market research company where she did Target Rating Point (TRP) analysis for advertisements. She enjoyed this and found it exciting, as it offered her the intellectual stimulation she so clearly thrives on, a trait she brings with her to IdentityMind as well. After her TRP analysis work, she began to write programs in C, her first foray into programming, which she still thoroughly enjoys today.
After graduating in Mumbai, Rajani’s parents helped her find an eligible bachelor, a common practice in her native culture. Rajani was married at the age of 27 in Mumbai. Her husband, Sudhin Deshpande, had decided, as Rajani had, on following the American Dream, so they ventured forward to the US together. Sudhin, who is also an engineer and an entrepreneur, later started his own company in a combination of blockchain and IoT.
Upon arriving in the United States, Rajani had to maintain work once she had her visa, as not working consistently would put her visa status in danger. This meant she was not able to go back to India when her brother got married, or when her mother passed away, and while she won’t bemoan these issues in the slightest, it’s not hard to tell the impact on Rajani was immense. After arriving in the US, sometimes, Rajani and her husband had to accept low-paying jobs without a choice, just to maintain their status, but Rajani says these bumps in the road always lead to a path to success in the end. Her endless optimism is just one of the many things that make her so beloved by her team at IdentityMind.
Rajani felt it was a dream to be in the US, but the visa process was difficult and took almost 10 years to get used to the US, and frequently considered going back to India, but ultimately, they opted to stay, working for various consulting companies. They both obtained their green cards in time, and Rajani then obtained her java certification, which worked well with her analytical style of thinking, especially once she knew she wanted to go into programming. She has always worked in computer science. She says she is still able to make a lot of progress and feels she has achieved a great deal, though she does consider taking breaks for family is important.
Rajani says she believes in teamwork — and she feels it is important that we cater to the needs of the client. She believed in taking a step back and planning things out with plenty of runway ahead of her, which is also a helpful approach with our clients and third-party technology partners over the long haul. The engineering lifestyle, she says, means burning the candle at both ends, and she highly values the fact that she can do her own work in her own time at IdentityMind. “I’m constantly impressed by Rajani’s willingness to come up to the net. She took on the most challenging third-party implementation and works tirelessly to make it as robust as possible,” says Cynthia Tham, head of engineering, adding, “When we were short-staffed in the frontend implementation, she stepped up again to reinvent herself from a backend Java to full stack React developer. Rajani has an incredible work ethic, has a strong sense of ownership to our products, and is a natural mentor. I feel blessed to work with a strong Technical Lead like her.”
She loves working in finance and loves regulation and the programming work that we do as part of Fintech. Importantly, she notes that she feels she is contributing to the world in her engineering role. In a job where she must fulfill the obligations of multiple, different roles, Rajani loves to interact with different people, and she loves learning new things. She says she has gotten into trouble for speaking out in the workplace at previous jobs, but she says she is proud of the women who stand up for themselves, as they understand they will face consequences, but they stand up for what is right, no matter the cost. For this reason, she is known as a proponent and as a voice for what is right in the workplace.
Rajani loves to keep busy with the activities of her children, her daughter, Nidhi, and her son, Neel. She also loves to cook, and she often tries new, exotic Indian cuisine and Indian-Chinese fusion foods. She is a handicrafter, and enjoys making paper flowers and baskets, and she tries to teach these crafts to her children, who also enjoy origami. She’s a strong believer in recycling and taking care of the planet, which is something she’s passing down to her kids.
Cristal Gonzalez | Product Marketing Manager
Cristal is the Product Marketing Manager at IdentityMind, where she oversees the company’s marketing campaigns and initiatives in an effort to increase IdentityMind brand knowledge and visibility.
Cristal was born in San Jose de las Matas, a small farming village in the Dominican Republic. She lived in a house situated on a farm, shared with her two older sisters, parents, and other relatives. Wanting a better life for their children, Cristal’s parents left for the US when she was two, leaving Cristal and her sisters in the care of her godparents back on the island. Three years later, her mother returned to take them home — to a studio apartment in the Bronx.
Cristal and her sisters spent several years assimilating into American culture and learning English. In an effort to keep her daughters rooted in all things Dominican, Cristal’s mother sent her back to the island each summer to visit family, immerse her in her native culture, and to work the family’s farmland.
After spending several years in one of the toughest barrios of the Bronx, Cristal’s mother decided to move somewhere safer. At 10, with a newly single mother, Cristal moved to Orrville, Ohio. “It was honestly the first time my sisters and I felt like immigrants,” Cristal says, adding, “We were told we had ‘weird accents,’ we looked and dressed differently — everything we did was ‘weird.’ Being different wasn’t welcomed. Some even called us ‘dirty Dominicans.’” The family moved back to New York, where Cristal began to flourish in the face of adversity. She started high school, becoming captain of her volleyball, softball, and basketball teams, while also helping immigrants learn English. She graduated high school with honors as the salutatorian of her class.
Cristal obtained her B.S. from Fordham University in business administration with secondary concentration in marketing and management, and began her career at the TD Securities KYC department, and was promoted to team lead. After eight years, she left and began working for J.P. Morgan as a KYC associate on the syndicated loan trading floor. As challenging as she found this new role, Cristal wasn’t feeling fulfilled. After just two-and-a-half years, she decided to try something different, accepting a role as a relationship-onboarding associate for KYC reviews with Societi Generale.
Cristal then became engaged to her partner of three years, who had been offered tenure at California State University, Monterey Bay. “This didn’t make me sad, or angry; rather, I took it as an opportunity to change the narrative of my career and life,” Cristal explains, adding, “IdentityMind was looking for someone with extensive KYC experience at the enterprise level to help in marketing. I was offered the job, and I left NYC to start a new life.”
Cristal brings an in-depth perspective of how KYC is conducted at the enterprise level; she has extensive knowledge of the compliance issues banks and financial institutions face. She understands the language of the finance industry and the reasons why many within this sphere maintain siloed structures, much to their own disadvantage. “Cristal is bright, a go-getter, enthusiastic, hard working and the newest member of the Product Marketing team. She is a fantastic team member, and has already played a key role in jumpstarting key product marketing initiatives, including a webinar series and new marketing content for client reach-outs,” says Faisal Nisar, our VP of Product Management. Cristal’s knowledge of IdentityMind’s KYC, AML, sanctions screening, and transaction monitoring solutions allows her to understand what financial entities should be looking for, how to market to them, and how to answer their questions. The expertise in finance and KYC Cristal brings to IdentityMind rounds out the marketing team and offers a whole new perspective into the world of high finance. “I could tell right away that Cristal was going to fit right in with the rest of our team,” says Cristal’s marketing team associate, Janie Diaz, adding, “she comes to us with an incredible understanding of finance — what she’s added to this team is something it would have taken two or three other people to accomplish.”
“The most important thing for me has always been to be true to yourself. Take control of your life, as it’s just as valuable as anyone else’s. Be kind to yourself and to others,” Cristal says, adding, “As women, we’re incredibly strong, but we’re unstoppable when we support each other.” When she’s not advancing our efforts in RegTech, you’ll find Cristal running, dancing, and spending quality time with her family and friends in Los Gatos, California.
Kanoe Knight | Customer Success Manager
Kanoe is an IdentityMind Customer Success Manager in the Spokane office, where she manages accounts once they’re signed and handed over from sales. “Our first priority is to get the client integrated and to production as quickly as possible,” Kanoe says, adding, “We help troubleshoot, and look for any future needs. It’s important to build the relationship with the client and important that they know I am their advocate.”
Kanoe was born in Marysville, which is north of Seattle, WA. Her roots are Native American, Mexican, and Hawaiian, and she’s proud of all her different heritage and cultures. Her entire childhood revolved around horses, and she showed them competitively until she was 19, and to some degree in what Kanoe has dubbed her “second childhood.” She’s also a huge advocate for animals, specifically dogs, and mainly pit bulls and other bully breeds. Regarding pit bulls, Kanoe says, “Yes I have one, I’ve had a couple, and I firmly believe it’s not the breed, it’s the other end of the leash you need to worry about.”
Kanoe has worked mostly retail during her professional life, with Nordstrom being the last company she was with before IdentityMind. She worked mostly as a stylist, which she loved and still does from time to time on the side. She has styled for print and commercial media, as well as some of the movies and television shows that were filmed in and around Washington state.
Armed with a desire to move back to the Spokane area, Kanoe found herself on the hunt for a job in the area. After learning of the position with IdentityMind from a couple of friends whom she had worked with previously, Kanoe began working with IdentityMind in July of 2018. “I was told about the position from a couple of people that I had previously worked with, who also knew I was moving back to Spokane from Seattle and looking. And here I am,” Kanoe explains.
When discussing what she adds to the team, Kanoe is quick to point out that she’s surrounded by people who have “been at this for a while,” noting that what she brings to the table is a fresh set of eyes. Coming from a fresh perspective has allowed Kanoe and others on the team to identify areas in need of improvement and places where new growth is possible. Kanoe is known throughout the company for her bright sense of humor, which keeps the Spokane office on its toes. In the interview for this profile about her, Kanoe noted that one of the things she likes most about working for IdentityMind is getting coworkers to sing boy band songs with her; a comment we know is not lost on her fellow Customer Success Managers.
“Ayn Rand once said, ‘The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me,’ this is my favorite quote,” Kanoe says, “because it’s really only up to me how far I want to go and what I let get in my way.” A self-described open book, Kanoe makes all of us laugh, and shows us what it means to enjoy the work you do each day. When she’s not helping IdentityMind customers succeed, you’ll find her working with rescue animals, relaxing with friends, and hamming it up with her pitty, Evalani, and other pups.
Mirel Aguirre | LATAM Sales Director
Mirel is the Sales Director for Latin America and she works from the IdentityMind office in Mexico City, where she’s know as a force to be reckoned with. When it comes to landing new clients, “She’s a tiger shark,” says Rao Wu, IdentityMind’s Head of Sales, who goes on to say Mirel is incredibly kind to new and existing customers as well as her internal team.
Mirel was born in Mexico City, and she loves it there — she says she cannot imagine being anywhere else. Her family’s history helps make sense of her deep love for the sprawling Latin metropolis: her father’s side of the family has been in the city for three generations. Mirel also lived in France for one year when she was 21 years old, but she’s quick to tell you, she was ready to come back home. Her maternal grandparents are from Spain, except for her maternal grandfather, who is from England, and whose wife is a Mexican native Zapoteca.
Mirel went to school in Mexico City at the Universidad Mexicana for an Administrative Management degree, which landed her work in sales almost right away. Before coming to IdentityMind, Mirel previously worked as a commercial director at EmailAge, where she was in charge of large key accounts for which she ran identity verification. She was also a general manager for Fiolo for four years, where she had a variety of large responsibilities, including managing finance accounts overseas in places like Tel Aviv. Mirel has also worked for large corporate firms such as Honeywell and Grupo Bimbo, giving her 19 total years in sales.
Mirel says she is still learning her position with IdentityMind, but she says her strength lies in her ability to relay the message to clients about the huge opportunity IdentityMind offers to those who choose us for their AML and KYC needs, especially in areas like transaction monitoring and identity proofing. Her team in Mexico City adores her, and find her to be a well-rounded, outgoing, and overall sales dynamo who is always ready to lend an ear or hand.
Mirel has a 13-year-old daughter who she says loves to sing — they can often be found at home singing as they prepare dinner together. They enjoy spoiling their Chow Chow, watching horror movies, camping, and spending time outdoors together.
Ashley Stanley | Lead Client Success Manager
Ashley is IdentityMind’s Lead Client Success Manager. She leads the support team and provides the guidance needed for others to learn how to be client advocates. To enhance the success of our KYC and AML compliance solutions, Ashley and her team do everything in their power to ensure that our customers can be proud and satisfied with the IdentityMind offering.
Highlighting the importance of the Trusted Digital Identities that separate us from competitors, Ashley helps our internal team and our clients understand the IdentityMind difference. Kanoe Knight, a Customer Success Manager who works with Ashley explains, “One of the things I most appreciate about Ashley is her willingness to help wherever needed. She’s a true team player, and her commitment to her customers is incredible. She’s constantly looking for ways to either improve, or find a solution for any issues that arise.”
Ashley is a Colville Confederated Tribe Member and a descendant of the Lakes Band. The Colville Confederated Tribe is a consolidated tribe of 12 local Inland Northwest (INW) bands, including the Chief Joseph band of Nez Perce near the Washington-Canada border. Born in Spokane Valley, Ashley was raised by her grandparents in Inchelium, Washington, until she was four, when she was adopted by her aunt and uncle and raised in Spokane, where she continues to live today.
Always industrious and hard-working, Ashley got her first job at 14 working for Zip’s Drive-In. Since then, she has taken every opportunity to improve her chances of success and make a better life for herself and her family. Prior to working for IdentityMind, Ashley was a credit card processor specializing in e-commerce with Merchant E-Solutions (MeS), where she worked her way up to become Manager of the Account Setup and PCI Compliance teams for more than 11 years.
After being referenced in, Ashley was asked by IdentityMind CEO, Garrett Gafke, to join the team and assist with opening a new operations branch in Spokane, where she would manage the IdentityMind clientbase. “We immediately knew she would be a great fit based on her customer focus and get-it-done attitude,” Garrett says, adding, “We just love Ashley — she’s an integral part of the IdentityMind culture. Her ability to put our customers first makes her such an important part of what we aspire to every day.” Ashley helped to establish the IdentityMind Spokane office, where she currently leads her Customer Success Manager (CSM) team, including team members with product development, implementation, and support, as well as fintech experience. “Ashley has a wealth of industry and IdentityMind platform knowledge. She’s a team leader — always willing to help,” says another Spokane-based Customer Success Manager, Chad Mayer, adding, “She’s so in tune with her customers — she’s an amazing customer advocate.”
“Working with IdentityMind and succeeding the way I have as native makes me so proud,” Ashley says, adding, “To know that our SaaS Platform helps prevent sex trafficking with our detection measures adds to those reasons — because this is an epidemic with our native women and children today that does not have the notoriety or voice we are fighting to expose.”
Ashley continues to build our Spokane team and maintain our client relationships, and says she’s continuously developing true friendships every day, which is a meaningful part of the works she enjoys. Advocating for clients and helping to navigate them to success through planning with our engineering, operations, finance, marketing, and sales departments to achieve their goals.
When she’s not helping customers succeed at IdentityMind, Ashley loves exploring the outdoors, and enjoys camping, hiking, fishing, and gardening every chance she gets.
Jun Liang | Senior QA Engineer
Jun is a Senior Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer in the IdentityMind Engineering department. She initially joined IdentityMind as an Implementation Engineer, then moved over to the QA team. Because she knows the features of our patented eDNA and IdentityLink API well, Jun has a knack for being able to see things from the client perspective. Jun also has keen analytical abilities and strong methodical testing skills for the QA position she holds.
Born into a family of health workers in Shanghai, China, Jun attended Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and received her Master of Science degree in Chinese medicine. After graduation, Jun practiced Chinese medicine in Hong Kong for three years before joining the China branch of Johnson & Johnson as a hospital supervisor and product manager. Five years later, her career was interrupted by her immigration to the US, where she decided to study computer science. Two years after enrolling in a graduate program at Eastern Washington University, Jun completed her graduate work with a specialty in multimedia design. After 10 years of experience at two different tech companies, Jun landed her ideal job at IdentityMind.
“Growing up in a foreign country, and originally trained in a different field, I had to overcome some obstacles, including the language barrier, family relocation, cultural conflict, and professional retooling, to get to where I am today,” Jun tells us, adding, “Changes bring people both inconveniences and opportunities. Unanticipated circumstances forced me to adapt to new environments and start a fresh career quickly.” After moving to the US, Jun’s career changed from the medical field to the tech field. With 10 years of experience with a credit card processing company and a multimedia software developing company, in March 2015, Jun joined the team at IdentityMind, which she says opened a new world for her. “I learn new things every day and feel a great deal of fulfillment in my daily life,” Jun explains.
In one performance review, her supervisor, Cynthia Tham, Head of Engineering, wrote, “Jun has become an influencer in the company in her own quiet manner. She’s seen as someone with a lot of passion for quality and respect for her coworkers.” Cynthia also praises what she says is Jun’s “unique ability to take a complex feature and break it down to manageable and testable pieces,” noting this kind of professional quality truly “distinguishes Jun from the crowd.”
With a great attitude and hard work ethic, Jun is always willing to meet new challenges. She’s always open to any new idea or assignment, and she believes in teamwork. When asked what it’s like to work in tech, Jun explains, “Although the world of high tech is still a male-dominated field, I am never afraid of expressing my views or making suggestions to my colleagues — never underestimate the wisdom of a woman!”
In her leisure time, Jun enjoys traveling, photography, music, and all things fashion. In defense of her shopping habit, Jun quotes Coco Chanel: “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Jun adds, “Art and fashion bring a lot of joy and creativity to my life.” But, Jun’s personal style runs a lot deeper than what she chooses to wear. Her ability, deep understanding, and unrivaled experience make her a true asset to the IdentityMind team.
Jana Alonso | Product Manager
Jana is part of the IdentityMind Product team, where she works as the Product Manager. She works with our clients to obtain feedback, and subsequently, learn how we can make our KYC and AML compliance products better. It’s also Jana’s job to make sure that clients are getting the most out of the IdentityMind SaaS platform and our other offerings.
Jana grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, and is the third of four daughters. She recalls her childhood as an active and happy one, noting that her parents were very focused on helping Jana and her sisters understand the importance of independence and freedom on a personal level. Growing up, Jana remembers that one of her parents’ favorite things to say was, “More liberty, more responsibility,” something that sticks with her to this day. “The more I decide to take on, the more I am responsible for making sure I’m not negatively affecting others with my decisions,” Jana explains, adding, “It’s up to me to accomplish what I set out to do.”
Her goal-setting approach to life and work are no secret at IdentityMind, where Jana is known for her hard work, dedication, and clever spirit. As an intellectually and culturally curious person, Jana, like many others on the IdentityMind team, is well traveled, and has lived everywhere from Germany and the UK to China, Bali, and Indonesia. Her international travels made her the well-rounded person we know and work with today, as Cynthia Tham, Head of Engineering explains. “My first impression of Jana was that she is kind and caring. Overtime, I also learned that she’s fearless. She is a sponge and will learn anything to get the job done — she has this ‘nothing is rocket science, I will learn it’ attitude,” Cynthia says, adding, “I’m often in awe at how quickly Jana became an expert in our product with the ability to assist our clients in making the most of it on a regular basis.”
Discussing her introduction to IdentityMind, Jana explains she was working for meXBT, a crypto exchange client of IdentityMind, when she says she fell in love with the team and the product, and knew she needed to work with IdentityMind. Jana believes in the power of a positive mindset during the problem-solving process, suggesting that it gives her a perspective that’s better for getting to an outcome that’s also positive. “I think being able to understand the needs of our clients and being able to convey these needs to our team is one of the most interesting things my work requires of me,” Jana says, noting that, “Making sure our clients understand how important they are to us is the most important part of my job, so I’m always sure to convey this in every communication.”
Jana enjoys working and living in Mexico City; she resides in Miguel Hidalgo, an urban enclave known for its museums and views of Chapultepec Castle. When she’s not taking care of business at IdentityMind, you’ll find Jana relaxing at home, out dancing with friends, and enjoying movies.
Marie D. Sample | Executive Assistant to the CEO
Marie is the assistant to our CEO, Garrett Gafke, and she also assists with countless other administrative tasks, including HR, recruiting, onboarding, and employee departures — and that’s just the beginning. “Every member of our team relies on Marie; she’s the glue at IdentityMind — I couldn’t survive without her,” Garrett says, adding, “She is largely responsible for making it possible for me to focus on actionable steps in the important work we do, and she has an innate ability to organize and prioritize things in a way that keeps us on-track with our goals, both large and small.” All of this and so much more explain why Marie was named IdentityMind’s Rockstar in Q3 2015.
Born in a small town on the coast of Texas, Marie is the youngest of four children. She is half Mexican, and first-generation American on her father’s side of the family, which migrated from General Teran, Mexico. Marie’s father became a pharmacist, and later, an entrepreneur. Her mother was born in England, the only child of a US Air Force family, who later became the first female engineer for Exxon. “Never wasteful with what they had, my parents and grandparents taught me the value of working hard to achieve what you want,” Marie explains.
Having understood the value of hard work from an early age, Marie graduated from high school in just three years. Later, while working full-time as a columnist and editorial assistant at a local newspaper to pay her way through college, Marie obtained her Bachelor of Business Administration in three years as well. She went on to manage over 20 employees, teach fitness classes, and oversee maintenance at her local YMCA. At 22, Marie relocated to Houston when she was offered a management position with Target, where she managed a SuperTarget and the store’s softlines department. Though she appreciated the opportunity at Target, Marie did not — in her words — “love” retail; after 18 months, she moved on to pursue an administrative position as the assistant to the COO for Music World Entertainment — a premier entertainment company managing the careers of numerous artists, including Beyoncé.
But her time at Target wasn’t for naught: during her tenure there, Marie met her husband, Randy, a USMC officer, on a blind date. The two were married 16 months later. Shortly following their marriage, Randy and Marie moved to Pensacola, FL, where Randy began flight school. A short six months later, the couple was stationed in Corpus Christi, TX so Randy could complete flight school. While there, IdentityMind CEO, Garrett Gafke reached out to Marie after seeing her resume online, and offered her the assistant to the CEO position. “Seven years later, and I am still here! This company has seen me through six moves, the births of three children, and countless other milestones,” Marie says. When asked how Marie contributes to the IdentityMind team, everyone has a lot to say. Abram Gordon, an attorney for IdentityMind who regularly works with her, sums it up. “Marie is truly an indispensable member of our IdentityMind team. Not only is she the glue that holds the company together, she is unbelievably helpful, knows every aspect of the business, and has a fantastic personality.”
As a woman, a minority, a working mom and wife, and a business owner in her own right, Marie brings tremendous passion and loyalty to the IdentityMind team. Her unrivaled tenacity is an inspiration to the whole team — and everyone here knows, we couldn’t do it without Marie! When she’s not at work, you’ll find Marie trying new recipes for her husband, who has celiac disease, reading, going to the gym, and loving on her babies.
Cynthia Tham | Head of Engineering
Cynthia Tham is the Head of Engineering at IdentityMind. Her team spans the disciplines of software development, quality assurance (QA), documentation, and user experience (UX). Cynthia began working with IdentityMind when there were just seven people on the team. But, she explains, “It was important to me that the company grow while maintaining a flat culture that encourages honesty and teamwork, and we have done that by tenfold.” Cynthia believes that an environment that allows people to “agree to disagree” promotes growth — as long as it does not come from a place of ego. Those on her team know, open discussions are a guiding principle, and they have led to many of our successes in engineering and beyond.
Like many of her peers in tech and at IdentityMind, Cynthia is a global citizen. Born in Myanmar, Cynthia left the country when she was two, spending her formative years in Hong Kong, California, Florida, and Texas; she continues to visit Europe frequently today, as her husband’s family is in Ireland. She says that having experiences of many places with cultural and political differences allows her to be more open-minded, makes her ready to accept new circumstances, and lets her be comfortable with the unknown.
Everyone in her family always expected Cynthia to be a lawyer. As a child, she always enjoyed a good debate — for those who know her, this hasn’t changed. Her earliest career interest was in social work, because people were interesting to her, and because she wanted to be helpful. After a summer interning at a community center, Cynthia realized she would not be able to detach her emotions after witnessing the hardship of the underprivileged public. She later entered UCSD as a chemical engineering major. After quickly realizing she enjoyed programming more than chemistry, Cynthia changed her major, and the rest, she says, is history.
Cynthia likes the software industry because it’s growing rapidly, and, as she says, “The work is always interesting and exciting. I love that I am always learning something new and working with intelligent people.” When it comes to wanting to have the best solution, Cynthia says software engineers are the perfect people to engage with for an honest and healthy debate, where the answers are about so much more than just winning an argument. She’s known among her peers at IdentityMind as a strong proponent for intellectual conversation, which has allowed her to build a strong engineering team. Cynthia has co-authored and lead papers and other publications about the OMG Mobile Agent System Interoperability Facility (MASIF), the SQL Access Group’s Call Level Interface and ISO 9579-1 OSI-RDA Generic Model, Service & Protocol.
With regard to her role at IdentityMind, Cynthia says, “I am a team builder. I believe in the power of the team, and I aim to bring people together who are collaborators with a high work ethic. To those I interview and those who have just joined the team, I say, ‘We hire people with strong work-ethic; you own the outcome and timeliness of your work, but you are never alone.’” Those who work with Cynthia have a lot to say about her warm approach, her sense of camaraderie, and the fact that she listens to her team. “Cynthia has a work ethic that inspires the rest of us, but it’s so much more than that,” says Product Marketing Manager, Cristal Gonzalez, adding, “She has a deep understanding and knowledge of the platform throughout all of its iterations because she’s been here since the beginning. To newcomers, this insight is so valuable.”
When she’s not at IdentityMind, Cynthia likes to dabble in different hobbies, including gardening, crocheting, and carpentry — her most recent accomplishment is a chicken coop. Cynthia lives with her husband, two children, Havanese dog, hamster, and four chickens. “Unfortunately, it’s illegal to own a hedgehog in California, so I’ll have to stop here,” Cynthia jokes. She says she feels blessed to work with the IdentityMind team every day. Those lucky enough to work with Cynthia will tell you: the feeling is mutual.