Los Angeles HR Star Conference
Wednesday, April 10, 2024
Speaker Information

Jill Christensen is a best-selling author, international keynote speaker, employee engagement expert and President of Jill Christensen International – a firm based in Arizona that focuses on teaching companies proven strategies to re-engage their employees. With three decades of real-life, in-the-trenches, Fortune 500 executive-level business experience, Jill’s view is radically different from many other employee engagement experts. Jill understands how organizations operate and what they need to do differently in order to attract, retain and engage employees. Her first book, "If Not You, Who? Cracking the Code of Employee Disengagement," is a global best-seller, and her popular blog was named a Top 100 Corporate Blog alongside Apple and Microsoft. Her second book, "Remote 101: The Secret to Engaging Virtual Workers," debuted during the pandemic. Thanks to her status as a Top 200 Global Thought Leader to Watch, a Six Sigma Green Belt and a Top 101 Employee Engagement Influencer, Jill partners with the best and brightest leaders around the world. She has presented her strategies to create extraordinary workplace cultures to over 500,000 people over the past eight years in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and India.

Allison West, Esq., SHRM-SCP, AWI-CH is the Managing Principal of Employment Practices Specialists and holds a simple approach to employment practices: be proactive. Using her employment law background, coupled with her sound knowledge of human resources practices, Allison provides proactive risk management services aimed at helping companies both prevent and resolve employment claims. She is a top-rated speaker at the annual SHRM conference as well as other HR conferences speaking on employment law and human resources topics. Allison specializes in delivering customized in-house training programs to companies of all sizes, serving a wide variety of industries. Her expertise also includes delivering one-on-one sensitivity training to executives, managers and employees concerning harassment, discrimination, and disciplinary and/or behavioral issues as well as conducting workplace investigations, providing expert witness assistance and other HR consulting. Allison is a member of the State Bar of California and holds an AWI-CH credential.

Debbie Birndorf, Esq., MBA is a Partner at Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP. She has practiced law for 30 years at firms in both Chicago and Los Angeles. Debbie represents employers in all aspects of employment law, including defense of harassment and discrimination claims, wage claims, wage and hour class actions, wrongful termination, disability claims and misappropriation of trade secrets. She also provides preventative counseling and drafts and reviews employment contracts, severance agreements, employee handbooks and policies. Debbie has been named a 2022 Super Lawyer in Employment and Labor. She was previously awarded the Super Lawyer honor in 2013 and 2015-2021. She was also named one of the 2022 Women of Influence: Attorneys by Los Angeles Business Journal, named one of the Top Employment and Labor Attorneys in Los Angeles and one of the Top Women Attorneys by Los Angeles Magazine. Birndorf Law Offices was also recognized by Los Angeles Magazine as one of the Best Law Firms in Los Angeles. Debbie serves on the Executive Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Labor and Employment Section and Co-Chairs the Saturday Seminar Program Committee. Debbie earned her B.A. from UCLA, her M.B.A. from NYU and her law degree from Washington University in St. Louis, where she graduated at the top of her class. In addition to her full-time practice, Debbie frequently speaks on a variety of employment law topics and teaches Legal Aspects of Employee Relations at UCLA Extension as part of the HR Certificate program.

Clark Souers, MBA is the CEO & Founder of EXPERT EFFECT®., a company which not only provides human resources excellence for a minimal investment, but surrounds business executives, actors, athletes and entrepreneurs with a team of stress-resiliency experts. Previously, Clark was Director of Human Resources for Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), where he was responsible for all employee-related matters for entertainment venues such as Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, The Colosseum at Caesars Palace and The 02 in London. While with the Hilton, Millennium and Westin hotel chains, he developed expertise in the areas of training and development, employee relations and policy development. In the non-profit sector Clark held executive level HR positions with Community Partners and Penny Lane. Clark has appeared on NBC, at high profile conferences like DisruptHR and at dozens of large companies to speak on the topics of stress-resiliency, effectiveness, human resources and leadership. In addition, he has provided coaching to high performers from all walks of life with a focus on improving their ability to accomplish great things while living a life that is ultra-enjoyable. Clark is certified as a Korn Ferry and DDI trainer, and after attending the Co-Active Training Institute became an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. He was valedictorian of his class at Pepperdine University and earned his MBA from Arizona State University.

Phyllis H. Sarkaria, MBA, MA is the CEO of The Sarkaria Group where she is a certified coach, facilitator and trusted adviser. With more than 30 years of leadership experience, Phyllis has held executive roles in human resources and government affairs with responsibility for strategic planning, merger integration and team effectiveness. She has led multi-million-dollar system implementation and integration initiatives, and she has worked closely with top executive leaders to build capability and improve organizational outcomes. Prior to founding The Sarkaria Group, Phyllis served as Vice President of Human Resources for Quidel Corporation - a leading medical diagnostics manufacturer. There she oversaw the company’s global HR strategy and programs for over 12 years. Prior to joining Quidel, Phyllis held roles in HR, financial analysis, strategic planning and government affairs, mainly with large corporations in the energy industry. Today she works with clients from a wide range of industries, serving as a catalyst to help leaders and teams gain fresh perspectives and elevate their performance. Her coaching certifications are from the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute, Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching as well as Systemic Team Coaching from Peter Hawkins. A Master Certified Executive Coach and a published scholar on authentic leadership, Phyllis is the author of Courageous Clarity: Navigating the Way Forward on Your Leadership Journey. Phyllis teaches Ethics and HR Analytics in the Organizational Leadership and Human Resources Management programs at Claremont Lincoln University. She holds a BBA in Finance and an MBA from Texas Tech University as well as an MA in Ethical Leadership from Claremont Lincoln University. Phyllis believes that leadership is a journey, not a destination, and that HR is often called upon to assist others on the journey of building their leadership capabilities.

Candice Gottlieb-Clark, MS, CRC, BCE is the Founder and CEO of Dynamic Team Solutions as well as a Business Advisor, Coach and Conflict Management Specialist. Candice founded Dynamic Team Solutions, to help businesses strengthen their leaders and employees through enhanced conflict management, communication, teamwork and leadership. Dynamic Team Solutions provides executive and leadership coaching, team building and development, and conflict management and resolution to positively transform business functionality in terms of employee relations, morale, turnover, culture and productivity. Candice is a sought after speaker and writer on the topics of leadership, teamwork, communication and conflict management and is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Candice holds a Master's degree in Counseling from San Diego State University, is a Certified Mediator of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and is a Board Certified Executive Coach.

Blair Martin, AIF is the Managing Principal of Stonebridge Financial Group where he leads a team of financial professionals in providing strategic financial services and ongoing, proactive support to his corporate and private clients. At Stonebridge Financial Group Blair creates customized financial strategies designed to preserve and grow corporate and private clients’ investment portfolios based on their individual goals. Blair began his financial career in 2001 at American Express Financial Advisors, where he gained valuable experience in individual wealth management and goal-based financial plans. In 2004 Blair joined Smith Barney, where he expanded his practice to encompass corporate retirement plans and executive benefits. There he gained recognition for his knowledge of 401(k) plans and client relations. In 2009 he was asked to join Stonebridge Financial Group, where he joined the Elite Advisor Group. Blair holds an Accredited Investment Fiduciary designation. He received a BA degree in International Business and French from the University of Oregon and an Associate’s degree in Viticulture, which he puts to use in his family’s wine business Toby Lane Vineyards.

Arta Wildeboer, Esq. is an accomplished attorney and an HR consultant at the helm of the Law Office of Arta Wildeboer - a boutique firm based in Downey, California that focuses on labor and employment law and a wide range of civil litigation. Arta is adept at crafting strategic solutions that emphasize settlements over trials, effectively balancing client benefits with risk mitigation. His practice is geared towards achieving optimal outcomes while ensuring client understanding and satisfaction. Arta has a diverse range of clients who he helps by making complex legal processes accessible to those less versed in the legal system. In addition to his legal practice, he also consults for companies, combining the roles of an HR Director and General Counsel. This unique position allows him to guide organizations in harmonizing their human resources approaches with compliance, creating a legally compliant and efficient workplace while delivering excellence and dedicated service. Arta holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona and a J.D. from Whittier Law School.

Liliana O. Salazar, Esq. is the Chief Compliance Officer for the Pacific Region for HUB International and is responsible for addressing employers’ health and welfare responsibilities under federal and state laws and city ordinances. She works closely with HUB’s service teams and clients to develop short-term and long-term strategies that allow clients to remain in compliance while addressing clients’ financial and human capital needs. Liliana interacts with regulatory agencies such as the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Treasury Department, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state insurance departments to discuss the applicability of laws and regulations to group health plans. Liliana possesses 25 years of experience in addressing the compliance and regulatory needs of employers and their group health plans. She actively worked with carriers and clients in ensuring their compliance with the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and HITECH Act rules, GASB 45 obligations and more recently the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Prior to joining HUB, Liliana was National Practice Leader for the Employee Benefits Compliance Practice of Wells Fargo Insurance Services and Vice President of Compliance for ABD Insurance Services. Liliana is a regular speaker at national and state conferences sponsored by employers, employee benefit chapters and HR associations, including ISCEBS, SHRM, CALPELRA, PERLA, NAFOA and others. She is also a regular contributor to national and regional employee benefit publications. Due to her many industry contributions over the years, Liliana was the recipient of the Women to Watch Award from Business Insurance.

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes, PhD. is the Dean of Teaching, Learning & Leadership at Claremont Lincoln University. She is interested in curriculum development, immersive education, leader training, cross cultural engagement and public policy. Her research interests include mindfulness, resilience and equipping communities to build programs and policies that promote justice and flourishing. She believes that being human is a messy endeavor and that there are ways to help us get through any challenge together. Dr. Varnon-Hughes has worked with a number of organizations around the utilization of mindfulness to create success within the workplace. In addition she has presented to a large number of audiences who enjoy her enthusiasm, engaging presentation style along with her ability to share practical ideas for any organization. Dr. Varnon-Hughes holds advanced degrees from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and Claremont Lincoln University in Claremont, California.

Brett L. Ward, CFI® is the Vice President of Client Relations for Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, Inc. (WZ) as well as a consultant and an instructor. Over the span of his career, Brett has led over 850 seminars on interview and interrogation techniques, and he has conducted hundreds of investigations throughout the United States for private, law enforcement and government entities. In addition is a frequently requested speaker for the National Retail Federation, American Society of Industrial Security, Eye for Retail – Europe as well as multiple labor and employment conferences. Brett's government sector clients include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI; the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Brett began his career in corporate investigations in 1988 with the former May Company. He was promoted to Regional Investigations Director over multiple states in 1996 before accepting a position with WZ in April 1998. Brett currently runs the Private Division for WZ, a responsibility that includes 240 clients and 150 contractual and open registration programs annually. Brett graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma and received his degree in Finance, Business Administration.

Lauren Sweeney is the Vice President of Rise Up For You - a global, SHRM-certified, educational and motivational company that focuses on enhancing company culture and personal development through teaching soft skills. Their mission is to help serve humanity by focusing on its most essential component: the people. Lauren has spoken for thousands of people on leadership, emotional intelligence and women in the workplace, and she has been featured on multiple podcasts, in Shout LA magazine, and recognized in a number of California Chamber Magazines. She is an activator and a creative thinker with a heart for public service. Disciplined and goal-oriented, Lauren has a passion for leadership development and collaboration. She holds a Bachelor's of Science in Community and Regional Development from UC Davis and advanced coaching certifications from the Direct Sales World Alliance (DSWA). At UC Davis Lauren earned the prestigious Charles Hess Community Service Award for her efforts in the community. Lauren thrives on questions-oriented mentoring, active listening, leadership development and being a positive example of what she teaches. Recently Lauren was awarded the 2021 Ambassador of the Year for the Brea Chamber in Orange County. She serves on the Executive PIHRA Board as the Regional Representative for the Central Chapters.

Tiana Sanchez is the unstoppable force behind TSI LLC - a talent and development powerhouse. For over a decade Tiana has been the go-to Corporate Trainer and Business Consultant for heavy-hitters in the public and private sectors across the U.S. As a best-selling author, executive coach, corporate trainer and host of the Like a REAL Boss podcast, Tiana's consulting prowess is sought out by top tier organizations such as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sempra, Mercedes Benz Research and Development, Sherwin Williams, Health-Ade Kombucha, Sony Music, the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles just to drop a few names. With two impactful books to her name, "Undefeatable" as well as "F'D Up - The UPside of Failure," Tiana has been rewriting the rules of success in style.

Roberta Bechtel is the Director of Qualified Plans at Stonebridge Financial Group. She has been in the retirement industry for over 30 years working in multiple capacities as a 401k analyst, financial advisor, third party administrator and most recently as a Senior Relationship Manager for Empower Retirement. Roberta joined Stonebridge Financial in 2021 with a goal to provide service to plans at the highest standard. She is responsible for monitoring retirement plans with the goal of improving plan design, investment options and helping ensure that plan costs are in line with those of similar size and complexity. Roberta holds a Series 7 and 66 FINRA Registration as well as a California Insurance License.

Adal Padilla is a Senior Consultant at TIAA and a ScholarShare 529 representative. His geographic area of influence includes Los Angeles County, Ventura County and Santa Barbara County. A firm believer that education is one of the most valuable treasures we can provide to our future generations, Adal focuses on helping employers enhance their benefits packages by incorporating the free and valuable financial wellness benefit of the ScholarShare 529 Workplace Savings Program. Employers increasingly have become interested in understanding the growing need for their employees to support financial issues beyond the paycheck, including health care benefits, retirement savings and college savings. Doing so connects the company to the employee’s family, reduces employee financial stress and helps foster loyalty and retention. Adal Padilla joined TIAA in 2018 and brings with him over 10 years of financial services experience. He has worked with some of the nation's top employers and major universities. In addition Adal is an active member of the TIAA Business Resource Groups, volunteering for different projects to make a positive impact in area communities. Adal holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration at La Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico and holds FINRA series 7, 6, and 63 licenses as a financial professional.

Fernando Duran is the Human Resources Manager for Child Development, Inc. based in San Jose, California. There he supports 55 employees, consisting primarily of Child Care Counselors, who help low-income families in Santa Clara County gain access to subsidized childcare through the State of California. Fernando has over 10 years of HR experience that began in the amusement park industry with Cedar Fair. With a passion for training and development as well as a desire to share knowledge, he has spoken at several companies in different industries on the topics of leadership training and retention strategies. Fernando has also build HR departments from scratch for companies that previously lacked HR expertise. Fernando is currently pursuing his Master's of Science Degree in Human Resources. He aspires to become an HR Executive while continuing to inspire others to join the human resources career field. Fernando is an active member of the Bay Area Human Resource Executives Council.

Braden Albert is the Founder and President of the HR Star Conference and its parent company, Abbington Court Media. A graduate of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, Braden began organizing job fairs and trade shows in the mid 1990's. Intrigued by the idea of bringing people together for a shared, learning experience - and impressed by the impact such an experience can provide - Braden organized his first HR Star Conference in 1999. Today, the scope of the HR Star Conference includes annual events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Cleveland, Ohio where he is based. Each year about 3,000 HR professionals attend an HR Star Conference.