San Francisco HR Star Conference
Thursday, September 8, 2022
Featured Presenters


Brian Hilliard is an international speaker, best-selling author and success coach. Brian started his business in 2001 and has written 7 books, including How to Overachieve without Over Committing as well as Networking Like a Pro. In addition he has published over 300 podcast episodes, produced hundreds of video trainings and has delivered presentations to over 400 audiences, mainly in the areas of organizational leadership, high performance success and team achievement. He is an expert on finding ways to accelerate results and reach organizational and personal goals faster. Prior to starting his training and speaking business, Brian worked for GE Capital where he led different teams in Chicago and Atlanta as part of the prestigious Management Development Program. Brian’s work has appeared nationally in Entrepreneur Magazine, Black Enterprise and on the Martha Zoller Morning Show – where his interview was broadcast to 2 million listeners. Brian is a proud graduate of Duke University.


Allison West, Esq., SHRM-SCP, AWI-CH is the Managing Principal of Employment Practices Specialists LLC 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 frequent speaker on employment law and human resources topics at national conferences related to human resources and diversity. Allison specializes in delivering customized in-house training programs to companies of all sizes, serving a wide variety of industries. Her clients include: Chiquita Brands, SanDisk, Kodak EasyShare Gallery, Sharp Hospital, and Portola Pharmaceuticals. 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.


Sheree Knowles, SPHR, CPM is a talented executive with over 25 years of HR leadership and project management experience. She is the founder of two human capital and talent management firms: HR Knowledge Source (HRKS) and Human Capital Consulting Consortium (H3C). In 2021 HRKS was recognized as one of the Top 30 Small Businesses of the Year in Cobb County, Georgia and was featured in the Atlanta Business Chronicle as well as in a televised edition of Inside The Blueprint. Prior to founding HRKS and H3C, Sheree held several highly visible senior-level HR positions for companies with national geographic footprints, including VP of HR for a $1B+ professional services firm. Her experience includes project management as well as leading centralized and matrixed teams in the following areas: talent acquisition; workplace civility; diversity, equity and inclusion; learning and development; talent management; performance management; employment investigations; compliance; organizational design and development; employee engagement and human resources optimization. Sheree is an accomplished practitioner who has achieved multiple certifications and designations throughout her career including: EQi 2.0, SPHR, CPM (Certified Project Manager), MBTI and DiSC. In addition she is a Certified EEOC Investigator, a Certified Facilitator for ELI’s Civil Treatment Programs, a Master Facilitator for Facebook’s Leadership and Diversity Programs and a Certified Emotional Intelligence Coach. As an inclusion and diversity leader, she helps organizations build respectful work environments where all humanity is valued and where unique differences bridge people together. Sheree is a sought-after speaker, subject matter expert and dynamic facilitator where she blends humor and high energy with real-world examples and practical applications. She has been a presenter at multiple HR conferences as well as featured on radio and television. Sheree is also active with a variety of nonprofit organizations and has served as a Board Advisor for the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources Atlanta Chapter. Sheree is a graduate of the University of Dayton.


Matt Charney is the Talent Acquisition Community Leader for HR.com where he serves as the internal subject matter expert and external spokesperson for all recruiting and hiring research, content, thought leadership, learning and events for HR.com - and its 2 million members. Previously Matt served as a Partner and Executive Editor for Recruiting Daily, the world’s largest dedicated content platform for talent acquisition and staffing. Matt started his career as a corporate recruiter for companies such as Amgen, Warner Bros. and the Walt Disney Company. He has held marketing leadership roles for HR Technology companies, including Cornerstone OnDemand, Allegis Group, SmartRecruiters and Monster Worldwide. In addition, Matt has served as an advisor to over two dozen startups in the HR Technology space, including Textio, Universum Global, HiringSolved (acquired by Allegis), HumanPredictions, TrustSphere, Clinch (acquired by Pageup), Rolepoint (acquired by Jobvite), Drafted (acquired by Instawork), Take the Interview (acquired by Entelo), TextRecruit (acquired by iCIMS), Worqdrive and Paired Sourcing. A graduate of the screenwriting conservatory at the University of Southern California, Matt’s writing has been featured in publications such as the Huffington Post, Forbes, Mashable and the Los Angeles Times. His personal blog, Snark Attack, was named by Wordpress as one of the top 15 business blogs in the world. Matt has been recognized as one of the top influencers in the HR and recruitment industry by such publications as Business Insider, HR Magazine, HRO Today, the Sunday Times, the Guardian and Human Capital Magazine.


Shari Dunn is Managing Director, Compensation for Gallagher HR Consulting - formerly CompAnalysis - a Division of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Shari has a long and varied background in compensation management, having worked both internally as a manager and as a consultant in this field with such firms as McKinsey & Co., Deloitte, Boise Cascade and Bank of America. In 1980, she established CompAnalysis, a consultancy dedicated to helping employers make successful compensation decisions. Prior to being acquired by the Arthur J. Gallagher Company in 2010, the firm had grown to become a leading independent San Francisco Bay Area compensation management consulting firm, specializing in broad-based pay plans. She and her staff work with both non-profit and for-profit employers to develop and maintain base pay plans, executive compensation guidelines and incentive pay approaches. Shari has a B.A. degree in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. She is the former President of the 5,000 + member Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA) and maintains active memberships in the Bay Area Compensation Association and WorldatWork.


Sophie Alcorn, Esq. is the Founder & CEO of Alcorn Immigration Law with offices in Silicon Valley, Dallas and New York City. Sophie is a leading California immigration attorney, entrepreneur, and thought leader. Board Certified as a Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization, she has helped thousands of people successfully navigate the U.S. immigration system. As an expert on U.S. and global immigration, corporations and entrepreneurs frequently seek her counsel on immigration mobility. Sophie has been quoted in publications like The New York Times, Financial Times and The Atlantic, and she has been invited to speak about immigration topics at TechCrunch Disrupt, the Bar Association of San Francisco and Stanford University. She authors TechCrunch's popular weekly immigration advice column, Dear Sophie, and she hosts the podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups. Sophie also founded the nonprofit - the Community for Global Innovation - to support international students in the U.S. obtain subsidized, high-quality legal advice and access to employment opportunities. Sophie’s mission is to help people harness their strengths, follow their hearts, find direction in their goals and live out their dreams.


Tony Paixão, CFE®, CFI® is the Executive Director of the International Association of Interviewers as well as a Senior Consultant for Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, Inc. A Certified Forensic Interviewer, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a national speaker, Tony has served in a variety of different roles in both the private and public sectors. Tony has held multiple positions in the private sector eventually leading him to manage all LP, security and safety initiatives for 400+ locations for a private retailer as well as a team of investigators. While in the public sector Tony served as a Federal Agent responsible for investigating Family Sexual Assault and Violence cases and also as a police officer. Throughout Tony’s career he has conducted investigations and interrogations for hundreds of cases, ranging from retail fraud to homicide to sexual assault and employee relations matters. As a presenter Tony has created customized training programs, presented seminars, hosted webinars as well as conducted live broadcasts of training. Tony has also played an integral role in the ongoing research and evolution of content creation and innovative teaching methods. Tony is a graduate of James Madison University, located in Harrisonburg, VA with a BS in Justice Studies.


Karen Gifford, MA is the Chief People Officer for Nobell Foods. Karen has over 30 years’ experience as a human resources executive, organizational development professional and executive coach. Karen takes workplace and individual challenges as engagement opportunities for internal transformation and values alignment. As a top HR leader at Virgin Orbit, Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Electronic Arts, Califia Farms, Ampaire and most recently Nobell Foods, she helps purpose-driven companies develop the leadership, people, processes and systems needed to accelerate performance. She is a vegan, environmentalist and animal lover, and in her spare time she is building a farm in Sequim, Washington where she aspires to facilitate coaching and mindfulness retreats among the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula. Karen earned her B.A. in Sociology from San Diego State University and her M.A. in Human Resources from National University.


Rich Gamboa is a Senior Retirement Plan Consultant with UBS Financial Services, Inc. Over the past 40+ years Rich has provided CFOs, business owners and HR departments with highly personalized retirement plan consulting services. He leads one of the Bay Area’s top advisory teams - the Peninsula Financial Group - and was recently recognized by Forbes as a Best-In-State Wealth Advisor (2022). Rich brings an expertise in 401(k)/403(b) plan design, investment advisory and fiduciary education to help Bay Area companies deliver a leading benefit to employees. Rich graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in economics and has obtained the Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist (CRPS) designation.
Joe Galbraith is also a Senior Retirement Plan Consultant and works alongside Rich on UBS’ Peninsula Financial Group. Joe is specifically focused in working with high-growth Silicon Valley-based companies to reduce risk and streamline 401(k) plan operations while providing the necessary resources and education for employee success. Joe was recently nationally recognized by NAPA as a Top 100 Retirement Plan Advisor under 40 (2022) and has obtained the Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist (CRPS) designation. Joe graduated from Santa Clara University with a bachelor's degree in Finance and played on their Division I tennis team.


Sejal Thakkar, Esq. is the Founder & Chief Civility Officer of TrainXtra. She has extensive experience providing legal advice and guidance to senior management, human resources professionals and legal counsel concerning employment practices and actions. Ms. Thakkar has conducted investigations or inquiries regarding hostile workplace, sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, retaliation and other matters related to employment law. Additionally, she delivers customized legal compliance training for sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, unconscious bias and other employment law topics. Ms. Thakkar's clients include: Coca-Cola, Verizon, Department of Motor Vehicles, Office of Systems Integrations, Department of General Services, Bureau of Land Management, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Oakland Housing Authority. Ms. Thakkar earned a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a cum laude graduate of the Northern Illinois College of Law. 


Dave Collins is the Founder & CEO of Oak and Reeds - a corporate training firm dedicated to using the tools of improvisation to train clients on everyday soft skills. Dave is an award-winning improvisor, speaker and corporate strategist with over a decade of experience performing and coaching improv. Along with his teammates, Dave won the National Collegiate Improv Tournament. He has headlined shows across the United States and individually has coached hundreds of students and professionals in the art and practice of applied improvisation. Prior to founding Oak and Reeds, he worked as a change management expert at AECOM. As part of AECOM's workplace strategy team, Dave helped clients to examine the relationship between workspace and productivity, enabling people to break old habits and embrace change. Dave has a BA in Communication and Economics from Northwestern University with a specialization in Team Leadership.


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.


Alexis Haselberger, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, RCC is a time-management, productivity and leadership coach. She spent the first 15+ years of her career managing human resources and operations at several early-stage start-ups. Over that time Alexis developed and implemented numerous leadership and productivity systems as well as training programs to ensure that goals were met and that the companies thrived. Additionally, Alexis has worked at an HR outsourcing firm as an HR consultant to over 100 companies. Today, through her private practice, Alexis helps individuals and teams do more and stress less via coaching and corporate workshops on the issues of time-management, productivity and leadership. Her client list includes notables like Google, Upwork, Lyft, Silicon Valley Bank among many others. Alexis holds a BA from New York University and remains active in the Bay Area HR community.


Lorie Reichel-Howe is the Founder and Lead Trainer of Conversations in the Workplace as well as a professional mediator and a leadership communication coach. She equips managers, teams and business professionals to have “Safe Conversations” – transformative dialogue that uncovers hidden workplace issues. Whether addressing challenging team dynamics, mismanaged expectations, cultural insensitivity or good old-fashioned bad behavior, “Safe Conversations” foster greater innovation, inclusion and collaboration within organizations. With over 20 years of experience in communications, management and training and development, Lorie is passionate about supporting organizations in creating a culture where people love where they work and love the people they work with. Organizations Lorie has supported include Pinterest, SHRM, PIHRA, HR.com, Women in Technology International, Los Angeles Women’s Leadership Conference, Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, Santa Clara Superior Court, San Jose State University, Santa Clara County Office of Education among many others. Lorie received her B.A. from Seattle Pacific University and her mediation and conflict coaching certificate from Community Boards in San Francisco. In addition, Lorie has served as adjunct staff with Antioch University.


James Palen is a Consultant at TIAA and a ScholarShare 529 representative. A firm believer that education is one of the most valuable treasures we can give to our future generations, James helps organizations to provide education and support for employees looking to save for education through the Scholarshare Workplace Savings Program. Increasingly employers have become interested in the growing need for their employees to support financial issues beyond the paycheck, including 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. James works diligently with organizations of all sizes and industries to help their employees develop a grounding in financial wellness as well as tax efficient savings strategies and proper education planning. James has a strong background in comprehensive financial planning, but he is now wholly focused on education savings. James holds a degree in Financial Economics from the University of Maine.


Taylor Bridges is an Employee Benefits Broker with Bolton. With a background in recruiting, marketing and client relations, Taylor is practiced at curating experience-driven results. As an Employee Benefits Broker with Bolton, she specializes in fostering cultures where employees can thrive through a total-rewards approach. Her knowledge of talent recruitment and retention allows her to effectively partner with companies on the optimization of their benefits programs so that no matter where their employees might be working from they always feel engaged. Taylor is also passionate about exploring innovative benefit solutions that will create both immediate and lasting impact. In her previous roles at Bolton, Taylor was instrumental in employee training and development. Taylor is an active member of PIHRA and a graduate of Azusa Pacific University.


Braden L. 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, California; Atlanta, Georgia; San Francisco, California; and Cleveland, Ohio. Over 3,200 HR professionals attended an HR Star Conference in 2019.