2018 Veterans In Business Network National Conference

Speakers & Workshops

To find more information about the speakers and workshops, click on a presenter to quickly jump to that section.

Tony Perez
Accidental Entrepreneur -A Story of Achievable Success

Chris Steely
Why the Business World Needs You, and How to Best Contribute as a Veteran

Leah Nelson
The Art of Relational Confrontation: Leadership Communication That Gets Results

Hawk Thomas
Forging Failure - Keys to Killing Your Business

Rene Cota
Business Relationship Management

Robert E. Jones
Understanding Indirect Rates, Pricing & Profitability

Stephen Schemenauer
Figuring Out the Land Navigation Course of Government Contracting

Adam Austin
Determining if Your Business Needs Cybersecurity and the First Steps to Implementing a Program

Heather Cox
Adding Zeros to Your Bottom Line: The Revenue Impactof Supplier Diversity

James Wittmack
New Ways to Add Value to Your Enterprise

Coreena Conley
Top Notch Capabilities Statement

Chris Tande
Top Notch Capabilities Statement

John Moses
How to Work with FAR and Non-FAR Agencies

Marleitha G. Williams
How to Work with FAR and Non-FAR Agencies

Ivette Jorge
How to Work with FAR and Non-FAR Agencies

Cole Woodman
Moderator - The Secrets & Differences of Working with Corporations, Government Agencies & Prime Contractors

Dennis Thurston
Panelist - The Secrets & Differences of Working with Corporations, Government Agencies & Prime Contractors

De Anna Andrews
Panelist - The Secrets & Differences of Working with Corporations, Government Agencies & Prime Contractors

Michael Aguillio
Contracting with California State Government

Mel Austin
Above & Beyond Banquet Dinner Emcee

TonyPerezTony Perez

godaddy_logoGM (VP) Security Product Group

Bio:  Tony is the former CEO and Co-Founder of Sucuri, a cybersecurity company that was acquired by GoDaddy, April 2017. Today he is the General Manager responsible for the security product group at GoDaddy. 

He is a former US Marine, serving between 2000 - 2005, and doing two tours in Iraq. He spent one year as a reservist between 2006 and 2007, and 6 years as a defense contractor between 2005 and 2011. In 2011 he set out to help build a new company that would make security accessible and affordable to everyday website owners. Today he is chartered with expanding on that vision, working to tackle the bigger problem online consumers have with digital trust. 

He holds an undergraduate degree in Technology Management (2009) and is actively pursuing his graduate degree in Business Administration (2019). 

Tony is a Marine Veteran.

Accidental Entrepreneur - A Story of Achievable Success

Description coming soon!

ChrisSteelyBWChris Steely

GPS signature logoManaging Director

Bio:  Chris is a transformational business leader, author, trainer, and business coach, who has trained thousands of business leaders worldwide on how to refine and apply optimal capabilities to their business, engage their teams, and learn how to make their businesses more profitable. A retired Marine Corps Logistics Officer, MBA, national champion athlete, and internationally renowned business consultant, Chris applies his business and leadership capabilities to help businesses perform better. He travels the world, coaching, inspiring, empowering, and facilitating business teams to optimize their performance, strategic vision development, and cross-pollination of ideas and ideals. 

Chris is a Marine Veteran.

Why the Business World Needs You, and How to Best Contribute as a Veteran

There are hidden resources within every person, team, and organization that are waiting to be discovered. These can be applied for the successful execution of organizational priorities. Engaging individuals to embody new learning facilitates organizational initiatives and provides a high return on investment. In essence, we transform and accelerate teaching and learning within organizations—making it more brain-based, collaborative, experiential, and engaging. Your adult education efforts can cultivate and liberate human genius to face complex challenges and find innovative solutions.


Leah Nelson

townsendDirector, Coach & Consultant

Bio:  Leah Nelson is a highly skilled leader with over 22 years of military, business and sales experience. As a coach and consultant, she helps individuals and businesses achieve growth, and new levels of results, while cultivating the relationships that help your business thrive. 

Leah is a Navy Veteran.

The Art of Relational Confrontation: Leadership Communication That Gets Results

Have you been avoiding some difficult conversations at work? Or have you had some of those conversations but then had to do some clean-up work because of the fallout?  This class will help you learn how to balance assertiveness with empathic listening.  You will learn how to maintain connection when giving performance feedback, thereby reducing pushback and negative outcomes to culture while still getting the results you need.

HawkNewHawk Thomas

ReidManaging Counsel

Bio:  Mark R. “Hawk” Thomas, Esq. is Managing Counsel at Reid Law PC, where he represents federal business ventures. Colonel Thomas is an industry executive, federal lawyer, military aviator, and electrical engineer with more than thirty years’ tested leadership in government contracting, technology development, and legal advocacy. He guides businesses through the regulatory labyrinth, technical challenges, financial complexities, and myriad legal mandates inherent to procurement transactions and disputes with federal agencies. A Wendelken legal scholar with graduate degrees in business and military operations as well as multiple postgraduate credentials, Colonel Thomas is also active in legal aid ministry and military charities.

Hawk is an Air Force Veteran.

Forging Failure - Keys to Killing Your Business

Federal contracts lawyers push their clients’ opponents over the edge and into the abyss while concurrently guiding their clients away from the same precipice. Most of the time an agency, board, or judge actually gives the failing party one final nudge; the prevailing lawyers merely show the government where to apply pressure. Once an opponent is on the brink, disposing of them is easy. At close range, it only takes “a little push.” This session explains how it works.

ReneCotaRene Cota


Bio:  CMG Alliance is a management consulting fi rm specializing in government acquisitions. Rene is a certified management specialist with over 15 years experience as a contract negotiator. His contract negotiation experience started with the law fi rm of Lacky and Demier. Through his experience with this large law fi rm the vision of providing government contracting consultation to businesses began.

He has managed major projects in federal, state and city government. His experience covers negotiations with government agencies and small to large business in the areas of contracting. He has testifi ed as an expert in federal and state courts in the area of policy and statute compliance. Rene began his fi rm as a DOD security contractor and quickly branched out to provide small business action plans for aerospace and large government contractors.

Rene is a Marine Veteran.

Business Relationship Management

The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived constraints. Typical constraints are scope, time, and budget. The secondary—and more ambitious—challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet pre-defined objectives.

Robert E. Jones, CPA, CPCM, NCMA FellowRobertBW
Government Contracts & Accounting Expert


Bio: Award-winning speaker Robert E. Jones shows audiences how to navigate the constantly changing legal and regulatory landscape of government contracts. In his engaging and highly rated presentations, he shares insider secrets drawn from 15 years of DoD contract and accounting experience.

Robert is a Veteran Advocate.

Understanding Indirect Rates, Pricing & Profitability

Indirect rates (fringe, overhead, and G&A) affect total cost of your product or service, influence price, and ultimately impact profitability. Join this information-packed seminar to learn about cost pools, calculating indirect rates, and improving your profitability. We'll explain the basics and introduce some advanced topics. You won't want to miss the tips and tricks we'll share to improve your bottom line profit.

StephenStephen Schemenauer


Bio:  Stephen Schemenauer MBA is President of Schemtosh Consulting, LLC based out of South Bend Indiana. Steve has been helping companies sell products and services to the government for over 6 years while earning his MBA. Schemtosh Consulting deals exclusively with small businesses and focuses his services on Veteran Owned Small Businesses..

Stephen is an Army Veteran.

Figuring Out the Land Navigation Course of Government Contracting

This course will focus on the steps to transition from commercial selling to the different vehicles which a company could utilize to sell to the government. It will speak about the very basic steps necessary to set up your company to sell on the federal level and will include a lengthy question and answer session to help companies with any challenges they may face getting into or succeeding in the government marketplace.

AdamAustinAdam Austin

HBlogoCybersecurity Lead

Bio:  Adam Austin has over a decade of experience as a systems and information assurance (cybersecurity) engineer on US Federal Government IT systems, in both classified and public trust environments.  Adam has led cybersecurity risk management, policy development, user training, systems engineering, and vulnerability remediation projects for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Systems (CMS), and NASA.  As Cybersecurity Lead for Haight Bey & Associates, Adam developed the "Cybersecurity Empowerment" framework for small-to-medium sized businesses and leads the development of Totem™, a security assessment management tool for small businesses.   

Adam is a Veteran Advocate.

Determining if Your Business Needs Cybersecurity and the First Steps to Implementing a Program

This workshop will help you discern between legitimate cybersecurity assessment and technology offerings, and the cybersecurity snake oil many vendors are peddling these days.  Implementing a cybersecurity program starts with a cybersecurity assessment, so we'll differentiate between the various types of assessments being offered, and where you should begin.  We'll draw analogies between cybersecurity assessments and an assessment process you are probably already familiar with: home inspection. 

HeatherHeather Cox


Bio:   As president of Certify My Company Heather Cox works with both diverse businesses and corporations. She assists diverse businesses with all aspects of certification, helps to increase their visibility in supplier markets, and connects certified businesses with the corporations eager to do business with them.  She is an accomplished business executive, a natural teacher and thought leader and has a passion for supporting diversity in business and beyond.

Heather is a Veteran Advocate.

Adding Zeros to Your Bottom Line: The Revenue Impact of Supplier Diversity

Entrepreneurs and corporations that understand the expansive benefits of diversity are better positioned to impact the bottom line of their companies.
Supplier Diversity makes the business world look more like the real world and has wide-reaching benefits for businesses, the economy, and our communities.
Supplier Diversity expert Heather Cox presents the compelling business case for Supplier Diversity and why certified suppliers are an indispensable part of any successful program. You will leave the session with actionable tools for managing every aspect of a Supplier Diversity program, and for achieving certified success as a diverse business.


James Wittmack


Bio:  James Wittmack had his business stolen from him at gunpoint 27 years ago.  Since then he has been doing everything he can to prevent any business owner from getting into a similar predicament.  James has helped numerous companies accelerate to the next level some of which have grown into national corporations.

James is a Veteran Advocate.

New Ways to Add Value to Your Enterprise

Description coming soon!

coreenaBWCoreena Conley

Vboc logowww.vbocix.org

Bio:  Coming soon! 

Coreena is a Veteran Advocate.

Top Notch Capabilities Statement & Tactics – A Learning Platform

The government and private sector markets utilizes a business development document known as a Capability Statement. This learning platform provides guidance to better understand the different types and usage of a Capability Statement. You will learn how to create a core focused effective industry specific Capability Statement that will capture the interest and deliver a value proposition.  Then you will learn how to develop your value proposition to foster and solidify relationships with decision makers.

chrisBWChris Tande


Bio:  Chris Tande serves as the Small Business Manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Service Area Office (SAO) West.

He was raised in Helena, Montana and holds several educational degrees and certifications which include a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management, International Business from Montana State University and a Master of Science degree in Program Management from the University of Maryland University College. Chris also has three master’s level certificates in construction management from Auburn University.  And, he has a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Level III Certification in both Program Management and Contracting, as well as a Federal Acquisition Certification Level III in Contracting.  

He is a recently retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Army with 21 years of active duty service. As a soldier, Chris served in infantry and military intelligence units before becoming an acquisition officer specializing in program management and contracting.  His career highlights include service as a Rifle Platoon Leader, and Scout Platoon Leader with 1-36IN in Friedberg, Germany and Bosnia, Herzegovina; J2X Operations Officer with the CJTOF – Horn of Africa in Djibouti, Djibouti; Company Commander with the 502nd MI Battalion in Baghdad, Iraq; Contracting Officer with the 902nd Contingency Contracting Battalion in the Southern Philippines; Chief of Contracting with the JCC-I in Kirkuk, Iraq; Integration Officer for the THAAD Missile Program in San Jose, CA; and, Deputy Chief of Contracting for USACE in Sacramento, CA.
Chris has numerous awards and decorations which include the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal; Army Commendation Medal, Joint Achievement Medal, and the Army Achievement Medal as well as Joint Meritorious Unit Citation with two oak leaf clusters; Parachutist Badge, and Combat Action Badge

Chris is an Army Veteran.

Top Notch Capabilities Statement & Tactics – A Learning Platform

(Presented with Coreena Conley)

John Moses (Moderator)JohnMosesBW

Deputy Director of the OMWI

Bio:  John Moses is Deputy Director of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  OMWI is responsible for diversity matters in management, employment, and business activities at the SEC. His work in support of the Director includes promoting the participation of minority and women-owned businesses in the SEC’s programs and contracts.   Previously, he held leadership roles in the technology and international hospitality sectors with extensive global experience.  A former Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy, John holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University.

John is a Navy Veteran.        

How to Work with FAR and Non-FAR Agencies

In this highly engaging and interactive panel discussion with procurement professionals from the various Government Agencies will share information on how they procure goods and services. Suppliers often find challenges while seeking to do business with Government agencies. Suppliers will learn directly from key procurement practitioners how to navigate the acquisition process of its agency. These practitioners will share the tips on how suppliers can access procurement opportunities and how to collaborate with their agencies.


MarleithaBW2Marleitha G. Williams

Supplier Diversity Program Managerboardsealweb

Bio:  Marleitha G. Williams is the supplier diversity program specialist for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.  In this capacity, she is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act as it relates to the inclusion of minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises in the Board’s acquisition process.  

Prior to joining the Federal Reserve Board in 2011, Ms. Williams worked at Alabama’s largest electric utility corporation, Alabama Power Company, where she provided leadership and strategic direction to corporate business units in delivering results toward defined supplier diversity goals.

Throughout her career in Supplier Diversity and Supplier Relations, she has been affiliated with various organizations that focus on minority and women business development, including the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. She has been recognized in local and national publications such as Women Enterprise USA for her work in Supplier Diversity. Ms. Williams received her bachelor’s degree from Birmingham Southern College.

Marleitha is a Veteran Advocate.

How to Work with FAR and Non-FAR Agencies
(Panelist with John Moses)

Ivette JorgeIvette

Small Business Specialist



Bio:  Mrs. Ivette Jorge, Small Business Specialist, Customs and Border Protection have over 30 years of experience in Acquisition. She has been recognized as a Small Business Advocate of the year by DHS.  Under Ivette’s leadership and support, Customs and Border Protection is generally recognized as a leader in innovative and outreach activities. Ms. Jorge is a native of Puerto Rico.  She holds a Business Management Bachelor, Project Management Certification and a Federal Acquisition Certification – Level III.

Ivette is a Veteran Advocate.

How to Work with FAR and Non-FAR Agencies
(Panelist with John Moses)

ColeWoodman2Cole Woodman (Moderator)




Bio:  Cole Woodman is the President and CEO of Global Engineering Services, where his leadership and foresight have grown the business from a small utility engineering firm into a full-service general contracting company operating in 12 states and the territory of Guam. Throughout his many successes and failures of business ownership, Cole discovered his most valuable asset – the experiences he gained while serving in the US Navy.

As a Disabled Veteran, Cole believes in giving back to the Veteran community and sharing his business skills and lessons learned with other Vets. Co-Founding the Veterans In Business Network in 2016, Cole has set out to develop a 21st Century Veteran Service Organization that aims to empower Veterans through businesses ownership and success as purpose-driven entrepreneurs. Cole firmly believes that all those who served together in uniform can succeed together in business.

 In January 2017 Cole won the California Department of Veterans Affairs, John K. Lopez Award for Individual Excellence. 

Cole is a Navy Veteran.        

The Secrets & Differences of Working with Corporations, Government Agencies & Prime Contractors
VIB Chairman Cole Woodman will moderate this panel discussion with experienced professionals that advocate for Veterans businesses. They will share their insight on how to make your business stand out from the competition. We'll also discuss the differences of working with each of these types of organizations and why you can't use the same tactics for them all. Attendee participation is encouraged and welcomed during this discussion.  

dennisDennis Thurston (Panelist)

SCE Logo_Full ColorDiversity Supplier Manager


Bio:  Dennis J. Thurston is a 31-year employee of Southern California Edison. Dennis has served in his current capacity as a Supplier Diversity Manager for the past 17 years where he is responsible for assisting women, minority, and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses understand the Company’s general procurement practices and procedures. The past 4 years, the company has surpassed the goal set by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for spend with service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. He is directly responsible for making sure veteran-owned businesses are ready to do business with the utilities and larger corporations. Dennis is active on many boards that help the Veteran business community.

In recognition of his contributions as a role model of Edison International’s values and guiding behaviors of integrity, continuous growth and improvement, excellence, respect, and teamwork, Dennis was awarded the Chairman’s Award in 2009. Edison selects only 40 employees out of over 15,000 for the first of the prestigious awards. In 2016 Dennis was nominated for the State Agency Recognition Awards (SARA) given by the Department of General Services. He is a past recipient of the John Lopez award given by John Lopez for outstanding work with veteran-owned businesses and the veteran community. In 2017 Dennis was awarded the first VIB Network Bravo Zulu Above & Beyond Award for his dedication to Veteran businesses.

Dennis is a Veteran Advocate.        

The Secrets & Differences of Working with Corporations, Government Agencies & Prime Contractors
VIB Chairman Cole Woodman will moderate this panel discussion with experienced professionals that advocate for Veterans businesses. They will share their insight on how to make your business stand out from the competition. We'll also discuss the differences of working with each of these types of organizations and why you can't use the same tactics for them all. Attendee participation is encouraged and welcomed during this discussion.  

deannaDe Anna Andrews (Panelist)

Sundt-Color-1California Small Business Coordinator


Bio:  A California native, De Anna is a veteran of the construction industry with 24 years of experience and is familiar with local market trends and requirements. With her strong technical background and experience working in the field as an engineer, she has a unique understanding of the needs of the small disadvantaged business contracting community and the various trades.

For the past eight years, DeAnna has leading Sundt’s small, local, and diverse outreach programs as well as its community outreach efforts in California. As part of this effort, DeAnna has led numerous workshops, including:

  • Hosting, presenting, and representing Sundt at events for outreach to small, divers business communities;
  • Establishing trade assessments for bid packages as well as trade participation goals for larger bidding contractors;
  • Maintaining a comprehensive company contractor/vendor database of qualified local, small, and diverse businesses that could potentially be used for a project;
  • Training numerous contractors in the California State Labor Code requirements and Labor Compliance Software.

DeAnna is a DBIA Designated Design-Build Professional, a Certified Professional Constructor (CPC), and an Alliance of Supplier Diversity Professional (ASDP); as well as certified with SDSU in Construction Management Practices. In 2016 she was awarded one of the 100 Most Influential Leaders in San Diego by the Daily Transcript and has received several awards for various projects where DeAnna and the Sundt teams were successful with high levels of local, small and diverse participation. DeAnna prides herself on ensuring goals are not just limits but something to exceed.

De Anna is a Veteran Advocate.        

The Secrets & Differences of Working with Corporations, Government Agencies & Prime Contractors
VIB Chairman Cole Woodman will moderate this panel discussion with experienced professionals that advocate for Veterans businesses. They will share their insight on how to make your business stand out from the competition. We'll also discuss the differences of working with each of these types of organizations and why you can't use the same tactics for them all. Attendee participation is encouraged and welcomed during this discussion.  

MichaelMichael Aguillio


Outreach Liaison


Bio:  Michael Aguillio serves as an Outreach Liaison and SB/DVBE Advocate with the California Department of General Services, Procurement Division, Certification and Outreach Branch. In this role, he educates business owners about the benefits and opportunities of pursuing a Small Business (SB) certification, Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) certification, and contracts with the State of California. In short, facilitating contact which may lead to contracts. 

Michael is a Veteran Advocate.        

Contracting with California State Government
Insight as how the state buys and suggestions to improving your chances of winning a contract.

MelBWMel Austin

Laughing to Success Logowww.laugh2success.com

Bio:  Mel is a Veteran business owner and CEO of Laughing to Success Entertainment and Laughing 2 Success Academy. He is also an actor and comedian for the last 20 years and has served in the U.S. Marine Corps.  He performs at The Improv, Comedy Store, Laugh Factory and produces comedy events.  Mel Austin is the host and creator of “Squeaky Clean Comedy” at Dave & Buster's (Ontario, Orange, & San Diego, CA).  He has several commercial, film and theatre credits.  His most recent nationwide commercials are with Terminix and National Geographic and AMP’D Mobile.

Mel Austin is a coach/trainer/teacher of acting and standup.  Originally from Chicago, Illinois; He resides in the city of Riverside, California. 

Mel is a Marine Veteran.

Above & Beyond Banquet Dinner Emcee