2022 SPEAKERS

Saturday, March 5, 2022 | Edmonds Waterfront Center

Dr. Melissa Sassi

As IBM Z’s Chief Penguin, Dr. Melissa Sassi created her own IBM job title, job description, and is the Founder & Global Head of IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator, an IBM program focused on empowering early-stage startups to build and scale via business and technical enablement. Dr. Sassi has 100 startups in her existing portfolio with 40% early-stage fintechs. She plans to grow the Accelerator to 145 startups in 2022. Dr. Sassi’s Accelerator also includes celebrity Producer & multiple-Grammy award winning startup – Beatclub – Timbaland’s latest music startup that’s all about democratizing the music industry.

Dr. Sassi is also a Call for Code Judge – a tech4good hackathon, startup competition, and coding camp rolled into one – focused on solving the world’s wickedest challenges via tech innovation. 

Tracy Taylor

Tracy Taylor joined KIRO 7 in April 2017. She has been doing traffic in the Seattle market for 20 years on both television and radio. Taylor started her radio career as an intern while attending North Idaho College, which turned into her first full-time job in Spokane. Her career in radio brought her to Seattle in 2001, took her to Alabama and North Carolina for several years and landed back in Seattle in 2005. TV was something Taylor always wanted to do and she was given the chance as a weekend weather fill-in on KREM in Spokane. She left radio in 2010 to pursue full-time traffic. As an Eastern Washington native, she loves her Gonzaga Bulldogs and is a lifelong Seattle Seahawks fan. Taylor and husband Kyle are parents to a very busy 15-year-old, have 4 dogs and are huge animal organization supporters. She loves to freshwater fish, snow sports and live music. Catch Taylor every weekday from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m

Prior to IBM, Dr. Sassi was an impact investor at Microsoft focused on building and scaling internet and energy access solutions and bringing digital skills to the newly connected.

As Founder & CEO of MentorNations, Dr. Sassi created a youth-led digital skills movement teaching tens of thousands of youth changemakers to code in twelve countries. Dr. Sassi is Chair of IEEE’s Digital Skills & Readiness Working Group and Founding Member of Coalition for Digital Intelligence with WEF, OECD, IEEE & DQ Institute. She holds several Board positions in digital inclusion nonprofits.

She completed several stints on Wall Street for prestigious firms such as Goldman Sachs and Blackrock. She was also part of the core team that led to the launch of challenger bank – Ally Financial. She spent years working in marketing supply chain and corporate turnaround with companies such as Godiva, Kimberly-Clark, Goodyear, and Chiquita.

Dr. Sassi’s doctoral research focuses on the digital inclusion of underserved and underrepresented communities and the tie that access, skills, and utilization of technology play to make meaningful use of the internet.

Dr. Sassi holds a Co-Chair position in a newly formed working group under the UN Secretary General’s Office focused on the protection of children online where she’s in the process of setting up a youth advisory board. She actively advises bodies such as the UN Round Table for the High-Level Panel for Digital Cooperation, chaired by Jack Ma and Melinda Gates with advisory leadership from Vint Cert – the Father of the Internet – on digital intelligence, gender inclusion, and tech entrepreneurship. 

Dr. Sassi is an avid speaker on startup innovation, digital skills and inclusion, tech entrepreneurship, tech4good, community building, youth empowerment, imposter syndrome, gender inclusion & personal branding. You can find Dr. Sassi on Twitter at @mentorafrika

Snohomish County Judges Panel

Judge Anna Alexander

Snohomish County.  As a first-generation immigrant whose family escaped communism, Judge Anna Alexander had a humble beginning.  Judge Alexander worked and paid her own way through college at the University of Washington.  At age 19, Judge Alexander was the youngest woman ever admitted to the University of Washington Law School, where she received distinguished and honors marks.  She received her JD in 2000. 

In 2019 Judge Alexander received the Washington Women Lawyers’ Chapter Member of the Year award and was recognized by the organization for being an inspiration to young lawyers in our community and for her pro bono work for those individuals without resources to hire an attorney.  Judge Alexander serves on the Budget, Family Law and Law Library Committees of the Snohomish County Superior Court, as well as on the Washington State Superior Court Judges’ Association Education Committee.  She and her husband have two children, and a stubborn Boston Terrier.  Judge Alexander loves to cook, feed people, and make people laugh with her own unique brand of comedy.  Some have respectfully suggested she not give up her day job.


Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw

Serving as the very first LatinX judge in Snohomish County, Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw was first elected by the people of Snohomish County in 2020, and by the most votes of any candidate in Snohomish County history.

Judge Lopez-Shaw comes to Snohomish County Superior Court with over 17 years of legal experience in criminal, civil, and family law. In her private practice, Cassandra traveled across the state of Washington, representing clients in 15 different counties, and trying over 200 criminal trials.

The Lopez-Shaw family represents the American Dream. Cassandra came to the United States at eight years old and grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. She married Michael, the boy next door, gave birth to two amazing children, and moved to Washington after the Rodney King Riots burned down their neighborhood. The couple worked tirelessly to graduate from the University of Washington before Cassandra attended Loyola Law School. Shortly after graduating, Michael was deployed to Operation Iraq Freedom with the US Marines, leaving Cassandra alone with the difficult task of raising their children. Eventually, both their daughter and son graduated from the United States Naval Academy.

Today, Michael teaches biology in a public high school and the couple are proud, “Two-Blue-Star” parents, as both children are on active duty, serving in the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps.


Judge Whitney Rivera

Judge Whitney Rivera was appointed as the Edmonds Municipal Court Judge in November, 2020. Judge Rivera grew up in Edmonds and graduated from Edmonds Woodway High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and literature from the University of Washington. She earned her Juris Doctor from Boston College Law School, where she worked as a student attorney at the Boston College Defenders representing clients charged with criminal offenses in Dorchester District Court.

After law school, Judge Rivera worked as a law clerk to The Honorable Judge Anita L. Farris in the Snohomish County Superior Court and then began working as a trial attorney at the Snohomish County Public Defender Association. She later transitioned to working as an appellate public defender at the Washington Appellate Project and has argued cases before the Court of Appeals and the Washington Supreme Court.

Judge Rivera later returned to the Snohomish County Public Defender Association and trial work. She served as the supervisor of the misdemeanor unit, where she trained and supervised trial attorneys practicing in courts of limited jurisdiction. She has presented at statewide training programs on social media evidence and objections at trial. She received the President’s Award and two Certificates of Recognition from the Washington Defender Association. As a practicing lawyer, Judge Rivera tried cases in the courts of Snohomish County for 13 years before her appointment to the bench.

Judge Rivera lives in Edmonds with her long-time partner, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Paul Thompson, and their three rescue dogs. 

Edmonds Police Department Panel

Chief Michelle Bennett

Michelle Bennett has worked for the King County Sheriff’s Office since 1990. She held a variety of progressive leadership assignments within the Sheriff’s Office. Most notably, from 2004-2014, she was the Chief of Police for the City of Maple Valley Police Department, and from 2016 to 2019, she was the Chief of Police for the City of Sammamish. Michelle retired in January, 2021 as Major in charge of Strategic Planning and Coordination for the King County Sheriff’s Office. In March of 2021, Michelle was selected as the interim chief for the City of Edmonds, and in September was selected for the permanent chief position. From 2019-2020, Michelle was the President of the King County Chief’s Association. She has sat on many advisory committees, most recently on the Shoreline Community College and Central Washington University Criminal Justice Advisory Committees.

In the past she was selected as the Central Washington University Westside Alumni of the year. Michelle has also served as the elected Alumni Representative for the Northwestern University Alumni Association. Since 2018, Michelle has served as the FBINAA Washington State Executive Board President. Michelle has been teaching anti-bullying and cyber-bullying classes for workplaces, colleges, government organizations and secondary schools and parent since 2001. Michelle has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law and Justice, a Master of Science Degree in the field of Psychology / Organizational Development and Behavior, and a Doctorate in Education (Dissertation topic was on bullying), with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction. She is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, Session 235, and of the FBI National Academy, Session 247.


Detective Julie Govantes

Detective Julie Govantes graduated with her BA in Criminal Justice from Nova Southeastern University. In 2008, she began her career in Law Enforcement with the Lauderhill Police Department, FL where she worked as a patrol officer and a detective before moving to the Seattle area in 2015 with her family. Julie then began working with Edmonds Police Department in 2015 and is currently assigned to the Detective Unit where she investigates Financial Crimes. In addition to investigating financial crimes, she assists with recruiting and the background investigation for potential new hires.

Julie was selected to be apart of the Edmonds PD Community Engagement Team whose main goal is to build a relationship between police and the community. In 2019, Julie was also selected Officer of the Year for her efforts within the police department.

Julie is a mother of an 11 year old and a 3 year old, wife, friend, employee and many other things. Julie is currently in the process of becoming a mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program. As Beyoncé sings….WE RUN THE WORLD!


Officer Tabatha Shoemake

Tabatha Shoemake

Host | Moderator

Alicia Crank

Alicia Crank is the Chief Development Officer for AtWork!, a highly supportive and innovative conduit between people with disabilities and employers in the community. Prior to this role, she was a leader in major fundraising and partnership roles at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, CityYear Seattle and Washington Business Week.

A Detroit native, Alicia held several leadership positions in corporate banking, education, business and the nonprofit sector in Silicon Valley. Having moved to Greater Seattle in 2014, she is now one of only a few women of color in corporate philanthropy. Alicia has served on several boards and commissions centered around equity and inclusion, and currently serves as Chair on City of Edmonds Planning Board as well as Chair of the Snohomish County / Paine Field Airport Commission.

History of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.


International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Prior to this the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom’s Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups
campaigned for women’s equality.

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