Managing Director, Luminate NY, NextCorps
Years in current role: 5
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Luminate recruits the most promising early-stage companies from around the world and brings them here to Rochester to help them advance and commercialize their innovations. We get a front row seat to the emergence of technologies that will change what’s possible in so many industries— from quantum and cybersecurity to autonomous vehicles, ag-tech, healthcare, and so much more. We can help shape the next generation of leaders and be part of the sheer excitement of discovery!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?
Many are struggling to find talent. This challenge, however, is not new for the optics, photonics, and imaging (OPI) industry. With the rapid integration of OPI technology into so many products and research tools over the last two decades, the demand for skilled workers has outpaced our ability to train people. We can bring all of the businesses here to take root, but if they can’t find people to do the work, they won’t thrive and stay. I believe there’s huge potential for underserved communities to get into these careers if we can expand education, training and apprenticeship opportunities.
What has been your organization’s biggest success over the past year?
When NextCorps staff developed the structure and programming for the Luminate accelerator, we based it on what we believed founders need to commercialize OPI-enabled technologies and scale their businesses more rapidly. We also were able to draw international attention to the region and program. Of the 43 companies, 39 are still in business, they’ve raised over $80 million in funding outside of the $12 million New York has invested in them and are collectively valued at over $360 million. In March, Governor Hochul recognized the importance of Luminate by calling for its renewal in her budget address.
What do you see as the biggest changes in the technology industry over the next year?
I’m hopeful the technology industry will expand its focus on elevating women and underserved populations within science. While we’re making some progress by encouraging girls and women to proceed in traditionally male-oriented careers like STEM, by investing in diversity and inclusion programsand making gender equality strides in the investment community to help underserved entrepreneurs, there’s much more work to be done, especially if we want to be a global leader. Diversity is key to being innovative.
What community organizations do you support as a volunteer and why?
I wholeheartedly believe in giving back. I’ve been involved in the National Women’s Hall of Fame for over a decade. Women have done remarkable things throughout history and the Hall helps to recognize and memorialize their accomplishments. I also mentor young women who are interested in the field of science to demonstrate how they can be successful in what has always been a male-oriented domain. This includes being on the board of directors of Optica and serving as a Community Champion for SPIE — both optics and photonics associations. Locally, I’m active in Rochester’s India Community Center, and I’m on the board of the Rochester Area Community Foundation.