Tech Conference 2023
Speaker Bios

Leslie Sydnor, AIA – Cumming

Leslie is a director at Cumming; currently working as a design manager for Los Angeles City College. She has over 25 years of experience in the design of education, aviation, industrial, and low-income housing projects. Leslie is past co-chair of the Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) committee. She teaches Architectural Project Management at Cal Poly Pomona, is on the Woodbury University Construction Management Program Advisory Board and mentors emerging professionals. Leslie has a B.A. in Architecture from Yale and an M.Arch from UCLA.

Brian Skowvron, Assoc. AIA – Senior Associate, Gruen Associates

Brian is the Director of Design Technology at Gruen Associates.  He oversees the planning, strategic management and deployment of a healthy cultural and technology-driven environment.  Co-chair of AIALA TAP (Technology in Architectural Practices) since 2021, he encourages LA based Technology Leaders to share their resources and experience.

Craig Atkinson, AIA, LEED AP, NOMA  – Director & Senior Principal, Arcadis IBI Group

Craig is a Director | Senior Principal Architect with more than three decades of experience in the design – construction of public projects and in the business of architecture. At present, he leads Arcadis IBI Group’s California Education practice and is also the executive – in – charge for the firm’s JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) Task Force. He has been involved with all aspects of complex public project business development, project management, planning, design, quality control and project delivery for public clients throughout California.

Sam Keville – Studio BIM Leader, NBBJ 

Sam connects architecture and technology through meaningful and progressive practice. His focus remains fixed on cutting edge modes of representation and realization leadership.  This translates to hard skills in design and production software, computational design, rendering, and design fabrication.  Alongside soft skills involved with personal development programs, training, and standards. His work experience includes all phases from competition to construction administration, as well as assisting firms develop new initiatives and pilots with follow through to project team adoption. His collaborative attitude makes him an open team member with a sense of responsibility and drive to meet deadlines and produce exceptional results.

Thesla Collier – Senior Associate, Gensler  

Design Technologist Leader at Gensler. Bachelor’s in architecture form the University of Honduras and been working in the AEC Industry for 23 years . As a Design Technology leader, she helps Architects and Designers to elevate their skills and workflows at the Los Angeles office and SW region for Gensler.

Actively works with users to elevate their knowledge baseline to improve their skills on multiple software platforms. She loves to seek new avenues of technology to improve Design workflows possible to conceive, visualize, and adapt to a project’s specific needs.

Troy Barbu – Senior Associate, BIM & Technology Solutions Manager, AECOM

Troy Barbu is a Senior Digital Solutions Manager at AECOM Los Angeles. He works specifically with owner-operators, as part of Program & Construction Management teams. His focus is the development and deployment of Digital Transformation services – to guide owners on the best utilization of technologies for large-scale projects. Troy works to align BIM and other digital processes with the multiple facets of a project’s life cycle – beginning with contracts/procurement, and continuing all the way through to project turnover and facilities operations. He is also recognized as one of the top Digital Design & Permit Review Implementation Experts in the U.S., providing workflow, process, procedures and training for large-scale clients at the Federal, State, City and University levels.

Leo Salcé – Principal, Avant Leap

Leo is the founder and CEO of Avant Leap, and is responsible for guiding the company’s solutions and services strategy.  With over two decades of experience in design, technology, and research and development, he’s served as a consultant to numerous organizations worldwide across multiple sectors and industries.  He is a licensed architect in the Dominican Republic with degrees in architecture and computer science from Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra.  Leo is a published writer and speaker on Building information modeling, sustainable design, Digital twins, and IoT+A.I. for the building lifecycle.  He has lectured at conferences such as Autodesk University, BILT, Techbuild, Constructech, Ashrae, Ecobuild, and USC’s BIM Conference.  In recent years, he’s aided owners and building operators in utilizing their digital assets through Digital Transformation and Digital Twin initiatives for predictive maintenance, smart energy management, and data insights.

Alex Ault – BIM Manager, REX Engineering Group

At REX, Alex is responsible for developing and implementing drawing and modeling standards, training the team, trouble shooting any Revit related issues that arise. Along with setting up BIM models and drawings for structural and MEP building projects, and coordinating with architecture and project teams regarding syncing models and backgrounds. Prior to joining the REX team, Alex led and assisted multiple project teams with design-assist, modeling, and coordination. He is experienced in Revit, Navisworks, BIM Track, Revitzo, Bluebeam, 3DS Max, BIM 360, GTP Wireworks, AutoCAD, Inventor, Autodesk Point Layout, Autodesk, Construction Cloud, and PlanGrid. Alex holds an Associate in Science degree from Pittsburgh Technical Institute and is a MEP advisor at AIA LA TAP (Technology in Architectural Practice).

Michael Chang – AIA, DBIA, LEED AP, CASp, NCARB, CDT – Studio Principal, AC Martin

Michael is the Special Services Studio Principal and have been with AC Martin for over 7 years. The Special Services Group extends multiple market sectors ranging from higher education, hospitality, soundstages, entertainment and civic work. During his tenure at AC Martin, the firm merged three different business entities into one. He has been involved in the use of project management tools and how they help track metrics on expenses and project health.

Melvin Williams, III – Regional Practice Technology Leader, HKS

Melvin Williams is the West Coast Regional Practice Technology Leader for HKS Inc. He shares his architecture practice knowledge and years of experience in guiding teams through design technology as he builds a strategic relationship with the offices in the America West Region. He also specializes in helping teams understand the importance of digital best practices (not to be confused with professional best practices) from Pre/Post Commissioning to Entitlements and all stages of Drawing Production to CA. His career practice experience ranges from planning and design implementation on single-family residential projects, adaptive reuse, and commercial development projects to high-profile, large-scale transportation, mixed-use retail, and themed attraction facilities in the United States and abroad. His professional interests in architecture and design are focused on his professional skills and the digital interdisciplinary coordination using the latest technology of BIM, QA/QC Management, as it relates to construction, leveraging VDC technologies.

Nicole Buhles, Assoc. AIA, CM-BIM – Practice Technology Leader, HED

Nicole Buhles is a Practice Technology Leader at HED, where she co-builds and implements firm-wide digital design-delivery strategies. She specializes in BIM management, coaching project teams to maximize existing technology and seize opportunities for innovation. With over a decade of experience as a change agent, Nicole knows what drives “digital-first” in AECO firms—and it’s not troubleshooting Revit. Previously as a BIM technology consultant, she managed a diverse portfolio of multidisciplinary firms to construct and accelerate BIM implementation strategies. Nicole is an active member of the AIA LA Technology in Architectural Practice Committee and NOMA SoCal. She holds a Certificate of Management-Building Information Modeling (CM-BIM) from the American General Contractors Association and a master’s degree in Architecture from Hampton University.

Jason Rostar, CM-BIM – Corporate Practice Technology Leader, HED

Jason Rostar is a technology executive with a passion for innovation. He currently serves as the Corporate Practice Technology Leader at HED, directing the firm-wide strategic implementation of technology in architecture and engineering practice. His design technology experience spans more than 15 years and garners a deep knowledge of managing multi-discipline projects utilizing the industry’s most innovative software. His leadership style emphasizes collaboration, creative problem-solving, and data-driven decision-making. Over the years, Jason has successfully leveraged technology to drive organizational transformation across A/E disciplines and market sectors, including science and technology, corporate commercial, and higher education. Under his direction, HED’s practice technology operations have grown significantly over the last five years with a strong performance on vital corporate objectives, by building solid alignment between the A/E practices and technology
that helps deliver high-quality coordinated projects. An award-winning speaker, Jason frequently contributes to thought leadership forums, including the annual Digital Built Week Americas, Autodesk University, and various Revit User Groups. He holds a Certificate of Management-Building Information Modeling (CM-BIM) from the American General Contractors Association and a master’s degree in Architecture from Lawrence Technological University.

Evelyn Lee, FAIA – Global Head of Workplace Strategy and Innovation at Slack Technologies

Evelyn Lee is also a Founder of the Practice of Architecture, and Co-Host of the Podcast, Practice Disrupted.  She integrates her business and architecture background with a qualitative and quantitative focus to build better experiences for the organization’s employees, clients, and guests.
She is widely published, wrote a monthly column for Contract magazine for over three years, and is now a frequent contributor to Architect Magazine. Evelyn has received numerous industry awards, including 2016 40 Under 40 award for Building Design + Construction and the 2014 AIA National Young Architects Award. She recently served as the first-ever female Treasurer to the AIA National Board in 2020-2021.

Güvenç Özel, Principal, Ozel Office and Lecturer, UCLA AUD

Güvenç Özel is a cyberphysical architect, artist and critical technologist. His work focuses on how technology and media shapes contemporary social relationships and environments. He fuses machine learning/AI, interactive sensor systems, robotics, digital media and XR to create interactive experiences and environments that are synchronized with and responsive to human presence and senses. His recent works, ranging from buildings to large scale robotic sculptures to XR installations, were featured by CNN, BBC, Euronews, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Architectural Digest and Wired among others. His projects have been exhibited in venues such as the Venice Architecture Biennale, Istanbul Modern, Saatchi Gallery London, Sundance Film Festival and SXSW. Özel’s previous and ongoing research collaborations include NASA, Google, Autodesk, Microsoft and Meta.

Je’Nen M. Chastain, MBA, Assoc. AIA – Founder, Apostrophe Consulting

Je’Nen M. Chastain, MBA, Assoc. AIA is the founder of Apostrophe Consulting, a practice focused on helping architects and next-gen leaders strengthen their teams and businesses.
In addition to consulting with firm leaders on practice management issues, she mentors architects on career development, leadership, and strategy. She specializes in facilitating conversations that engage multi-generational teams and has designed, developed, and presented dozens of training programs that inspire next-gen leaders. She is currently working on several in-house training solutions with award-winning firms that provide support to their teams on leadership development, mentorship, and communication.
Je’Nen is a co-host on the podcast Practice Disrupted, a show that explores the evolution of architectural practice through conversations with industry thought leaders. Through this work she’s transformed her expertise in marketing and communication into a passion for telling the stories of leaders who are moving the practice of architecture forward. Common themes discussed on the show include business strategy, operations, technology, cultural shifts, entrepreneurship, and professional development.

Je’Nen earned both her MBA and BArch, and has trained in architecture. She has received several awards for her leadership in the profession, including the 2017 AIA Associates Award.

Josh Weiss – Logic Technology Consulting Group

Logic Technology Consulting Group’s Josh Weiss is an IT visionary with two decades of experience in the technology and entrepreneurial/startup worlds. His love of technology itself is exceeded only by his passion for delivering IT solutions that empower architects, cultural non-profits and other creative organizations. He thrives as a strategic advisior to his clients, ensuring strategic and secure technology implementations for today’s hybrid I.T. environments.

Lauren Coles, AIA, LEED BD+C, CDTSenior Associate & Project Manager, CO Architects

Lauren Coles has more than 15 years of experience managing project design, planning, documentation and stakeholder coordination for top-tier institutional projects. She brings an entrepreneurial, take-ownership mindset to large-scale healthcare, academic and science & technology projects. As a licensed architect, Lauren is devoted to supporting young designers on their road to architecture licensure and provides mentorship and guidance as AXP/ARE licensing supervisor at CO Architects.

Troy Gates – Director of Innovation, VinZero U.S. CAD

Troy Gates has worked in the AECO industry for more than 25 years. He is the Director of Innovation at VinZero U.S. CAD, an AECO technology and services company, and has been involved in BIM, VDC, and technology implementation for AECO companies. Mr. Gates has worked with the AECO community of innovators to advance BIM, VDC, and technologies from design thru construction to operation. Mr. Gates enjoys the challenge of solving industry challenges through a technology lens. Mr. Gates is currently located in Phoenix, AZ, but travels across the country regularly to work with many different AECO companies.

Nash Reyes, Assoc. AIA – Director of Technology, HMC Architects

An industry expert in Data-Informed Architectural Design, including adopting and implementing of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and other digital tools.

The vision guiding HMC’s Digital Practice is to promote the use of tools integral to the next evolution of architecture, inspiring new design thinking realized through technological innovation. As Director of Technology for HMC Architects, Mr. Reyes is responsible for the firm-wide technology infrastructure, both strategic and operational. His responsibilities include Digital Practice and Information Technology.
Over a 24-year career, Mr. Reyes has earned a reputation as an industry expert in the application and integration of data-informed architectural design—digital visualization technologies—including building information modeling, computational design, design analysis, energy analysis, virtual reality, and project delivery tools.
Mr. Reyes leads the firm’s strategic decisions on adopting an ever-expanding range of tools. He helps HMC design teams across four main market sectors overcome the barriers to adopting these new technologies.

During his tenure at HMC, Mr. Reyes migrated the primary design tool from Sketchup to Rhino, enabling the use of computational design methods across all the firm’s projects. He also moved all projects to Autodesk Construction Cloud for distributed team access and increased team collaboration. Mr. Reyes is developing a cloud-first solution for the firm to enable a complete move to distributed work and information sharing.

The digital technologies under Mr. Reyes’ purview play an increasingly important role in the delivery of architectural design and construction. His work enables clients to understand proposed designs in real-time, allowing design teams to deliver outstanding solutions for their clients.

Kevin Soohoo – Director of AEC, Egnyte

Kevin Soohoo is Director of AEC for Egnyte, a modern content and sharing platform that is depended upon by 1000’s of AEC firms worldwide, With 15+ years of experience in the Construction Technology space, Kevin is responsible for supporting Egnyte’s newly formed AEC vertical and its growth efforts within the AEC sector. Of those 15 years, Kevin spent the first 11 leading technology and innovation for a subsidiary of an ENR-ranked contractor. Since then, Kevin has transitioned over to the Construction software/start-up world having been with two other early-stage contech startups where he held various roles that contributed to both customer growth and industry thought-leadership.

Stella Debibi – Managing Director/ Strategic Growth, Corbis Studio

Stella Debibi, Managing Director/Strategic Growth, leads her team in the developing relationships and opportunities for Corbis. Perfecting Project Delivery is what Corbis does. Corbis exists to help Owners, Developers, Brands and Architect realize their ultimate goal of building the highest quality commercial building projects possible

Prior to joining Corbis, Stella created and headed DSP, a business development, marketing, and public relations firm. The company specialized in the leveraging of strategic partnerships and client branding with a focus on commercial real estate. Clients included, CREFC, Commercial Observer, Nadel Architects, EisnerAmper are a few to mention.

Previous to that, Stella served as the director of business development for George Smith Partners, a commercial real estate investment banking firm. She assisted the company in securing a major southern California-based bank for exclusive representation of its assets. Stella was responsible for arranging relationships that accelerated the firm’s growth and advisory services platform that assists struggling borrowers in successfully navigating the often complex world of securitized commercial real estate loans.

A dedicated philanthropist, Debibi has served on board of Jewish Federation, City of Hope Real Estate Division, Magbit Foundation. She is an alumnus of the prestigious Wexner Foundation, which was founded by Leslie Wexner, CEO of Limited Brands, to promote Jewish leadership around the world.

Brian Martin, MBA – Meta Infrastructure Engineering

Brian has worked for Meta’s Infrastructure Data Center team for over 4 years. He started his journey as a Construction Manager and would eventually move into Manufacturing Innovation and Strategy where he works on Manufacturing Informed Design solutions and helps the team identify and explore new innovations within.​

Liwen Zhang, AIA – Meta Infrastructure Design

Liwen has worked as an architect for Meta’s infrastructure Data Center team for 5 years. She has been the project lead for numerous data center regions across North America, managing cross functional teams both internally and externally in the execution of design and construction administration. ​

Joe Eichenseer, Director – Building Lifecycle Solutions, North America at IMAGINiT Technologies

Joe leads a team of IMAGINiT professionals that helps building design, construction, and facility management professionals through the process of selecting, implementing, and optimizing software solutions. Specializing in Autodesk building design products, the ARCHIBUS integrated workplace management system, and Epic Games’ Twinmotion real-time visualization tool, Joe helps AECO firms navigate the road to Building Information Modeling (BIM) using a logical progression from 2D to full BIM. His years of experience in the industry make him an able leader in the management of cultural changes necessary for firms to be successful.

Blaine Grantham, CM-BIM – Founding Partner, TITAN AEC

Blaine Grantham is one of the founding partners of TITAN AEC. He has spent more than 20 years in the AEC industry, which includes experience in the design of ballistics and telecommunication systems. Prior to TITAN AEC, Blaine worked for the State of California (Real Estate Services Division) as the CAD Manager for Studio 2 where he established CAD standards, customized content, and assisted in the implementation of AutoCAD Architecture to 60 users. Blaine is also an Autodesk Implementation Certified Expert. Blaine currently implements BIM solutions throughout the country and instructs various firms on the use of BIM. Mr. Grantham is currently implementing BIM various projects in Northern California and spearheads the usage of laser scanning technology within the AEC market segment.

Blaine studied Architectural Design at Consummes River College. Mr. Grantham is an Autodesk Implementation Certified Expert, Bluebeam Certified Instructor and holds a Certificate of Management in Building Information Modeling (CM-BIM).

Shobhit Baadkar – Founding Partner, TITAN AEC

Shobhit Baadkar is one of the founding partners of TITAN AEC. He started the Los Angeles & San Francisco offices of CVIS and later brokered its acquisition by another Autodesk resller. With over 20 years of experience in design & construction, Shobhit has trained and implemented hundreds of users operating various Autodesk AEC software applications. He is an Autodesk Implementation Certified Expert and an Autodesk Revit Certified Professional. He has been invited to speak nationally at various professional organizations, conferences, and universities throughout the country. He is also an Guest Lecturer at the University of Southern California (USC) where he lectures about Building Information Modeling at Viterbi School of Engineering. Mr. Baadkar heads up all business development and corporate strategy for TITAN AEC.

Shobhit graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a degree in Economics.