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The Future's So Bright, They Gotta Wear Shades: 10 Young Tech Execs To Watch

Julie Kim, senior manager of visual design at Misfit, is responsible for the company’s seminal design language reflected in its product, packaging and displays. Kim, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, has been a member of the wearable technology manufacturer since 2014, joining her comrades when the company was acquired by Fossil Group at the end of last year. She is also the company’s “head of gorgeousness and good taste” — key traits in a tech category beholden to the importance of fashionable design.

T.J. Evarts, CEO of Inventioneers, has appeared on “Shark Tank” and CBS’s “Innovation Nation,” and his company’s invention, the SMARTwheel was a 2016 CES Innovations Award nominee in the vehicle intelligence category. SMARTwheel, now in its final product-design stage, is a $199 intelligent steering-wheel cover that encourages safe-driving habits by warning drivers with a flashing light and a buzzing sound if they do one of the following: take both hands off the wheel, place both hands next to each other (a common texting-while-driving scenario), and take one hand off the wheel for more than four seconds. Evarts’ goal is to change driving habits in real time, not after it’s too late.

Carl Pei, co-founder of OnePlus, said he has learned from earlier missteps. He and former Oppo exec Peter Lau founded OnePlus, the first direct-to-consumer unlocked smartphone brand to market globally. It staked out a position in offering premium-build, high-performance unlocked phones at modest prices and selling direct to consumers on an invite-only basis around the world to hold down prices and control inventory. With its first phone in 2013, the company exceeded its own expectations and generated $300 million in its first year in business. The company’s third phone, the OnePlus X, has received mostly positive reviews. One reviewer wrote the X “undercuts a whole swathe of larger and louder phones while looking slimmer and slicker than the majority of them.”

Ryan Calacci, head merchant, Nationwide eXchange, was practically born into the business, having attended his first CES at 7 and a Toshiba executive meeting at 9 (dad Rick is a longtime industry veteran). After graduating from the University of La Crosse Wisconsin, he disregarded career advice (“Many warned me that CE is a ‘fast-moving industry that will eat me alive,’” he said), and joined distributors DSI and later CED, where he learned the ins and outs of the business. Cut to the present and the Nationwide Marketing Group, where Calacci puts his distribution and procurement know-how to good use running the eXchange, a buying portal, fed by eight distributors, where member dealers can select from more than 6,000 SKUs.

Aaron Reckling, retail sales manager, Grand Appliance and TV, represents the fourth-generation of this family-owned retail business, founded by his great grandfather in Waukegan, Ill., in 1930. In his role as retail sales manager, he oversees a 95-person sales staff and manages the customer experience across the now 18-store chain — with three more locations due later this year. “I love managing the sales force because I get to see different faces and personalities every day,” he told TWICE. “Our motto is to have customers for a lifetime, and we achieve this by having relationships between our salespeople and customer.” His other favorite part of the job? “I feel great responsibility and pride to carry on the torch of a successful family business, and to make sure all of our employees can lead a comfortable life.”

Scott Gloeckler, buying group program manager, GE Appliances, a nearly 13-year veteran of GE, spent his first five years in the field, from North Carolina and Kansas City to Seattle and Alaska, learning the business and serving independent dealers and key accounts. Promotions to sales operations and clothes-care merchandising brought him back to headquarters in Louisville, until he joined the buying groups team three years ago as program manager. In his current role, Gloeckler wears two hats. “One side of the job is working with the buying groups to help develop the best programs for our dealers as well as continuously trying to add new accounts,” he said. “The other side is being an advocate for our independent dealers during our internal meetings.”

Laura Orvidas, consumer electronics VP, Amazon, is head of Amazon’s core CE business, the third-largest operation in tech retail, behind only Best Buy and Apple. But CE is just the latest category she’s mastered in a long career with the No. 1 e-tailer, which, like the company and its namesake river, wends its way through multiple fields. Orvidas started out in management consulting. She then joined Amazon as a senior financial analyst, and for the next 16 year would move between operational and merchandising posts of increasing responsibility, taking only a short interlude to work on an education reform project. “The consumer electronics business is exciting,” she told TWICE. “I love learning about the next generation of products and how they create new opportunities.”

Steve VanHoose, appliance/electronics buyer, Big Sandy Superstores, grew up in the family business – a 13-store appliance, CE and furniture chain spanning Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, with two more on the way — but all VanHoose knew about retailing as a teen was that he was “a terrible warehouse employee.” That all changed after the college bills hit, and VanHoose quickly hit the company sales floor, where he made good money selling TVs. Promotions followed, to department manager and store manager, and today he’s on the merchandising side, as a CE and appliance buyer for this employee-owned business. VanHoose thanks his mentors Terry Oates and his dad Rob for showing him the ropes, and said what he likes most about retail is its team approach and the competition.

Tommy Jacobs, VP of North America sales, Klipsch, is tasked with leading the sales teams for not only the Klipsch brand but for Jamo and Energy as well. Jacobs now holds court on the company’s executive leadership team, developing strategies and crafting its vision. He has been with the company since 2006, rising through the sales and management ranks and capturing the coveted Rolex Salesman of the Year Award in 2009. Jacobs is the son of Paul Jacobs, president and CEO of Klipsch Group, who offered high praise on his offspring’s behalf: “Tom turns small opportunities into monumental realities. He has honed his sales skills and become laser focused, expanding his reach and working with accounts to create meaningful solutions. He has become a true leader by moving from a ‘personal best’ mindset to a ‘best team’ approach and goal.”

Matt Shumate, VP, Max Borges Agency, has been a master communicator with Max Borges Agency for a decade, where he manages more than 15 major technology accounts. His clients include Braven, CEDIA, Elgato, Griffin, Kopin, Libratone, MSI, Savant, Steel Series, Voxx and V-Moda. He is known as a pragmatic integrated communications strategist. With an academic background in economics, he employs a unique approach to communications with a lens of supply and demand, cost/benefit analysis, and data/KPI monitoring. He has overseen launches of hundreds of consumer lifestyle and technology products. “Matt’s leadership in understanding consumer technology trends is an amazing asset as we accelerate our growth strategy and expand into NYC from Miami and San Francisco,” Frank Mantero, account services senior VP, said.

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