Ascend Greater Philadelphia 2021 IAG Annual Conference
Resilience and Agility: Thriving Amid Change

Speaker Bios:


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Yie-Hsin Hung


New York Life Investment Management

Yie-Hsin Hung is the chief executive officer of New York Life Investment Management (NYLIM), New York Life’s $450 billion global multi-boutique third-party asset management business, a role she has held since 2015. She is also a member of New York Life’s Executive Management Committee and its highest-ranking female operating executive. Since joining the company in 2010, Hung has grown NYLIM’s assets under management nearly four-fold through a combination of geographic expansion, organic initiatives and acquisitions. Prior to that, she held a number of senior leadership roles at Bridgewater Associates and Morgan Stanley in both its Investment Management and Investment Banking divisions.


Hung was named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance by Barron’s in both 2020 and 2021 and was named among the 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance by American Banker in 2020, the fourth consecutive year she has received this award. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Northwestern University, the Executive Committee and Board of Governors of the Investment Company Institute, and the Board of Directors of the Turtle Beach Corporation.


Hung earned her MBA from Harvard University and BS in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University.  

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Ravi Acharya

Consumer Distribution Program Delivery Executive

TD Bank


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Abeera Aguira

SVP,  U.S. Payments Delivery

TD Bank


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Elaine Cheong

Chapter President, Ascend Philadelphia

SVP, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Elaine Cheong is a Senior Vice President with Bank of America Merrill Lynch responsible for developing client relationship strategies to drive its domestic and international commercial banking business She leads a team of product partners who consults with clients on capital market structures, credit, treasury, supply chain finance and risk management amongst other banking solutions to successfully grow their businesses.

Elaine has more than 25 years in banking. She has held various global client management roles with Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank and ANZ Bank in New York, Singapore, London and Australia.

She was born in Malaysia and completed her tertiary education in Australia. She moved to the United States in 1998. Elaine has served on many non-profit boards. Through her current role as President of Ascend Greater Philadelphia Chapter – she helped firmly established the presence of Asian American professionals in Philadelphia by providing an environment for people to connect, grow and be inspired. Elaine chairs the local chapter of the Asian Leadership Network, the employee resource group at Bank of America. She also serves on the Diversity & Inclusion Council of the Global Commercial Banking group at Bank of America. She graduated from Monash University, Australia with a Bachelor in Economics and holds a graduate diploma in Corporate Finance from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She is married with two children and lives in Pennington, New Jersey.

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Alexa A. Dembek

Chief Technology & Sustainability Officer


Alexa is a born problem-solver, innovator and education advocate. Through her leadership, she actively champions the company’s purpose, while building enduring partnerships with customers and other strategic partners.


The business success Alexa has achieved is emblematic of her passion for enabling innovation to flourish, a consistent theme spanning her 30-year career at DuPont. Among her many accomplishments, she transformed the company’s centralized R&D model to a more responsive, market-oriented innovation machine embedded within each of the company’s businesses.


Today, Alexa leads business, innovation and sustainability strategy alignment to make the most impactful portfolio choices for DuPont. She is passionate about elevating the role sustainability and ESG matters play in guiding investment decisions. Through her leadership, Alexa established DuPont’s 2030 Sustainability Goals ensuring sustainability is embedded in the company’s enterprise-wide strategy for long-term growth and value creation. 


Alexa joined DuPont as a research chemist and a technical manager, with increasing levels of responsibility in supply chain, operations, sales and marketing. She held leadership positions in Advanced Fibers Systems, Building Innovations and Performance Polymers. In addition, she served as Global Business Director for the corporate new business development venture in Energy Storage and led the company’s Central Research and Development function before being named to her current role.


Both in her work for DuPont and her personal endeavors, Alexa is a passionate champion of talent development and mentorship for the next generation of innovators. Through her involvement in education initiatives, she creates opportunity through diverse, cross-generational collaboration. She serves on the dean’s advisory board for Penn State’s Eberly College of Science and is a member of the board of directors for the Delaware Innovation Space.


Alexa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Northern Illinois University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemistry from Pennsylvania State University

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Vipul Gandhi

Managing Partner

Head of U.S. Enterprise, Gallup, Inc

Vipula Gandhi, managing partner and head of U.S. enterprise, is passionate about the human side of organizations. Her mission is to help companies address significant business opportunities by equipping their people with the best organizational practices and predictive analytics to reach their full potential.

Based out of Gallup’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Vipula leads business strategy and performance. She has an exceptional track record building world-class teams and cultivating a high-performing, agile, resilient and one-team culture. She and her teams work with multinational clients to understand their company’s aspirations, develop long-term strategic plans, and deliver on research and analytics-based solutions that drive business goals. As a member of Gallup’s Global Management Committee, she also helps drive organizational growth at Gallup.

Before joining Gallup, Vipula had a career in corporate banking with one of the largest banks in London. She received her master’s degree in business administration from Warwick Business School in the United Kingdom and has a wealth of international leadership experience, having worked in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the U.S.

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Hussain Hasan

Principal, Risk Consulting

Hussain currently serves as the national leader for technology risk consulting, Chicago consulting leader and chairman of the Employee Network Group council for RSM. He was elected to RSM’s Board of Directors in 2012 and served a four-year term, and in that capacity has served on various committees including the governance committee, risk oversight committee, partner matters committee and acquisitions committee.

He is also a subject matter expert in enterprise risk management (ERM), technology risk, global strategy, strategic planning, internal audit and cybersecurity and brings that perspective to the client management and the boardroom for a deeper and healthier discussion. Hussain has 25 years of experience in various  industries where he has helped his clients from strategic, operational and risk management perspectives. Hussain has been quoted extensively on risk management and technology issues in leading business publications such as CFO magazine, WebCPA, Compliance Week and American Executive.

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Sudhir Kondisetty



Sudhir Kondisetty leads the Philadelphia region risk advisory practice. In this role, Sudhir oversees projects over a wide range of services, including internal audit/SOX, IT risk, financial regulatory compliance, security, enterprise risk management, etc. Additionally, Sudhir serves as the Office Managing Partner of the Philadelphia office. He also serves as the national leader for IT risk, setting the strategy and focus for the firm’s IT risk services. Lastly, Sudhir serves as an elected member of RSM’s Board of Directors.


Prior to leading the risk advisory practice, Sudhir was involved in leading IT risk advisory projects, including IT risk assessments, IT general controls reviews, network infrastructure security testing, Sarbanes-Oxley IT reviews, Payment Card Industry (PCI) audits, Service Organization Control (SOC) attestation engagements and IT project management. He has over 20 years of consulting experience in various industries.

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Steven M. Miska

Executive Director

First Amendment Voice

Steve Miska is the Executive Director of First Amendment Voice, a nonpartisan effort to reinvigorate civic awareness around free expression, religious liberty, press freedom and other first amendment issues. Steve retired as a Colonel after 25 years in the Army. His last assignment was teaching graduate students for three years as the Army Chair at Marine Corps University. Previously, he served in the White House as Director for Iraq on the National Security Council.


 In 2007, on his second of three combat tours, Steve led a team that established an underground railroad for dozens of interpreters from Baghdad to Amman to the United States. He earned top academic honors as a Counterterrorism Fellow at the College of International Security Affairs and has taught economics at the United States Military Academy, West Point. Steve routinely speaks on first amendment issues and soft networks and has addressed DIA, RAND, the Pacific Council on International Policy, the Young Presidents Organization of LA, and numerous media outlets and think tanks. He holds degrees from Cornell University, National Defense University, and West Point. He and his wife of 29 years have two children and reside in Southern California.

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Gorick Ng

Author, Speaker, Career Advisor

Author, Speaker, Harvard College

Gorick Ng is the Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right, a book published by Harvard Business Review Press. It is a guide to help professionals from underrepresented backgrounds ascend to positions of leadership, based on 500+ interviews with professionals across geographies, industries, and job types. Gorick is a career adviser at Harvard College, specializing in coaching first-generation, low-income students. He has worked in management consulting at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), investment banking at Credit Suisse, and research with the Managing the Future of Work project at Harvard Business School. He has been featured in The Today Show, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed, New York Post, Fast Company, and CNBC. Gorick, a first-generation college student, is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. Find him at

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Robert Ringelspaugh Jr.

SVP, Digital Strategy Manager, Global Banking and Markets

Bank of America

Rob Ringelspaugh is a Senior Vice President Digital Strategy Manager in charge of Client Trust and Cybersecurity for Global Banking.

Rob’s responsibilities include collaborating and partnering with business, technical, and security teams to evolve the banks' global banking multifaceted security strategy, influence funding decisions and roadmap prioritization and key areas of focus include security, mobile security, and authentication, entitlements, fraud and risk reduction.


Previously, Rob has served in several key roles across Global Banking and Markets including Large Corporate Treasury Sales, and Security and Authentication lead for Global Transaction Services.


Rob lives in New York City, with his husband and two dogs and in his spare time he is an avid boater, cyclist and travel enthusiast. Rob is passionate about community organizing, is an active LGBTQ+ Enterprise Leader, and volunteers with SAGE, The NYC LBGT+ Center and the ASPCA. Prior to joining Bank of America, Rob spent 16 years in the United States Coast Guard managing port safety and security (probably where his love of boating comes from). 

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Faye Sahai

Ascend Executive Network Co-Chair

Partner, Mirai Global; Managing Director, Vinaj Ventures

Executive innovation leader and investment advisor on strategy, startup, inclusion and partnerships that grow new capabilities, develop new business opportunities, and position companies at the forefront. She has led strategy,  innovation and advocated for inclusion at  Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield, AIG, Schwab, and Deloitte Consulting. She has assessed thousands of innovations, piloted hundreds and scaled new products and services such as digital health, insuretech, care anywhere apps, robotic couriers, blockchain smart contracts, artificial intelligence for self-service, wearables for workers safety, mobile apps for safe driving.

Faye is Co-Founder and Partner at Mirai SV Global and Managing Director at Vinaj Ventures,  investing in diverse digital health startups with Fund and consulting in innovation and venture investments with corporations with www.Mirai.Global and diversity & inclusion with   She has served on the Board of Director: Ascend Leadership, Claremont McKenna Alumni Association, Berger Institute, Summer Search and Advisor to: UCSF Catalyst, ANA Innovation Advisor, Autonomous.ID, Asian Foundation Lotus Circle, AI and Healthcare Publication, Zebra United, Valence, Ureeka and Innovation Executive Forum.

Faye has been recognized by Insurance Business Hot 100 and Elite Women in Insurance Business America, Ascend Leadership Award, Computer World’s Top Premier IT Leaders, Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Kaiser Permanente Asian Community and Innovation Enterprise Best Ideation Award. 

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Dr. Laura Sicola

Author and Founder

Vocal Impact Productions

Dr. Laura Sicola is a leadership communication and influence expert, speaker, author of Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice, and host of the podcast, Speaking to Influence: Communication Secrets of the C-Suite. Her mission is to help executives become confident, inspiring leaders whether live or virtually in order to get the results they want and make a positive, lasting impact. As the founder of Vocal Impact Productions, she has trained and coached executives at Comcast, IBM, the US Department of Commerce and Women Against Abuse along with politicians and business owners and non-profit leaders from around the world.


Laura’s TEDx talk, “Want to Sound Like a Leader? Start by Saying Your Name Right,” has over 6.2 million views, and she has been featured on programs such as Fox & Friends First, NBC10 @Issue and PHL 17. She has also spoken to thousands at conferences such as the Professional Business Women of California Conference and the PA Conference for Women. Laura received her PhD in educational linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania, where she also taught from 2001-2013.


Debbie is the recipient of the Wiley W. Manual Pro Bono Award from the California State Bar Board of Governors for her work in the community after the LA civil unrest.  She is also the recipient of the 2016 USC Asian American Leadership Award and the 2019 Daniel Inouye Trailblazer Award and the Women’s Leadership Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.


Before practicing law, Debbie served as the Legislative Director to the Dean of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus, and a national lobbyist for the largest education association.  


She is a graduate of USC and Georgetown University Law Center.  Debbie is honored to serve on the Smithsonian National Board of Advisors.  She is also the Vice Chair of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, a Fellow in the Aspen Institute and the American Bar Foundation and active in NAPABA, USC APAA, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the American Society of International Law. 

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Kelly Thornton

Health Industries Assurance Partner


Kelly is a Higher Education & Health Industries Trust Solutions partner in the Philadelphia office of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) and is responsible for directing and coordinating services to a wide range of clients.  She has been involved in a variety of client industries and sizes, but has focused on the higher education, healthcare and not-for-profit industries since the beginning of her career in Washington DC in 1994 where she was resident until 2006.  She has served as lead or quality review partner for many of our industry clients and participates in our engagement quality review programs. Kelly assists clients with a variety of business issues, including research, risk assessment, investments, compliance, internal controls and bond financings.


She is a frequent developer of thought leadership, including PwC’s Perspectives in Higher Education, and developing and leading industry training within the firm.


She is well known and respected in these industries for her direct and clear understanding of related issues and is periodically called upon as a speaker and subject matter expert at various external conferences and seminars, including the AICPA and EACUBO. Kelly is active with her college alumni organization as an interviewer for the admissions program and in the community.


Kelly leads Diversity and Inclusion for the Philadelphia Office.

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Sunil Wattal

Managing Director and Professor

Temple University

Sunil Wattal is a Professor of Management Information Systems, and Harold Schaefer Senior Fellow at the Fox School of Business, Temple University. He also serves as Managing Director of the Fox School PhD program.


Sunil’s expertise focuses on economics of information systems, sharing economy, digital platforms, privacy, social media, and digital transformation. His work has been published in top academic journals such as MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Management Science, Journal of Management information Systems, Journal of the Association of Information Systems, and IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. He has served as Associate Editor at top peer reviewed academic journals such as MIS Quarterly and Information Systems Research, as well as the Program co-Chair for International Conference on Information Systems 2019 in Munich. His work has received several best paper awards and nominations, as well as been funded through grants from the NSF and the Kauffman Foundation.


Prof Wattal has taught at the Fox School for over 14 years, mainly on Supply Chains, Data Analytics and Digital Transformation. Apart for Philadelphia, he has also taught Fox School executive MBA programs in Tokyo, Singapore and Bogota.

Sunil holds a Bachelor’s in Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani (India), a PGDM from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (India), a MS in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Ph.D. from the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University.

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Kenny Xu

President and Author

Color Us United

Newly published An Inconvenient Minority sold out the first printing in two days and was highly ranked in the category of Asian American History (#1), Discrimination and Racism (#1), and Teacher Training and Studies (#1).


The author, KENNY XU is the president of the nonprofit organization Color Us United, and the lead insider on the Harvard case.  He has spoken on the consequences of the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard case and its identity politics ideology in front of groups as diverse as the nationally renowned Pacific Legal Foundation to the Boston Rally for Education Rights to the all-Black Connecticut Parents Union. His commentary has propelled him to interviews with Fox News, Newsweek, the Epoch Times and various Youtube, radio and podcasts, and features in the New York Times Magazine and NPR. He is a commentary writer for the Wall Street Journal, the Federalist, the Washington Examiner, the Daily Signal, Quillette, New York Post and City Journal. His journalism is beloved by the Asian American community and other meritocratic activists.  Asian- American activists have frequently solicited his advice on how to organize for meritocracy and equal rights.  As such he maintains extensive connections with the nationwide “meritocracy movement.”


As the youngest board member of the Asian-American Coalition for Education (which sponsored the lawsuit) and an identity politics journalist for nearly two years, Kenny has unique and unprecedented access to the major players fighting the deep racial ideologies propagated by Harvard today, including SFFA legal strategist Ed Blum, equal rights activist Ward Connerly, and Asian-American equal rights advocate Yukong Zhao.


Kenny Xu is 24 years old and is the son of Chinese Immigrants.  He grew up in Richmond, VA and later moved to Princeton, NJ with his family in his high school year. He attended Davidson College and graduated Magna Cum Laude with major in Mathematics and minor in Philosophy.

Recently published articles and appearances:

Wall Street Journal -

City Journal -

Daily Caller -

The Federalist-

Wilcow Majority -

Newsmax -

Good Morning San Diego -

Quillette Podcast -


Join Kenny’s Conversation:

Facebook: @kennymxu

Twitter: @kennymxu

Instagram: @kennymxu

Podcast: Inconvenient Minority