WISE/R Symposium 2021 Speakers

WISE/R Symposium 2021 Speakers

WISE/R offers the opportunity to learn from top industry leaders, improve your skills, connect with peers and so much more!

Agenda, timing, sessions and speakers are subject to change.

Meet our panel of business leaders and experts:

Derek Jeter

Chief Executive Officer
Miami Marlins

Derek Jeter, Major League Baseball’s first African American owner/CEO, oversees the Marlins’ day-to-day business and baseball operations. Since assuming the roles in 2017, Jeter has led a recommitment to the fan experience and South Florida community, spearheading ballpark enhancements, relaunching the Miami Marlins Foundation, and focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. In 2020, the team saw its first winning season since 2009 and first playoff appearance in 17 years.

During a 20-year major league playing career, Jeter won five World Series and was a 14-time All-Star, compiling the sixth-most hits in MLB history. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020. In addition to longtime philanthropic work, Jeter has established personal business ventures, including Jeter Publishing and The Players’ Tribune.

Kim Ng

General Manager
Miami Marlins

The highest-ranking woman in baseball operations among Major League Baseball’s 30 teams and the first woman hired to the GM position by any of the professional men’s sports teams in the North American major leagues, Kim Ng leads the Marlins’ baseball operations department. Hired in 2020, she owns more than 30 years in MLB, including a combined 21 years with the White Sox, Yankees and Dodgers and three world championships.

Prior to joining the Marlins, Ng oversaw international baseball operations for the league, managing a team that set policy for and enforced international signing rules. The 2000 WISE Women of the Year honoree has been named to numerous “most powerful” and “most influential” lists, including by Forbes, Adweek and Sports Illustrated.

Caroline O'Connor

Chief Operating Officer
Miami Marlins

Caroline O’Connor, in her fourth season with the Marlins, oversees all the organization’s internal service departments, including human resources, finance, and diversity, equity and inclusion. She also works closely with leadership to execute organizational objectives and goals. Under O’Connor’s management, the Marlins have established enhanced security measures in and around Marlins Park, made additional investment in technology infrastructure, and continued to expand their efforts to create a working environment defined by fair treatment, respect, community and opportunity.

Prior to joining the Marlins in 2017 as senior vice president and chief of staff, the WISE Executive Leadership Institute alum (2019) spent five years as managing director at Morgan Stanley and six years as director at UBS Investment Bank.

Jill Gregory

EVP and General Manager
Sonoma Raceway

Jill Gregory oversees the 1,600-acre Sonoma Raceway. She joined the Speedway Motorsports subsidiary in February after 13-plus years with NASCAR, where she served as executive vice president and chief marketing and content officer and managed the sanctioning body’s Charlotte-based operations. Leading marketing, communications, and diversity and inclusion functions, Gregory was responsible for the NASCAR brand, including its digital presence, spearheaded initiatives to deepen fan engagement, and advanced diversity and inclusion efforts.

Previously, Gregory was Bank of America’s senior vice president of motorsports marketing and directed the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series marketing program for Sprint Nextel. A 2011 Sports Business Journal Game Changer, she was recognized by Adweek as one of the most powerful women in sports in 2019 and 2020.

Steve Phelps


Steve Phelps oversees all NASCAR’s day-to-day operations, including competition, racing operations, commercial business, marketing, communications, broadcasting and productions. Under his leadership, the sanctioning body has refocused its priorities to ensure the world’s best racing experience for fans and the entire industry is focused on long-term growth through exciting on-track action and intense competition and innovation.  

Prior to joining NASCAR in 2005 and working his way through the ranks, Phelps was executive vice president of sales and marketing at Wasserman and spent 14 years at the NFL as vice president of corporate marketing. During his NASCAR tenure, Phelps has been recognized as Adweek’s Sports Marketing Executive of the Year and was named its Brand Genius Award winner in the sports category.

Brandon Thompson

VP Diversity and Inclusion

Brandon Thompson leads NASCAR’s strategy for diversity and inclusion, as well as programs designed to champion and enhance diversity across the industry, overseeing a department responsible for multicultural programs and strategic alliances with the Institute for Sport and Social Justice, among others. Under his direction, the sanctioning body is expanding its efforts to attract top diverse talent — on and off the track. 

Thompson previously served as managing director of the NASCAR Touring Series. He managed the integration of the NASCAR Pro Series into the ARCA Menards Series. His leadership also contributed to the growth of NASCAR’s international series. Before that, Thompson held NASCAR positions across racing operations, industry operations, and diversity and inclusion. Between NASCAR stints, he was operations manager at Revolution Racing.

Patty Jazayeri

Workshop Presenter
Senior Consultant
Leading Women

Patty Jazayeri is an accomplished global human resources professional who has held roles as an HR business partner and organizational development consultant. A certified executive coach, Jazayeri specializes in gender diversity, women’s leadership development, high-potential identification, and development, assessments and coaching.

 Previously, Jazayeri worked as a telecommunication analyst in a New York City investment banking firm before moving to Dallas, where she developed a wide range of skills in areas such as account and program management, finance and leadership development in the telecommunication industry. In overseeing women’s leadership programs at Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent, Jazayeri helped advance female employees into more senior positions. Her HR roles have allowed her to combine two strengths and passions — an interest in the business and in developing talent.

Vanessa Phipps

Workshop Presenter
Senior Consultant
Leading Women

Vanessa Phipps has 20-plus years of successful executive and management development learning facilitation combined with a strong background in compliance and diversity and inclusion consulting. Prior to joining Leading Women, Phipps was the interim chief diversity officer at the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Phipps previously honed her skills at Aventis Pharmaceuticals (now Sanofi U.S.) building a talent planning process that resulted in a measurable commitment by C-suite leaders to identify and promote diverse talent. She also managed the launch of the first women’s and the first African American Employee/Business Resource Groups. Phipps is board president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources, which provides development opportunities for members, students and women- and minority-owned businesses. 

Dr. Usha Pillai

Workshop Presenter
Senior Consultant
Leading Women

Dr. Usha Pillai is a specialist in strategy, critical thinking, change management, outsourcing, and project/program management with over 20 years of experience as a leader and scientific professional. She founded Aria Management Consulting and currently works with the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven fostering science entrepreneurship.

 Previously, Pillai held various positions at Pfizer, where she led strategic planning and outsourcing, introduced change management, and partnered on organizational redesign and strategy. In 2010, she was selected by Pfizer as a Global Health Fellow, spending six months in Ghana working with the global nonprofit Family Health International (now FHI 360). While there, she oversaw the development and implementation of long-term sustainability plans, decreasing future dependence on donor funds.

Kathleen Francis

National Board Chair and President

Kathleen Francis brings 25-plus years of experience leading the development and implementation of high-impact marketing programs. Over her career, Francis has created and executed multifaceted sports marketing strategies that work at the grassroots level for not-for-profits and major corporations, including Major League Baseball, Meadowlands Sports Complex and the United States Tennis Association. She is founder and president of Oasis Sports Ventures, a marketing and grassroots development agency. 

A 2001 WISE Women of the Year honoree and president of WISE since 2011, Francis launched the WISE Executive Leadership Institute in partnership with Tuck Executive Education at Dartmouth and WISE/R Symposium. SportsBusiness Journal named Francis one of its Forty Under 40 sports executives and for two consecutive years honored her as one of its Top 25 Women Sports Executives.

Kelly Saco

Sideline Reporter,
Producer and Host
FOX Sports Florida

Kelly Saco is an Emmy­-nominated sideline reporter, producer and host for FOX Sports Florida, covering the Marlins. In addition to her television roles, in 2019, she became the first woman in Marlins history to call a game on Marlins Radio. Saco also calls University of Miami baseball games for ACC Network. 

 Prior to assuming her current role at FOX Sports Florida, Saco was a contributing sports reporter for the Miami Herald, an in-game host for the Marlins and the University of Miami, and a digital reporter for FOX Sports Florida. She was a member of Syracuse University’s back-to-back Big East Conference championship softball teams in 2010 and 2011, receiving all-conference recognitions.

Dana Jacobson

Event Host
Host, Anchor and Reporter
CBS Sports
CBS This Morning: Saturday

Dana Jacobson has been part of the CBS family since 2013, when she joined the CBS Sports Network as a studio host for Inside College Football and Inside College Basketball. She has served as a sideline reporter on the NCAA Tournament since 2015 and has contributed to The NFL Today as a reporter.

An award-winning journalist, Jacobson began contributing to CBS News programs in 2015 and joined CBS This Morning: Saturday as a co-host in 2018. At CBS News, she has fielded a variety of assignments, including coverage of the Winter Olympics in South Korea and the investigation and aftermath of sexual abuse charges against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Previously, Jacobson was an anchor and reporter for ESPN.