July 22, 2011 | last updated May 31, 2012 7:59 pm

Hartford Business Journal 2011 40 Under Forty - Winners (N - Z)

Jason D. Newman

AGE: 38
TITLE: Partner
COMPANY NAME: Kostin, Ruffkess & Co. LLC
COMPANY'S LOCATION: Farmington; New London; Springfield MA
RESIDENCE: West Hartford

What do you do: I am a partner in our assurance practice, with responsibilities as the partner-in-charge of our employee benefit plans audit group and partner-in-charge of quality control. I also have a leadership role in our assurance practice consulting on accounting and auditing matters for the firm.


What do you want to be doing in 10 years: Continue being a leader in our firm, helping our clients solve complex business issues and seeking continued growth of the practice. My wife and I will be preparing for my son to graduate from college, seeking additional volunteer opportunities in the community, and continuing to maintain and restore my first classic car purchase (a DeLorean). Most of all, enjoy time with my family.


What's your biggest strength: Patient, focused, tenacious.


Where do you go for new ideas: Emerging trends, history, and looking at what can solve a problem.


What's the best advice you received: I have received great advice from a number of people over the years. Whether it was from my parents, family members, coaches or friends, there was a common theme of knowledge, hard work, determination and valuing time. Some of the advice/quotes are as follows:

You never stop learning. Gain all the knowledge you can as it is the one thing that can never be taken away from you.

You can do whatever you want in life, it is up to you and the initiative you take.

If you work hard and smart, there are no limits.

There is no greater gift than the gift of time. Spend it wisely because there is only so much time we have on this earth.


What service or charitable cause has your attention: CCMC Craniofacial Team. Our son was born with a cleft lip in 2001. This team of specialists reached out to us at birth, completed two procedures and has ongoing monitoring. We can't thank them enough for their support and guidance over the years. Kostin, Ruffkess & Co. LLC has supported the team through casual days to raise money for the team. Understanding the importance of what the team does and teaching him to give back to the community, my son has set up a lemonade stand for the past three years to raise money for the team.

Boy/Cub Scouts: For the past 10 years, I have volunteered with Cub Scout Pack 141 at Webster Hill School in West Hartford. I have served in a number of leadership roles and continue to take great pride in coordinating events for the group such as flag planting for/with veterans on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day, an annual food drive to support the West Hartford Food Pantry, and leaf clean-up for the elderly in the Webster Hill Community.

Isabella K. O'Brien

AGE: 30
TITLE: Immunotherapy sales specialist
COMPANY NAME: Dendreon
COMPANY'S LOCATION: Seattle
RESIDENCE: West Hartford

What do you do: I am an immunotherapy sales specialist for a burgeoning biotechnology company called Dendreon. I work with cancer centers and urology clinics throughout the Greater Hartford area promoting Provenge, the world's first immunotherapy for metastatic prostate cancer that uses a patient's own blood to fight their prostate cancer.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: I want to continue to love what I do for a living. I have aspirations of running my own company in 10 years and I hope to continue to make strategic choices along the way to get me closer to that goal. My husband and I are in the process of expanding our family with our first child due in the beginning of August. I hope in 10 years to have an even richer professional career and meaningful personal life with my family and friends.

What's your biggest strength: I continually set goals for myself and hold myself accountable for accomplishing those goals. I attack each one of those goals with the same passion and enthusiasm.

Where do you go for new ideas: My mind is constantly churning out new ideas and I love having my husband, family, and friends to bounce my ideas off of. While there is no such thing as a new idea, there are always ways to improve upon an old idea and make it better.


What's the best advice you received: I've been successful in my career because of some very simple advice: "You cannot get what you don't ask for." I've found this advice has served me well in my professional career and in my personal life. Many opportunities in my life would not have become reality had I not sought them out and asked for the chance to prove myself.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: I am very passionate about supporting my community. I presently serve as secretary on the board of the Buena Vista Property Owners Association, a neighborhood of over 400 homes in West Hartford. In addition, I am very passionate about fundraising for many various animal organizations such as Fidelco, Labs4Rescue, and the Connecticut Humane Society.

Jodi Palerma

AGE: 34
TITLE: Business Project Manager
COMPANY NAME: CIGNA Healthcare
COMPANY'S LOCATION: Bloomfield
RESIDENCE: Hartford


What do you do: Business project manager in CIGNA's Network Operations, a department of 500-plus employees who manage our health care professionals' contracts. Specifically, I work on resource and capacity planning/forecasting; strategic advancement programs utilizing Six Sigma process and people optimization programs that advance and mature the organization. Prior to that, I worked as an IT project manager to build a strategic workforce planning program for 4,000 information technology employees.
Before CIGNA, I was a project leader at GE Capital/Genworth, working on web IT and infrastructure engineering initiatives and received the GE Everest Award and GNW Clarity Award for high achievement.
I am a certified group exercise instructor and teach kickboxing, yoga, spinning, step and boot camp at various facilities. As well, I have trained women in CT with breast cancer to utilize fitness programs to help ease the symptoms of cancer treatment.
I am fortunate to work for a corporation where our mission is to help the people we serve improve their health, well-being and sense of security and am able to expand this outside of the corporate environment, as a fitness instructor.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: I don't have a destination and prefer to live my life as an adventure. All I can say is that my life is in a constant forward motion.

What's your biggest strength: I am naturally curious with a strong desire to learn, grow and experience new things.

Where do you go for new ideas: Traveling. After completing an interdisciplinary MS in information systems and communication and an MBA in international business, I took a sabbatical; hiking and volunteering in Africa, Central and South America and Europe. I climbed Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, Patagonia, Denali and every active volcano in Central and South America. I also completed volunteer programs in Peruvian and Ecuadorian orphanages. Traveling has always been my "go to" option to expand the mind. In high school, I participated in an exchange program to Australia as a People to People student ambassador. I later completed study aboard programs in Singapore, Bangkok, Prague and Greece and overseas work assignments in London and Ireland. Traveling provides a perspective of life. It helps us to see things in the balance and allow us to be thankful for what we have. It broadens our horizons. It questions, and it challenges us to defend our own beliefs and ideas.

What's the best advice you received: Don't follow common script; define career and success for yourself.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: Women for Women International, which supports women in war-torn regions with financial aid, job-skills training and education to rebuild their lives.

Melissa R. Pasquale

AGE: 33
TITLE: Director, real estate
COMPANY NAME: Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. (CERC)
COMPANY'S LOCATION: Rocky Hill
RESIDENCE: Avon

What do you do: As an economic development professional, I help businesses looking to expand or relocate within Connecticut and take part in recruiting new business to the state. At CERC, we connect businesses to federal, state and local programs, from registration and licensing to financing and technical assistance, to help them grow and succeed. Part of my job is managing CERC SiteFinder, a nationally recognized website that provides free commercial real estate listings and detailed demographics. When businesses have a real estate need, I assist with a site search or connect them with a broker.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: I would like to continue to advance my career in the economic development field. I look forward to being a part of the transformation that will make Connecticut a model state for its commitment to economic development and success in job growth and creation.

What's your biggest strength: Integrity and work ethic -- thanks to my parents. If you keep your integrity, work hard and stand by what you believe in, everything else usually falls into place.

Where do you go for new ideas: I talk to my customers, colleagues, vendors, peers in other states, friends and family. I listen carefully and always welcome suggestions.

What's the best advice you received: I recently took the advice I received from a very successful woman about how to balance work and family life. She said she couldn't do it without a great nanny to take care of her children and some household duties. With three young children at home, I must agree, it is the best decision I have made so far.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: Education - I recently volunteered for Junior Achievement and helped teach a class of fifth graders about free enterprise. It was such a fun and rewarding day. It was great to see how smart the kids were and made me realize how important it is to have good teachers shaping our future generations. I am also a member of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization), which promotes and advances educational opportunities for women through scholarships, grants, awards, loans, and stewardship of a two-year women's college. The P.E.O. Sisterhood makes a difference in women's lives by assisting them in the completion of higher education. Our programs help graduating high school students, women who have had to take a break in their education, as well as women in international, doctoral and post graduate work.

Cherron M. Payne

AGE: 37
TITLE: Magistrate for five Connecticut judicial districts; managing principal of ACP Law Firm LLC in West Hartford; adjunct law instructor for Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Winsted; owner, Esquire Dance LLC, Hartford
RESIDENCE: West Hartford


What do you do: I am a magistrate, appointed to serve as a judge for small claims and motor vehicle matters in five judicial districts. I am also the founder and managing principal of ACP Law Firm LLC, which specializes in housing law, the law of landlord and tenant, family law, business law, and contracts. Additionally, I am an adjunct instructor of law at Northwestern Connecticut Community College. I also own Esquire Dance, where I am an instructor, dancer and choreographer.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: I envision an expansion of my law firm, further diversification of my career and artistic pursuits, an increase in pro bono work, and the continuation of balance in my professional and personal life.

What's your biggest strength: My biggest strength is my diversity, which has granted me leadership skills and vision, and enabled me to be adaptable and innovative.

Where do you go for new ideas: When I seek new ideas, I engage in prayer, discourse with colleagues, and the review of academic and philosophical publications.

What's the best advice you received: There are rewards in taking calculated risks, especially if the risks are aligned with focus, discipline, and prayer.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: Interval House, which is a domestic violence shelter, is a cause that has caught my attention. I became a certified domestic violence counselor for Interval House in order to render support to domestic violence victims. Additionally, as an enthusiast of the arts, I contribute my time to organizations that provide artistic outlets and instruction to the community. I am on the board of directors for the Hartford Children's Theatre, which is Connecticut's premiere children's theatre, and I play viola for the Colchester Civic Orchestra, where I am also the vice president of planning and development. I am a member of the advisory board of Connecticut Community Boating Inc., which offers sailing instruction to adults and children. I received my sailing certification from Connecticut Community Boating three years ago, and I decided to become involved because of its mission to teach underprivileged children to sail.

Amy B. Perrault

AGE: 37
TITLE: Director, marketing and communications
COMPANY NAME: Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford
COMPANY'S LOCATION: West Hartford
RESIDENCE: Feeding Hills, MA

What do you do: I am currently the diretor of marketing and communications for the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford in West Hartford. In addition, I serve as adjunct professor of business, marketing and social media for the traditional, one-day and graduate programs at Bay Path College in Longmeadow, Mass. Working under my own umbrella, Amy B. Perrault Marketing Communications, I also provide creative and consultation services.

In my free time, I work on my award-winning blog, "Life of Josie M." (http://www.lifeofjosiem.com), a single girl's journey into the fabulously ridiculous and ridiculously fabulous. I frequently appear as a guest speaker at panel discussions, seminars, and other local events centered around exploring personal brand development, social media and general marketing topics.
What do you want to be doing in 10 years: I hope to see one or more of my many eCommerce concepts come to fruition bearing a new professional title — eMogul.

What's your biggest strength: My biggest strength is my ability to combine a delicious blend of writer, graphic designer, social(media)ite with forward-thinking leadership, MacGyver-like problem solving skills and rigorous commitment to analysis and results.

Where do you go for new ideas: I find fresh and edgy ideas in pop culture and on the fashion runway. Seeing how designers — whether hailing from Madison Avenue or Ninth — translate trend into style is always invigorating and inspiring.

What's the best advice you received: The best advice I received was from one of my supervisors at my first marketing job during my undergraduate years as a graphic designer assistant at Joan G. Letendre Advertising and Graphic Design. "If someone doesn't like your design, don't take it personal. Art and design are subjective; make the client's corrections, keep creating and move on."

What service or charitable cause has your attention: My heart belongs to Bay Path's Alumni Council. As co-chair of the Traditional Alumni Committee, I am able to directly assist students and people in the surrounding community to meet personal goals, advance in their professional lives and create better lives through free and open-to-the-public seminars on personal branding, social media job networking and resume advice.

Jennifer Sager

AGE: 28
TITLE: Director of marketing
COMPANY NAME: Whittlesey & Hadley P.C.
COMPANY'S LOCATION: Hartford
RESIDENCE: Manchester


What do you do: I'm the marketing director of the independent accounting firm, Whittlesey & Hadley, in downtown Hartford, where I play a leadership role in formulating and implementing marketing strategies.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: In my career I have been fortunate to be exposed to both the for-profit and nonprofit organizations. While I am currently focused primarily in the areas of marketing and communication, I hope to continue to broaden my horizons in all facets of business management.

What's your biggest strength: I'm a collaborator — I thrive on teamwork, building alliances of similarly minded folk and unlikely matches, ultimately bringing people together through effective communication to reach a common goal. I firmly believe great things happen when people work together with honesty and respect.

Where do you go for new ideas: Twitter. Over the last year I have come to see Twitter as an amazing tool that offers readers a plethora of new, interesting ideas that are perpetually refreshing.

What's the best advice you received: Remember to exhale. It's easy to get ahead of ourselves and overlook the obvious, particularly in times of stress. By taking the time to exhale, I clear my head so I can move forward and work toward a real solution.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: With so many positive projects going on in Hartford right now, there are several causes that have my attention. However, there are only so many hours in the day and I have chosen to lend the majority of my time and energy to Knox Parks, Hartford's premiere urban greening organization. For over 40 years, Knox Parks has been based in Hartford working to 'green' the city and building a stronger community by bringing people together through horticulture, re-establishing the urban forest, providing youth with job skills, establishing community gardens and beautifying neighborhoods. The work Knox Parks does is enjoyed by all who live and work in Hartford and is an important part of our city's present and future. In addition to my work with Knox Parks, I am strong supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford (BGCH). BGCH is dedicated to ensuring our community's children have greater access to quality programs that will enhance their lives and positively shape their futures. In my years as an employee of BGCH, I saw firsthand how important the work they do there is and the incredible impact they make on Hartford's youth every day.

Rebecca Scorso

AGE: 39
TITLE: Managing director
COMPANY NAME: Charter Oak Cultural Center
COMPANY'S LOCATION: Hartford
RESIDENCE: Manchester

What do you do: I run the day-to-day operations and oversee the finances of a very busy multi-cultural arts center. I manage a regular staff of 17 in addition to a staff of nearly 20 teaching artists.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: I am extremely fortunate to be doing a job that I really enjoy. I just cannot imagine working anywhere else. I'd say that in 10 years I would love to still be working at Charter Oak. Over the next decade, my role with Charter Oak will inevitably morph in unimaginable ways.

What's your biggest strength: That's a really difficult question for me to answer. If you know me, you understand. But my co-workers would say problem-solving is my strength. I am always trying to find creative solutions to every puzzle. Our executive director, Rabbi Donna Berman, says that when we are faced with a problem we are often too close to it to see all of our options. I am the one that challenges her and others to take a few steps back to get a larger view of a situation. That's when the many pieces of a puzzle come into light.

Where do you go for new ideas: I'm a genius in the shower. But when I'm not able to find solutions or inspiration during my 20-minute morning shower, I know I can always talk to my colleagues. I am so honored to work with the smartest, most amazing co-workers. We are constantly bouncing ideas off of each other. Our environment is one of support, respect and humor, where we can talk openly about anything from challenges and concerns to ideas for improvement or new programs.

What's the best advice you received: To be fair and honest; and that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: I live, breathe, eat and sleep Charter Oak. When I'm not working, my time and energy is focused on my husband and young son.

Shawn Skehan

Age: 39
Title: President, co-founder
Company: Locals8 Restaurant Group
Company's Location: Hartford
Residence: Simsbury


What do you do: Technically, I own a restaurant group. One of the things I love about my job is that every day is really different. I may start my day at 7 a.m., going to meet with the manager in our Simsbury restaurant about a lunch he's doing for the elementary school soccer league in town.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: Exactly what I'm doing right now, continuing to seek out unique, creative, flavorful products and sharing it with the public in a responsible, value-oriented way. I also enjoy being able to bring high quality food to people, food that was prepared the way it used to be, grown on a farm and made from scratch.

What's your biggest strength: I personally would like to think that my strength lies in my attention to detail and from the pleasure I get from teaching or maybe coaching is a better term. My parents were both teachers and I really respect it as a profession. I guess I see myself as an extension of that.

Where do you go for new ideas: I really believe that we need to look to the past in order to build for the future. With that, I eat out every day and I cook a meal at home every day. This way I get to experiment with foods on my own and to see what people are doing. I listen to the people around me, I listen to my guests, to my staff, I read a lot of magazines, I go to farms, I drive around the state. I also look outside my neighborhood, I travel to New York, LA, Chicago, Europe.

What's the best advice you received: I'm always trying to create food that reminds you of your past, of the way things used to be done, of a time when people ate meals together and contributed to their communities. This probably stems from my mother; she was a really strong person and more than giving advice she demonstrated the importance of being involved in the community you're in.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: At the restaurants, we really try to pay attention to the communities we're in and to what causes are meaningful to the people who work there. On a personal level, I'm an animal lover. I really believe in adopting animals from shelters and contribute to helping animals in any way that I can. That is why being a Certified Humane restaurant is important to me.

Karen T. Staib

AGE: 38
TITLE: Partner
COMPANY NAME: Shipman & Goodwin LLP
COMPANY'S LOCATION: Hartford
RESIDENCE: West Hartford


What do you do: I am a lawyer at Shipman & Goodwin LLP, practicing in the areas of complex business and commercial litigation, particularly in franchise and petroleum marketing matters, including representing major refiners and wholesalers in all aspects of petroleum marketing-related counseling and litigation. My practice is central to "what I do" at Shipman, but I also believe it is important to invest in the institutions that support you. For example, I currently serve on the Board of Trustees of Miss Porter's School where I am an alumna, both because of the important role Porter's played in my educational experience and because I believe in how its educational mission helps young women become tomorrow's leaders. Likewise, I have for a number of years served on the Board of Directors of the UConn Law School Alumni Association.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: I love what I do and where I do it, so in 10 years, I expect to continue to be a practicing attorney at Shipman & Goodwin, still challenged intellectually by my work and surrounded by the exceptional colleagues whom I have had the privilege of learning from, working with and calling my friends.

What's your biggest strength: My biggest strength professionally is an interpersonal one — my commitment to understanding and being responsive to my clients' needs, beyond the specific legal problem they are facing, and the ability to work collegially and constructively with all sides on an issue.

Where do you go for new ideas: There is no one place I go for new ideas. For me, understanding people is an important skill, whether they are your clients or your adversaries. It is essential to obtain diverse views and perspectives, both for the substance of those views, and for the way in which learning a different way of looking at things can expand your own view.

What's the best advice you received: To allow yourself to be open to unforeseen opportunities. Personally and professionally, some of the most important opportunities arose for me in ways I could never have planned for.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: Leadership Greater Hartford, which provides leadership training while connecting individuals from diverse professional backgrounds through community involvement in Greater Hartford. I participated in its Quest program in 2009, and my group assisted the development of an infrastructure for obtaining long-term, sustainable donations to Freshplace, a unique food pantry in Hartford's Upper Albany area.

Kate Terricciano Sirignano

AGE: 27
TITLE: Managing director
COMPANY NAME: Image Marketing Consultants
COMPANY'S LOCATION: Southington
RESIDENCE: Southington


What do you do: Our business has really grown over the past few years so I've quickly had to learn how to manage both my professional and personal time more effectively. Image Marketing Consultants has morphed from a boutique event planning company back in 2007 into a full-service marketing, public relations, and event agency now and that's brought lots of new challenges, projects, and friends along the way.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: I'd love to be speaking throughout the country on how professionals can take their image to the next level. I love helping other young people market themselves and it would be great to be able to continue doing that for the next 10 years.

What's your biggest strength: My biggest strength is being able to relate to people in new and unexpected ways. I love meeting new people and finding the similarities that connect us. I also love public speaking and aspire to someday make it a full-time career.

Where do you go for new ideas: Lately I've been going to my interns for new ideas. I'm in no ways "old," but compared to them, sometimes I feel ancient. They always know the latest and greatest news in the social media and marketing world and keep me up to date on the latest trends.

What's the best advice you received: From as far back as I can remember, my mom has always told me that no matter what happens to me in life, I just have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep moving. That one piece of advice has lent itself useful in almost every aspect of my life, both personally and professionally, and I'll always be thankful to her for instilling it in me at a young age.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: I sit on the board for both the Rotary Club of Southington and the Southington United Way so those are two that definitely keep my interest. I also had a very personal experience seeing an orphanage in Guatemala from where my brother was adopted, and that really has left a lingering impression as well.

Chad Williams

AGE: 35
TITLE: Director of program services
COMPANY NAME: Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford Inc.
COMPANY'S LOCATION: Hartford
RESIDENCE: West Hartford

What do you do: My overall responsibilities revolve around program and staff development, training and quality assurance for nine different club sites in Hartford. I establish objectives that are consistent with our organizational goals and mission and evaluate the programs and services we offer to young people and families to ensure they are meeting their needs. I manage and supervise staff and provide mentorship and technical assistance as it relates to their site operations. I also oversee numerous collaborations, special initiatives and develop and monitor outcome data for the entire organization.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years: I plan on continuing my path with the BGC Movement — hopefully here in Hartford in a further leadership capacity, or at our national office in Atlanta. I hope to build my own business using my experience in social work and youth development to offer non-profit agencies training and consulting services. Other options include counting my lotto or casino winnings on a sandy beach in Aruba, owning a small Irish pub in Count Kerry, Ireland, or hosting a "shock jock" radio show.

What's your biggest strength: Passion and taking risks. People have told me that I speak what I feel and feel what I speak. My passion is expressed through the high expectations I have for the people who are part of my team and is translated through the motivation and drive I hope I exemplify.

Where do you go for new ideas: Experts, literature and colleagues help me to "sharpen my saw" and find best practices. I read a lot, and pray often, and find ideas and inspiration through spirituality and music, all of which help to open my mind's eyes.

What's the best advice you received: Personally, my mother and father always taught me to walk tall, be brave and to remember that what I put into life is what I'll get out of it. I believed them. Professionally, a mentor of mine once told me never to say that the staff you manage work "for" you, but instead, work "with" you. Although as a manager I've had to make difficult decisions and be a leader, I always try to allow staff to have a voice in the process and empower them.

What service or charitable cause has your attention: Of course, Boys & Girls Clubs is a charity, but my personal journey with both my mother and father has me aware of cancer research and treatment.


Return to 2011 Winner List

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