San Francisco HR Star Conference
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Speakers & Presenters

Paul Meshanko, MBA, CSP is an acclaimed author, international speaker, CEO and business leader with over 20 years of experience in leadership development and organizational culture change. After founding Legacy Business Cultures in 1997 his business has grown to become one of the country's top training, development and employee survey providers. As a presenter and facilitator Paul has captivated over a quarter million leaders and business professionals on five continents. His training materials have been translated into over 25 languages, and his newsletter is read by thousands of subscribers each month. His clients include: the US Senate, US House of Representatives, US Treasury, US Department of Justice, The Cleveland Clinic, DuPont, Parker Hannifin, Progressive Insurance, Johnson Controls, P&G, Symantec, Toyota, Johnsonville Sausage, Ernst & Young, Wake Forest Medical Center, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Congressional Office of Compliance just to name a few. Always with any eye toward research and science Paul's speaking themes include organizational and personal adaptability, unconscious bias, employee engagement and respectful work cultures. His most recent book, The Respect Effect: Using the Science of Neuroleadership to Inspire a More Loyal and Productive Workplace was published by McGraw-Hill. Paul holds a BSBA from The Ohio State University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace College. He resides in Annapolis, Maryland.

Allison West, Esq., SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the Managing Principal of Employment Practices Specialists LLC and holds a simple approach to employment practices: be proactive. Using her employment law background, coupled with her sound knowledge of human resources practices, Allison provides proactive risk management services aimed at helping companies both prevent and resolve employment claims. She is a frequent speaker on employment law and human resources topics at national conferences related to human resources and diversity. Allison specializes in delivering customized in-house training programs to companies of all sizes, serving a wide variety of industries. Her clients include: Chiquita Brands, SanDisk, Kodak EasyShare Gallery, Sharp Hospital, and Portola Pharmaceuticals. Her expertise also includes delivering one-on-one sensitivity training to executives, managers and employees concerning harassment, discrimination, and disciplinary and/or behavioral issues as well as conducting workplace investigations, providing expert witness assistance and other HR consulting. Allison is a member of the State Bar of California and holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources certification.

Debbie McGrath is the CEO of, a global company committed to delivering HR best practices and helping organizations build great businesses through community, collaboration, research, shared best practices and measurements. is trusted by 1.2 million HR professionals worldwide. Prior to starting, Debbie owned The CEO Group, a Canadian and European entity that created job board software, talent management software, HTC career magazines and career fairs. In August of 1998 The CEO Group was sold to Kaplan, a fully-owned subsidiary of the Washington Post Company. During her tenure Debbie served as President of the Canadian and European operations, as well as Vice President of Worldwide Sales. Complementing her extensive background in human resources, publishing and the Internet, Debbie also holds a degree in Computer Science and Business Administration from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

David Thompson, CFI is the Vice President of Operations with Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, Inc. (WZ). He is responsible for the day to day operations of WZ, as well as strategic planning in product offerings and the evolution of interview and interrogation content. David has also served as the Director of Investigations for WZ giving him the opportunity to manage a variety of cases while conducting interviews and consulting on investigations ranging from theft and fraud to sexual harassment and homicide. As a speaker for WZ, David has created customized training programs, presented at seminars, hosted a variety of webinars as well as conducted live broadcasts of training. He is also an active member of the International Association of Interviews and has contributed blogs, video tips and published several articles to support the continuing education of its members. While at WZ, David has also played an integral role in the ongoing research and evolution of content and innovative teaching methods. Developing training that is presented in a virtual broadcast venue, creating more opportunities for distance learning and contributing to some of WZ.s newest technology including a simulated interrogation system are a few of the projects David has been involved in. David has also worked with members of the Innocence Project Center on Wrongful Conviction of Youth and other academic partners on behalf of WZ to further the enhancement of interview and interrogation protocols throughout the US. David has contributed opinions on behalf of WZ for a variety of cases, and has been cited by the Federal Court of Appeals for his involvement on the topic of interview and interrogation.

Debbie Birndorf Zeiler, Esq., MBA has been practicing law for more than twenty years - with eleven years at major law firms in both Chicago and Los Angeles. Her practice primarily focuses on representing employers in all aspects of employment law, including harassment and discrimination claims, wage and hour claims including class actions, disability claims as well as misappropriation of trade secrets. She also provides preventative counseling and drafts and reviews employment contracts, severance agreements, employee handbooks and personnel policies. Debbie has been honored by being named a Super Lawyer in Employment and Labor in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and most recently in 2019. She has also been named one of the Top Employment and Labor Attorneys in Los Angeles and one of the Top Women Attorneys by Los Angeles Magazine. Additionally, Birndorf Law Offices was also recognized by Los Angeles Magazine as one of the best law firms in Los Angeles. Debbie is a frequent speaker on a wide variety of employment law topics and teaches Legal Aspects of Employee Relations at UCLA Extension. Debbie earned a B.A. from UCLA, an M.B.A. from NYU and a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis - where she graduated at the top of her class.

Shari Dunn is Managing Director, Compensation for Gallagher HR Consulting - formerly CompAnalysis - a Division of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Shari has a long and varied background in compensation management, having worked both internally as a manager and as a consultant in this field with such firms as McKinsey & Co., Deloitte, Boise Cascade and Bank of America. In 1980, she established CompAnalysis, a consultancy dedicated to helping employers make successful compensation decisions. Prior to being acquired by the Arthur J. Gallagher Company in 2010, the firm had grown to become a leading independent San Francisco Bay Area compensation management consulting firm, specializing in broad-based pay plans. She and her staff work with both non-profit and for-profit employers to develop and maintain base pay plans, executive compensation guidelines and incentive pay approaches. Shari has a B.A. degree in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. She is the former President of the 5,000 + member Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA) and maintains active memberships in the Bay Area Compensation Association and WorldatWork.

Sheree Knowles, SPHR is the Founder and Chief HR Officer of HR Knowledge Source (HRKS) - a human resources and talent management firm - as well as a Managing Partner with Human Capital Consulting Consortium (H3C). Sheree is a talented executive with over 20 years of HR leadership experience. Through HRKS and H3C, Sheree works with clients in a variety of industries, including technology, supply chain management, higher education, nonprofit, government, logistics and distribution, accounting, litigation and commercial insurance. Prior to joining the entrepreneurial community, she served as the VP of HR for both regional and national companies. Sheree is an accomplished practitioner who has achieved multiple certifications and designations throughout her career. These include: SPHR, EQi 2.0 (Emotional Intelligence), CPM (Certified Project Manager), MBTI (Myers-Briggs) and DiSC. She is also a certified facilitator for ELI's Civil Treatment Programs and Facebook's Leadership Programs. In addition, Sheree is a highly-regarded professional speaker. She has presented at multiple HR Star Conferences, DisruptHR, the SHRM-Atlanta Conference and the Project Management Institute (PMI). Sheree serves as a Board Advisor for the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources Atlanta Chapter and is a graduate of the University of Dayton. Also, she recently completed her first full marathon.

Connie Wedel, SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP is the Founder and CEO of HR Without Borders - a leading human resources consulting firm. Connie is an HR executive, consultant, coach and facilitator with over 25 years of global leadership experience. Prior to joining the entrepreneurial community, she served as the top HR executive for several leading global companies. Connie is an accomplished practitioner who has achieved multiple designations and certifications throughout her career. A partial list includes: EMHRM from Cornell University, GPHR, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, EQi 2.0 (Emotional Intelligence), Cultural Intelligence (CQ-L2), Birkman Method, Influence Style Indicator (ISI), Change Navigator (CN), and Decision Style Profile (DSP). Connie is also a highly-regarded speaker and author. In addition to being an adjunct instructor at the University of California, San Diego, Connie has presented for SHRM, National & CA Diversity Council, the US Deptartment of Labor, San Diego State University and LEAP HR. Her articles have been published in Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune and People Development Magazine.

Sejal Thakkar, Esq. is the CEO and Founder of TrainXtra. She has extensive experience providing legal advice and guidance to senior management, human resources professionals and legal counsel concerning employment practices and actions. Ms. Thakkar has conducted investigations or inquiries regarding hostile workplace, sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, retaliation and other matters related to employment law. Additionally, she delivers customized legal compliance training for sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, unconscious bias and other employment law topics. Ms. Thakkar's clients include: Coca-Cola, Verizon, Department of Motor Vehicles, Office of Systems Integrations, Department of General Services, Bureau of Land Management, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Oakland Housing Authority. Ms. Thakkar earned a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a cum laude graduate of the Northern Illinois College of Law. 

Gail Finger, PCC is President of Finger Consulting with offices in both San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Gail is a seasoned executive coach, consultant and facilitator who helps her clients to achieve measurable success in employee engagement and improved interpersonal communication. She also is an expert in developing high potential employees into organizational leaders. She has worked in a variety of industries, including healthcare, biotech, technology, consumer goods, professional services, not-for-profit and government. With a strong background in psychology, Gail has had a long-time interest in what motivates and conversely demotivates employees. She is also interested in how leaders create followership and how organizations build high performing teams. Gail has published numerous articles on these and other workplace topics and is a sought after speaker in the areas of employee engagement, team development, attitude problems in the workplace, communication and retaining high performing employees. Gail holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s Degree in Counseling from the University of Bridgeport. She is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and a Certified Action Learning Coach.

Teresa Smith is a Senior Human Capital Management (HCM) strategy consultant for Kronos Incorporated, where she advises business leaders and their leadership teams on how to better maximize people-centric strategies to achieve long-term success. With deep expertise in change management process and business innovation, Ms. Smith is an advocate for the unmatched value of an empowered workforce, and helps organizations more effectively attract prospective employees, engage existing employees and holistically develop and manage an exceptional employee experience. Ms. Smith has dedicated the majority of her career to exploring the impact of HR, payroll and workforce management on the workforce. From small businesses to global operations, she is adept at diagnosing customer needs, delivering effective solutions and collaborating with senior leaders to achieve improved business outcomes. For nearly 20 years, Ms. Smith led workforce management and HCM initiatives at ADP, working closely with sales and management teams to develop critical business strategies for both domestic and global customers. Prior to ADP she served IT support and management functions at Columbia/HCA and the Department of Defense. Ms. Smith has earned her Six Sigma White Belt as well as Workforce Management certification, HR Professional certification and Corporate Visions certification. Outside of the office she is passionate about helping others and volunteers frequently as a care counselor supporting individuals working through grief and PTSD and as a team leader helping to restore homes for those in need. In addition, Ms. Smith devotes time to raising funds for military relief.

Liliana O. Salazar, Esq. is the Chief Compliance Officer Western Region for HUB International and is responsible for addressing employers’ health and welfare responsibilities under federal and state laws and city ordinances. She works closely with HUB’s service teams and clients to develop short-term and long-term strategies that allow clients to remain in compliance while addressing clients’ financial and human capital needs. Liliana interacts with regulatory agencies such as the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Treasury Department, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state insurance departments to discuss the applicability of laws and regulations to group health plans. Liliana possesses 20 years of experience in addressing the compliance and regulatory needs of employers and their group health plans. She actively worked with carriers and clients in ensuring their compliance with the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and HITECH Act rules, GASB 45 obligations and more recently the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Prior to joining HUB, Liliana was National Practice Leader for the Employee Benefits Compliance Practice of Wells Fargo Insurance Services and Vice President of Compliance for ABD Insurance Services. Liliana is a regular speaker at national and state conferences sponsored by employers, employee benefit chapters and HR associations, including ISCEBS, SHRM, CALPELRA, PERLA, NAFOA and others. She is also a regular contributor to national and regional employee benefit publications. Due to her many industry contributions over the years, Liliana was the recipient of the 2013 Women to Watch Award from Business Insurance.

Russ Elliot, SPHR is an expert on organizational culture and is the Founder of the Conscious Culture Group, a consulting and executive coaching company committed to linking culture to performance by creating ownership for culture and fully understanding the employee experience. Working closely with leaders, Russ helps create organizational changes that build more effective and intentional cultures holistically. Russ brings his 32 years of HR practitioner experience to his consulting practice. While serving as a SVP HR Director, his organization was recognized as a Best Place to Work in Silicon Valley and nationally as one of the top 40 Best Banks to Work For. Russ is on the faculty of UC Berkeley extension, Global Institute of Leadership Development and Women in Leadership. Russ' articles have been published in national HR magazines, he has been interviewed as an HR/culture expert for national HR articles, and he regularly speaks about organizational culture. Russ holds a BS in Business and an MA in HR.

Alexis Haselberger, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a time-management, productivity and leadership coach. She spent the first 15+ years of her career managing human resources and operations at several early-stage start-ups. Over that time Alexis developed and implemented numerous leadership and productivity systems as well as training programs to ensure that goals were met and that the companies thrived. Additionally, Alexis has worked at an HR outsourcing firm as an HR consultant to over 100 companies. Today, through her private practice, Alexis helps individuals and teams do more and stress less via coaching and corporate workshops on the issues of time-management, productivity and leadership. Her client list includes notables like Google, Upwork, Lyft, Silicon Valley Bank among many others. Alexis holds a BA from New York University and remains active in the Bay Area HR community.

Dave Collins is the Founder & CEO of Oak and Reeds - a corporate training firm dedicated to using the tools of improvisation to train clients on everyday soft skills. Dave is an award-winning improvisor, speaker and corporate strategist with over a decade of experience performing and coaching improv. Along with his teammates, Dave won the National Collegiate Improv Tournament. He has headlined shows across the United States and individually has coached hundreds of students and professionals in the art and practice of applied improvisation. Prior to founding Oak and Reeds, he worked as a change management expert at AECOM. As part of AECOM's workplace strategy team, Dave helped clients to examine the relationship between workspace and productivity, enabling people to break old habits and embrace change. Dave has a BA in Communication and Economics from Northwestern University with a specialization in Team Leadership.

Shannon Durst is a National Account Executive with Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a global background screening firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. Shannon has over 15 years experience in the background screening industry. She is a subject matter expert in criminal background, drug, alcohol and occupational health screening services for both regulated and non-regulated industries. Her enterprise clientele includes outstanding organizations such as Edward Jones, Stanford Health and The Salvation Army. Besides consulting for her clients, Shannon speaks frequently at industry events. Shannon holds a Bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in Business Administration with a focus in Human Resources.

Braden L. Albert is the Founder and President of the HR Star Conference and its parent company, Abbington Court Media. A graduate of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, Braden began organizing job fairs and trade shows in the mid-1990's. Intrigued by the idea of bringing people together for a shared, learning experience - and impressed by the impact such an experience can provide - Braden organized his first HR Star Conference in 1999. Today, the scope of the HR Star Conference includes annual events in Los Angeles, California; Atlanta, Georgia; San Francisco, California; and Cleveland, Ohio. Over 3,300 HR professionals attended an HR Star Conference in 2018.