2020 Women to Watch - Nevada Business Magazine

Billy Xiong News: 2020 Women to Watch – Nevada Business Magazine

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Outstanding in their fields, Women to Watch are leaders, influencers, business owners, executives and mentors. They are women that others look up to and respect for their history of success and perseverance. The 2020 class of Women to Watch personifies those characteristics. They’ve been through the ups and downs of Nevada’s economic landscape and through it alll have shown grace under fire and exemplified female leadership.

This year’s Women to Watch were chosen by a committee of judges who reviewed their histories in Nevada, their legacies, their leadership and their careers. In the following pages the 2020 Women to Watch are introduced and they share their insights, advice and backgrounds.

Congratulations to all of the Women to Watch. Nevada Business Magazine and City National Bank are proud to recognize your achievements and contributions.


Debbie Banko

CEO/Founder, Link Technologies

Primary Industry: IT Professional Services & Staff Augmentation
Principal Location: Las Vegas
Became a Nevadan: 2000

What do you love about this state?

Besides being just easier to do business here (relative to some other states), I love that Nevada is a small community. If you excel at supporting your clients, you become part of that community.

The community has been good to us. We give back where we can with time and resource donations to local non-profits, helping encourage STEM education, women in technology and IT workforce development, among other initiatives.

What do you love about your industry?

I love the partnerships and friendships that you form. Link Technologies was one of the few businesses that actually grew during the last recession, as clients were directing projects to us with little or no competition (because they knew Link would get the job done at a fair price). That made us feel valued by our clients and taught us the importance of working with customers and partners to build loyalties, instead of just looking at the bottom line on every project.

What female role models have made an impact on your life?

Myrna Soto was an early mentor of mine. Myrna worked at MGM from 2004 to 2009 (first as their VP Business Solutions & PMO, then as their VP IT Governance & CISO), and she stood out as a tremendous IT executive and business leader.

Mary Siero, an executive-level IT consultant, is another great source of advice. She’s an inspiration and a strong example of a female entrepreneur in the IT space.

I have also been inspired by the work of Kris Singleton (former CIO, The Cosmopolitan), Becky Wanta (former CTO, MGM), Toni Pepper (former CIO, Pinnacle) and Laura Fucci (former CIO, City of Henderson), among other woman leaders in Las Vegas.

What is your personal motto?

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” Try to do your thing with a minimum of expenses. And try not to take on too much debt. That’s good advice for life, as well as business.


Ama Brobbey, MD

Chief Medical Officer, Intermountain Healthcare, Nevada

Primary Industry: Healthcare
Principal Location: Las Vegas
Became a Nevadan: August 2003

What do you love about this state?

Nevada is a very “all or nothing” kind of state, and I find that most people absolutely love living here, or just can’t do it. I am one of the lucky ones who absolutely loves it. It has everything, from the excitement of the Strip, to a myriad of outdoor activities available, including hiking and skiing, all less than an hour from each other. Southern Nevada has a newness and edge to it, constantly growing at a fast pace and creating opportunities for young families. The possibilities and opportunities are endless, and it makes me feel like I am part of, and contributing to, building something amazing.

What is the toughest lesson you’ve learned as a professional woman?

The belief that I had to behave like a man to be able to “climb up the ladder” in my career, almost derailed me. That made me second guess every decision I needed to make, making me indecisive and ineffective. I had to recognize my self-worth that comes from my unique experiences as a woman, and that my views were just as important and necessary as any other views, no matter how different.

What do you want your legacy to be?

That I paid it forward, and helped people be the best version of themselves they could possibly be. My first boss when I moved here, saw something in me, that I didn’t see in myself, and gave me the opportunity to be where I am today, and for that, I will always be grateful to him. I would like to do that, especially for young women. So far, one has finished nurse practioner training and is practicing, and another just finished medical school and is doing her residency.

What is your personal motto?

“Whatever it takes.” If you have a goal in life, especially an ambitious one, you will unfortunately come across circumstances, and sometimes people, who are naysayers to discourage you. This motto has helped me dig deep to find solutions to get past some pretty significant stumbling blocks.

If you could meet any woman in the world, past, present or future, who would that be?

Harriet Tubman. She is the most fearless woman I know of.       


Barbara Buckley

Executive Director, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada

Primary Industry: Law/Non-Profit
Principal Location: Las Vegas
Became a Nevadan: March 1980

What do you love about this state?

I love Nevada for the opportunities it gives to its residents to make a difference. I also like that most people here think “why not” rather than “no”.

How did you first get into your profession?

I worked for attorney Rich Myers as a legal assistant, and he encouraged me to go to law school. Growing up, my guidance counsellor told me I should focus on being a secretary and skip the idea of college.

What do you love about your industry?

There is nothing better than non-profit legal aid: the ability to right wrongs and change lives by representing the most vulnerable in our community.

What female role models have made an impact on your life?

Franny Forsman, Laura Fitzsimmons and Betsy Gonzales are smart Las Vegas lawyers I saw when I was starting out who were not afraid to be themselves.

What is the toughest lesson you’ve learned as a professional woman?

The toughest lesson I’ve learned as a professional woman is not to be my harshest critic. It is ok to make a mistake.

If you could meet any woman in the world, past, present or future, who would that be?

If I could meet any woman in the world it would be Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

My proudest accomplishment is building Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada into a thriving, trusted, successful non-profit organization which the community relies on. It was also an honor to be the state’s first woman Speaker of the Assembly.

What is your personal motto?

My favorite motto came from my mentor, Rich Myers: “The law is never settled until it is right, and it is never right until it serves the people.”


Kate Marshall

Lieutenant Governor, State of Nevada

Primary Industry: Government
Principal Location: Reno
Became a Nevadan: October 1997

How did you first get into your profession?

I grew up in a working class union family and often heard my dad and grandfather discussing working conditions around the kitchen table with other Teamsters. I also grew up where people never talked about going to college, much less becoming an elected official. While I had previously worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and the State Attorney General’s Office, running for office did not occur to me. Fortunately, my mentor and role model, former Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa, convinced me to run for State Treasurer in 2006. Without her urging and support I likely would not have become an elected official.

What do you love about your industry?

Nevada is a small state where people can call on their elected officials and talk to them, and where being in public office can actually mean helping improve our communities. I love that about Nevada.

What is your personal motto?

“Show up.”

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

One of my proudest achievements was during my time as State Treasurer where I created the College Kick Start program. It was the first statewide program of its kind, and through partnerships with local banks, we were able to fund college savings accounts for every kindergartner in public school in Nevada at no expense to taxpayers. While I know $50 won’t get a kid to college, it can start the conversation of what their post-high school plan is and perhaps create a path forward for families and their children.

What is the toughest lesson you’ve learned as a professional woman?

People say no a lot; it’s often an easier answer so as a professional woman I’ve learned to get comfortable with hearing ‘no’ and knowing that we’ve only just begun.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering business?

Too many times a woman is told what she can’t do, it is up to us to believe in what we can.


Rose McKinney-James

Managing Principal, Energy Works LLC and McKinney-James & Associates

Primary Industry: Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Consulting
Principal Location: Las Vegas
Became a Nevadan: November 1980

What do you love about this state?

I fell in love with the independent spirit of Nevada. A job, via a one-year consulting contract drew me to Las Vegas and the people I met along the way convinced me to stay. I traded life in DC for a trip to the west coast. The beauty of the desert and the mountain ranges along with the opportunity to grow personally and professionally have kept me here.

What do you love about your industry?

My passion and love for my work in climate and clean energy is based on my view that it addresses a social urgency that will benefit future generations. It’s a great blend of technology, economics, policy, politics and social impact. I’ve been able to expand intellectually and find both a career and a business opportunity.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering business?

I rarely offer advice. I prefer to be a sounding board where I can listen and provide perspective based on my experience. I think women interested in business should embrace the opportunity, be bold and creative, willing to follow their instincts and prepare well for the inevitable up and downs without fear of failure.

If you could meet any woman in the world, past, present or future, who would that be?

It would have been an honor to meet Marian Anderson ( the first black woman to perform at the Met). I’d also kill to spend an hour with Oprah.

What is your personal motto?

I always remember that Zig Ziglar quote, “Success is opportunity meeting preparation.”

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve undertaken to help position Nevada as a leader in the clean energy space. We lead as a result of a hard fought suite of policies and an increasingly impactful group of voices dedicated to taking that work to the next level.


Chrissy Menicucci Benna

Chief Social Responsibility Officer, CG Technology

Primary Industry: Gaming
Principal Location: Northern Nevada
Became a Nevadan: November 1964

What do you love about this state?

We have everything in Nevada, mountains, lakes, wide open spaces and four seasons. We also have art, entertainment and cultural events that rival any state. Most importantly, I love the people and sense of community.

How did you first get into your profession?

I was fortunate to be working for Attorney General Brian McKay early in my legal career. He later became general counsel at IGT and gave me the opportunity to work with a great team who took the time to really teach me about gaming and the industry’s contribution to our state.

What is your personal motto?

It’s pretty simple, “Treat others as you want to be treated.”

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

Raising two daughters who are intelligent, caring and independent.

What is the toughest lesson you’ve learned as a professional woman?

Sometimes what happens in the workplace is not fair but it is important to keep pushing boundaries so we can improve conditions for everyone.

What female role model has made an impact on your life?

Certainly, my mother is at the top of the list. She has grace, strength and absolute devotion to her family. I also really appreciate how she encouraged me to pursue my education.

What do you want your legacy to be?

My family and to be remembered as someone who approached life with integrity and enthusiasm and who made a difference in her work.

If you could meet any woman in the world, past, present or future, who would that be?

Melinda Gates, I think she is fascinating.


Ursula Prebezac

Vice President/Branch Manager, City National Bank

Primary Industry: Banking/Finance
Principal Location: Minden
Became a Nevadan: September 1983

What do you love about this state?

Everything – Relocating to Lake Tahoe from the East Coast was a tremendous change. Never before had I seen mountains so high, skies so blue or snow that fell from the sky in feet not inches! From the landscape to the people, I love Nevada.

What female role model has made an impact on your life?

Eleanor Miner, branch manager at the bank where I started my banking career [was a role model]. As a young woman entering the business world, she inspired and supported me, provided a learning environment and encouraged me to continue my education.

How do you approach work/life balance?

As a professional woman, work has always been very important to me. The challenge comes when you have a family and a career.

I remember so well a time when my daughter was three years of age standing at the door saying “no work today Mommy.” Wow, so powerful those four simple words!

I don’t know that there is ever a perfect balance, you just need to focus on your priorities, which change, as you move through life.

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

Being married to my amazing husband for 36 years, and our three beautiful children.

What is the toughest lesson you’ve learned as a professional woman?

Know when to ask for help and know when to say, “no”.

What is your personal motto?

It’s the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

What advice would you give to a young woman entering business?

Business is challenging, listen, learn and work hard. Nothing ever comes easy.


Sandra Roche

Vice President/General Counsel, Roche Constructors, Inc.

Primary Industry: Commercial General Contractor
Principal Location: Las Vegas
Became a Nevadan: January 1996

How did you first get into your profession?

From when I was about 12 years old, I decided I was going to be a lawyer, and I continued on that path through school. What I had not decided was what type of law. I clerked for a judge for a year, set up my own general practice and worked for a firm doing litigation. One day, in 1992, my uncle called and asked if I would be interested in helping with some of the legal work for Roche Constructors, Inc., a family-owned company. I started working for the company then, went fulltime in 1994 and have not looked back.

What female role model has made an impact on your life?

One female role model that has had an impact on my life is my Norwegian mother. I was an exchange student in Norway for a year after high school and spent a year with “Grete”, who was a strong, principled woman who taught me to stand up for what I believe in and that I could do whatever I set out to do. She remained a part of my life until she passed in 2019.

If you could meet any woman in the world, past, present or future, who would that be?

I would have liked to have had the opportunity to meet Margaret Thatcher.

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

I am most proud of seeing other women I have led and mentored, through my work and volunteering with organizations, excel and succeed.

What is your personal motto?

My personal motto is: “Be patient and work hard.”

What advice would you give to a young woman entering business?

I would advise a young woman entering business to listen to those around her; be open to thoughts and ideas of others; and find someone you trust and respect and become a sponge around them, absorbing as much knowledge as you are able.


Ellen Schulhofer

Office Managing Partner and Shareholder, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP

Primary Industry: Law
Principal Location: Las Vegas
Became a Nevadan: 1965

What do you love about this state?

I love that, especially in times of difficulty and crisis, our state pulls together as one community, even as diverse and disparate as the state has become. I think Nevadans can be incredibly generous and we support each other in times of tragedy in a way I haven’t seen in other communities.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering business?

Be patient, but persistent. Stand up for yourself, ask for what you want, prove what you can do, never give up. And, most of all find a mentor and advocate to promote and support you and don’t be afraid to lean on them.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I would like to be viewed as always having done the best I could in terms of the quality of my work and support for my clients, as well as to help and support everyone at the firm. I hope that I have helped to build a sustainable business that survives past its second generation, where all employees feel valued and are committed to our core values of “All In, Excellence, Respect and Giving Back” every day.

What do you love about your industry?

We help keep the economic engines moving in our communities and the country (at least transactional lawyers do). While we may be working on high level deals for high-end clients, those clients are able to open new businesses, keep people employed and operate their businesses, because of the work we do. I also appreciate that many of the firms in the legal industry give back a lot to our communities to assist the most needy in our society.

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

I’m very proud of having raised a strong, independent, bright, amazing daughter who wants to go into humanitarian work, helping survivors of trauma after genocide and war. I’m also proud of having contributed to the success of my law firm, both as co-managing partner of the firm for almost four years and as managing partner of the Las Vegas office for the past 13 years.


Laura Zander

Chief Knitting Officer, Jimmy Beans Wool, Madelinetosh, della Q

Primary Industry: Arts & Crafts Retail & Wholesale
Principal Location: Reno
Became a Nevadan: July 2004

What do you love about this state?

I love the weather. I love that there are four seasons, but none of them are extreme. I love that there is no humidity, there are virtually no bugs and no mosquitos. I love that it feels like it’s sunny almost every day of the year, but that we get an exciting rainstorm every once in a while. In my opinion, Reno/Tahoe has the best weather of any place in the country – and I’ve lived in a lot of places!

How did you first get into your profession?

I first learned to crochet while living in Houston, TX and became addicted. Years (and a few thousand miles) later, while working as a software engineer in San Francisco, I learned to knit. Shortly after, my husband Doug and I moved to Truckee and I started a small software business. I built a website for a hand-dyed yarn company in Placerville and the owner convinced me that the Reno/Tahoe area needed a yarn shop. We decided to give it a shot! Doug built a software system from scratch to support the shop, we started selling online to supplement the in-store sales, and the rest is history!

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

My greatest accomplishment is being married for 20 years. Happy 20th anniversary, Doug.

If you could meet any woman in the world, past, present or future, who would that be?

Harriet Tubman.

What do you love about your industry?

Knitting and crochet have been proven to lower heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels. Yarn is beautiful; it’s art. What’s not to love about being surrounded by something so beautiful and powerful? Plus, I love being part of an industry that cares more about people than it does about money.

How do you approach work/life balance?

Ironically, life got a lot more balanced once I surrendered to the fact that there is no work/life balance. Some weeks, I simply need to be engaged 24/7 – and some weeks, I can completely disengage. I’ve just learned to go with the flow and not overthink trying to balance it.

Billy Xiong

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