Innovation Unleashed

Alumni in the Technology Field

by Lindsay Beller

Brenda Giordano

Brenda (Warnberg) Giordano C'83

When Brenda Giordano worked as a nurse in a hospital more than 20 years ago, she cared for a patient who had delivered a baby and needed a blood transfusion. Although two doctors signed off on the blood before the procedure, the new mother received the wrong blood type, a mistake that could have had fatal consequences.

These days, a hospital could quickly realize this life-threatening error and take steps to keep it from happening again—with software that Giordano manages for Quantros, a Silicon Valley-based health care technology company. The product, called IRIS Executive™, is a reporting tool that allows hospital administrators to manage vast amounts of data they are required to collect, and more easily monitor safety and quality of care issues. As the product manager, or “owner,” of the software, Giordano has many roles. She makes sure the software meets the needs of the market (in this case, hospital executives). She communicates those needs to the software engineers, and works with business analysts, marketers, and salespeople to ensure the product continues to work for the clients. “Being a product manager is like having a 360-degree view,” she said. “You’re in a seat that swirls, and you can go in many directions.”

Giordano brings her clinical nursing background to the job, although she has held several health care and technology-related positions since North Park awarded her a bachelor’s degree in nursing. After graduation, she worked in a hospital for two years and earned a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Washington. But always looking for a new challenge, Giordano worked as an occupational health nurse, a case manager, in sales for a health care dot-com, and as a software product trainer before becoming a product manager.

Giordano still draws on the reason why she decided to study nursing for motivation in her current work. “The role of being a nurse was appealing to me because I wanted to help people attain the best health possible,” she said. “That still resonates with me.”

Tom LaPaze

Tom LaPaze C'86

There are two kinds of people who work at technology companies—the experts who write the code and those who communicate what the code does for the customer, said Tom LaPaze C’86, who puts himself in the latter group. As director of worldwide marketing excellence at Microsoft, Seattle, he has developed a series of in-house classes designed to help the company’s thousands of marketers become better at their jobs.

When he began leading the “marketing academy” more than two years ago after running the business side of Microsoft.com, it was in transition. But as part of a companywide strategic shift aimed at moving its focus to the consumer, LaPaze took charge of the professional development initiative. He partnered with top business schools to create a curriculum that better aligned with Microsoft’s marketing strategy.

Under his watch, the academy has grown to nine classes, and LaPaze has seen improvements in employees’ marketing skills with customers. “You need to have the ability to generate customer insights in order to best communicate,” he said. “When you don’t focus on understanding the customer, you make mistakes.” LaPaze joined Microsoft 10 years ago from the advertising agency DDB, where he worked on many different accounts, from software and banking to engineering. With such a variety of clients throughout a career of more than two decades, he had to quickly learn about new industries, a skill he attributes to his liberal arts education.

At North Park, he designed his own multimedia major and took classes in different subject areas. One particular interdisciplinary class called Traditions of the West included history, art, music, English, and religion, and helped him understand how disparate historical events affected each other. LaPaze “learned how to learn” at North Park, a key factor in his career success. He’s now giving back to the school as a member of the advisory board of the School of Business and Nonprofit Management. “My education has given me the ability to jump into just about any subject and learn fast,” he said.

Greg Dolezal

Greg Dolezal C'01

It all started as a desire to help the church become more creative. Greg Dolezal C’01 had started a live-event consulting business in 2004 called Video for Worship, born out of going on the road with musical acts such as Christian singer Chris Tomlin and recognizing how technology could enhance live performances. Within two years, his Atlanta-based company merged with Renewed Vision and developed easy-to-use video display software.

The software—ProPresenter, ProVideoPlayer, and ProVideoSync—has revolutionized the way church-related events are produced, making it simple to add visual elements to live events, such as projecting Scripture on a screen. It’s used at Passion, a live event that draws 60,000 college students per year, and CHIC, the triennial event of the Evangelical Covenant Church, attended by thousands of high school students. Outside the church, users range from Mercedes Benz to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to the London Olympics, where 30 sporting venues used ProPresenter last summer.

“Our secret sauce is making technology that is accessible to a lot of people,” said Dolezal, project manager of software development. “It’s the class of software that the Olympics use but easy enough for a church volunteer to use for Sunday morning services.” Dolezal first became involved in producing live events at North Park University when he chaired Week 26, a week of spiritual activities. Through that experience, he saw how people connected to live events, and also met Tomlin for the first time. “North Park was great for the classroom experience, but what differentiated it for me was what I could do outside the classroom,” he said.

The business and communications major was considering law school, but instead moved to Atlanta, where he began traveling with musical acts such as Tomlin. Dolezal continues to serve as Tomlin’s road manager, even after starting his business that has helped many organizations enhance live events through video display. “We’ve got two goals,” he said. “We want to provide tools that are powerful and easy to use, and we want to make the church the most creative place on the planet.”

Next Steps

Read more from the Summer 2013 North Parker.