Tom Astle

Tom Astle


Tom has worked in the Capital Markets and Technology sectors for over 30 years with a front row seat at some of the major economic and technology cycles of the 20th and 21st centuries.  He sits on several boards of technology and media companies that range from early stage start-ups to publicly listed ones.

For the last five years, he has helped manage the Difference Capital VC/PE portfolio focused on late stage private technology and media investments as well as act as the CFO and Chief Investment Officer of this publically listed asset manager.

Prior to this, he gained over 20 years’ experience as a top ranked Wall Street and Bay Street equity analyst, covering some of the largest technology companies for some of the largest investment banks in the world.  During this time he worked for Merrill Lynch, but also National Bank Financial and other Canadian firms. This work culminated in several years’ experience as head of large equity research departments which covered all major sectors.

Tom holds his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and ICD.D designation and has an Engineering Physics degree from Queen’s University and is a Professional Engineer (P.Eng).

Stephanie Ratza

Stephanie Ratza

Vice Chair

Ms. Ratza brings more than 20 years of finance experience with public and private technology companies. From August 2016 to May 2017, Ms. Ratza served as CFO of BlueCat Networks Inc., a private enterprise DNS company which was sold to MDP Private Equity in March 2017. From June 2015 to June 2016 Ms. Ratza served as CFO of Resolver Inc., a private Governance Risk and Compliance software company. From April 2007 to May 2014, Ms. Ratza had served as CFO of The Descartes Systems Group.  During her tenure, she demonstrated the ability to streamline financial operations and leverage technology to drive growth, increase visibility and efficiency and ultimately bottom-line performance. M&A activity has been a significant part of the growth strategy where culture is combined with technology to build a unique value proposition in the market.  From November 2005 to April 2007, Ms. Ratza had served as CFO of IPICO Inc., a Burlington, Ontario-based company that designs, develops, manufactures and markets a broad range of radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions. Her other public company finance experience includes over 6 years at Waterloo, Ontario-based MKS Inc., serving as Vice-President, Finance for 5 years and as Director of Finance for 1 year, and as Controller for more than 3 years at Open Text Corporation where she lead the IPO process. Ms. Ratza is currently advising and sitting on the board of directors of Good Life Network Inc. Ms. Ratza has volunteered as an active participant on the Audit & Compliance Committee of the Laurier Board of Governors in 2014-2015 and since 2015 has been the Chair of the Audit & Compliance Committee. Since 2017 she is also a member of the compensation committee. Ms. Ratza had volunteers with Waterloo Minor Hockey, Soccer and Baseball, and with St. Mary’s Hospital on the Mission and Governance Committee and is currently on the Resource Planning and Utilization Committee of St/ Mary’s Hospital. A Laurier alumna with a BSc (’89), she has served on the Laurier Dean of Science Advisory Committee from 2007 to 2014. Ms. Ratza is a Chartered Professional Accountant of Ontario and in June 2016, she achieved her Institute of Corporate Directorship Designation (ICD.D).


Robert Barton

Robert Barton


Distinguished Systems Engineer, Cisco

Rob Barton, P. Eng, is a Distinguished Engineer working in Cisco’s Digital Transformation and Innovation group, where he has the role of Chief Architect for Cisco Canada and Cisco’s global IoT sales organization. Rob has worked in the IT industry for over 23 years, the last 20 of which have been at Cisco. Rob Graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Engineering Physics.  Rob is a published author, with titles on the subjects of Network QoS, Wireless, IoT, Machine Learning and Data Analytics.  Rob has also contributed to many academic papers, and leads Cisco’s university research partnership program. Rob also holds many patents in the areas of wireless communications, segment routing, and Machine Learning. Rob’s current areas of work include wireless communications, Industrial Networking, IoT, and AI/ML in networking systems.

Kim Butler

Kim Butler

Corporate Director, Business and Financial Advisory

Kim Butler, CPA, CMA, ICD.D.  With more than 30 years of executive financial and operational experience with Canadian and multinational organizations, Kim has demonstrated extensive accomplishments in areas of financial and risk management, corporate financing, strategic planning, operational effectiveness, M&A, and investor relations. She has held position as Head of Finance and integration at Ericsson Service Assurance (through acquisition of CENX), she has served as CFO and interim CEO at both CENX and Benbria, an enterprise software company.  In her role as SVP Finance and CFO at Bridgewater Systems, a global leader in mobile policy solutions, Kim led the company’s initial public offering in 2007, and delivered shareholder value with the successful sale of Bridgewater to Amdocs in 2011. Prior to Bridgewater, Kim held senior finance roles at Asea Brown Boveri, and Mitel Corporation.

Kim is a member of the board of directors of Hydro Ottawa, member of the Audit Committee and Strategic Initiatives committee.  She also serves as a member of the board of directors of Canada Health Infoway, a member of the Human Resources Committee and Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee.  In addition, she is  a member of the Executive Committee of the Ottawa Chapter of the Institute of Corporate Directors, and Regional Ambassador for Women Get on Board. She has previously served as Board member and Chair of the Finance Committee for the Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation, and is a past member of the Industry Advisory Committee for Entrepreneurship at Algonquin College in Ottawa. Currently, Kim is a volunteer coach and mentor for SheBoot, a program in conjunction with Invest Ottawa, supporting and empowering female technology entrepreneurs.

Tom Bursey

Tom Bursey

Council of Canadian Academies

CFO & Vice President, Council of Canadian Academies

Tom is Board Chair of Ontario’s Public Service Health & Safety Association and Director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information. He served as Director of private company CODE Inc., C. CORE and LOOKNorth, a National Centre of Excellence.

Tom is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario and holds the designation of Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant (FCPA). He is a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, and is an Institute-Certified Director (ICD.D).

Tom received the designation of Chartered Director (C.Dir.) from the Directors College and two specialized governance certifications: Audit Committee Certified (ACC) and Human Resources and Compensation Committee Certified (HRCC). He also co-led the creation and launch of the Human Resources Compensation Committee Certified Program at the Directors College.

Tom is an Honorary Life Member and past Board Director of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) and is a two-time recipient of the Vision Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Human Resources Profession.

Tom received his Honours Bachelor of Commerce (B. Comm. Hons.) and his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees from Memorial University. He is the Founder and past Chair of the Affinity Newfoundland and Labrador Ottawa Dinner and received the J.D. Eaton Alumni Award in recognition of his outstanding service to Memorial University.

Prior to joining the Council of Canadian Academies, Tom was Vice President with Right Management and Managing Director with Alan Davis & Associates. He has held several senior leadership positions within the ATCO Group. Prior to his work with the ATCO Group, he worked at Bell Aliant (NewTel Enterprises). Tom was also a Senior Fellow with the Centre on Governance, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa.

Rafik Goubran

Rafik Goubran

Carleton University

VP & Chancellor’s Professor, Carleton University

Rafik Goubran received the B.Sc. degree in electronics and communications engineering and the M.Sc. degree in electrical engineering from Cairo University, Egypt, in 1978 and 1981, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering from Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada, in 1987.

Dr. Goubran is now Vice-President (Research and International) and a Chancellor’s Professor at Carleton University. He was involved in several research projects with industry and government organizations in the areas of sensors, data analytics, signal processing, biomedical engineering and the design of smart homes for the independent living of seniors. Dr. Goubran co-supervised 89 Master’s and PhD students at Carleton, and co-authored over 320 international publications and 10 patents.

Dr. Goubran served as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Design at Carleton from 2006 to 2016 and as Chair of the Department of Systems and Computer Engineering from 1997 to 2006. He was the Founding Director of the Ottawa-Carleton Institute for Biomedical Engineering from 2006 to 2009. Dr. Goubran is a fellow of the IEEE, a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, a member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario, and an affiliate investigator with the Bruyère Research Institute.

Joe Hickey

Joe Hickey

Rock Networks Inc.

Founder & CEO, Rock Networks Inc.

Joe Hickey is the founder and majority shareholder of Rock Networks Inc., a solutions company based in Ottawa, Ontario with a focus on supporting government clients in the defence and public safety markets. A leading partner with Harris Corporation and Tait Communications, Joe has positioned Rock Networks to provide solutions for wireless voice and data integration infrastructures to enable business development on a national and international level.

Earlier this year, Rock Networks announced the acquisition of Nova Communications (Nova), the largest communications systems integrator in eastern Canada. With over 25 years of experience, Joe has been appointed the new President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nova, now a division of Rock Networks, working to establish the company as a national leader in the telecommunications industry.

Prior to this, Joe gained industry-wide recognition for his role as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Christie Walther Communications. Joe was responsible for leading the turnaround and new growth strategy for the company. This resulted in a return to profitability and receiving multiple industry awards including the Motorola Partner Empower Aware for Customer Excellence in 2015, the highest recognition a channel partner can obtain.

Prior to Christie Walther, Joe was Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at Ultra Electronics TCS, a Montreal based subsidiary of defense contractor Ultra Electronics PLC. In this role, Joe led the repositioning of the company from a focus on a single niche product into a systems engineering multi-product portfolio organization.

Prior to Ultra, Joe worked in India as Executive Vice President and Head of Customer Relations for ACME Tele Power Limited. In this role, Joe led ACME’s key account customer-facing initiatives. These include engaging the customer in new solutions that promote ACME’s vision of a clean and sustainable environment through innovative solutions designed to improve customer profitability.

Prior to ACME, Joe was CEO of TenXc Wireless Inc., a Canadian based VC funded startup in the area of smart antennas. As CEO, Joe raised over $20M US in financing and was instrumental in bringing the company’s flagship product the TenXc Bi-Sector Array to both the North American and India markets.

Prior to TenXc, Joe was CEO of TeraBlaze Inc., a Silicon Valley based VC funded fabless semiconductor startup. Joe was instrumental in refocusing the business plan of the company to transition from switch fabric chips to gigabit ethernet switch-on chip solutions resulting in the acquisition by Agere Systems.

Prior to TeraBlaze, Joe held a variety of senior management positions with Nortel Networks in the areas of marketing and business development. His most recent position was Vice President and General Manager of Nortel’s Shasta IP Services Business Unit which he grew into a $150M global business unit with over 300 customers, 21 of the Top 50 service providers in the world and a greater than 60% market share.

Joe also has served on the Technical Advisory Board of Sandvine Inc. an IP Services TSX listed company. Sandvine Inc. enables service providers of internet access to build more profitable subscriber relationships and better manage the growing burden of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing traffic. Joe was also a volunteer board member from 2004-2008 for the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre, a leader in providing bilingual specialized care for those with multiple physical, developmental, and associated behavioural needs, focusing on the eastern Ontario region’s children and youth.

Joe has a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering from Memorial University of Newfoundland and an Executive MBA from the University of Toronto.

Al Hurren

Al Hurren


VP, Research and Development, Mitel

As Vice-President of Research and Development, Al provides leadership, vision and operational discipline for Mitel’s R&D strategy and investment across the company’s global product portfolio. With over two decades of leadership in the R&D function, Al brings a wealth of experience to the Mitel team.

Since joining Mitel, Al has led the Mitel technology team through multiple acquisitions and product introductions that have firmly established Mitel as a global market leader in helping businesses connect and collaborate.

Prior to joining Mitel, Al enjoyed over a decade at Nortel Networks where he held various leadership positions within product development and the CTO organization.

Al graduated from McMaster University with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Management.

Sunil Khare

Sunil Khare


Director – Technology Strategy, TELUS

Sunil leads a team in the TELUS Chief Technology Office whose goal is to ensure alignment between technology initiatives and profitable business outcomes. Sunil’s early professional experience was software development for network applications, which progressed into the architecture and design of communication service provider networks both mobile and fixed, and more recently has been about how technology can best serve business objectives and customer experiences. Sunil holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science from Ottawa University.

Matt Pearson

Matt Pearson

Ernst & Young

Technology Sector Lead, SR&ED, and Business Incentives, Ernst & Young

Matt is the Technology Sector Leader for Ernst & Young’s SR&ED and Business Incentives practice. His team assists a wide range of technology-based companies find new financing for their R&D activities in Canada. Prior to EY, Matt was Vice President, Technology at Enablence Technologies, a semiconductor photonics company that he co-founded and helped to bring public on the TSX-V exchange. Dr. Pearson has extensive experience in the design, characterization, manufacturing, and marketing of highly-integrated components for next-generation networks. He has small company and large corporate experience, having served as Director of Technology Development at a VC-backed start-up, and as Senior Optoelectronics Engineer in the Photonic Technology Operations at Intel Corporation in California. He holds a B.Sc. in Honours Physics & Mathematics from the Royal Military College of Canada, and a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics from McMaster University.

Norm Peters

Norm Peters

Ribbon Communications

Vice President, Engineering, Ribbon Communications

As Vice President of Engineering, Norm Peters is responsible for leading several R&D teams within Ribbon’s Cloud & Edge business unit. His teams are responsible for delivering market-leading security (SBC), call routing (PSX) and robocall mitigation (Call Trust) cloud-native solutions that are designed to address the growing demands of today’s consumers and businesses for anywhere, anytime access to secure, real-time communications.

Since joining Nortel Networks in 1997, Norm has held a variety of management roles in customer support, product verification, software architecture and product development. In 2010 GENBAND acquired Nortel’s Voice over IP (VoIP) assets and subsequently merged with Sonus Networks in 2017 to form Ribbon Communications. Norm has served as Vice President of Engineering, leading global R&D teams responsible for Platform, Common Engineering, Management, VoIP Call Control and SBC product lines.

Norm received an Electrical Engineering degree from McMaster University.

Michelle Simms

Michelle Simms


President and CEO, Genesis

Michelle joined the Genesis Centre in 2002 as a business analyst and was promoted to vice president in 2015.  She assumed the role of President and CEO in August of 2016.  With more than 17 years of experience advising technology companies, Michelle is passionate about entrepreneurs and advancing the technology sector of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Michelle’s passion for technology has led to her involvement with several national organizations. She is a member of the board of directors for Oceans Advance and for two years was the Newfoundland Chapter Lead of Ladies Learning Code, a national non-profit established to teach technical skills to women.  She has served on the board of directors for the Canadian Digital Media Network, the Canadian Association of Business Incubation, and is the St. John’s hub lead for the Genesis Centre’s Women in Technology Peer Group and CEO Peer Group. Michelle participates in many Memorial University advisory groups as well. She is a member of the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, the Memorial University Innovation Steering Committee, the Memorial University Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences Industry Advisory Council and the Cold Ocean and arctic science, technology and society (COASTS) advisory board.

Michelle holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from Memorial University. She has completed the Queen’s Executive Leadership program, holds a certificate in Business Incubator Management from iNBIA and she has obtained her ICD.D designation by completing the Director’s Education Program at Saint Mary’s University

Shawn Sparling

Shawn Sparling


Vice President Enterprise and Public Sector, Nokia

Shawn Sparling has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, half of which he held international positions in Europe, China and South East Asia, across Operations, R&D, Sales and Marketing.  Shawn returned to Canada in 2011 after serving as President for Alcatel-Lucent Malaysia.

Mr. Sparling currently Heads Nokia’s Enterprise and Public Sector team in Canada to bring Nokia’s mission critical network capabilities to industries and public sector agencies.

Mr. Sparling is a graduate of Queen’s University, Ontario with a B.Sc. Honors in Engineering.

Jill Tipping

Jill Tipping

BC Tech

CEO, BC Tech

Jill Tipping is a passionate advocate for BC and BC’s tech-enabled future. Having spent her career working in the tech sector, including a decade in the solar industry, she’s no stranger to the opportunities technology provides. As BC Tech’s CEO, she is determined to make BC a place where tech companies are supported not only to startup but to grow, export and scaleup; and where BC technology is deployed to build resiliency and growth in every industry sector. Jill’s focus is strengthening connections through collaboration and partnership, she is dedicated to building a strong home team of BC anchor companies and is unapologetically ambitious for BC and for Canada.

Peter Wilenius

Peter Wilenius


VP, Business Development, CANARIE

Peter brings to CANARIE more than 25 years of executive responsibility for strategic planning, global marketing, business development, investor relations, and mergers and acquisitions. Peter has extensive experience in guiding emerging technology companies in business planning, channel development and marketing strategies. He has launched a number of new products and managed large strategic relationships for public companies such as March Networks Corporation and for bio-medical start-ups such as Biopeak Corp and XiTec Inc.

Peter holds a B.A. Honours (Economics) from Carleton University and a M.B.A from Queen’s University.


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