20 in their 20s
These professionals may be young, but don’t underestimate their ambition, enthusiasm and talent. Whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder, launching bold ventures or making an impact in the nonprofit realm, these go-getters have started their careers with a bang. Read on to see the faces and names that will be stand-outs in Utah’s business community for years to come.
Madison Allred is passionate about the industrial industry—although few would assume by looking at her that she worked in it. It’s misconceptions about the industrial industry, energy, mining and petrochemicals that Allred is trying to dispel through her work as the marketing, branding, public relations and corporate event coordinator for the Brahma Group, Inc. As a Mining Ambassador for the Utah Mining Association, Allred reaches out by teaching several classes of fourth graders about the mining industry, in “hopes of closing the education gap between consumers and the sourcing of material that create their modern day world,” she says.
“I’m proud to work in the industrial industry. Brahma Group builds the industrial plants and processing facilities that power the United States,” says Allred. “I’m proud to be a part of something that serves the U.S., and that I feel is so important to everyone’s modern way of life.”
Last book read: “Anything written by Robert Kiyosaki! Currently reading Retire Young Retire Rich. The best book I’ve read is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.”
After Kyra Marie Bell graduated cum lade from Weber State University in 2013, she hit the ground running. She began her career at VCBO Architecture, where within a year she went from working in an administrative position to managing interior design on projects, and she won her first industry award for one of her designs there.
While studying for the professional interior design licensing exam, or NCIDQ, Bell discovered a lack of free or low-cost study material for the test and began developing her own website to make her study materials available to other commercial interior designers.
In 2015, Bell was brought onto ajc architects to be the new director of architectural interiors—a new department that Bell, then 24, would pilot. Despite the daunting task ahead of her, Bell threw herself into the challenge and has spent the last year building relationships with clients and brokers, bringing in new projects and increasing efficiency in the firm.
Though some might call Bell’s drive and goals ambitious, she simply sees new opportunities to tackle.
“To me it’s just the thrill of accomplishment and reaching new heights. I want to be engaged and passionate about my work and my life so that I can not only learn and apply skills, but master them. Then I want to move on and learn and master new skills and explore new ideas,” she says. “Just the thought of how many possibilities there are out there gets me excited!”
Netflix favorites: How I Met Your Mother and Downton Abbey
After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 2013, Tyler Bench started his career by working for Google as an associate account strategist, providing online marketing consultations to 600 of Google’s small- and medium-sized companies per year. In late 2014, Bench left Google in favor of what he calls the “world-class outdoor recreation” in Utah—and a new position as an associate digital marketing manager.
Bench soon rose in Lucid Software’s ranks, growing the account he was responsible for by nearly 500 percent over his first six months at the company. Although Bench admits that learning how to manage people only two years out of college was difficult, he credits his stellar team members, mentors, and a gift for emotional and analytical intelligence as helping him succeed.
“I’m extremely proud of the success of my team at Lucid. We have grown tremendously as professionals despite being very early in our careers, accomplishing great things for Lucid and learning a ton along the way,” says Bench.
Advice for his younger self: “I would have made the time to each myself basic web development.”
Since being appointed as head of sales for Lawn Butler, Dario F. Benitez says he has enjoyed building a team that is “driven by positive energy and an empowerment to accomplish any task.” Benitez and his team have helped Lawn Butler sustain customer retention at an all-time high of 96 percent, and the company has been listed as the top landscaper in the nation by Total Landscape Care magazine.
Benitez says his competitiveness and earnest desire for achievement have helped him achieve success, even in the face of difficulty.
“Success does not come easy, nor is it handed to you,” says Benitez. “What I am most proud of is achieving my success by going through the most difficult times in my life and enduring until the end. By learning and going through these trials has made me who I am now. I now know the taste of success and learned to appreciate it a lot more.”
Favorite activity to unwind: “Running. This activity really distresses me not only physically but mentally.”
At the age of 23, Kat Campagna began her professional career as the manager of port shopping onboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships, where it was her job to encourage ship passengers to shop for luxury goods in the port of call. With a monthly target of up to $1 million, Campagna used live public speaking events, a 24-hour television channel and paper marketing campaigns to send passengers out ready to shop.
Campagna was the youngest person in that position throughout Royal Caribbean’s entire fleet of 25 ships. She was also one of only two female managers out of a total of 30 managers.
“I made the decision to transition back to land on my 25th birthday,” says Campagna. She was hired at staffing and recruiting firm SEARCH Group Partners, and with no previous experience in the staffing industry, she quickly became the No. 1 sales representative for the firm in the Utah market.
“While many people my age are still figuring where they will land in their professional career, I have three years of high-level sales experience … I am comfortable speaking in front of audiences of several hundred people, which is a skill most professionals in their 20s haven’t had the opportunity to develop,” she says.
Netflix binge: “I find myself getting antsy while watching television. I’m more often found working on a DIY project while listening to Spotify or podcasts.”
Whoever said millennials were lazy never met Allison Croghan. For three years after landing a job at Fox 13 and moving to Utah in 2012, Croghan started her days at 2 a.m. to fit in work, going to college for a second degree, volunteering and training for her first half marathon. These days, though her schedule is a little less demanding—she gets to sleep in until 4 a.m.—Croghan hasn’t slowed down. Her performance as a meteorologist for the station has netted her multiple awards in the traditionally male-dominated industry.
Croghan keeps touch with viewers through social media. While she strives not to say anything she’ll later regret—or do anything on-air that would make a YouTube video of her forecast go viral—she says she enjoys being able to interact with her audience.
“It’s a great way to connect with my viewers and see what issues people are most interested in. Being quick-witted but appropriate and strong-willed but still empathetic has served me well on-air and on social media. Many people have told me they enjoy my interactions with viewers on social because I like to show my personality. I truly appreciate having fun, intelligent conversations about important topics,” she says.
Favorite activity to unwind: Hot yoga or hiking
Marissa Day began her career as an intern at the National September 11 Memorial Museum, where she developed “a profound belief that museums, and the stories they hold, matter.” From there, she accepted a position with museum design firm Ralph Ralph Appelbaum Associates. Based in Russia, she worked on top-tier international museum projects for the firm.
Day later moved to Utah and began consulting with The Leonardo Museum on its Flight exhibit—but the museum quickly realized her exceptional talent and brought her onboard as exhibits director. In that role, Day oversees the development, design, build and installation of new exhibits at the museum.
For the Flight exhibit, Day managed a $1 million budget to create the largest and most complex exhibit The Leonardo has yet staged.
“I have ambitious visions of what kind of places museums can be in our communities and what kind of exhibits and experiences my team and I can create,” she says. “I show up at work every day to do my best to realize those ambitions.”
Favorite way to unwind: “I try to always keep a good book at arm’s length—ideally to be read with my Chihuahua, Banjo, on my lap.”
At the age of 18, Brooke Dimond joined the National Cheerleaders Association as an instructor for summer camps, and from that experience, she discovered her passion for event planning. While in school she sought opportunities to gain event-planning experience so that when she graduated, her résumé demonstrated a wide range of event-planning skills.
Now, in her role with the Utah Nonprofits Association, she has organized nearly 50 events statewide with more than 1,200 participants serving over 800 organizations. Each year, she recruits and selects 50 or more presenters for these events. Attendance for UNA’s annual conference grew by 20 percent for each of the past two years, while Dimond reduced expenses by 40 percent.
“I like to put myself in situations that allow the opportunity to learn from both sides and gain the knowledge to guide me through obstacles,” she says. “I am always anticipating what is coming up next and often have solutions already laid out when problems arise or plans need to be changed. I am always willing to try something different and I refuse to back down from a challenge.”
Last book read: It’s Not Okay by Andi Dorfman
When Paxton Gray was a child, he worried about what he would do when he grew up and how he would support himself and a family. The uncertainty fueled his desire to find a field he loved and that suited his talents and abilities.
He found it in advertising, and, nearly a decade into the industry, has a laundry list of industry awards to his name. Gray now brings to his job as director of marketing for 97th Floor a passion for excellence for both himself and the company as a whole.
“97th Floor is a cumulative effort, and what makes it great is the role each of us has performed in defining our culture, quality of work and overall success,” he says. “I’m proud of the part I’ve played working to acquire and train great talent and the development of systems designed to improve results and efficiency.”
Gray also invests himself heavily in his personal life—his wife and son are the only reason compelling enough to peel himself away from work at the end of the day, he says.
Netflix favorite: Stranger Things
Kristin Gubler joined Zions Bank immediately upon graduation from college with a double major in management and finance. She rose up the ranks quickly, and within three years was promoted to her current role. Now Gubler is responsible for the origination and monitoring of a $190 million loan portfolio supporting middle-market private equity buyouts.
Gubler says she is proud of how quickly she achieved the role of portfolio manager. “Every time I was given the opportunity to take on a new task, I worked hard to execute, and those are the moments I can look back on and be proud of because they got me to where I am today,” she says.
Gubler regularly participates in Junior Achievement, helping youth develop work-ready skills, learn about entrepreneurship and gain financial literacy. “It’s so easy to just focus on your own development,” she says, “but I don’t think you can be truly successful without creating positive change in the community surrounding you.
Netflix favorites: “Despite being a millennial, I only recently subscribed to Netflix so I have decades of TV history to catch up on. My first binge watching experiences were Downton Abbey followed by Narcos.
Coming from a family of six children, Brenna Hill says she learned to value and promote teamwork from a very young age. As a child, Hill applied that mentality to playing soccer, a game she still loves—but as a young professional, she continues to value teamwork in her approach to business.
“Sales can be a very competitive and individualistic career path. I think my team mentality sets me apart from my peers and helps me to lead an effective SDR team,” she says.
Although Hill has only been in the Utah technology sector for two years, working first at LANDESK and now at RizePoint, she has made her presence known. In the past year, she and her team have contributed to a 297 percent increase in qualified sales opportunities and a 317 percent increase in year-over-year sales.
“I am not only proud of our growth, but how we shifted our messaging using SDR findings, how we built a solid bridge between marketing and sales, and how we found success by understanding our audience,” says Hill.
Childhood hero: “It was the 1999 U.S. Women’s Soccer Team. After they won the World Cup, I was completely obsessed: I read all their books; I wanted to beat all the boys at recess; I wanted to play soccer every day; and I wanted to be them! I still remember watching Brandi Chastain with her game-winning penalty kick.”
Austin James is the youngest sales manager in the Young Automotive Group, and he is known for recognizing and developing talent within his team. In fact, his team is one of the top-performing teams at Young Automotive, with his store selling more pre-owned vehicles than any other dealership in the company.
Before he became a sales manager, the store had just lost one of its top salespeople and the team was struggling. James says his proudest day is the day he became the top salesperson, selling numbers the dealership had not hit in a while. But more importantly, he says, that achievement “drove the team of sales guys to follow me, giving the store a higher production than we had prior to losing the top guy.”
James works to develop his team members, and his sales force is the first place other company leaders turn to when they need to grow their teams. Many of the employees he has coached have gone on to fill management roles elsewhere in the company.
“Helping mold a sales team is a very fun and exciting process,” says James.
Favorite activity to unwind: “I am an avid outdoors man. I love hunting in my spare time.”
Michael Jorgensen grew up instilled with a family motto to work harder and longer than everyone else in order to become the best at a discipline. Jorgensen has taken that ethos to heart through his schooling and career.
After the economic collapse in the late 2000s, Jorgensen, still attending college and armed with a flip cell phone and an old HP computer, started Home Base Appraisal Management in an effort to help his family. That Jorgensen work ethic helped him propel the company from a $50,000-a-year company to one bringing in $15 million annually in seven years, with 50 employees and just shy of 10,000 subcontractors across the country.
“We are a team, and rise and fall as a team,” he says. “I truly believe it’s that team effort that keeps everyone working hard and trying to make this company a success.”
Jorgensen says his ambition is a reflection of his investment in the company and success, and he constantly listens to feedback and looks for ways to improve. Besides his youth, he has had to overcome the stigma of being a being a gay male in the workplace, and he has tried to make Home Base a diverse and safe working environment.
Favorite activity to unwind: Camping or hiking with his partner, Tyler
For Jake M. Millburn, there’s no substitute for hard work.
“I was raised to develop a very strong work ethic and be a finisher more than anything … I consider myself to be driven and hardworking; the two combined have helped me focus my ambitions on worthwhile goals for myself and the company that I am fortunate to be a part of,” says Millburn. “I am very much a team player and will work incredibly hard and efficiently to see that my team [and] company are successful. I am driven for those I work with as well as for myself.”
That hard work and dedication have paid off well for Millburn. In his five years of experience in the commercial real estate industry, he has been involved in over $1.1 billion of transactions totaling more than 9,000 units—numbers a professional 20 years his senior would be proud of having.
Childhood hero: “During my adolescent years I took an interest in Sam Walton, and have marveled at what he created in the multi-billion-dollar companies of Walmart and Sam’s Club.”
Jacob Nold’s resume is hardly what you’d call linear: he worked for a college football team, transferred to three different colleges and studied abroad before founding Labs for Liberty almost two years ago. That diverse experience has given him a broad background that has been invaluable while running the nonprofit organization.
In the first year alone, Nold placed 15 service dogs with veterans and organized 20 foster families for dogs-in-training across 12 states—all while still in college. Since the inception of Labs for Liberty, Nold has managed more than $1.5 million worth of time and resources, and helped more than 65 veterans begin the process of getting a service dog.
Though Nold doesn’t consider himself to be ambitious, he does have a passion for making the world better than he found it.
“I see opportunity in almost everything, and that makes me excited because I’m always thinking of ways to make something better, more effective or more efficient,” he says. “Everyone has a great opportunity to make a positive difference in the world no matter their background. It’s a matter of recognizing and acknowledging those opportunities and sometimes creating those opportunities rather than waiting for them to come to you.”
Favorite activity to unwind: Physical activity or watching football on weekends
Chase Norton was still in college when he co-founded Artisan Hardware with, as he puts it, “no experience and even less capital.” But the company was profitable from Day One and has doubled in size ever since its founding in late 2012, racking up awards along the way.
Norton says part of the company’s award-winning success has to do with the dynamic he has with his business partner, Daniel Wright. Both love business, Norton says, but Norton excels at technology and Wright’s strength lies in craftsmanship. To succeed, he says, they utilize both strengths.
“We manufacture everything we sell. We then utilize technology to build out our platform, to advertise, and to sell our product. We then distribute it all over the world. Being responsible for the entire process is an excellent learning process. You can find expert carpenters and metal workers in our shops, then you can head over to our offices and find experienced photographers, programmers, writers and sales staff,” he says. “There is a lot of noise surrounding tech companies, but right now there is a quiet revolution where traditional businesses utilize tech products and platforms to disrupt their industry.”
Favorite social media network: “I love Medium. I don’t post much but I read it every day.”
Kelsey Thompson didn’t always know what her professional path would be. But for Thompson, the perseverance it took to find the perfect fit for her strengths, and then to work through school, prepared her for her success.
“I am most proud of my perseverance,” she says. “Getting to where I am now has taken a lot of hard work. There were many times where I could have given up but didn’t. I knew if I kept moving forward I would get to where I want to be.”
For instance, Thompson worked as a server and bartender while earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Utah. “During this time, I developed the technical knowledge for my degree, but also developed the personal skills that came along with interacting with customers each day. Both skills are critically important for my career,” she says.
Today, Thompson is continuing her career path by working toward a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah while working as a valued engineer for Orbital ATK.
Netflix favorites: “Anything that my husband and boys decide to watch that evening!”
After earning his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Utah, Andrew Sweeney turned down high-paying jobs in his industry to join USTAR as an analyst.
At USTAR, says Sweeney, “I was allowed to marry my passion for science with some basic communication skills to help take innovative technologies to market. In four months, I was promoted to associate director. After the departure of my boss and mentor, I interviewed for and won the director’s role.”
Within his first year as director, Sweeney piloted a grant program called the Industrial Partnership Program (IPP), which was designed to match the technology needs of industry with the right university researchers. Sweeney wrote the grant rules, application and guidelines for the program, which led to two pilot projects and, ultimately, the full-scale adoption of the program within USTAR.
Sweeney says that as a child, his ambition was spurred by watching his mother work hard to pull the family out of crippling poverty. “As my mother worked hard, our lives improved incrementally and the feeling was addictive. Ultimately, I learned that things cost money, hard work improves your situation and education is the great equalizer,” he says.
Childhood hero: “My mother. She was a wild child. [For me] as a teenager, acts of rebellion against her included getting normal haircuts and wearing collared shirts.”
Though still in his 20s, Bryan Welch has an impressive work history, including being a member of the Office of the Governor’s communications team, a public and international affairs specialist in Washington, D.C., and managing strategic initiatives for a leading New York City-based public relations and communications agency. But with his role as chief communications officer at CBC Advisors, Welch has faced a set of exciting but daunting challenges as the firm has grown more than 310 percent over the last three years. The progress, he says, has been incredible.
Welch has always found satisfaction in taking the more difficult course, and childhood lessons in dedication have helped him overcome each new challenge.
“I never was the best test taker or most intelligent student in my class, but two things really set me apart from my peers. First, when I learned something I never forgot it. Second, I grew up in a blue-collar family. If you wanted something, you had to work hard enough to get it,” he says.
Throughout his career, Welch says he’s found a constant in the importance of forging bonds with the people around him.
“Business is about relationships,” he says. “You never know who might add value for your initiatives, projects, campaigns or ventures down the road.”
Last book read: The complete works of Roald Dahl
When Kurt Workman served an LDS mission in Mexico, he lived in a windowless apartment “filled with scorpions” and hand-washed his clothing using a rock. Through that bare-bones lifestyle, Workman learned that he could be happy with little and that he could endure discomfort. He then applied those lessons some years later to entrepreneurship.
“Don’t get stressed when things don’t seem like they’re going to work out,” Workman advises. “Work your hardest. Don’t get so focused on the problems that it prevents you from focusing on what you can do and what you should be doing.”
Creating his company, Owlet Baby Care, took tenacity. Workman raised over $10 million in venture funding for Owlet, whose flagship product uses pulse oximetry to monitor a baby’s breathing and heartbeat. The product has now been covered by Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal and other major media outlets.
“It’s not just a gadget or product. It really will change the way we care for our infants,” says Workman. “It hasn’t been easy, but we have been committed to it and stayed focused on our goal.”
Childhood hero: My dad. He is not an entrepreneur, but he always supports me, my ideas and my projects. He is the kind of guy who always put family before work, which helped me in my adult life as I started my own family.