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Utah Business

Meet our 2020 CXO of the Year honorees. These are the best executives in Utah.

These are the top C-Suite executives in Utah

The C-Suite does more than just manage a company, they lead through times of uncertainty and make the hard decisions that impact the company’s future. Now more than ever we need strong leaders to guide our businesses forward and these are the leaders doing just that. Meet our 2020 CXO of the Year honorees. 

Brent Lowell Neidig, Chief Officer & Managing Director of China, USANA Health Sciences


Brent Lowell Neidig photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Podcasts and Audible.

Who inspires you? Elon Musk. It’s inspiring to see someone so passionate and committed to his/her goals. His enormous will was, at times, the only thing that kept his companies afloat. If more people pursued big audacious goals like Elon, this world would be a very different place.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. There are too many leadership lessons to count within this book, and it gave me an immense appreciation for the sacrifices of so many who have come before us.

Brian Pugh, SVP of Engineering, Lucid


Brian Pugh photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? My podcast streaming app. Fifteen or so years ago, I began listening to podcasts and have been showing what could be described as addictive behavior ever since.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. An insight from that book has stuck with me for decades: No matter what someone does to me, what the world inflicts upon me, or what circumstance I find myself in, there is one freedom that I always have and cannot be taken from me.

Who inspires you? Bill Gates. He made the choices he did because he cares about being effective, not simply appearing virtuous to others. He didn’t do philanthropic work until he could dedicate the time and focus to do it right.

Brittany Pennington, COO, Med USA


Brittany Pennington photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Blinkist! This app consolidates non-fiction into 15-minute “Blinks” that you can read or listen to.

What motivates you? Passion. I have to be passionate about everything I have and do in life. I am the most passionate and find the most purpose in making a difference in someone else’s life or having a positive impact on others, even if it is only in a very small way.

Who inspires you? Sheryl Sandberg. I began to follow her career after seeing her Ted Talk, “Why we have too few women leaders.” She has been a huge inspiration to me through my own career path.

Cory Gardiner, Retail Branch Banking Director, EVP, Zions Bank

Twitter| LinkedIn

Cory Gardiner photographed by Justin Hackworth

What book made the biggest impact on you? The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes/Posner. It is a compelling read for any leader new to the role or experience gives great advice/tips  on developing/enhancing leadership skills to the next level of extraordinary outcomes.

What app most changed your life? Facebook. I have family and friends around the world and this app has allowed me to stay connected regardless of where we are. But it doesn’t replace a phone call!

What motivates you? I am motivated by authentically showing up, being the best version of myself everyday, and contributing with all that I bring to the table. I am also motivated to learn new things―as uncomfortable as that is―it allows me to be open to new opportunities and possibilities.

Derek Dyer, Founder & Executive Director, Utah Arts Alliance

Twitter | LinkedIn

Derek Dyer photographed by Justin Hackworth

Who inspires you? Walt Disney. While he certainly wasn’t perfect, I have always loved that an artist built what is now one of the largest companies in the world by essentially selling art in some form and the idea of magic.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull―on the founders of Pixar Animation and president of both Pixar and Disney Animation studios. Ed is also from Salt Lake City and a graduate of the University of Utah.

What motivates you? The Arts, creativity, and imagination motivate me. Art connects people, educates, motivates and can change hearts and minds. I want to make the world a better place and the Arts are the best tool for creating positive change in the world.

Heather Wall, Chief Commercial Officer, Civica, Inc


Heather Wall photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Audible. It has been phenomenal to pick a kid-friendly book and listen to a story while going someplace with my sons.

What book made the biggest impact on you?Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Specifically, the theme that the meaning and the purpose in life has to be identified in the good and the bad during all phases of life has been very impactful.

What motivates you? My family. I have three sons and an amazing husband. Because both my husband and I work in the healthcare industry and admire the healthcare workers who build careers and purpose around helping other people, our two house rules are derived from the Hippocratic Oath. Specifically, our rules are: 1) do no harm, and 2) leave the world better than you found it.

Heather Zynczak, Chief Marketing Officer, Pluralsight

Twitter | LinkedIn

Heather Zynczak photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Strava. As an avid biker, having the ability to track my rides has significantly enhanced the experience for me. I also ride with a group of ladies in the summer, and it’s fun to share those moments with them.

Who inspires you? Eleanor Roosevelt. She was one of the most active first ladies in history and worked for political, racial, and social justice. One of my favorite quotes from her is: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

What motivates you? Being a part of the Utah tech community. We do not have enough women in senior leadership roles in the tech sector. Women, early in their careers, cannot be what they cannot see. Being a role model and a pioneer for the women that I precede is what motivates me.

Jared Olsen, Head of Customer Success, Motivosity


Jared Olsen photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? LinkedIn. I am kind of obsessed with the power LinkedIn provides!

What book made the biggest impact on you? Currently I’m reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Essentialism says, “There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in. And although many of them may be good, or even very good, the fact is that most are trivial and few are vital.”

What motivates you? My top three motivators are impact, family, and autonomy.

Jeff Lyman, Chief Product Officer, Weave

Twitter| LinkedIn

Jeff Lyman photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Twitter. [It] unlocked a whole host of subject matter experts for me across a variety of disciplines who didn’t otherwise have a platform to engage.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Inspired by Marty Cagan. It is the quintessential product management bible.

What motivates you? Personal disruption. I crave feeling naked and afraid at the bottom of a new personal S-Curve. This is what has driven me to attack roles across orthogonal businesses over my career. Every stop has new technology, new markets, new investors, new cultures, new colleagues, and new challenges. That’s when the learning curve gets steep. That’s where I want to be.

Nate Gardner, Chief Customer Officer, MX

Twitter | LinkedIn

Nate Gardener photographed by Justin Hackworth

Who inspires you? Jesus.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. [It] is a powerfully perceptive study of being human with a call to fortify oneself in preparation for the chaos that arises as both an inevitable and necessary part of the human experience.

What motivates you? Isaac Newton’s famed observation, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” describes how I often feel… I feel a profound imperative to pay that forward, to build stronger roots in our most foundational social constructs so that coming generations will not only see further, but also be well equipped to tackle what they see.

Nathan Swensen, Chief Business Strategy & Development Officer, Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority


Nathan Swensen photographed by Justin Hackworth

What motivates you? I’m motivated by energetic teams that understand the importance of the details.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. The ongoing message for me is the need to make decisions, several thousands of times a day… As we choose to act, to find our way through the ambiguous paths that present themselves to us, we will find ways to continually sharpen our professional skill sets and as we continue to hone those edges we are better prepared to innovate and provide decisive results.

What app most changed your life? Linkedin.

Rachel Hofstetter, Chief Marketing Officer, Chatbooks

Twitter | LinkedIn

Rachel Hofstetter photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? The Camera app!

Who inspires you? Gayle King. I was privileged to work with her when I was an editor at O, the Oprah Magazine. It was there that I developed the utmost respect for her.

What book made the biggest impact on you? I can’t stop thinking (and talking) about Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. The book provides great inspiration to be a “renaissance human”—who consciously pursues various interests, explorations, and relationships—because you never know what discrete ideas might connect and lead to an innovative breakthrough.

Robert Ellery Howarth, Chief Revenue Officer, Tech9


Robert Howarth photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Linkedin.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins. It helped me identify areas where I have let mediocrity enter my life professionally and personally.

What motivates you? To be the best I can be in all my endeavors. Many look at success by comparing themselves to others. Comparisons are meaningless. Success to me is giving my best and learning from both failures and triumphs.

Sanchaita Datta, President & CTO, FatPipe Networks


Sanchaita Datta  photographed by Justin Hackworth

Who inspires you? My husband, Dr. Ragula Bhaskar. He has pushed me to my best performance with customer care and relations, leadership, innovation, and much more.

What book made the biggest impact on you? 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The book has helped me be effective in setting and completing goals. I apply the seven habits he identifies in both my work life and family life to ensure I get the best results from whatever I put my time and energy towards.

What motivates you? I invented a networking technology product category called SD-WAN about 18 years ago. Nobody thought much of the idea, but now it is the hottest $5.7 billion market in networking. What motivated me all these years was to see this invention through into a commercial market.

Sarah Wright, Executive Director, Utah Clean Energy

Twitter | LinkedIn

Sarah White photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Trello. As our team works remotely, it helps us manage projects virtually as a group and feel connected as we work toward Utah Clean Energy’s project and mission goals.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Natural Capitalism by Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawken.

What motivates you? The knowledge that we are at a pivotal crossroads that will determine what kind of future we and our kids are going to have. I truly believe that Utah is the smart, pragmatic, caring, and conservative state that will break through the political and partisan logjam to drive conversations and solutions that address climate change at the scale and pace necessary to leave a stable healthy planet and economy for our kids and grandkids.

Shauna Smith, President, Savory


Shauna Smith photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Voxer. I’m mostly just listening.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patti McCord. This book was a gift from a wise person who I look to as a mentor and example, Greg Warnock. He has shaped so much of who I am today.

What motivates you? Love. I am southern and hospitality is in my DNA. For me, food is love. And love always wins.

Tammy Gallegos, EVP & Chief Strategic Engagement Officer, America First Credit Union

Tammy Gallegos photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Life 360. I like knowing where my family is at all times. But sometimes I’m not sure if that knowledge is a good thing or a bad thing!

What book made the biggest impact on you? The Shack by William P. Young has definitely made the biggest impact on me. I’ve read it many times, and each time I do, I come away with a fresh outlook on life, more gratitude for what I have, and a greater determination to never stop fighting for the things that are important to me.

What motivates you? The opportunity to learn new things every day. I love being part of a team and seeing the projects we’ve worked so hard on together come to fruition.

Tina Larson, President & COO, Recursion

Twitter | LinkedIn

Tina Larson photographed by Justin Hackworth

What app most changed your life? Google Maps. I am a traveler and have used it to find my way around from Istanbul, to New York, and Park City.

What book made the biggest impact on you? Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan. I read it when I was young and it completely cemented my fascination with science. And I have now spent a career working with companies that are innovating medical science.

What motivates you? At my core, I am a problem solver. And I want to solve problems that have a positive impact on society. I am at my best when I am helping solve a hard problem that can bring about positive change. Which is why developing new medicines has been such a perfect fit for my career.

Amanda Boren , BU CFO, Rio Tinto Kennecott


Amanda Boren

What motivates you? My family―wanting to set an example for my children and build something great as a family.

What book made the biggest impact on you? I just finished Churchill, Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts and it was inspiring to see what shaped and drove one of the most incredible leaders of recent times.What app most changed your life? Amazon Prime. I remember the first time I really used it: I was living overseas and coming home to throw a bridal shower for my sister and it saved me from doing any shopping. I was able to show up the night before the party and everything was there ready to go. It’s still my most-used app, aside from email.

To learn more about our honorees, check out the videos below:

Lindsay Bicknell is the project coordinator for Utah Business magazine. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, she graduated from Miami University of Oxford with a degree in communications. She has a background in television, print, and web media, as well as public relations and event planning. As a transplant to Salt Lake City, she can't get enough of the mountains and loves snowboarding.