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Daniel Theobald, Dmitri Tcherevik, Joshua Smith, Kathleen Mitford, MassTLC Leadership Awards 2019, Rania Khalaf, Tech Excellence

Meet the Finalists for Tech Excellence

For the past twenty-two years, the MassTLC Leadership Awards have celebrated the best and the brightest of the Massachusetts technology ecosystem. The sixteen award categories, including a newly added category for the Massachusetts Growth Company of the Year, highlight the vitality, innovation and importance of the region’s internationally respected technology industry. In addition, for the first time, MassTLC will honor the visionary organizations that are pioneering digital transformations to innovate and re-imagine the future of the Commonwealth’s leading industries in the form of the newly created Digital Transformation awards category. 

The finalists in all sixteen categories were revealed during a reception at PTC’s Boston headquarters on September 10. 

Winners will be announced at the All Stars of Tech Winners’ Celebration on November 6 at Fenway Park

In the meantime, let us introduce you to the finalists and the incredible work that they are doing here in Massachusetts – and how they are changing the world. 

In the words of their nominators, meet the 2019 “Tech Excellence” finalists.



Rania Khalaf, IBM Research

LinkedIn: in/raniakhalaf

In the past year, Dr. Rania Khalaf has started a new organization in AI for IBM Research focused on tackling the systems and software engineering challenges of building AI models and applications. Her global strategy spans teams in 7 IBM Research Laboratories around the globe and covers skills from distributed systems to human computer interaction to core AI algorithms.

In this short time, her team has created over 100 patent filings and delivered significant innovation to the business, including key capabilities in IBM’s Watson line of products, by driving co-delivery of IBM research and product teams in the business group. In addition, Rania’s teams have created highly visible projects in AI interaction with MIT and Harvard to understand the inner workings of neural networks through visualization and created AI games that explain the science behind the algorithms through play. These important innovations required bringing together disparate teams with different backgrounds and across reporting structures and time zones, and Rania pulled it all together in a positive and effective way. 

Rania is an advocate and an ally, mentoring and ensuring an inclusive culture at IBM Research, actively seeking out leadership and growth opportunities for the members of her team. Her portfolio of personal publications have over 6000 citations, and she has received several IBM awards for outstanding technical innovation.



Kathleen Mitford, PTC

LinkedIn: in/kmitford

Kathleen Mitford has led PTC to numerous successes within the last 12 months. Most of these were rooted in her goals for technical excellence across a vast organization and reinforced by inspiring innovation in the product portfolio while continually driving best-in-class product development processes. As executive vice president of products, Kathleen has responsibility for the product organization (product & market strategy and R&D) for CAD, PLM and IoT, and leads a global team of approximately 1800 talented individuals with major development hubs in Boston, Israel, and India.

Kathleen led the execution of PTC’s strategy to achieve 30% growth in its new IoT business, far exceeding market growth rates. With continuous improvement in mind, she increased product development productivity, while managing a multi-million-dollar budget. New methods introduced by Kathleen focus on modernizing product development processes so teams can deliver leading-edge products while maintaining a high profit margin. Under Kathleen’s leadership, PTC was able to increase time for New Product Development (NPD) in each release while improving the E/R (Expense to Revenue) ratios for each product.

Kathleen prides herself on building culture and empowering teams while elevating employee experience. She is committed to promoting diversity in business and in technology and is a board member of the Massachusetts High Tech Council and is leading the council’s initiative in recruiting, retaining, and promoting Women in Technology.



Joshua Smith, Kaon Interactive

LinkedIn: in/jesmithcto

At Kaon Interactive, Joshua led the team that developed a completely mobile, virtual reality (VR), laboratory-planning system. Users of this application can design a lab on an iPad and immediately experience a real-time, life-size, photorealistic representation of that lab on an untethered VR headset running Android. This was made possible by Kaon Interactive’s mature technology platform – which was also built and patented by Joshua. 

In addition, Joshua managed the transition away from purpose-built iOS apps to a container system, allowing Kaon’s clients to continue to use iPads and iPhones for their enterprise applications despite Apple’s rule changes excluding cross-platform enterprise apps from the App Store. In total, 70 customer applications were migrated to this new approach on iOS, maintaining their presence in the App Store.

Joshua continues to be a driver of industry change – both in the technology space as well as in the markets of Kaon’s customers. He is disrupting the way products and services are marketed and sold by enabling the digital transformation of Kaon’s customer base. He has built, and continues to build, a foundation for leading, enterprise, Fortune 1000 companies to tell their value differentiation stories in a way that not only enables their customers to learn and understand those value stories but also inherently revolutionizes the way they do business.



Dmitri Tcherevik, formerly of Progress

LinkedIn: in/cherevik

Over the last 12 months, Dmitri Tcherevik led the successful launch of Progress Kinvey, a first-of-it’s-kind high productivity application development platform for professional developers. Dmitri saw other vendors in the application development space were building low-code and no-code applications for citizen developers. He thought professional developers were missing from that scenario. With Progress Kinvey, professional developers receive a combination of high productivity, full developer control over the app experience and operational efficiency for modern workloads with dynamic scale. In addition, under Dmitri’s leadership, Progress Health Cloud was redesigned to focus on patient no-shows, which cost the U.S. healthcare system $150 billion annually.

Dmitri held a dual role at Progress that includes defining the overall product strategy and leading the growth business unit that pursues emerging business opportunities. As CTO for the past twelve months, Dmitri led disparate product teams made up of separate business units and recent acquisitions to rapidly deliver on Progress’ growth strategy. A significant part of Dmitri’s role was focused on driving innovation both in the culture as a company and in product development. Dmitri also headed up Progress Labs, an initiative that incubates and explores the latest innovation across AR/VR, AI/ML, blockchain, conversational UX, IoT, digital health, microapps, and more to support Progress’ business strategy. He designed Progress Labs to identify and nurture the best ideas from Progress employees and bring them to market as new technologies. 

Dmitri is an industry innovator with a proven track record of creating and evangelizing game-changing technology strategies. Along with leading game-changing projects, he takes the time to hear and fully understand any idea from anyone on his team, which shows tremendous respect for company talent, and inspires those he leads. He not only thinks strategically when spearheading a new initiative, but he has the necessary technical knowledge on the latest innovations when integrating it to a project. He designs and deploys the most effective and efficient process for taking product ideas from inception to deployment, always acting as a team-player.



Daniel Theobald, Vecna Robotics

LinkedIn: in/daniel-theobald

Daniel Theobald has spearheaded many of Vecna Robotics accomplishments over the last year. Most notably, he led the technology advancements in creating Vecna’s Hybrid Fulfillment Solutions. Hybrid Fulfillment combines the unique strengths of humans and collaborative robots with real-time intelligence, generating full-circle solutions so businesses remain agile and competitive in a world of rapidly-changing expectations. 

Daniel led the engineering team in developing and bringing to market Vecna Robotics fifth-generation Pallet Jack and Tugger, two products that were showcased at ProMat 2019 and have raised the bar for self-driving vehicles. He also led the development of the first ever AI-based orchestration engine,, which analyzes a business’ current state of operation and adjusts operational processes, accordingly, ensuring every player on the team is performing optimally in real-time; and he led the development of Vecna’s autonomous Retriever, a robot mobile piece-picking robot with an arm that navigates warehouse shelves, picking up items and placing them into an order tote.

Daniel has remained dedicated to these projects and his team, while also fulfilling his duties as an industry thought leader. In 2018 he spoke DHL’s Innovation Conference, LiveWorx, Modex, RoboBusiness’ fall conference, and had the pleasure of being interviewed for NPRs innovation hub. 

Daniel is a visionary and a truly innovative leader. He develops robots because he knows they will help empower the human workforce; he understands that robotics can be scary, but he takes the time to inform, educate and listen to those who will be most impacted by this industry.

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