Meet the team

Parminder K. Jassal​, Ph.D.

Founder | Chief Executive Officer

Parminder is serving working learners as the CEO of Social Tech Inc., a public benefit corporation headquartered in Austin, TX.  Parminder founded in 2018 and also conducts research as the Founding Director of the Learn and Work Futures Lab (2016) at the Institute for the Future. Parminder’s early perspectives are shaped by experiences at Fortune 50 companies such as at Ford Motor Company, Atlantic Richfield Oil Company, and Lucent Technologies along with co-founding start-ups like Technology Solutions and Consulting, Bombay House Restaurant, and East Indian Trading Cafe.​  Parminder strives to apply foresight to promote positive culture shifts and improve inequities. 

In 2012, Dr. Jassal was named Founding CEO of ACT Foundation where she oversaw the organization’s unique role as an operating foundation, strategic investor, and incubation partner in support of the New Learning Economy and Rise of Working Learners (published). Dr. Jassal previously served as a program officer supporting postsecondary success for low-income young adults at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and in Economic Development leading workforce innovation at Greater Louisville Inc.

From being born in London to completing high school in India to graduating as a product of public higher education in the United States, Parminder’s life reflects the world economy.  Parminder fluently speaks three languages and has worked and serves on boards across the globe.  Her post-secondary experiences began with an A.S. from Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa.  While transitioning from the for-profit to the philanthropic sector, Parminder earned her Doctorate in Higher Education with a focus on Technology and Economics from the University of Louisville.

Merrilea Mayo, Ph.D.

Founding Collaborator | Chief Operating Officer

Dr. Mayo’s work focuses on technologies, tools, and concepts that enable the 2/3 of Americans without a 4 year degree to access skilled jobs.  At a tactical level, much of this work involves the assessment and transmission of skills data, and/or the design of software systems that enable skills-based transactions to occur.  At a strategic level, Mayo isolates the financial, education and employment trends that influence new education and work paradigms.

Just prior to her arrival at Social Tech, Dr. Mayo operated a consulting firm specializing in skills assessment reviews and hiring funnel design.  Earlier in her career, Dr. Mayo served as Director of the Future of Learning Initiatives at the Kauffman Foundation and, prior to that, Director of the National Academies’ Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable.  Dr. Mayo has launched two non-profits, ASTRA and the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership, both of which continue to operate to this day.  Dr. Mayo is a materials scientist and engineer by training, having received her doctorate in that field from Stanford University in 1988, publishing approximately 80 technical articles, and serving as the President of the 15,000 member Materials Research Society in 2003.

Julian L. Alssid

Founding Collaborator | Chief Marketplace Engagement Officer

Julian is a nationally recognized strategist who has been at the cutting-edge of education and workforce development for over 30 years.

Prior to joining, Julian served as Vice President of Workforce Partnerships at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) where he transformed CCRI’s low-performing workforce operation into an award-winning, nationally-recognized operation that is now a key driver for workforce and economic development in Rhode Island serving over 25,000 students annually.

Julian has held senior positions at Southern New Hampshire University where he helped design and establish College for America; as founder and Executive Director of non-profit Workforce Strategy Center advising over 23 states, the federal government, and numerous foundations on education and workforce policy; and at LaGuardia Community College and the Partnership for New York City.

Julian has authored major studies on workforce strategy. His views on engaging employers and creating effective workforce development systems have received extensive attention in national and local media, and he speaks and writes regularly on the need for policy and educational reform in the field.

Holly Sparkman

Certified Public Accountant | Certified Valuation Analyst

As a CFO, Holly specializes in tax and business valuation services along with financial, legal affairs and administrative management.

Holly serves as an advisor to Boards of Directors for several national and international organizations and has supported several clients through strategic growth, debt/equity financings, and successful exits with gross enterprise values ranging from $10M to over $100M. Prior to founding Sparkman Consulting Group in 2009 which was merged with Rorie Sparkman & Engel in 2011, Ms. Sparkman served as CFO for CellzDirect Inc., a life science company, for more than five years, overseeing its growth from a venture capital backed start-up through the sale of the company to publicly held LIFE Technologies in 2008 for $57M. She also served as CFO of CEDRA Corporation (Worldwide Clinical Trials), a contract research organization to the pharmaceutical industry, from 1999 through its sale in a private equity transaction in 2007.

Prior to her service at CEDRA, Ms. Sparkman was the CFO of Public Strategies, Inc., an international public affairs consulting firm. Her experience also includes public accounting experience in tax with KPMG Peat Marwick.

She has served as Director for nonprofits including the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium and the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, Texas and as a reviewer for the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. Ms. Sparkman holds a bachelors degree in Accounting from Texas A&M University and a masters degree in taxation from William Howard Taft University.

Beth Howard

Director | Marketing and Public Relations

After 30+ years working in corporate, non-profit, and creative agency positions, Beth recently transitioned to become a member of the “gig economy” as an independent freelancer and consultant. Beth’s range of skills and industry experience throughout her career in marketing communications – from strategy development and tactical planning to creative direction and copywriting – bring value through her diverse perspective and versatility.

In 2010, Beth joined a colleague’s emerging advertising and marketing agency as VP Communications, managing accounts and team operations as well as overseeing creative development. She served as senior copywriter and communications strategists for a diverse multimillion dollar client base including Toyota, Brown-Forman, Papa John’s, Meridian Bioscience, Vectren Energy, National Minority Supplier Development Council, Soul by Ludicris, Cummins, and Swisher International, among others. While with the agency, Beth developed intensive experience in the important cultural area of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Prior to her agency career, Beth worked nearly a decade in economic development with Greater Louisville Inc., the award-winning chamber of commerce in Louisville, KY. She also held marketing roles at Humana and Ziff-Davis Publishing. A graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan College, Beth’s associates recognize her for having a collaborative attitude, being a creative thinker, and challenging the status quo.

Herb Head

Founding Collaborator | Veteran Liaison

Herb started his military career at Eastern Kentucky University, in the ROTC program graduating as a Distinguished Military Graduate.  Commissioning as an Infantry Officer Herb received the prestigious Airborne Wings and the coveted Ranger Tab distinguishing himself among his peers.  Herb’s first active duty assignment was Fort Hood Texas, as a Rifle Platoon leader in the 2nd Armor Division “Hell on Wheels”, and Company Executive Officer before Permeant Change of Station to Fort Richardson, AK and becoming HHC Company Commander 1st Battalion 17th Infantry Regiment.  Herb, also serving as Battalion S1 and other staff positions while in Alaska.  Herb was selected to serve as a Foreign Area Officer to South Asia and spent time training and working with the Indian Army and was the first American Soldier to attend the Indian Junior Commanders Course in Mhow, India.  

Transitioning to civilian life was a journey that involved working in start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, and some entrepreneurial efforts like launching Grisanti Head Commercial Real Estate, and more recently Adventure Challenge Experiences.  Using experiential learning methodologies, Herb hosts a variety of leadership experiences for schools, camps and corporations to build relationships, teams, and soft skills.  

Herb lives in Austin, TX and is a proud parent of two Aggies (gig em), and serves as volunteer staff at Khalsa Center Miracle Valley in BC Canada as well as volunteering at his local church.

Mary Dixon

Founding Team | Special Projects

Mary has over thirty years of experience in the construction industry. Her experiences are concentrated in the office and warehousing sectors for pipeline contractors in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Former positions include:
 Procurement Manager, Administrative Manager, Material Coordinator, Document Control Coordinator, Warehouse Coordinator, Warehouse Technician, Administrative Assistant and Project Secretary. Mary is a proud graduate of North Central Technical College with an Associate Degree in Data Processing & Accounting.

Sara Woodhull

Principal Product Manager

Sara has 30+ years of experience in the software industry doing technical writing, training, user experience and product management. She has spent the majority of her career at Oracle Corporation, and she most recently served as the information architect at an AI startup.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree from Stanford University, both in Materials Science.

Sara lives in Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. She volunteers at and pursues many different textile-related hobbies. 

Mackenzie Matheson

Social Media Coordinator

Mackenzie is a sophomore at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL where she is majoring in Communication Studies and Political Science. At Northwestern, she is chair of the campus events coordination team for GirlUp, a group dedicated to improving women’s access to education.  Most recently, she became a fellow for a local political campaign and is now captain of voter outreach. Mackenzie has a passion for reading, baking, and public advocacy.

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