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May 9, 2024

Pittsburgh Technology Council CIO of the Year finalists embrace AI

At last year‘s CIO of the Year event, much of the conversation was about how the IT leaders earned their finalist status by effectively ushering their organizations through the pandemic.

Times have changed since then, and casual conversations with the 2024 CIO of the Year finalists hardly touch on the pandemic.  

For Kathleen Lovett, vice president and chief information officer at VSP Vision, it’s been a year of transition. She was a finalist both years.

The emergence of ChatGPT into the mainstream, combined with a broadening of her role at her company, pushed Covid technology risks into her rearview mirror.

“With emerging technology, it’s so important to understand the outcomes we’re trying to drive,” says Lovett, “because that will say what tool we need to pull from the toolbox.”

As non-IT people in her organization started to experiment with emerging AI tools, that led her to broaden the activities of her technical team, giving them more responsibility to work directly with internal customers to come up with the right solutions and make sure they’re using AI effectively, responsibly, ethically and securely.

That theme played out among both the seasoned CIOs and the Rising Stars, the category in which Madison Oliver co-won a 2024 award on Thursday, April 18, at a ceremony at the Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh.  

Madison Oliver, GitHub

Oliver manages a technical team in the Security Labs at Microsoft-owned GitHub, a company on which over three-quarters of software developers globally rely to help them manage software projects.

One of 20 Pittsburgh employees in this remote-first California-based company, Oliver’s team not only concentrates on the security of her own company; they focus on ensuring their users are aware of security threats that might affect the code that customers keep in GitHub’s system.

Having spent earlier parts of her career at Carnegie Mellon University’s CERT Division of the Software Engineering Institute focused on computer system vulnerabilities, Oliver says that a good portion of her job now consists of convincing people that security is not just something an IT department does, it’s part of everybody’s job description.

The 2024 chief information officer and chief information security officer honors were awarded out of a group of 36 finalists in seven categories.  

This year featured a new category – Tech Trailblazers – which was added to honor people who have at least 16 years of tech experience and who are “conquering, navigating and harnessing the power of tech in their day-to-day roles,” even though they may not yet be at CIO level, according to Jonathan Kersting, vice president of communications and media at the Pittsburgh Technology Council, which holds the awards.

Rachael Afolabi, founder of Paradigm Global Innovations, was a finalist in the new category. Atypical of many others on the list who are with larger organizations, she’s a solopreneur, who has been working with restaurants to integrate technology into their processes, and describes her audience as often having a knowledge gap that she can plug.

Pittsburgh-based Seegrid’s director of information technology, Clayton Mathis, was finalist in the Rising Star category, and while his IT experience at Bossa Nova Robotics, Carnegie Robotics, UPMC and RAND is noteworthy, he actually started his career in AOL Tech Support, where he became good at pinpointing problems and communicating solutions.

David Reed, VP of IT at Maxim Crane Works, runs a team that supports IT for 3,000 employees, 2,300 vehicles (cranes) and 10,000 tractor trailers, with logistics and security.

Law firms were well represented this year, with Chris Kosek directing enterprise applications at K&L Gates, a Rising Star finalist; and Scott Angelo, CIO of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, winning in the CIO-Megabyte category. They both shared that digital literacy in the age of AI that is key for lawyers. Angelo says his firm is even looking at productizing some of the technology that has been developed by his team.

The 2024 CIO Choice Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Charles Bartel, VP, IT & CIO at Duquesne University.

2024 CIO of the Year Awardees

Category: CIO – Megabyte


Scott Angelo, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney


Paul Allison, PennWest University

Jim Dye, Cochran Automotive Group

Adam Gunnett, Busy Beaver Building Centers

Larry Trenga, Wesley Family Services

Category: CIO – Gigabyte


Tushar Lovalekar, Koppers

Jack Smith, Federated Hermes


Lisa Biondi, System One

David Reed, Maxim Crane

Eng Tan, Automated Health Systems

Category: CIO – Terabyte


Bhaskar Ramachandran, PPG


Chris Carmody, UPMC Information Services Division

Christine Johns, PNC Financial Services

Kathleen Lovett, VSP Vision

Category: CISO – Gigabyte


Dennis Carson, PennWest University


Brian Abercrombie, TeleTracking Technologies

Tony Krance, Seton Hill University

Category: CISO – Terabyte


John O’Rourke, PPG


Derek Brown, EQT

Sam Merrell, Kennametal

Pete Zwieryznski, Koppers

Category: Tech Trailblazer


Janeen Peretin, Baldwin-Whitehall School District

Julie Prough, UPMC Corporate Services


Rachael Afolabi, Paradigm Global Innovations

Ebony Dendy, University of Pittsburgh

Jorge Guajardo Merchan, Bosch Research + Technology Center

Sondra Hunter, Tech Savvy Consultants

Crystal Morgan, UPMC

Frank Pascoe, Koppers

Category: Rising Star


Chris Belasco, City of Pittsburgh

Madison Oliver, GitHub


Daniel Elliott, The Wilson Group

Chris Kosek, K&L Gates

Clayton Mathis, Seegrid

Jon Oeler, Reed Smith

Brian Stein, Koppers

2024 CIO Choice Lifetime Achievement Award

Charles Bartel, Duquesne University

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