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Leadership / Philadelphia

RealLIST Connectors 2023: Meet 20 (more) people bringing Philly’s tech ecosystem together

New to the local tech scene? Looking to expand your network? Here are some of the most connective leaders you should know to get involved.

Clockwise from top left: Kenyatta James, Kate Rivera, Heath Naquin, Heather Qader, Desmond Upton Patton, Nicodemus Madehdou, Jamie Calabria and Sandra Carter. (Courtesy photos; graphic by’s RealLIST Connectors 2023 is underwritten by Arcweb. The list was independently reported and not reviewed by Arcweb before publication.

Imagine: You’re at an event looking for someone who can help you find investors for your startup. Or you’re looking for organizations to collaborate with on tech equity initiatives. Or you’re looking to recruit more people for your coding meetup group.

The nice thing about the Philly tech community is that you will probably be able to find someone who can help you with your particular niche, either directly or by recommending someone else.

If you relate to any of those scenarios, then this is probably the right article to be reading.

Welcome to the fourth edition of’s RealLIST Connectors list. We like to think of it as an addendum to past lists: The first one in 2020 featured 100 connective people to know in the Philly tech community. In 2021, we picked 20 more, and in 2022 there were 22 more. Read them all to find out who’s who.

This latest roundup showcases 20 people in the Philly tech ecosystem who are extremely connected and influential in the community. Each year’s list was developed by the newsroom with the help of public nominations, suggestions from past Connectors and our own close following of the news of the past year. (P.S.’s RealLIST nominations are now open year round, so you can nominate a person or company for the RealLIST Startups, RealLIST Connectors or RealLIST Engineers, any time.)

This year’s list includes people who have been around the block in Philly tech, but also some new faces. Let us introduce you to them.

Jabari Adams

  • Managing director of company relations at LaunchCode
  • In his role, Adams works to find job opportunities for LaunchCode’s participants and maintain relationships with partner organizations. Adams is passionate about workforce development, and that attitude shines through when he talks up LaunchCode candidates to potential employers.

Jabari Adams. (Photo by Melissa Jay Photography)

Jamie Calabria

Jamie Calabria. (Courtesy photo)

Sandra Carter

  • Interim chief information officer for the City of Philadelphia
  • Carter recently took over this role from Mark Wheeler, who was in the position for five and a half years. Carter was previously COO and deputy CIO of unified communications for local gov, working directly with Wheeler. In her new role, Carter told, she’s focused on supporting public facing city departments through the Office of Innovation and Technology so Philadelphia residents can get the services they need from the City.

Sandra Carter. (Courtesy photo)

Tempest Carter

  • Director of strategic technology initiatives for the City of Philadelphia’s Commerce Department
  • Carter has only been in her role for a year, but has already made an impact on diverse founders through the City’s Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative, which seeks to help Black and brown people into tech careers. Her nominator said her work has helped “sell” Philadelphia to new tech companies and bring resources to local founders.

Tempest Carter. (Courtesy photo)

Prema Katari Gupta

  • Incoming CEO for the Center City District
  • At the end of this year, Paul Levy will fully step away from his role as president and CEO of the Center City District, which supports businesses, public spaces and other institutions in Philly’s downtown, after 30 years in the role. His successor has big shoes to fill, but comes with her own stacked resume: Gupta is the current VP for parks and public realm at CCD where she oversees four city parks and manages other Center City projects. She also has previous experience with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and University City District.

Denita Henderson

  • Managing director at Pennovation Works
  • Henderson came into her role last fall at Pennovation Works, where she manages its startup community and Southwest Philadelphia campus consisting of labs and office space to support researchers and entrepreneurs. Henderson works with the Penn Center for Innovation, PCI Ventures and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research in her role.

Denita Henderson. (Courtesy photo)

Mary Beth Hertz

  • Art teacher at the Science Leadership Academy at Beeber
  • Besides her day job, Hertz is the founder of Walkabout Philly, an organization that encourages education through community connections and real-world skills. Hertz is also passionate about technology: She’s taught about Web3 and NFTs in her art class because she believes it’s important to expose students and prepare them for the tech that will impact their futures.
Mary Beth Hertz stands in front of a nature background

Mary Beth Hertz. (Courtesy photo)

Kenyatta James

  • PAGE program director for The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
  • Through the PAGE program, James supports minority entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. In this role, James also works with anchor institutions in the Philadelphia region, connecting them to the smaller businesses PAGE supports. He’s also involved with the PAGE Hurdle Fund, which takes aim at the racial wealth gap for entrepreneurs. This year, the Economy League announced the PAGE 100 program, which will track growth in participating businesses to better understand what works and what doesn’t.
Jonathan Sterling (L) and Kenyatta James (R) standing together.

Kenyatta James (right). (Courtesy photo)

Michael Johnson

  • Founder and event director of the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition (PRC)
  • PRC supports STEM education in Philadelphia’s public school system through robotics programs. The organization was founded in 2016 by Central High School’s robotics team, the Robolancers. Johnson is their coach and saw them through a successful robotics season this year where they won the FIRST Impact Award at the world competition for the work they do through PRC.
RoboLancers standing with a winning banner

Central High School’s RoboLancers winning the FIRST Impact Award. (Courtesy photo)

Margot Kane

  • Chief investment officer of Spring Point Partners
  • Spring Point Partners is focused on social impact through investing in groups that support justice and community. Kane’s nominator called her a “legend in the impact investing space,” and said from their own experience working with her, they’ve seen how respected she is and that she makes connections that create equity.

Nicodemus Madehdou

  • Cofounder of JumpButton Studio
  • Madehdou’s company JumpButton Studio hosted the first PHLGaming event this spring. A developer and tech community mainstay since his teens, Madehdou said the goal of the event was to bring Philly’s gaming community together and let youth know that they don’t have to leave the city to pursue a career in gaming or game development.

Nicodemus Madehdou. (Courtesy photo)

Munir Mandviwalla

  • Executive director of Temple University’s Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT)
  • Mandviwalla’s research focuses on digital transformation, broadband, social media, and IT workforce. Through IBIT works with industry stakeholders, academics and students to research best practices in business and technology. His nominator said Mandviwalla is “invested in building ties with regional tech execs and local tech community and developed a standalone institute that brings rigor and connections for students.”

Munir Mandviwalla. (Courtesy photo)

Heath Naquin

  • VP of government and capital engagement at the University City Science Center
  • In his role, Naquin is in charge of all programs at the Science Center related to entrepreneurial support, including the Capital Readiness program and the Founders Fellowship. He is also particularly focused on health equity and thinks it’s important for companies to remember accessibility when thinking of ideas. He previously told, “the one key thing institutions can do [is] don’t assume you know what communities’ [needs] are. Open your ears and listen. Go to where problems are.”

Heath Naquin. (Courtesy photo)

Desmond Upton Patton

  • Founder and director of SAFELab
  • Upton Patton brought the SAFElab, a research lab focused on the intersection of technology and social work, from New York City to the University of Pennsylvania last year. Since coming to Philly, he has been trying to connect with the Philadelphia tech community as much as possible to focus on advocacy and filling gaps in tech.
Desmond Patton Headshot

Desmond Upton Patton. (Courtesy photo)

Heather Qader

  • Founder of The Qader Group
  • Qader’s company is a business consulting firm where she helps companies improve their operations and impact. Qader’s nominator said she is specifically passionate about helping other women in tech and business succeed. She hosts workshops, social events and mastermind cohorts to connect current and would-be technologists and entrepreneurs (including a sold-out Philly Tech Week 2023 meetup). Previous experience includes working as La Colombe CEO Todd Carmichael’s senior aide and as manager of business development for the City of Philadelphia — experiences informed her desire to pursue entrepreneurship, she told in 2020.

Heather Qader. (Courtesy photo)

Kate Rivera

Kate Rivera standing in front of a white background

Kate Rivera. (Courtesy photo)

Nick Valeriano

  • Angel investor, advisor and mentor at Robin Hood Ventures and Mid-Atlantic Diamond Ventures
  • Valeriano’s skill set lies with helping early-stage startups in the Philadelphia region, working with companies from the idea stage to Series A. His nominator said Valeriano also works as a software consultant and that experience “helps give him a unique understanding of how to disrupt and improve poorly designed processes.” He also hosts TwitchPitch, a weekly event where founders can pitch to him on Twitch.

Nick Valeriano. (Courtesy photo)

Ethan Wergelis-Issacson

  • Director of enterprise strategy at McKesson
  • Wergelis-Issacson works in venture capital and mergers and acquisition at the healthcare company, and was once a leader of Philadelphia’s DreamIt Ventures healthtech accelerator. His nominator called Wergelis-Issacson “a super-connector” who frequently makes connections in the pharmaceutical and health-tech industries. He is also an organizer of the meetup group HealthTribe.

Ethan Wergelis-Isaacson. (Courtesy photo)

Aisha Winfield

  • Executive director of the Blues Babe Foundation
  • This year, Winfield was one of the organizers of FRSHWV, a teen tech and music festival that kicked off Philly Tech Week. Her background is in the arts and entertainment industries, but her nominator said she is passionate about providing accessible and inclusive learning and career opportunities to Philadelphia’s youth.

Joe Woods

  • Organizer of the Philly JavaScript Club
  • Woods’ day job is as a senior client application development lead at Fastmail, but he dedicates his free time to the local tech club scene. His nominator said Woods goes out of his way to connect with other local tech clubs and has played a huge part in bringing back local tech club events.


Joe Woods. (Courtesy photo)

Read Philly’s inaugural 100-person RealLIST Connectors list from 2020, plus our addendum lists from 2021 and 2022.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Technology Learning Collaborative / LaunchCode / JumpButton Studio / Crossbeam / Pennovation Center / Arcweb Technologies / Center City District / City of Philadelphia / Economy League of Greater Philadelphia / Office of Innovation and Technology / Robin Hood Ventures / Temple University / University City Science Center / University of Pennsylvania
Series: RealLIST Connectors / RealLIST

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