Ajay invests in early-stage software with a focus on front-office SaaS, AI/ML infrastructure, and supply chain technology. Prior to Bain Capital Ventures, Ajay led product and sales as an early employee at Trilogy, an enterprise software pioneer, growing annual revenues to $300 million.
Ajay’s primary investment themes include AI-enabled applications (Clari, Gainsight), the future of work (Homebase), bottom-up and developer led software (Sendgrid), supply chain and manufacturing transformation (FourKites, ShipBob, Vention), and automation (Ike). Ajay served as board director of several exited companies with combined outcomes of nearly $5 Billion, including SendGrid (acq. by Twilio), TellApart (acq. by Twitter), Kiva Systems (acq. by Amazon), and InfoScout (acq. by Vista Equity), and has been named multiple times to the Forbes Midas List Top 100 Venture Capitalists.
As employee #18 and SVP Product, Sales & Marketing at Trilogy Software, Ajay built a legendary recruiting program, signed multi-million-dollar contracts with Fortune 500 customers, and delivered breakthrough enterprise products, including market leading config-price-quote (CPQ) software. Ajay holds a patent for the “Method and Apparatus of Configuration Solutions”.
Combining his track record at Trilogy with 17 years of investment experience at Bain Capital Ventures, Ajay’s passion is working with early stage founders on team-building, culture, iterating on product-market fit, and scaling go-to-market operations.
Ayele Shakur brings almost three decades of experience as an innovator in urban education. Prior to coming to BUILD, she served as the President and CEO of the Boston Learning Center for 15 years. Under her leadership, the Center expanded from serving 100 students annually in Boston to 700 students across the state. Ayele joined BUILD in 2011 as Boston’s Founding Regional Executive Director.
A veteran classroom teacher, Ayele taught for eleven years in the Los Angeles area and in the Boston Public Schools, and co-authored the book Boost School Performance – A Parent’s Guide to Better Grades Fast. Ayele is the recipient of the 2012 Boston Celtics Heroes Among Us Award, and the 2007 Nan Bennett Kay Great Friend to Kids Award presented by the Boston Children’s Museum. In 2014, she was appointed as Chair of the Education Committee for the Boston NAACP, and held this post for three years. In 2015, she was appointed by the Boston School Committee to co-chair the Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force for the Boston Public Schools. She was honored with the 2017 Barr Fellowship, which recognizes outstanding nonprofit leaders in Boston, and in 2018 became part of the GK100 Most Influential Black Bostonians. She is a motivational speaker and a blogger for the Huffington Post.
A native of Boston, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Boston University and a Master’s degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
Having been in the for-profit sector for over ten years, Beverly joined BUILD after witnessing BUILD’s impressive student entrepreneurs at the 2013 Gala. Beverly currently leads the National Talent Team and brings her passion for equity into her daily work and connections with BUILDers across all of our regions.
Beverly lives in the San Francisco, Bay Area with her husband, three children and cat. When not supporting our team with the important work, she enjoys watching competitive sports, learning about different cultures, trying new recipes and spending time outdoors.
Brian Costanzo was most recently President and CEO of SOCAP International. He entered the association profession in 2005, joining the executive staff of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). He served first as EO’s Senior Vice President, Global Membership and later became the group’s Senior Vice President, Business Development in 2014. Brian’s previous 20 years were spent providing unparalleled client service in a variety of roles—as restaurant manager, sales manager, customer service manager and director of operations—for high-end properties, including Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Signature Hospitality Group. He is a member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and became a Certified Association Executive (CAE) in January 2011. As a former entrepreneur himself, Brian founded his own company, Vision Hospitality, in 2004. Brian says, “Entrepreneurship has been a significant part of my life for many years and I can think of no better mission than to deliver a program to our youth that builds self confidence and self-esteem.”
Bryce Jacobs is an educational reformer and educator with a particular interest in family engagement and college equity. Prior to joining BUILD, Dr. Jacobs was Director of National Programs at College Summit, an organization with a mission to help more low income students get to and through college, and previously was a program specialist at the National Parent Teacher Association. In her role at College Summit, Dr. Jacobs wrote training materials, designed curriculum, and innovated new programs that supported 11 regions across the country. She is a founding board chair and current board member of Sela Public Charter School, a Diverse By Design Hebrew language immersion school in Washington DC. Dr. Jacobs has a B.A. in International Development from Clark University, an M.A. from George Washington University in Education, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Education Policy and Leadership. Dr. Jacobs served as the Regional Executive Director for BUILD Metro DC for 5 years before moving up to the Chief Strategy Officer role on the National Leadership Team in 2019.
Chymeka Olfonse has dedicated her entire professional career to empowering individuals through education. She currently serves as the Regional Executive Director for BUILD NYC. Prior to BUILD, Chymeka served as the National Executive Director of Minds Matter National Inc., an academic mentoring nonprofit headquartered in New York City. She set the organization’s strategic direction in collaboration with the leadership of 12 chapters. During her tenure, Minds Matter doubled the number of students served and successfully launched four of its 12 chapters. She developed a comprehensive fundraising strategy and formed partnerships to achieve scale and impact to benefit the national network. In addition, Chymeka has worked in programming, development and management capacities at the New York City Department of Education and at The After-School Corporation (TASC). As a Program Manager in the Office of Strategic Partnerships at the New York City Department of Education, she oversaw a number of large efforts to bring private-sector philanthropy into the public schools. Prior to that, Chymeka was Deputy Director for the Mid-Atlantic region of Jumpstart for Young Children
Chymeka is a graduate of Yale University where she earned a dual Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with Economic Policy and African and African-American History. She completed her MPA with a focus in Public and Nonprofit Management at The Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. In the summer of 2012, Chymeka earned a Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management certificate offered through Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program.
Dale Lemke has been Chief Financial and Operational Officer of BUILD since August of 2018. Prior to joining BUILD, Dale was Chief Financial Officer of Schools for Children, a non-profit corporation operating multiple independent schools in the greater Boston area. Before transitioning to the non-profit sector, Dale served in various finance and strategic planning roles for nearly 25 years in the for profit sector at firms including W. R. Grace, Marshalls and Ernst & Young. Dale received his undergraduate degree in Political Science from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and his MBA in Finance and International Business from Columbia University in New York City.
Dale lives in Winchester Massachusetts with his wife Jennifer, daughter Emily and dog Ella. In his free time, Dale enjoys golf, cooking and spending time on the Downeast Maine coast.
Dan is the CEO of an e-learning startup called Nardagani and is involved in a number of other investment and philanthropic activities.
Prior to that, Dan ran the Americas Debt Capital Markets Group for Santander Investment Securities for 11 years and the Latin America Debt Capital Markets Group, among other businesses, at Merrill Lynch for 13 years. Early in his career, he worked at The World Bank and the Bank of Boston.
Dan received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his MBA from Insead.
Dianna Nguyen is the Junior Staff Accountant at BUILD. She handles account payable activity and trains BUILD staffs on the most effective ways to use Concur. Prior, she was a part of San Jose Grant Thornton Audit team. Dianna had experienced in teaching and working with students during her years in college as a Supplemental Instructor at San Jose City College. She was a member of BAP, a prestigious Accounting Club running by students where she gained an insight Accounting. She also worked at The Health Trust and Bank of America. Dianna is a proud Spartan, graduated from San Jose State with a Bachelor degree in Accounting.
She always believes that “success doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work”.
Ed Wilson has over a decade of experience in fundraising and development. Prior to leading BUILD’s National Development efforts, Ed served as the Development Director for BUILD Boston. Ed earned his MBA, with a concentration in Leadership & Organizational Change, from Northeastern University, and his BA in Economics and Management from Albion College, Michigan. Ed resides in Dedham, MA with his wife Jennie and his two daughters Adeline and Violet.
Liz has been with BUILD since the spring of 2018 and is currently the Development and Program Systems Manager, helping to manage fundraising, student data collection and analysis, and social media/communications. Previously employed by Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts and Arlington Free Clinic, Liz has always had a passion for helping others and working for organizations which put people at the center. She was initially drawn to BUILD because of its mission – helping underserved youth recognize and harness their potential for greatness – and continues to be blown away by the affect BUILD’s programming has on students’ personal growth. In her spare time, Liz refinishes old furniture, volunteers at the local dog shelter, and cheers on her Boston sports teams. Liz graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Studio Art and Family Life Cycle Studies.
Felicia serves as the Development and Communications Manager to the CEO where she leads communications and thought leadership initiatives to elevate BUILD’s presence as a leader in the fields of equity, youth entrepreneurship, and education.
Julie brings her passion for visual storytelling, entrepreneurship and digital design to her position as the National Communications and Marketing Manager. She uses her positive energy and strategic digital tactics to bring the spark to BUILD’s national communications plan, digital campaigns and video production.
Julie comes to BUILD after working with the United Nations as a digital content analyst/video producer where she produced, edited and shot promotional videos in Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon and Hawaii to spotlight grassroots organizations and local sustainable development solutions to be showcased at the UN Climate Change Summit. Julie’s passion for entrepreneurship comes after co-founding the nonprofit organization, Design Xchange in 2019, a startup providing training to Ugandan social enterprises in digital communications. While working in Liberia as a Visual Storytelling Consultant at the nonprofit Accountability Lab, Julie developed her interest for nonprofit communications while producing digital marketing content promoting accountability and exposing corruption.
Julie first developed her passion for education as a teacher during her 2 year Peace Corps service in the small village of Zvan, Macedonia. Julie’s love for teaching only grew while teaching internationally in Morocco and Myanmar in the years following her Peace Corps Service. Julie completed her MPA in Development Practice at Columbia University with a specialization in Technology, Media and Communication. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Architectural Design with a minor in Film Production from the University of Virginia.
Karleton Thomas is a social entrepreneur and workforce development practitioner who has spent much of his career developing opportunities for marginalized communities. After nearly a decade of engaging vulnerable populations and witnessing the myriad of barriers to effective programming, Karleton is poised to deliver on the “dream” and provide sustainable solutions to the students, residents, and parents of our communities.
Lydia Phillips serves as the Director of Licensed Partnerships and Organizational Learning at BUILD where she oversees the strategy and implementation for growth of BUILD’s entrepreneurship to youth nationwide. Additionally, she guides internal learning with a focus on creating a collaborative and inclusive environment. With over 10 years experience in education, both abroad and stateside, Lydia has a passion for ensuring students are receiving high quality experiences in education and focuses on experiential learning. She has her Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of San Diego and has served as an educator with a focus on ELA and Special Education.
“I believe youth are brilliant, creative and hilarious. It is a joy to help them unpack their strengths, their voice and help guide them towards a future of their choice. Entrepreneurship is a unique avenue for self expression, collaboration and innovation. It allows us to work with schools and community partners in a way that uplifts all involved. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?” – Lydia Phillips
Michael has over 15 years of experience building, running and scaling technology companies and organizations across a wide range of industries. Leading the organization of Neon One brings together Michael’s skills and experience in growing entrepreneurial technology companies with his passion of supporting non-profit organizations to increase their impact in the world. In addition to Neon, Michael serves as Board Chair for Build.org, a national education-based nonprofit that leverage entrepreneurship to empower students in underserved communities.
Michael has a Computer Science Degree from UPenn, and an MBA from the University of Chicago. After starting a career at Accenture where he built global technology systems in New York, London, Singapore, & Seoul, he co-founded CaptainU. Acting as President, he and his team scaled this sports technology platform to millions of customers and organizations. After CaptainU was acquired by Blue Star Sports, Michael joined the Blue Star team as Chief Revenue Office and GM of the Enterprise Software and Payments group, helping scale the organization and combining products to build a product suite for organizations to excel and flourish. Michael is now proud to leverage his background to help nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations drive impact and help them reach their goals more quickly.
Nitita currently serves as the National Manager of Data Systems and Evaluation supporting regions with data management and reporting in Salesforce and leading national evaluation projects to measure student impact and growth. Nitita was one of the founding staff members of BUILD Boston as an AmeriCorps service member and later became the College Access Program Manager. When she moved to New York, she had roles as the Operations & Human Resources Manager at a Brooklyn charter school, Strategic Data Facilitator at New Visions for Public Schools, and Senior Data Analyst at NYU Langone Hospital before she returned to work for BUILD National. She has dedicated her career to using data and technology to support youth and communities. Nitita is also a certified ESL teacher and children’s yoga teacher. As a first-time mom, she doesn’t have much free time, but if she did she would run long distances while listening to audiobooks and start training for her next half marathon. Nitita says, “I choose to be a BUILDer because the BUILD team tirelessly and passionately always put students at the center.”
Pepper Hayes loves to crunch numbers and look for patterns in data. She uses these insights to coach BUILD’s development teams to raise the funds we need to support BUILD students. As Director of Development Operations and Communications she maintains our infrastructure for fundraising operations and oversees donor communication and stewardship. As an entrepreneur herself, Pepper knows first-hand how empowering the experience can be and was immediately drawn to BUILD’s mission, which inspired her to leave her career in law in 2014 to join the BUILD team. Pepper is an enthusiastic cat-lover and blogs about her knitting adventures in her spare time. She holds a BA in History, Philosophy, and Gender Studies from Westminster College and earned her JD at the Boston University School of Law.
Ryan joined the BUILD family in 2016, stepping into her current role in 2018. She is responsible for gift processing and helps manage BUILD’s donor database. Ryan works closely with Pepper Hayes to develop data and tools that grease the wheels of BUILD’s development team.
Originally from Austin, TX, Ryan now lives with her husband near BUILD headquarters in Redwood City, CA. She earned a BA in Sociology from Eckerd College in 2015. Education has been a guiding beacon of her professional and volunteer efforts. Serving as a math and statistics tutor through high school and college, Ryan found that thinking outside the box with her teaching style helped transform even fervent math-haters into A+ students. As someone who fell through the cracks early in school, Ryan is immensely grateful to have found an alternate path to education that reignited her love of learning. She is proud to draw on her own experience and is determined to support those with diverse paths to achieve their education goals.
Ryan Oliver serves as Regional Executive Director for BUILD Bay Area and Los Angeles, holding primary responsibility for leading growth initiatives and directing strategy. Ryan brings twenty years of experience as an innovative educator, leader, and program designer in urban schools, from Boston and Pittsburgh to Los Angeles and East Oakland. Previously, Ryan served as Founding Program Director for BUILD Boston. A Bay Area native, Ryan has lived, learned, and worked on both coasts. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard University, a Master of Arts in Education from California State University Monterey Bay, and Principal Certification from University of Pittsburgh.
Steve Mea joined BUILD in 2016 and currently serves as Operations Manager for the National Shared Services team. In this role, he supports our organization by keeping tabs on our technology, government filings, insurance coverage, external vendors and contractors, and student program operations. Before stepping in to this position, Steve was a member of the Boston Program team as a Youth Engagement Coordinator and Student Experience Program Manager, in which he supported students, teachers, mentors, and staff in all aspects of the BUILD program. Prior to his time with BUILD, Steve worked for the Germantown Historical Society in Philadelphia and led educational tours of historic homes for 4th and 5th graders. Steve attended Millersville University of Pennsylvania where he studied History and Governmental & Political Affairs, and currently resides in Philadelphia with his Fiancé, rabbit, and two cats. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the drum kit for his band at local Philly-area venues.
“I BUILD because of the incredible impact the program has on students, school communities, and families. I saw this first hand as a member of the Boston Program team, and am fortunate enough to continue this work remotely in Philadelphia. An education in business provides a young person with 21st century skills that their normal course load does not have the time to cover. It empowers them to realize their dreams, and graduate from high school with a vision for the future.” -Steve Mea
Virginia Duke is proud to be in her sixth year as part of the BUILD family. She currently serves as BUILD’s National Manager of Systems Improvement and Knowledge Management, a role that draws heavily from her previous positions as both a grant writer and program manager, teaching BUILD juniors in Oakland how to run their own businesses and prepare for the college application process.
Prior to BUILD, Virginia taught English in Nepal on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant fellowship and taught eighth grade math in rural Alabama through Teach for America. Born and raised in Montana, she is a 2011 University of Oklahoma graduate (Boomer Sooner!). Virginia lives in Austin, Texas, is an avid reader, and is writing her third novel.