Meet Valerie Rivera – Connector-in-Chief.

Valerie is on a mission to help organizations create workplace cultures where people thrive. Above all, she loves the thrill of seeing people come to life at work – with renewed purpose, engagement, and initiative. Valerie incorporates best practices in organizational behavior, design thinking, and coaching for change that sticks, and partners with clients to develop practical strategies tailored to their needs.

Previously, she served in the United States Air Force where she instigated a culture change movement that transformed a bureaucratic unit into a powerhouse of creativity and innovation, leading to intelligence breakthroughs. She didn’t stop there, though – a variety of game-changing programs adopted by the Air Force and the National Security Agency can trace their origins to her fearless willingness to challenge the status quo. Valerie holds an MBA from Stanford and a BS in Diplomacy and Military Studies from Hawaii Pacific University.

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Meet Lauren Grimshaw – Integrator-in-Chief.

Lauren’s passion is smashing obstacles to help people and businesses grow by creating clarity and building traction. She supports business leaders at all stages using a combination of best practices in design thinking, agile methodologies, coaching, and innovation leadership to tackle their toughest challenges. Lauren is also an operations wizard, constantly searching for the most streamlined ways to perform any task or function.

With over a decade of experience leading operations and innovative product development in the military, non-profit, and technology sectors, Lauren loves jumping into the messy stuff to create a bold path forward. She holds a BS in Systems and Information Engineering from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology.

Meet Paul Thallner – Reframer-in-Chief.

Paul loves helping clients see their challenges as opportunities, catalyzing energy for positive change, and guiding conversations with powerful questions. Paul has more than twenty years of experience as an executive in the professional services, non-profit, and government sectors where he’s been involved in major culture change initiatives.

Before joining the team at Take Back Work, Paul was awarded a FUSE civic innovation fellowship to coach and support non-profit and community leaders. He also served as a faculty member at the Presidio Institute’s Cross-sector Leadership Fellowship, a program designed in partnership with BlackRock, McKinsey and Company, and the Obama White House Office of Social Innovation. Paul has a M.S. in Positive Organizational Development & Change from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. from Gettysburg College.

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Meet Nikki Schmidt – Chief of Client Evolution.

Nikki strives to ensure the relationships Take Back Work has with clients are nurtured and thriving well into the future. She’s passionate about cultivating purpose-driven communities, and a master at crafting tools and systems that support personal and professional growth. Nikki has a knack for digging into the details that become stories of impact, a skill she’s honed over the years as an anthropologist. 

This self-described “unicorn-wrangler” brings over a decade of experience in organizational management and development, sculpting program curriculum from scratch, unleashing talent in teams, and building relationships with customers and businesses alike. Nikki has a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan and a M.A.T. in Secondary Education, Earth and Space Science from the University of Maryland Global Campus.

Meet Tabitha Challis – Messenger-in-Chief.

Tabitha creates connections between the mission and the message, and she just so happens to truly enjoy all things related to people, teams, and workplace culture! As a jack-of-all-trades and perpetual learner, she stays up to date on the latest and greatest to build vibrant communities where people can learn and grow from each other. 

As a social media early adopter, Tabitha brings nearly two decades of experience in social media marketing and community development. Previously, she’s worked with clients like American Idol,, Wil Wheaton, Joe’s Jeans, Wizard World Entertainment, and Bombay Sapphire Gin. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and a BA in Communications from Moody Bible Institute.

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