Succeeding in business – or launching one – can be a daunting task under the best of circumstances. Individuals who come from marginalized communities, scarce economic means or have experienced trauma, discrimination or health challenges face additional obstacles on their career journey. 

The new TechPoint Resilience Award recognizes the relentless spirit of Hoosier tech ecosystem professionals who have overcome adversity – often working specifically to remove the barriers they faced so later generations have an easier path forward. Their leadership within Indiana’s tech and digital innovation ecosystem stands as a model to anyone with a dream. 

The summaries below of each nominee’s journey to success just skims the surface of what led to their nominations, but offer a glimpse into why their entries were elevated to nomination status.  

Only one can become the 2024 Resilience Award winner. The nominees are:   

Rebecca Bormann, Rebecca Bormann Consulting. For more than 20 years, Bormann navigated a male-dominated field, consistently overcoming gender discrimination, microaggressions and biases both internally and externally. She has encountered clients who refused to discuss contracts with her because they “don’t talk about money with women.”  She has repeatedly been asked to fetch coffee when she was there to lead the meeting. Despite demonstrating leadership that led to significant progress, she was denied promotion. That inspired her to launch her own company, which became a full-time endeavor, and works with women and minority organizations. RB Consulting delivers expert sales consulting, strategy and training services to organizations ready to accelerate their growth and impact. Bormann embeds core values of diversity and inclusion in her work. In August 2023, she hosted Indy’s First Conference focused on Closing the Gap on Women in Sales & Sales Leadership, attended by nearly 100 professionals and centered on overcoming challenges as women in a male-dominated industry and promoting equity in the sales industry. 

Kimberly Bugg, Centric Consulting. The stress of dealing with a parent’s death led Bugg one class short of earning her college degree. Discovered after pretending she had graduated led to a lost internship and years of multiple part time jobs and working paycheck-to-paycheck. She was helping raise her nephew and was without reliable transportation when she first attempted to re-take that last class, but couldn’t accommodate the on-campus class requirement. She found an alternative course and, degree in hand, she joined the tech workforce and learned about Project Management. She had no Black female role models and faced bias in the workplace, but earned Project Management Professional certification and became a leader in her company and her professional association. She speaks often with K-12 students about career options. She has since earned a master’s degree and many honors including being named an Open Pivot Pivotal Leader and 2023 Tech25 Award. She plans to earn a doctoral degree and launch a business helping small businesses manage projects.  

Aaron Hogan, SoundSpace. Hogan overcame childhood poverty and severe dyslexia to join the Indiana tech workforce, co-found a company and gain admission into Harvard University’s Business Analytics program. He now serves as co-founder and Chief Operating Officer for Soundspace, which has become a sanctuary for creative professionals, offering physical space and resources, workshops and networking opportunities. While helping build Soundspace, Hogan was homeless for a time, but rather than give in to financial shortfalls, he bartered marketing services for materials needed to build the company’s first rehearsal room. He negotiated a scalable rent pricing structure that helped the company remain viable while navigating the Covid pandemic and learned news skills when necessary to overcome later challenges. Soundspace is a 24/7 beacon of affordable, reliable and professional space for creative professionals, including those with socioeconomic challenges. Hogan’s sacrifices to create Soundspace have had a positive ripple effect all around him; affecting not only local people but international operating standards for spaces helping individuals achieve their career dreams. 

Ariel Relf, Cummins. Despite having no Black female role models and few allies, Relf was attracted to the production side of the broadcast industry. She overcame racism and sexism in school and the workforce, and now serves as a digital communication specialist at Cummins, Inc. Hoping to remove the barriers she faced and bring diversity to the field, she also works with organizations that enable her to encourage corporate leaders to enable Black and Brown women to thrive and achieve more in the workplace and in their own communities.  She also volunteers with organizations that enable her to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers to young professionals, including the Science Fair of Indiana where she is often asked if she likes her job. She always responds with, “No, I LOVE my job!” Relf is a constant advocate for Black and Brown girls and women, seeking to show them they should not sit on the sidelines and wait for an opportunity, but take every opportunity presented.  

Eric Stanley, Minority Moves Network (M2N). Stanley was young when his father died, leaving a profound void that his mother fought to fill. Stanley found additional mentors in his coaches. He struggled to pay for challenge and as one of the few Black students at his university, confronted stark economic and social disparities. His White fraternity brothers had access to networks that included top executives. Stanley had no such connections but leaned heavily on his advisors to secure post-graduate opportunities. He found the workforce much like his university. During a five-year tenure selling board software, he encountered only a handful of Black executives. Pressure to exceed expectations was constant, a necessity to gain acceptance in spaces where inclusion was an uphill battle. In 20 years working in corporate sales positions, he was often the only Black professional on the team. He launched M2N to champion inclusive hiring for underrepresented groups and is an engaged and influential figure within the Indianapolis tech community. Among other efforts, he works local universities on diversity and inclusion efforts.  

Luke Zhang, Resultant. At 16, Zhang left his native China to chase the American Dream with nothing but his family values of achievement, excellence and kindness and one suitcase. Not yet fluent in English, he achieved great academic success while also working part-time jobs, but was rejected by his dream university and Ivy League schools. He graduated at the top of his class at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, majoring in Computer Science, Software Engineering and Mathematics and became a rising Indiana tech star. Laid-off during the Covid pandemic, his immigrant status added a level to his unemployment challenges. He had to be re-employed within 30 days by a company that would pay the costs of transferring his work authorization. Three years of work toward an EB-3 Green Card were erased. Hired by Resultant, where he had interned, Zhang again quickly became a company leader and renewed his efforts toward an H-1B working visa and Green Card.  He’s also inspired his uncle to relocate and is helping his nephew succeed in the U.S. 

luke zhang

Award winners will be announced at the 25th annual TechPoint Mira Awards gala Friday, April 26, 2024, at the Old National Centre in Indianapolis. The event is presented by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Salesforce and a host of the state’s most innovative companies, universities and organizations.   See that growing list, learn more and get your tickets here.