2024 game changers

Irvine continues to be a jobs magnet and hotbed of big dreams, with more than 17,000 companies that include one third of all Fortune 500 firms and more than 1,500 startups, according to the IT firm Tracxn.

Irvine continues to be a jobs magnet and hotbed of big dreams, with more than 17,000 companies that include one-third of all Fortune 500 firms and more than 1,500 startups, according to the IT firm Tracxn. Meet eight of Irvine’s game-changing innovators who are reshaping industries ranging from health care and electric vehicles to video games and high-tech.

Fostering a culture of innovation at Johnson & Johnson MedTech

Jennifer Currin
Johnson & Johnson MedTech, V.P. of scientific affairs, cardiovascular and specialty solutions

Johnson & Johnson MedTech’s campus in Irvine is home to one of the largest cardiovascular device groups in the nation, generating more than $5 billion in annual sales. Currin’s team works on clinical trials and product development to treat patients with heart irregularities such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), which affects 50 million patients globally.

How does being in Irvine help J&J?
There is such strong medtech representation here. We are surrounded by excellent talent, academic institutions and a wonderful quality of life.

What are you passionate about?
I am excited about the new technology we are bringing forward for the treatment of AFib, to empower doctors to treat more patients and for more patients to have access to this therapy, so that they can return to living the lives they want.

How important is innovation to you?
Having started my career as a nurse, and then pursuing my Ph.D. and transitioning into the medtech industry, I would say innovation is key to success in any career. In my role, I work with my team on creative approaches to clinical trial design and patient recruitment.

What’s your best advice?
You can be creative not only in the “what” but also in the “how” to improve processes, drive efficiencies and generate better outcomes. Always keep an open mind and challenge the status quo.

Driving Mazda design into the future

Jacques Flynn
Mazda Design America, senior director

Flynn has been shaping Mazda’s image and design for nearly two decades, overseeing novel vehicle launches internationally as well as leading the design of Mazda’s sleek race car, the Mazda Road to 24 – Prototype, fully designed in a digital environment. The supercar made its racing debut at the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the famous 24-hour endurance race held at the Daytona International Speedway. He also helped craft the latest MX-5 and says both cars were reduced to their purest forms: no unnecessary lines or details. He believes the culture in Irvine is leading the way in the evolution of electric vehicles and is passionate about the opportunity that offers. “EVs offer endless design options because the powertrain and equipment occupy much less space. The creative possibilities are incredibly exciting.”

Fueling Frost Giant’s gaming innovation

Saralyn Smith
Frost Giant Studios, publishing consultant

Frost Giant Studios executives founded the company in 2020 after decades of work at the biggest companies in the industry to take their turn “carrying forward the legacy of epic storytelling.” Saralyn Smith is right in the middle of that mission.

What are you looking forward to?
Seeing more women in tech and computer science. In the early days, it was a really male-dominated field. Having more women is important, but really all groups need to have some representation as we’re creating the fabric of our lives through technology.

Has the industry changed in Irvine?
Irvine has really started to boom over the past five or six years with many new game studios. That’s great to have more opportunities – more and more indie startups have happened here; top talent coming from triple-A game studios is here.

Charting a visionary path in aerospace

Marc Bell
Terran Orbital, co-founder, chairman and CEO

Two months. That’s how quickly you’ll be able to get your own customized satellite from Terran Orbital in the future. Terran, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of small satellites, has launched more than 340 missions since it was founded in 2013.

What are you most excited about?
Our goal of producing a space vehicle with integrated payload within
60 days. We have been continually decreasing our satellite lead time with our robotic manufacturing approach, in-house components and modules production and state-of-the-art mission control center. This allows
Terran Orbital to deliver satellites within days instead of years.

What’s a recent innovation of yours?
We’ve entered the small-satellite geosynchronous orbit (GEO) market for satellites above 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). Our SmallSat GEO™
is intended for the communications market and provides higher
power and performance than what’s needed in low‑Earth orbit (LEO).
The geosynchronous market is moving more toward small satellites, so what used to cost $1 billion and take a decade to build now costs millions and
can be done in months.

How does being in Irvine help your company?
We have capitalized on Irvine’s aerospace strengths by significantly expanding our manufacturing capabilities here. This allows us to increase production and meet our customers’ growing needs.

Advice for those looking to be innovative?
Cultivate curiosity, collaborate with diverse thinkers and stay open to new ideas.

Copiloting Microsoft’s AI revolution

Shervin Shaffie
Microsoft, principal technical specialist

Microsoft has invested heavily in AI and is ushering in an era of AI transformation, driving better outcomes across the industry, says CEO Satya Nadella. From his Jamboree Center 16th floor office, Shaffie is at the forefront, supporting work in AI with Copilot, Microsoft’s AI-powered assistant. Paid subscribers for Copilot have grown to 1.8 million.

What does the future hold?
I really think we’re just scratching the surface of AI. You can consider everything you’re seeing today as version 1.0. What if in the future of call centers, when you choose to speak to an agent, you’re transferred to AI, which can speak your language of choice? The center can have as many AI agents as it wants, which will take your 15-minute wait time down to zero.

How does Irvine help with recruiting?
Irvine is an ideal location for Microsoft because it’s halfway between L.A. and San Diego. It’s full of talented people with a great pool of resources to pull from.

What’s your best advice?
Focus. Pick one or two subtopics you’re most interested in and go deep.

Electrifying the luxury car market

Marques McCammon
Karma Automotive, president

Since McCammon was named president of Karma Automotive last year, the ultra-luxury electric car company has introduced a new super coupe GT, an all-electric sedan and an update to its popular Revero hybrid.

“We introduced our first three-vehicle portfolio,” McCammon says. “And we rallied the team around a vision to be a leader in the ultra-luxury vehicle market.”

McCammon has also partnered with UC Irvine to research electric mobility, energy efficiency and sustainable materials.
He recently appeared on “Jay Leno’s Garage,” saying “If Jay likes your work, you’re usually on the right track.”

What are you most excited about?
From our global headquarters in Irvine, we want to help expand the passion for cleaner mobility and future opportunities for the community to participate as workers, investors and buyers. From GED to Ph.D., there is a role for everyone to be a part of the clean-energy transition. We want to help shine a light on these opportunities.

What did you gain from chatting with Jay Leno?
He just gets car culture, and you can talk with him about any part of it – from technology and business to design and even the challenges of navigating the market. He’s a real car person, but, more importantly he’s a real person.

How does Irvine fit with Karma?
It has a lifestyle that attracts amazing, diverse, skilled talent. It has an intrinsic car culture that matches perfectly with our brand. Irvine is a community of creators and innovators that provides great education and community systems. Finally, Irvine provides ready access to the global economy, which makes navigating the complexities of industry so much easier.

Advice for creative types?
Look at the problems that have become an accepted weakness and ask how they can become your strength.

Leading the world’s most advanced radiology suite

Dr. Jason Salsamendi
City of Hope Orange County, interventional radiologist

You may not know what an interventional radiologist is, but should you ever need one, Dr. Salsamendi is your man. He leads the most advanced interventional radiology suite in the world – inside the City of Hope Orange County Lennar Foundation Cancer Center.
“We provide surgical-like procedures without incisions or stitches,” he says. “And we do that by using precise, real-time imaging.” This allows Salsamendi’s team to repair the inside of your body with minimal discomfort.

Why interventional radiology?
It’s transforming cancer treatment. We can obtain biopsies, remove tumors, open blocked vessels and deliver medications directly to disease sites – all without surgery.

What does this mean for patients?
Our focused pursuit to speed cancer breakthroughs means real hope, and it is arriving at lifesaving speed here.

Your reward?
Seeing patients benefit from how we combine our expertise with technology.

Helping you breathe easy

Lizanne Gomes
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, product manager

More than 400 medtech firms in Irvine put the city at the forefront for discoveries that lead to easy-to-master care for health workers and the best outcomes for patients. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, founded in New Zealand more than 50 years ago, joins that mission with technology for respiratory care. Gomes moved from New Zealand to Irvine this year to help launch the company’s most advanced hospital humidifier, the F&P 950, the only humidifier with animated graphics on the touchscreen.  

What are you excited about for the future?

I’m very excited to bring my innovation knowledge and experience from the head office here to support the team in the U.S. This humidifier is far more comfortable for patients, and we’re excited to see the way it impacts patients and their families. And it’s easier for the clinicians; they don’t have to remove and rejig stuff. It does all the work for them. There’s minimal input for the clinician.

How does being in Irvine help your company?

Irvine is a great place to work with lots of things to do but also lots of space to relax. Keeping people happy and healthy is most important so that they can also bring their best to their work and be proud of the positive impact they are making on healthcare across the U.S.

What’s your best advice for those looking to be innovative? 

Slow down and “smell the roses.” It can be really easy to get swept away by a fast-paced lifestyle, but the best and most creative thoughts come about when you have time and space to slow down and relax. Taking the time to enjoy Irvine is the best way to make space in your mind for creativity.

“Irvine is a great place to work with lots of space to relax. Taking the time to enjoy it is the best way to make space in your mind for creativity.”

Jay Kingsley
CoreLogic President of Mortgage Solutions

Kingsley oversees data and technology to help make the property industry smarter while emphasizing the concerns of real people. Simplifying an application process, with the Digital Mortgage Platform, is just one of the steps he’s involved in to help CoreLogic customers eliminate problems early on.  

What are you excited about for the future?
The integration of AI into processes. It won’t replace people; it will make jobs easier and more accurate. CoreLogic is already leveraging data to predict market trends, property values and housing demand, plus risk to properties from climate change and weather events, which helps in strategic decision-making for investors, developers and homebuyers.

How does being in Irvine help your company?
Irvine is known for being business friendly as well as a technology hub. It’s also strategically located. The combination of a favorable business environment, strategic location, healthy workforce, innovation ecosystem and quality of life makes Irvine a great location for businesses seeking to thrive.

What’s your best advice for those looking to innovate?  
Adapt a people-centric approach and start by listening to your clients and associates, who are experts in the needs of the industry. With quickly evolving tools becoming available through data-driven AI, we seek to enhance the overall customer experience.