Jessica Wattman

Dr. Jessica Wattman is the Director of Social Innovation at New Markets Advisors and a veteran at creating strategies for environments in rapid flux. Her work has been predominantly in the public and nonprofit sectors, where she has adopted Jobs to be Done and other innovation methodologies to create a wide range of trailblazing programs in conflict and other unstable environments. She is co-author of the book Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap for Customer Centered Innovation, due out on October 31st, 2016. She has worked in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, and other hotspots. She has worked for organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme, Save the Children, Oxfam, the US Agency for International Development, and Mercy Corps. Dr. Wattman graduated magna cum laude of Columbia University’s Barnard College. She also has a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is fluent in Spanish and French.

Naz Ahmed

Naz Ahmed is a Virginia-born rock climber, ice climber, alpine climber and skier. She led the Ascend team’s expedition to Bamyan province in October 2016. In addition to mountain sports Naz’s professional background includes strategy consulting on advising clients on entering emerging industries in frontier economies. She also regularly briefed the Commanding General of Multinational Forces Iraq while in Baghdad on external risks. Naz is passionate about helping underserved women discover their potential while climbing. Her favorite part of mountaineering are the moments shared and relationships discovered with friends, new climbers and locals in an exhilarating setting. Naz is a graduate of University of Virginia and holds a master’s degree in international affairs from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University.

Tammy Kupperman Thorp


Tammy Kupperman Thorp has spent her career focused on international security issues and recently completed a National Security Fellowship at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she first learned about Ascend. She began her career as a journalist for NBC News, covering international security, foreign policy, intelligence, defense, and politics. In that time, she was based at the Pentagon, State Department, White House, London, and Tel Aviv. Tammy has also provided research assistance to Richard Bonin, author of Arrows of the Night, a book published in 2011 that examines the role Ahmad Chalabi played in the US decision to go to war in Iraq. She has worked as a speechwriter in congressional affairs and has provided strategic media counsel to a public relations firm and its nonprofit clients. Tammy is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and was accepted into the Committee on International Relations.

Brenda K. Stewart

Brenda K. Stewart has over 20 years of leadership experience in the nonprofit sector. She is a graduate of Regis University in Denver and she holds a Master of Nonprofit Management, a Master of Communications, and a Graduate Certificate of Humane Management & Administration with a focus on Humane Education. Brenda works as a writer and consultant for nonprofits, NGO’s, and corporations. She has worked in leadership capacities at Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, and as an Educator for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. She is a former Humanitarian Aid worker in refugees settlements and orphanages in Bosnia and Croatia and was a student freelance conflict journalist in the Balkans. A native of Colorado, Brenda spends her spare time fighting allergies while hiking, and enjoys performing amateur stand-up comedy, auditioning for game shows, rescuing special needs animals, volunteering in various Board roles in her community, and sharing her terrible taste in music by attending boy band concerts.