Michael Campbell, Founder and Principal Advisor
Michael's passion for improving education through technology and digital literacy has helped private and not-for-profit organizations market solutions that support the learning community. For over 20 years, Michael has held leadership positions in sales and marketing spanning the PK - 20 market, technology, publishing, corporate and professional development industries. Prior to his work at Forward Thinking EDU, Michael has held positions with Learning Bird, ETA hand2mind, Follett School Solutions, Cengage, and McGraw-Hill. Michael also serves on the advisory board of EdWeb.net and was elected to the board of the Educational Technology Industry Network Division of SIIA. In addition to his work on boards and consulting, Michael serves as an advisor for the MaRS program in Toronto, Ontario Canada, helping startup and growth companies.
Michael's enthusiasm for learning and education extends outside the office. In 2012, he joined the board of the local Parent Teacher Organization . In 2014, Michael was appointed to a vacant position the local public library board, as a trustee. In 2015, Michael was elected to a full-term by the local village to the library board, where he has served as Treasurer and now as Vice-President of the board. As well, Michael was elected to the Educational Technology Industry Network's board of directors (a division of the Software Information Industry Association) in 2017. Michael was elected as a board member to the Illinois RAILS library consortium. The RAILS consortium is composed of over 1300 public, school, academic, and research libraries in Northern Illinois.
Michael has spoken at various conferences on multiple topics ranging from marketing to funding opportunities for schools and business in education. Michael is a frequent host and guest on webinars, podcasts, and radio shows that discuss the challenges of the education industry.
Ellen Cleary Ruane, Principal Advisor
Ellen has honed her business and advisory skills through years of experience in the educational publishing and big data markets. Ellen's background in education includes 20+ years of experience at companies like McGraw-Hill and Dunn & Bradstreet's MDR. At McGraw-Hill she led the higher education business marketing team and drove annual revenue for a diverse range of educational products. While at MDR, she drove revenue through her business development skills focusing on higher education companies. Ellen graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor's degree and most recently completed her MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.
Ed Kisman, Executive Advisor
Ed brings over 14 years of broad-based sales and business development leadership background within the K12 software and professional service organizations. Ed has held executive roles across the K12 Spectrum beginning in 2002, where Ed was Vice President of Sales for Follett Software Company, a leading educational solution provider where he earned numerous awards for excellence. Over the last five years, Ed has been instrumental in rebuilding sales organizations and their sales process in positioning educational solutions that are proactive in challenging students, while supporting differential student learning. Ed has partnered with both Apex Learning and Rourke Educational Media; digital content companies serving the K12 market space. Most recently Ed was Vice President of Sales for GoFrontrow, a leading Integrated campus communications solution provider.
Before Ed’s educational sales experience, Ed worked in the B-2-B market as Vice President of Sales for Alorica Inc. a global provider enterprise software solutions, to Fortune 500 companies and Director of Business Development for Ziff Davis Consultants,( a division of Ziff Davis Education).
Ed Graduated with a bachelor in Business Administration, Marketing, Management from John Carroll University in University Heights Ohio.
Tom Schenck, Executive Advisor
Tom is a senior executive who has been working in the educational market for over 25 years. His latest experience includes President for the Follett School Solutions Group (FSS), where he had overall responsibility for preK-12 products and services, including marketing and selling, product management, development, services, and product distribution. FSS, employs over 1400 associates and serves over 70,000 K-12 school institutions with its school management systems and content and services offerings.
In addition to his senior executive management skills, Tom has extensive experience in software company management, product development, data analysis, and information technology. He served as President of Follett Software for 13 years, after leading product development efforts as the Director of Development and IT. Prior to joining Follett, Tom co-founded Library Systems and Services, Inc. – a company that specialized in public library automation software and services. After selling Library Systems and Services, Inc. in 1985, he led software development at The Library Corporation, producer of public and school library automation systems.
Tom graduated from the Computer Learning Center with a diploma in computer programming and holds a B.S. in Management Studies from the University of Maryland, University College. He has attended the Executive Development Program at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University where he is recognized as a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Leadership and Management.
George DeBakey, International Advisor
George has been involved in international business for 35 years in the private and public sector. George’s primary role is to assist educational firms as they expand and develop their business internationally. George has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Commerce and was the first person selected to serve as the Director of the Technology and Information Industries Office to promote exports of U.S. technology products and responsibility for trade policy for the sector. George also served as the Executive Director of the Information Technology Association of America (formerly ADAPSO) which represented telecommunications service and software companies. George began his career with Rockwell International and served in various positions in the international division of the electronics and telecommunications sector. He has lived and worked for more than six years in London, England and Cairo, Egypt. He was the founder of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. He currently serves on the Smithsonian Science Education Center National Advisory Board, which promotes STEM education and provides science curriculum for K-12 schools. George has also been an international business teacher at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Georgetown University School of Business, University of Maryland University College (UMUC), and The American University Washington Semester Program. He has also developed and taught online courses.
Seana Barnett, Sales and Marketing Coordinator
Seana’s love for teaching children and providing needed support and services to children has driven her career choices. Seana’s background spans from Early Childhood Education to Special Education K-12 including adult transition planning for students with disabilities. In addition to her educational background, Seana has also worked at Cheers Events, a trusted event management company, since 2013.
Strong customer service skills and attention to detail has supported her in planning many events from small and unique intimate gatherings to corporate events. In 2014, Seana was nominated as president of our local Parent Teacher Organization and served as president for four years. Collaborating with school board members, staff and administration was key to the four years of success holding this position while enriching her joy for public speaking.