executive profiles

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Noel Barnard, CEO, Founder & Managing Partner

Ms. Barnard is the CEO, Founder, and Managing Partner of CXO Connections (CXO), a boutique retained executive search firm.  She launched CXO in Austin, Texas in 2008 to address specific talent needs across a variety of industries, and provide flexibility in talent acquisition, regardless of economic cycles. 

Noel started in search as a partner with Top Gun Ventures, a premier executive search firm where she was responsible for launching the firms’ first Austin office. 

Before her career shifted into talent acquisition, Noel served as Chairman, CEO and President of HyPerformix, a leading predictive analytics software and services company.   During her tenure as CEO, she received numerous awards, including Computerworld’s Computer Laureate Award for innovation in technology, the Austin Business Journal’s “Rising Star” Award, and one of Deloitte’s Fastest Growing Private Companies.

Throughout her career, Ms. Barnard has led the growth of multiple new business ventures and recruited exceptional human talent across a wide range of industries in companies that include both venture-backed startups and the Fortune 500.  Her proven track record of identifying and capitalizing on new markets in high-growth environments, as well as leveraging corporate assets and improving bottom-line performance during difficult economic periods has been validated and time tested.  Ms. Barnard is recognized by peers and associates for her strategic sales & execution abilities, her intense focus on customer service and client relationships, and her inherent people and leadership skills.

Previously, Noel served as Vice President, IBM Tivoli; Managing Principal & National Practice Leader, IBM Global Services; Senior Vice President, Business Development, Snyder Communications; and Senior Vice President, Sales, Marketing, and Operations, The Sabre Group, a division of AMR, parent to American Airlines.   While in Texas, she served on the board of Aidmatrix, a Leader in Supply Chain Management for Global Humanitarian Relief, where she was a member of the Executive Committee and Chair of the Nominations Committee.  Ms. Barnard also serves on the advisory board of several technology firms across the US and consults at the executive levels. 

Chet Baker, Partner

Mr. Baker, a career placement and executive search professional, joined CXO Connections in September 2011. He brings to the firm more than 20 years in management placement disciplines, including executive recruiting, corporate recruiting, and candidate consulting and preparation.

For more than seven years, Chet was President of Level C Consulting, a boutique executive search firm focused on Software, Information Technology, and Telecommunication placements for senior managers and C-level executives.  Following his work with Level C, Chet served as internal recruiter for Vail Resorts, concentrating on corporate positions.

In addition to his work with CXO Connections, Chet owns and manages a professional resume preparation and job search consultancy in Denver for senior management and leadership candidates.  Chet is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) whose specialization in custom resumes and related application documents has helped many clients ranging from mid-management to CEO.

Mr. Baker is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers, the Colorado Career Development Association, and a graduate of the University of New Mexico.

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Pam Holman, Partner

Ms. Holman joined CXO Connections in 2010 and specializes in talent research. She brings over 25 years of experience in sales and operations, call center management, and organizational change to the CXO Connections team.

Prior to CXO Connections, Pam held sales and consulting leadership positions with IBM, The Sabre Group (division of AMR), Snyder Communications, HyPerformix, and Pritchett & Associates. Through her work in these organizations, she gained strong skills and experience in human capital planning and resources.

Pam is also co-owner of Palomino Consulting Group, a business and IT consulting firm which specializes in melding technological innovation with practical business strategy.  One of her key focus areas is helping clients with people and process improvement to achieve enhanced business results.

Ms. Holman earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Indiana University.

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Tom Ayers, Partner

Mr. Ayers joins CXO Connections after a long career as an operating executive in the global IT industry. Mr. Ayers has been a sought-after advisor to CEOs, Boards, and Private Equity firms. These diverse engagements covered multiple market segments and executive business functions, including a strong focus on improving talent acquisition and helping to rebuild multiple sales, marketing, business development and executive teams.

Mr. Ayers spent 10 years from 2008-2017 as the President and CEO with three high-growth companies–Tropos Networks, ABB Wireless Communication Systems, and N-Dimension Solutions.

Prior to that, Tom was the Chief Revenue Officer of two public software companies from 1999-2007, McAfee Security and Blue Coat Systems. He helped to deliver dramatic business results for both global companies through disruptive market transitions, gaining thousands of new customers, taking company brands to number #1 in global market share, and reaching new highs in profitability.

Tom has the proven skill of building and leading sales teams through consecutive years of hyper-revenue growth. At times these programs required hands-on negotiation with difficult contracts, closing new engagements, and building entire new customer and market-facing teams in North and South America, Western, Northern, and Southern Europe, the Gulf States, Northern and Southern Africa, and across Asia.

Tom believes that to reach the nirvana of profitable, hyper-revenue growth, you need an unspoken policy of working primarily with A-Players.

“I've seen how firms desperate for growth have hired the wrong people just to achieve short-term headcount goals,” he said. “I would rather be unemployed than work for or with someone who did not share my zeal for building teams with the most talented individuals.”

Tom also believes that one of the cornerstone elements of any successful business team is a sustainable program that continually identifies, recruits, retains, and develops top talent.

“As a successful senior operating executive I was continually recruiting new talent that could help drive our companies to successful outcomes. To me it seems silly to hire just an average person and then take weeks or months to train them on how we want them to work. Instead we focused exclusively on hiring exceptional people.”

Tom graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. He now serves on the Board for BlackOps Partners, a leader in the professional services and cybersecurity advisory markets. In addition, Tom serves on the advisory boards of several professional services and technology firms located in the U.S.

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Sandy Della Ripa, Research & Operations Partner

Sandy Della Ripa joined CXO Connections in 2016 as Research & Operations Partner; since then, she has supported numerous search projects across a wide range of industry sectors, from the Fortune 500 to venture-backed startups. 

Sandy came to CXO Connections after 28 years of experience with a Fortune 500 P&C Insurance firm, where, among other assignments, she managed talent in the investigation and legal divisions. After leaving the corporate world, she spent three years with a Denver nonprofit conducting research and writing grants.

A Colorado native, Sandy recently relocated to the town of Loveland, Colorado, where life is simply good.

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Ron Adams, Talent Acquisition Partner, Travel & Hospitality

Ron joined CXO Connections in the summer of 2015, focused exclusively on CXO’s Travel, Transportation, and Hospitality sector.   Mr. Adams is a tenured executive in the Hotel, Airline and Ground Transportation industries, as well as an Asset Manager and Real Estate Consultant.  He has lived and worked in Asia, South Pacific, Hawaii and North America.

During his time working with Hotel companies, Ron held executive positions in Sales, Marketing, and Hotel Operations with Sheraton Hotels Hawaii, Sheraton Hotels Asia Pacific, Colony Resorts and Aston Hotels & Resorts.  He served as President of HotelMark Corporation, a multi-national Hotel Marketing company developing and operating loyalty programs, where he developed and managed exclusive contracts and the operations of loyalty programs with Sheraton Asia Pacific, Marriott International Asia Pacific, Mandarin Oriental Hotels Asia Pacific and a number of Shangri La Hotels in China.

As a Real Estate Executive, Ron served as President and Managing Partner for Stark Realty, a firm specializing in luxury condominiums and small luxury ranches in Hawaii, and Executive Vice President of the Asset Management and Contract Compliance Group for Candon Consulting, where he managed large real estate trusts and international multi-million dollar contracts for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.  He was also founder of Access Japan, a consulting and marketing group in Tokyo assisting American firms in developing the Japanese Market.

Ron is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach.  He and his wife, Yukie, enjoy trekking in the Himalayas, Japan and across North America.  While today they make their home in Henderson, Nevada, they can often be found in the Beach Towns of Southern California spending time with their children and grandchildren.