Our Team

Our Team

Debra Alberts

Executive Assistant and Office Manager

Debra is the Executive Assistant to Petra Dizdar, Managing Director and Partner as well assisting Deborah Dugan, Chief Strategy Officer at Handshake.  In addition, Debra is the Office Manager.

Debra holds a Masters degree in Counseling and Individual Therapy from Seton Hall University.

In her free time, Debra enjoys, theatre, concerts, movies, reading and spending time at her country cottage.


Makayla Canfield


Makayla helps prepare research briefs, strategic plans, and analytical content across a variety of client accounts. In addition to client experience, Makayla is involved in Handshake’s marketing and thought leadership.   

Makayla started as a fellow after graduating from Colgate University where she studied economics and French.   

In her free time, Makayla enjoys skiing, traveling, trying new restaurants, and spending time with her sisters.   

Julia Cox

Senior Director

Julia supports a number of client accounts where she is responsible for project management, strategy and content development, and event coordination.   

Julia holds a Master of Public Health degree from New York University and has worked on various health-focused policy and education programs.   

In her spare time, she enjoys rock-climbing, camping, and eating good food.  

Petra Dizdar

Managing Director and Partner

Petra leads the consulting practice at Handshake and oversees a team that provides strategic counsel, executive positioning, partnership development, and market intelligence to companies seeking to integrate social impact into their core business. 

Petra uses her passion for greater social good to bridge the gap between private, public and cause sectors, and helps courageous leaders build values-driven organizations that address some of the most important global challenges. 

Petra joined Handshake in 2017 after spending a decade working in corporate crisis and reputation management with some of the world’s largest brands in the U.S. and Asia. 

Born in Split, Croatia, Petra loves the ocean, good food, competitive sports and her growing family. 

Deborah Dugan

Chief Strategy Officer

Deborah Dugan is a chief strategist for Social Impact at Handshake Consulting. Prior to this, she served as CEO of (RED), President of Disney Publishing, and CEO of the Recording Academy.

Featured in Forbes “100 Most Powerful Women,” named by ELLE as “Top Women to Help Change the World,” Deborah, with (RED), also received PTTOW’s “Nelson Mandela’s Change-Maker Award.”

Deborah resides in New York City.

Mike Gogis

Founding Partner

Mike Gogis joined Handshake in the beginning as CFO. Mike brings a unique mix of strategic business development and the ability to partner with creative visionary leaders to help foster profitable mission accomplishment.  

He has a wide range of experience in the for-profit and non-profit sectors and the blending of achieving mission impact while delivering bottom line results. A CPA, his 25-year career includes roles in public accounting, as CFO of a global non-profit and as a consultant working with social good companies.   

Mike is married and has two sons and currently resides in a quaint village outside Indianapolis. 

Rochelle Johnson

Account Director

Rochelle conducts research, participates in strategy discussions and creative brainstorms across a variety of client accounts. 

Previously, Rochelle worked in Private Equity where she focused on Sustainability, including ESG and CSR initiatives. She received her bachelor’s from the University at Buffalo, where she majored in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.

In her free time, Rochelle enjoys traveling and spending time with her nieces, usually on a Claire’s shopping spree.   

JR Kerr


JR’s enduring belief in the goodness of humanity, the need for compelling stories, and the reality that nothing gets done alone, led him to create Handshake in 2014.  

Previously an advisor to the White House Office for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under former President Obama, Kerr served as the director of programming and curation for Chicago Ideas Week and worked with influencers and organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, One Campaign, World Economic Forum, and UN Office for Partnerships and helped to launch Goal 17 Partners, a non-profit organization that works with private sector leaders, non-profit organizations, and governments to integrate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into business models and practices. 

His career began in education and leadership, teaching classical studies and serving in a number of roles focused on the development of student leaders on college campuses. With master’s degrees in theology and cultural studies, JR worked in faith-based organizations focused on bringing justice and mercy to a world in need of both. He spent his weekends speaking to thousands of people about how the world must be made better and then spent the week working to make it so.  

JR’s background and drive to be a leader in global impact was uniquely shaped by his relationship to his grandmother, a seamstress and shop owner, who immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua during WWII. He has launched various not-for-profits and social enterprises, among them, Traffik Free, a nonprofit to fight human trafficking in Chicago. 

Any free time JR has is spent with his four kids and playing tennis. 

Simone Singh

Senior Manager

Simone provides support across various client accounts and assists with strategy and content development, project management, and research. In addition to that, Simone also works on marketing and thought leadership for Handshake.  

Simone joined the Handshake team as a fellow after graduating from UC San Diego where she majored in Political Science, Sociology, and Urban Planning.  

In her free time, Simone enjoys exploring New York City, visiting art galleries, reading, and travelling to new places. 

Emily Ross Ahmed

Senior Vice President

As a member of the client consulting team based in Brussels, Belgium, Emily leads client accounts with a focus on providing strategic counsel and solutions to navigate the global sustainable development ecosystem and build partnerships to drive lasting social change.  

Emily began her career at the UN Foundation in New York, where she worked for over a decade with UN partners to drive special projects and partnerships to advance the SDGs. In 2019, she moved to Europe and worked as Director of Policy and External Relations at Women Political Leaders and as a consultant to Goal 17 Partners, before joining Handshake in 2021 She holds an MA in International Relations from King’s College London and BA in Political Science from Providence College. 

Emily lives in Brussels where she continues her pursuit of French and loves traveling and engaging in different cultures. 

Neha Sodhi

Vice President

Neha provides clients with strategic counsel and builds social impact partnerships to elevate their reputation and influence.   

Previously, Neha worked in both the public and private sector building strategic partnerships and creating economic opportunity through program development for underserved communities. Neha holds a BA in Political Science from Villanova University, a Master of Public Administration from Baruch College, and serves on a number of non-profit boards.

Based in New York City, Neha spends her free time discovering new things the city has to offer, cooking, and traveling with friends. 

Maggie Stimpson


Maggie provides research and writing support across various client accounts and assists with social media monitoring and reporting. Maggie is a graduate of Colgate University where she studied environmental economics and was involved in a variety of sustainability initiatives. Maggie is globally focused and has lived and worked in both London, England, and Shanghai, China. 

Based in New York City, Maggie spends her free time exploring the city, cooking and practicing yoga. 


Whitney Tran


Whitney Tran strategically plans and produces events for Handshake and their clients while simultaneously assisting with internal operations.

With broad experience domestically and internationally, she has honed the unique ability to manage multiple functional areas in high stake situations. Prior to joining Handshake, Whitney worked with a wide variety of companies ensuring their events were successful.

Based in Alexandria, VA Whitney, her husband, and daughter love to spend weekends at the local farmers market, explore the area and travel internationally.

Lindsey Wagner-Oveson

Chief of Staff

Lindsey oversees company operations and strategic priorities for the CEO.  

With nearly two decades of public and private sector experience, Lindsey has worked closely with Members of Congress, White House officials, and senior executives managing strategic initiatives, company operations, and external relations.  

Based in Washington, D.C. Lindsey and her husband spend their free time on outdoor adventures and traveling. 

Richard Wolffe

Managing Director and Partner

Richard leads Handshake’s creative work including content, design, events and activations.   

He was previously vice-president and executive editor of MSNBC’s digital platforms, launching the channel’s website, apps and digital streaming channel. He grew MSNBC’s digital audiences and revenues more than ten-fold in less than two years, winning a series of editorial, design and social impact awards.   

He later served as Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Digital Officer at Global Citizen. In two years he grew its monthly audience twenty-fold to 40 million, more than doubled its registered users and led the organization’s launch into India, and its expansion in Germany and Canada.   

He currently writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and his latest book is We Fed An Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, which became an instant New York Times bestseller in 2018.
When he isn’t building decks or writing, Richard is a weekend soccer coach and avid Liverpool fan.  

Jacqueline Zegler


Jacqueline supports Handshake’s social media and communications ventures across platforms. In addition to writing social copy, creating graphics, and scheduling posts, she assists in planning and supporting client events.

Jacqueline graduated from the University of Maryland in 2020 where she studied broadcast journalism and fostered her love of digital media and live event production.

In her spare time, Jacqueline enjoys traveling the United States, visiting old bookstores, and curating the perfect playlists for any occasion.