Chairman and CEO
John Higginbotham brings over three decades of high technology executive leadership to Blue Ridge. He is the manager of the USVC investment group, the founder and managing Member of SpaceVest investment management group, formerly the senior partner of SpaceVest Capital, a co-founder and former senior executive of International Technology Underwriters (Intec), and was the Product Manager for HP’s first microcomputers. Higginbotham has served on the Boards of Directors and as a senior executive of several public and private information technology, aerospace and defense, space industry, and other high technology growth companies. He has actively supported several prominent professional and community service organizations throughout his career. Higginbotham holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
CHIEF COMMERCIAL OFFICER
Mark Palomba currently serves as Chief Commercial Officer responsible for go-to-market strategy, marketing, sales, strategic partnerships, and business development. Mark joined Blue Ridge Networks as a Board Advisor.
Before joining Blue Ridge Networks, Mark served as SVP, WW Partner Sales and Ecosystems at Citrix, where he led the global partner and ecosystems team after serving as Chief Operating Officer, Global Sales and Services, responsible for go-to-market strategy, plans, operational execution, strategic sales, pre-sales, field marketing, partnerships and enablement. Mark is an accomplished senior executive and global leader with a proven ability to execute across companies of all sizes. Prior to joining Citrix, Mark held senior executive positions at SAP, General Dynamics, Critical Path, Vastera, Baan, and IBM totaling over 30 years of experience in information technology across all industries.
Mark has gained exceptional expertise leading global teams in the areas of sales, marketing, services, development, operations and M&A, as well as extensive international experience establishing operations, teams and partnerships in more than 30 countries spanning all major geographies around the globe. He is a graduate of Union College in Schenectady, NY with a Bachelor of Science in Economics/Computer Science and a Master of Science in Computer Science.
Chief OPERATING Officer
Maureen Gray created the Managed Services division within Blue Ridge Networks nearly 20 years ago to provide secure outsourced remote access and site to site network services to government agencies and commercial customers, especially within the healthcare and financial industries. She designed and established multiple SAS-70 certified secure Colocation facilities to house both managed services customer equipment and Blue Ridge management equipment. Gray led the initiative to create and implement corporate information security policies and has been responsible for creating and providing training to agencies and other customers. In addition, Gray was the Project Manager for the IMOD acquisitions for Secure Voice installed in over 25 Forts. She also implemented the Blue Ridge system for Secure Remote Access with Single Sign-on to Active Directory, using government-issued Common Access Card (CAC) certificates, within the DOIM communities. This system underwent extensive testing at the JITC and TIC labs at Fort Huachuca, and became approved for the U.S. Army’s use.
Chief Technology Officer
Tom Gilbert has supported the definition and development of cyber-security products and services for more than 30 years. His extensive security experience and technical background have been strong assets in bringing Blue Ridge Networks products and services to market quickly and successfully. Like many members of the Blue Ridge team, Gilbert has seen his share of “firsts” in the technology industry. He was on the first team to provide commercial delivery of high-speed multimedia over satellite while working at Satellite Business Systems, a one billion dollar company. He was also on the team that developed and launched the first V-LAN during his tenure at Network Systems Corporation, where he served as director of business development, marketing director, technical sales consultant, and a national account sales manager, leading the IBM and AT&T accounts.
Gilbert also managed the worldwide development and support of programming tools at IBM. He received a Bachelor of Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
Combining the education of an astrophysicist, experience at research and development, and expertise at assembling and managing knowledge teams, Ken Hardwick has earned his place as a leader and visionary in the technology industry. Hardwick independently envisioned and was the first person to market several key technology services, including a VPN product using cryptographic tunneling, Virtual LAN (VLAN) technology for segregation of customer networks, multiprocessor architectures for Internet routing, and packet filtering. He has also developed network-based cryptosystems that remain the technique of choice in major federal intelligence agencies.
In 2005, Hardwick was one of only five individuals named as “Ones to Watch in 2006” in InfoWorld magazine’s Innovators Awards. “By abandoning business as usual, these honorees are striking new paths to efficiency and reliability across the board,” InfoWorld stated. “We are pleased to honor those who are leading the way with their ingenuity.”
Prior to Blue Ridge Networks, Hardwick was a fellow and director of advanced software development at Network Systems Corporation where he led the development of the comprehensive cryptography and packet filtering system that is used today in Blue Ridge Networks products and services. Among other patents, Hardwick holds a software patent for virtual routing. He received a Bachelor of Science in astrophysics and Bachelor of Arts in applied math from the University of Rochester.
As Vice President of Engineering for Blue Ridge Networks, Mukesh Sharma draws on more than seventeen years of product development management experience with the proven ability to build engineering teams and deliver products to meet both schedule and revenue goals. He has an extensive experience spanning more than 30 years in the field of data networking, telecommunication, systems development to the field of cyber security in the Enterprise, banking sector, retail industries and industrial control systems. Prior to becoming Vice President, Sharma was Director of Hardware and Firmware Engineering at Blue Ridge where he led the development of the award-winning next generation BorderGuard Server product line and RemoteLink product line.
Sharma joined Blue Ridge Networks from Megisto Systems Inc., where he served as software manager developing their Mobile Service Delivery Systems that deliver IP data services to Mobile Access Networks. Prior to that he worked at Salix Technologies, Alcatel Data Networks, Hyundai Network Systems, AT&T Bell Labs, Timeplex Inc. and Center For Development of Telematics in India.
Sharma received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and Master of Science in Physics degree from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India.
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT
Mr. Frelk James J. Frelk has 30 years of experience as a leader in government and industry, shaping commercial and government programs on national security, commercial satellite earth imaging, ISR, cybersecurity, autonomy/artificial intelligence, and other fields.
James served as national security affairs analyst in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also served as the Founding Executive Director and Treasurer of the George C. Marshall Institute, a non-profit scientific think-tank composed of prominent American scientists, providing technical assessments of scientific developments with a major public policy impact. Mr. Frelk later served as Director of the Office of Space Commerce at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He represented the Department at the National Space Council and led efforts on legislation and regulatory changes for the licensing of US commercial satellite remote sensing systems. In addition, he led the first multi-Agency/Department and industry mission to Russia to facilitate cooperation on the international space station and other defense related programs. James has also served as Director of Headquarters Operations (SES) and Deputy Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation at NASA. Mr. Frelk supported program formulation and reviews, independent cost analysis, and managed NASA’s coordination with the US Air Force and IC.
Frelk has extensive executive management experience serving publicly traded and privately held companies. He co-founded Lockheed/Space Imaging, WorldView Inc., and EarthWatch/Digital Globe (now known as MAXAR), working closely with the NRO, NGA, and Defense Department. As Vice President for Geospatial Information Systems for ERIM/Veridian, Mr. Frelk supported the development of ISR systems for the Department of Defense and IC in challenging environments. As Senior Vice President for Government Services at TerreStar Networks, Mr. Frelk worked closely with the continuity of government community on a new satellite system for secure communications. Mr. Frelk served as Senior Vice President at Integral Systems, managing activities with the US Air Force on new satellite command and control systems and space situational awareness capabilities.
James Frelk is the co-author and editor of Defending Against Ballistic Missile Attacks and has authored numerous articles appearing in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE WASHINGTON TIMES, NATIONAL REVIEW, ISSUES IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, and other publications. He recently co-authored a SPACENEWS Commentary published December 2022 entitled, “Promoting, Protecting, and Defending Freedom’s Expansion in Space.”
Danille Wilson is the Vice President of Finance for Blue Ridge Networks, having worked her way up the corporate ladder from Staff Accountant to Senior Staff Accountant to Controller to VP of Finance. She has worked in the financial industry for over 15 years dealing with a wide range of economic, technical, regulatory, policy, legislative and business issues affecting both small and medium sized organizations. Wilson’s experience includes extensive work on pricing methodologies, rate design, revenue requirements, billing, inventory management, payroll and general accounting. Wilson has significant experience in the area of sales training and staff development, having worked on issues pertaining to automation, the use of new technologies, and customer satisfaction.
Wilson graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Mary Washington.
CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER