The 2016 Top 20 Professionals Under Forty

We scoured The Magic City to bring you what we deem to be the next generation of business leaders at the tip of The Sunshine State. These young professionals represent a variety of industries and excel at their respective crafts with superior sophistication and their own unique blend of style and savvy. All have managed to seamlessly balance their careers with their personal lives while continuously giving back to the community that has helped mold them into who they are. Without further ado, flip this page to meet this year’s Top 20 Under Forty.
Text: Jorge Arauz Photography: Nick Garcia for Blindlight Studio On-Site Hair & Makeup: Lutz Karpf; @LutzKArpf #TeddyBearOfHair On-Site Fashion Stylist: Estrellita S. Sibila Production Assistant: Ricardo Mestre Location: Blindlight Studio; 4747 SW 75th St., Miami; 305.266.3197; | May 19, 2018 | People

Dr. Jessica Eagan, 37
Doctor of Dental Surgery
Jessica Eagan D.D.S.
& The Roads Dental Specialty Center

Dr. Jessica Eagan prides herself on helping people smile with confidence. “I’m a dentist, but more than that, I’m a dental artisan who helps transform smiles into immaculate creations.” Ironically, as a child, she was always apprehensive about going to the dentist. “Today, I’m proud of the pleasant and comfortable environment I’ve created to make all of my patients’ dental experiences enjoyable,” she says. “I always put their needs first.”

Brandon Okpalobi, 33
CEO, DIBIA Athletic Development
Founder, DIBIA Dream, Inc.

If you’ve seen Brandon Okpalobi wearing one of his signature tailored suits around town, you might have wondered who he is. “I’m a physical architect of athletes who helps them become complete and elite — one bounce at a time,” he says. With an adrenaline-packed introduction like that, it’s no wonder he’s dedicated his career to helping youth turn their dreams into reality. “ I’m on a mission to inspire and motivate kids to believe in themselves,” he says. “NEVER let someone tell you that you can’t do something!”

Claudia Da Silva, 25
Sr. Marketing Strategist
Links World Group

Claudia Da Silva is the type of person who walks into a room and gets everyone’s attention — and keeps it. “My career forces me to plan on a global level and then execute locally,” she says. “Nothing is more wondrous than the shift in your perceptions and reality brought about by exposing yourself to a new part of the consciousness of the world.”

Chad S. Friedman, 37
Weiss Serota
Helfman Cole & Bierman

When Chad S. Friedman is taking in the sights around Miami, he doesn’t see things like everyone else. “My favorite part of the job is seeing the various buildings, parks and projects that I’ve helped through the development review process, and the positive impact those projects have on the community,” he says. “I think it’s imperative for every professional to stay current and know what is going on around them and in their respective industry.”

Maria Del Pilar Fernandez, Psy.D, 35
Clinical Psychologist
Lotus Counseling Center 

Maria Del Pilar Fernandez doesn’t have your everyday elevator pitch when it comes to networking around town. “Some people automatically assume that I can somehow analyze them from a simple hello — it takes much more than just that!” She says the most rewarding part of the job is receiving heartfelt gratitude from her clients. “It’s such an amazing experience when a client tells me that I have changed their lives and given them a sense of purpose.”

Anne Chicheportiche, 36
Violinist & Founder

Six years ago, concert violinist Anne Chicheportiche founded Musimelange, a classical music concert series that pairs wine, gastronomy and music in the living room of the M Building in Wynwood; and MusiMINI, an interactive educational concert for children at the Miami Conservatory of Music, complete with a baking class component. When it comes to offering advice to the next generation of leaders, she doesn’t hesitate. “Classical music is the best example, it has the wisdom of 300 years,” she says. “We all need to be creative and innovative without forgetting about the past and traditions — we must learn to work well with others and take risks without ever forgetting our roots.”

Brad W. McMorris, 39
Vice President-Investments & Financial Advisor
Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC Member SIPC

As Vice President-Investments at Arch & McMorris Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Brad W. McMorris thrives on serving and learning from some of the most successful business leaders in the nation and abroad. “Some of my best friends started out as clients,” he says. “I aim to help everyone stay the course and not get caught up in the noise.” When it comes to offering the next generation of leaders a little advice, he doesn’t hesitate: “Follow-up! Follow-up! And follow-up!”

Jane Muir, 32
Attorney & Managing Partner
Gersten & Muir, P.A.

Jane Muir’s roots are Old Miami through and through. Her grandfather, Bill Muir, was recruited away from law school to serve as an attorney for Carl G. Fischer during the development of Miami Beach. Her grandmother, Helen Muir, was a world-renowned journalist and author who counted Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Robert Frost amongst her closest friends. That special Muir spark seems to run in the family. “I say yes to everything and put forth my best effort,” she says. “Saying no means you may never have the opportunity again — go for it!”

Darling Lie-Nielsen, 34
Financial Advisor
Northwestern Mutual

Darling Lie-Nielsen’s career started against all odds. “I was 21, a female, with a bachelor’s degree and an empty address book, selling insurance for a living,” she says. “Most would have not bet on me, but I did.” Today, she is one of South Florida’s top insurance advisors committed to the best interests of her clients with a focus on surviorship, estate and succession planning. “I help families and protect people for a living —it’s the most rewarding part of my career.”

Andre Siegel, 32
Sr. Marketing Manager
Sabadell United Bank, N.A.

Andre Siegel believes that in the banking industry, there are only two types of transactions: “Either I give you money, or you give me yours — my job is to help you understand how Sabadell stands out from the rest!“ For him, change and innovation have allowed him to excel in an ever-evolving industry. “We may be building the now, but we need to think of the future — and there will always be someone smarter, faster and with a different perspective than you,” he says. “Making yourself adaptable to any and all situations is how you will achieve success in your career as well as in life.”

Kate Baumwell, 36
Program Director
Rosemont Academy

Kate Baumwell has always been great with kids — and that natural knack has translated into a gratifying career working to help exceptional children attain greatness at Rosemont Academy. “I’m lucky that I get to go to work and do something that I love while seeing students benefit from my efforts,” she says. So what’s her secret to success? Work-life balance. Among her many interests, she’s a professional photographer, an avid boxer and an amateur pool player who has played with the APA League and participated in national competitions for the past 15 years. “The activities I’m involved with outside of work help keep me motived and balanced,” she says.

Dwayne Neeley, 34
Director, Casino Marketing & Loyalty
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings LTD

When Dwayne Neeley and his brother launched a lemondade stand as kids, his brother built the stand while he figured out the perfect street corner to set up shop, the price points and the hours of operation. “My brother is now an engineer, and I spearhead the global casino marketing efforts for Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas.” Among his secrets to success is his ability to continually evolve beyond his comfort zone. “It’s important to try new things, learn new things and do new things,” he says. “It broadens your perspective and strengthens your mind.”

Pandwe Gibson, 31
CEO, EcoTech Visions

As the head of Miami’s first maker-space, co-working space and green business incubator, Pandwe Gibson is bringing green-collar, clean and sustainable manufacturing to Miami while creating jobs, sustaining communities and protecting the planet. “I get energy and fulfillment from the creation of anything — from tables to businesses to vertical farms,” she says. “Miami represents the future of American society as well as the tech and sustainable movements — there is palpable energy here and I’m excited to be a part of it!”

AJ Mueller, 36
Partner & VP of Construction, Amicon

When you have the likes of Facebook, Prada, FedEx and American Express as part of your portfolio, greatness becomes second nature. “After doing this for 13 years, I continue to learn something new every day,” says AJ Mueller of his role with Amicon, one of South Florida’s top commercial construction specialists. “I always want to walk away from any professional interaction being the person people want to work with again.”

Karen J. Lapekas, Esq., 33
Principal & Tax Attorney
Lapekas Law, P.A.

Karen J. Lapekas is a former Sr. IRS Attorney who now represents clients against the IRS at her own firm. “People fear the IRS and often run away or crumble under the stress,” she says. “I enjoy putting the problem in perspective, finding the most cost-effective solution to resolving it, and more often than not, saving my client far more money than what they pay me. I help them get back to their lives and to making money again!”

Dr. Edgar Luis Galiñanes, 34
Reiss, Kang, Jayanetti & Pereda, MD PA 

Dr. Edgar Luis Galiñanes was taught that one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences in life is getting to help another person. Luckily, he gets to do that every day. “One time, I had a diabetic patient who was at risk for a leg amputation due to poor circulation,” he shares. “I was able to save their leg by improving their circulation using newer techniques that may have not been available years ago.”

Karen Elmir, 27
CEO, The Elmir Group
Top-Producer, Cervera Real Estate

As the CEO of a rapidly growing luxury real estate team in one of the hottest markets in South Florida, buying, selling and investing is Karen Elmir’s specialty when it comes to Miami real estate. “I never feel like I’m working a job — I’m building an empire while loving every minute of it,” she says. “The most important part of life is to enjoy what you do, and make every day count!”

Armando Rosquete, 38
Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP

Miami native and Harvard Law grad Armando Rosquete says his secret to success in law and life is not much of a secret at all. “It’s all about hard work, taking pride in anything that you put your name on, treating others with respect and approaching everything you do with humility and a spirit of service,” he says. “If you do that, you will earn people’s respect and they will want to work with you in the future.”

Rucht D’Oleo, 38
Fashion Entrepreneur

Among Rucht D’Oleo’s many accomplishments, she created a “hands-on” fashion program at the Fashion Institute of South Florida and penned El Negocio De La Moda, the only Spanish-language textbook that guides you on how to design, produce, merchandise and sell a ready-to-wear collection. “Many people think that the fashion industry is all glitz and glam — but there’s a lot of work that goes into it,” she says. “More than creative, one has to be focused and business-oriented to succeed.”

Monica Pardo, 36
CEO, Event Designer & Planner
Monica Pardo Events

If you’ve ever paged through society pages in magazines, wedding spotlights or had your jaw drop when you scroll through a Birthday Party, Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, Sweet 16 or Quinces on social media, you’ve likely come across a Monica Pardo production. For her, creating memories that will last a lifetime is all in a day’s work. “My favorite part of any event is the day of,” she says. “Seeing my clients gasp, cry and hug me to death with a million thank-you’s means the world to me.”