Meet the Team

Join entrepreneur hosts Anna Acosta, and her mother, Deborah Acosta – women from two culturally, economically and emotionally disparate generations, as they weave a “Smart City” roadmap that educates the audience through illuminating, challenging conversation with diverse experts, creating a safe space for innovators around the world – all in the pursuit of the fundamental question: What is a Smart City?

Anna Acosta

A creative loudmouth since birth, Anna wanted only one thing: to be the misunderstood bad boy in a boy band. While that particular dream is still a work-in-progress, their life is a musical one no less. A classically trained vocalist and completely un-classically trained songwriter, Anna found a home in the music industry as a music-critic-turned-culture-critic in the alternative music world, claiming bylines on publications like Alternative Press, Substream Magazine and serving as the calendar editor for LA’s Buzzbands.LA for the better part of a decade. Today, Anna records and performs as Staircase Spirits, and can generally be found complaining about parking somewhere in Los Angeles – or on the Smart City Diaries podcast.

Deborah Acosta

community leader, feminist, government innovator, smart city ecosystem trailblazer and public speaker, Deborah Acosta is uniquely positioned to lead the exploration of how local and global Smart City ambitions are impacting the way that people in cities live, work and play. Deborah served as the City of San Leandro’s first Chief Innovation Officer until April 2018. During her five years as CIO, Deborah successfully guided the City through a digital transformation, a City now recognized globally as a small-city leader in Smart City technologies. Deborah’s appealing curiosity and high-spirited speaking style will engage her audience, connecting across the globe with smart people in smart cities – living, working and playing.

The Team

Introducing our show’s Director, Editor, and the one who makes this all possible, Brandon Katcher!

He’s a filmmaker and content producer, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. From a young age, he developed a devotion to film and media. He has created projects ranging from technology to auto racing, travel, music, spirituality, horror and the natural world. Together with Deborah and Anna Acosta, Brandon created Smart City Diaries to seek out intriguing and thought-provoking innovations to serve as a guiding light for change-makers across the globe.

Mary Jessie Celestin is an engineer, researcher, creative and organizer from San Jose. She is passionate about the intersection of social and physical infrastructure and believes in a future where our cities foster community and equitable opportunity for all residents.  

She is currently pursuing her masters at UC Berkeley in Civil Engineering (with a focus on lean and green construction) and is the Founder/Director of San Jose Strong (a digital database and organizing hub for residents). 

She works as a junior research engineer at Ivaldi Group, and teaches programs on engineering and leadership. Creatively, Mary is a singer-songwriter, sci-fi/fantasy author, and poet. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, going on aimless walks, and watching an inordinate amount of anime Youtube analysis. She also loves spending time with family and friends.

Introducing our social media manager and general solver of problems, Zachary James Borja!

He is a community activist and social entrepreneur who has spent his career working in education and digital marketing for social impact. Motivated by the need to protect a declining world, his goal with Smart City Diaries is to help create better cities and ecosystems where all people truly have the power to impact their community through civic engagement and local government involvement.

Ann has worked at the intersection of people and technology since the early 80’s as a problem solver, tech analyst, editor and communicator. She has always been an advocate for consumers of technology. She has worked at AT&T, Lotus, Microsoft, Nikon and had a key communications role in Cisco’s Smart Cities practice. Now a communications strategy consultant with the Marcus Consulting Group, Ann focuses on the public and non-profit sectors and how technology and infrastructures can help solve real challenges…and do so equitably.

Ann studied sociology and has an MBA in business analysis/computing systems. She participates in communities of practice including the NIST Global Cities Team Challenge (GCTC) leadership team and with the Computer-Human Interaction Forum or Oregon (CHIFOO). Ann remains both enthusiastic and skeptical about technology. As an advisor, producer, and sponsorship liaison for Smart City Diaries, she can comfortably blend it all together.