Senior Staff

Eric Gustavson, Co-Founder and President

Eric brings over forty years of lodging, contact center and internet reservation product development to Topaz. In 1986 he pioneered the city-based central-800# concept for hotel reservations in San Francisco. In 1990, he initiated the design of the first Topaz Call Center Agent Interface for booking reservations internally. In 1994, he co-created the first on-line, bookable hotel reservation website, www.hotelres.com. Over the years, Topaz has had at least four iterations of Reservationist centric call center technology.  Eric began the design and development of our most current Universal Agent User Interface, C5, in 2010.

Founding and working at Topaz, has offered Eric a work environment based on integrity, well founded relationships and creative problem solving. He loves putting intelligent solutions to problems whether those solutions are technological, internal systems or scenarios that better serve our hotel clients.

In his spare time, Eric enjoys spending time with Jill, his family and friends. Catching a movie, music from the ‘50’s or some Jazz of earlier periods and tending to his three beehives are also toward the top of his list.

Jill Gustavson, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President

Jill brings years of experience in sales, client relations, marketing and operations to Topaz from her early career at  McGraw-Hill, where she served as a project manager for the launch of Popular Computing. Jill is the driving force behind the business development at Topaz. Her emphasis has been to evolve our value-based presentation, which highlights the company’s leading-edge technology and superior quality of service offered by Topaz to clients and their guests. She also oversees the Sales Team’s efforts and forecasts the call center needs, including new hiring and training, assisting with problem resolution and the pace, tone, and focus of the reservations and contact center operations.

She feels strongly that “what we do is important yet how we do it is vital to customer satisfaction and the continued growth of Topaz, as well as the overall enthusiasm and staff dedication.”

Jill enjoys writing, reading novels, walking the trails of Marin County near her home, and enjoying great food and wine with her husband Eric, family and friends.

Gabriel Ruiz, Vice President of Operations

Gabriel is a home-grown talent who has been with the company since 1997. Gabriel is well versed in the different aspects of the company, having started as a Reservations Sales Associate. He is still known to take a reservation call from time-to-time for old times’ sake. 

Gabriel has been responsible for training and operations. He has extensive system expertise, as well as being our internal and external liaison. He is the main contact for existing clients, and shepherds the on-boarding of new clients, and ensures prosperous partnerships. 

“I really value our team, many of us have worked together for over 20 years.  We are not hired hands but in it for the long haul. It is incredibly rewarding to see what we have accomplished together and it fuels the enthusiasm for current and future projects”.

Gabriel enjoys reading the works of author Wendell Berry, likes music by Joe Strummer, and is a die-hard San Francisco Giants Fan. He lives with his wife and daughter in Alameda.

Arnold Bernabe, Senior Software Engineer

Arnold provides technical leadership within the IT department. He is responsible for designing, developing and implementing cutting-edge software solutions for our company. He’s been instrumental in the company’s move to the Cloud, upgrading and architecting our systems to keep Topaz in the forefront of a rapidly-changing technology landscape. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and has over 15 years of experience.

He values integrity, efficiency, a great user experience in software and applications. He has great attention to detail, but maintains a big picture mindset.                

He is very mindful about sustainability, plastic waste reduction, recycling and material reuse whenever possible. He likes to watch and read science fiction especially as it relates to Space.

Susan Marie Shebalin, Director of Contact Center Quality Assurance

Susan Marie ensures the effective monitoring, coaching and training of our staff, all while keeping in mind our main goal of Genuine Hospitality. Under Susan’s direction, we consistently receive accolades from our hotel clients and guests for accuracy, quality of service, and sales performance. 

She is a 5th Generation San Franciscan, who fell in love with the hospitality industry while living and working in Europe. Her very first hotel job was in a quaint little town in Austria.  Not knowing too much of the German language, she soon realized just how much a smile can speak in any language. After Susan joined Topaz, the concept of the “Phone Smile” became an intricate part of every Reservations Sales Associate’s repertoire. After all, “Smiles over the phone might be unseen, but they are definitely heard”

Susan Marie loves to swim year round, enjoys listening to all genres of music and dabbles in the different aspects of photography.  She also cherishes every moment spent with family, friends and her two adorable little kitties.

Leda French, Contact Center Reservations Manager

Leda began her journey with Topaz as a Reservations Sales Associate while attending college in the San Francisco Bay Area. She worked her way up to become the Contact Center Reservations Manager, and just celebrated her 25th anniversary with the company. As Manager, Leda supports the Leadership Team, assists in resolving issues, and works with agents on skill development and counseling.

For Leda, it  is very important for her to make a genuine connection with the Topaz Staff, clients and guests, creating a positive work environment (setting the Tone, Pace and Focus of our calls).  When she makes a great connection, she loves to share it with others which inspires her team.

Leda lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her family and enjoys reading and  knitting in her free time. She also loves being the Girls Scout Troop Leader to a group of amazing girls, as well as spending time with family and friends. 

Paula Woods, Training Supervisor

Paula has been with the company since 2013.  In addition to overseeing and offering daily support to agents, she is responsible for all new hire training. She is also in charge of training on new systems to the entire staff and creates the training modules needed for their success.

Paula enjoys working at Topaz as she is able to contribute to great hospitality and customer service. She values compassion and feels having compassion for others helps the Topaz team feel like family, even with a staff who is remote. Her compassion extends to guests and helps them feel welcomed to the property prior to their stay and leaves them looking forward to having a great experience.

Outside of work, Paula loves a great Caramel Macchiato, and she enjoys reading and spending quality time with friends and family