We heard from successful women on topics like failing fast and moving forward, overcoming roadblocks, and continuing a successful career while also having a family.

We walked away empowered and with a stronger community of supporters.

See below to learn more about our speakers from 2016 and to view a summary of their talks!

Keynote – Amy Francetic

Amy FranceticWith over 20 years of experience spanning startups, private equity, research and operations, Amy Francetic oversees Invenergy’s sourcing and integration of technology innovation and strategic investments that leverage its operating portfolio. She also leads Invenergy’s external corporate affairs, focusing on enhancing brand visibility and strategic partnerships. Prior to Invenergy, Francetic served as CEO of technology accelerator Clean Energy Trust. She also held roles at private equity firm MVC Capital and Stanford Research Institute. Previously, she was co-founder and CEO of a tech company that she sold to Lego Systems. Francetic serves on Advisory Boards for the WISER Institute at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University and the Museum of Science and Industry. She has a BA in Psychology and Political Science from Stanford University.

TALK: How a Science Junkie with no PhD Adds Value to STEM Innovation
I’ve spent my career working alongside engineers and scientists, standing in awe of their ability to invent, problem solve, and build amazing things with their hands and brains. I’ll share some of my observations on how to nurture innovation that has commercial impact from a non-scientific point of view.

Vaidehi Joshi

Vaidehi JoshiVaidehi is a software engineer at Imprint in Brooklyn, New York, and a graduate of The Flatiron School. When she’s not building or breaking things, you can find her writing, hiking, or eagerly awaiting the first snow of the year.

TALK: Failing Fast (and How To Keep Going)
Your first dev job can be the scariest one of your career — especially if you’re coming from a different field entirely. You’ll inevitably make some mistakes, and learn a lot about the industry and the role you can have in it along the way. In this talk, I’ll share some of the mistakes that I made in my first year of being a developer and a few tips that will hopefully help you navigate your first few steps in your career in tech.

Saron Yitbarek

Saron YitbarekSaron is the founder of CodeNewbie, a supportive community of programmers and people learning to code. She’s also host of the weekly CodeNewbie Podcast and a program manager at Microsoft for Tech Jobs Academy, a technical training program for talented New Yorkers ready to launch their tech career.

TALK: Punch your feelings in the face
Our feelings are wonderful and also very annoying. They can inspire us to get through a tough day, or scare us into sitting quietly and not pursuing our dreams. I’ve learned to use my feelings to empower me, and to ignore them when they get in my way. This ability to punch my feelings in the face is how I taught myself how to be assertive, how to negotiate, and how to speak up and use my voice. Through this deeply personal talk, we’ll take a look at the difficult but crucial process of examining feelings, and using them to help us get closer to reaching our career and personal goals.

Allison McMillan

Allison McMillanAllison is a software engineer. She’s worn many hats including startup founder, community builder at the University of Michigan, and Managing Director of a national non-profit. Allison started programming at a Rail Girls workshop and is now a chapter organizer. She speaks on a variety of topics including mentorship, working remotely, and being a parent and a developer. When she’s not coding, you can find her encouraging her toddler’s climbing skills or pretending she has time to bake. Allison lives in the Washington, DC area.

TALK: BDD: Baby Driven Development
When I became a parent, I was completely unprepared for the challenges of being so new to both journeys. After reaching out to hundreds of fellow parent-developers, I learned that there are common challenges and opportunities that aren’t spoken about in our community. We’ll explore these survey results to expose common trends and issues and discuss how we as a community, as parents, and as colleagues without children can be more responsive and understanding of the large percentage of developers who are current or future parents. Whether you’re a parent or not, come discover these industry-changing challenges and opportunities.

Fireside Chat

Moderator: Leslie Vickrey

Leslie VickreyAfter a short stint in Colorado post college graduation pursuing a career as a ski bum, Leslie Vickrey began her professional career in marketing for well-known companies such as McDonald’s Corporation and Junior Achievement. However, one taste of working for a technology company and Leslie quickly found her niche. As CEO of ClearEdge Marketing, Leslie is focused on making a difference in the Chicago tech community by raising awareness of the smart and wonderful companies headquartered here. Leslie’s passion for creating meaningful connections extends beyond ClearEdge. In 2013, Leslie Co-Founded ARA, a group dedicated to attracting, retaining and advancing women in tech. She’s also on the Board of Directors for i.c.stars and the Chicago Innovation Awards, and was recognized by The Blue Sky Vault, Blue Network, featuring 100 of Chicago’s most compelling innovators and entrepreneurs, was inducted into the UIC Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, was named one of the 2016 Enterprising Women of the Year and was part of Chicago Inno’s inaugural 50 on Fire.


Christine Stone

Christine StoneChristine Stone is a strategist, connector and coach. Christine’s career began with technical project management – quickly evolving into project recovery, developing top performing IT teams, building business technical strategies then changing and building IT organizations to execute. Christine leads the McDonald’s team defining strategy to retire legacy applications used by 14,000+ locations with intuitive applications as Director of Back Office Systems in US IT. She started at MCD in 2013, and has guided strategy for USIT Program Delivery, the Tech Finance Review Board, Cashless, and US Budget planning. Connecting technologies, new methods, and wise people is central to how she has solved business challenges in her career at McDonald’s, VW/Audi, EMC2, and consulting firms. Spend 5 minutes with her, and she will find some way to connect with and help you. Coaching is a natural part of Christine’s approach, and she formalized that with her work with a number of women’s networks. She has written and delivered courses on project management and career development, and frequently can be found helping MCD folks prepare for internal interviews and new challenges. She claims her biggest accomplishment is marrying Jim – who continues to be funny, and a great person to collaborate with. She has 4 children who coach her every day.

Ana Maria Barella

Ana Maria BarellaMaria Barella believes in, seeks out and ignites the highest potential in individuals, teams, and organizations. She is a learning advocate, designer, and architect committed to achieving optimal performance. With a powerful, strategically aligned vision, she believes the answer is, “Yes, we can do this! and, together, we’ll figure out how.” As the Director for Learning & Organizational Effectiveness committed to Business Development and Client Experience at Grant Thornton, she’s a strategic business partner to the firm’s Marketing & Sales, Business Development and Client Experience leaders. If she was an animal, she’d be a flying squirrel. Ask her why? But first, tell her what animal you would be, and why.

Sandee Kastrul

Sandee KastrulSandee Kastrul is president and co-founder of i.c.stars, an innovative nonprofit leadership and technology training program founded in 1999 to prepare inner-city adults for technology careers and community leadership. An early pioneer of the social enterprise model, i.c.stars has graduated more than 300 community leaders, and will expand into multiple cities in 2016 and 2017. Under Sandee’s leadership, i.c.stars was highlighted by the U.S Chamber of Commerce for its work in youth employment. She is a proud board member of Good City, The Ryan Banks Academy, and HICC (Hispanic Innovation Center in Chicago) She is also an advisor for the Axelson Center, and the Experience Institute.