ChiWitCon 2018


“It was an incredibly inspiring day. I look forward to future opportunities to be a part of this type of event.”

“Loved the venue. Food was good. Overall a great conference.”

“It was a place where people could meet inspirational women from around the Chicago tech scene. The panel was incredible and the happy hour was really well put together.”

“Kudos on a well run event! Topics, speakers, attendees, food, and organization were fantastic.”

“Venue was fantastic! Check in was easy, and the happy hour was fun.”

*Excerpts from anonymous feedback survey sent to conference attendees



Speakers – 2018

Veronica Buitron

Entrepreneur, CTO


Veronica is the Co-founder and CTO of TangoCode, a Chicago based tech firm. As a woman in the tech sector, Veronica considers it essential to not only create a diverse and progressive culture within her own company but also promote diversity within the tech community.TangoCode was built upon the principles of innovation, continuous improvement, and diversity.

Prior to TangoCode, Veronica was a Co-founder of GeneXus USA, a development services firm for automation platforms, workflows, and automatic code generation solutions for enterprises working in more than 50 mission critical projects along her career automating distribution centers, PO solutions, workflow enablement and more.

Throughout her entire career, she has maintained focus on automation, using technology to build a better world where people perform added-value tasks. This focus has led both herself and TangoCode to become subject matter experts on bringing scale to companies in the digital media space. Creating custom platforms to make companies more competitive, efficient, and help them provide better value to their clients.

Josh Nixon

Web Developer/Lead Instructor

Actualize Coding Bootcamp

Josh is a Lead Rails Instructor at The Actualize Coding Bootcamp. He puts a high value on stewarding new people into our community, adding to the richness and range of our culture as coders. Mr. Nixon has taught students of very different backgrounds for years and has found that is where ALL the best ideas come from. Similar to the royal family, it’s best to look outside of the same circle when finding a person to pair with, mix it up for better results.

He started his career as an entertainer in Los Angeles, which is a combination of several roles such as entrepreneur, artist, marketer, writer, engineer, counselor, etc. His artist's life was/is a collection of different perspectives, experiences, and many times failures. These contributed to Josh’s philosophy that diverse backgrounds bring wisdom and a more complete picture when searching for solutions.

He likes a good cup of coffee in the morning, smokey jazz in the evening and building furniture in his spare time, not that he has a lot of spare time.

Jennifer Farver


Popular Pays

Jenny Farver is a Chicago-based technology leader and CTO at advertising creative platform Popular Pays. Jenny was formerly the VP of Engineering at Civis Analytics where she led product management, design and engineering and grew the product development organization from 10 to 50. Jenny is an Adjunct Professor of Data Analytics at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, sits on the board of 8th Light custom software consultancy and was a 2017 Chicago TechWeek 100 Honoree. She holds a masters and PhD from MIT and an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley. She's a late bloomer and a former stay-at-home mom.

Michelle Y. Bess

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lead

Sprout Social, Inc.

Michelle Y. Bess is a premier connector striving to connect people of color to opportunities in order to create the most diverse cohort of leadership the City of Chicago has ever seen. She currently serves as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead at Sprout Social, a leading provider of social media analytics, engagement and advocacy solutions for business. Prior to Sprout Social, Michelle worked in college persistence at OneGoal and Posse Chicago. She attended Whitworth University as a recipient of the Act Six Full-Ride Leadership Scholarship and earned a B.A. in Biology.

Bess serves as a Board Director of Degrees of Change and as President at the Chicago Public Library Foundation junior board. Michelle is a native of Washington state and resides in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago.

Elif Sagsen-Ercel

EVP, Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer

RR Donnelley

As Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer with RR Donnelley, Elif is responsible for driving the execution of RRD’s transformational growth strategy and overseeing the strategic planning process for each of RRD’s businesses.

Elif joined RRD in June 2018. Prior to joining RRD, Elif served as the Vice President of Strategy for Fortune Brands. She also held leadership roles in strategy and business development at Hillshire Brands and Sara Lee Corporation and has several years of global consulting experience, most recently with Booz & Company. Elif is also serving at the Board of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.

Elif lives in Chicago with her husband and 2 kids.

Dr. Helen Sun

Chief Technology Officer

Stats LLC

Dr. Helen Sun is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at STATS, overseeing STATS’ product, engineering, artificial intelligence and data production teams. Helen joined STATS in 2018 with over 22 years of experience as a technology strategist and thought leaders, most recently serving as the CTO of JPMorgan Chase’s Commercial Banking division. Helen has been a Chicago Business Journal “Business Woman of the Year” and is part of Crain’s Tech 50 of 2018. Helen received a Ph.D. in Education Technology and Information Systems from The University of Toledo.

Kelly York

IT Security Risk Management

McDonald's Corporation

Megan McCann

CEO and Founder

McCann Partners and ARA Co-Founder

Deja Baker

Software Engineer

DRW Holdings, LLC

Melissa McSherry

Owner/Business Development Coach

Better Than Before

Melissa McSherry is an International Business Development Coach and Speaker. As an entrepreneur since 2010, she has launched two successful businesses, doubled her monthly income, and created a true life by design, all while raising a six year old son. She has worked with hundreds of people helping them slash their stress while doubling their income, doubling their free time, and creating everything they want out of their business and their life.

Tina Hauri


Bradford Garrett Group, Inc. (BGG)

Tina is the President and Practice Leader of CISO Advisory Services for Bradford Garrett Group a full service Security Consulting Group. Tina brings a considered and practical viewpoint to the executive core with clear direction, guidance, and results orientation. With rich technical and executive leadership focused primarily in Financial Services, Tina also has public sector experience, most recently the CISO for the City of Chicago. Formerly the Global CISO for Aon, CIO of, Director of Enterprise Risk Management for Discover Financial Services, Global Information Security Project and Program leader for Swiss Bank/UBS, Tina has led successful global teams, world-class programs, and; is a sought after mentor. Tina enjoys public speaking and is frequently called upon as a panel facilitator due to her knack for creating lively, thoughtful discussions while encouraging audience engagement.

Committed to a better Cyber future and directly impacting the future leaders in technology, Tina is currently an Adjunct Professor teaching IT Risk Management and member of the Industry Advisory Board of the Master of Science in Information Technology, McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. As the President Emeritus of the Chicago Chapter of the ISSA, Executive Board Member of AITP, and Co-Founder of the Chicago CISO of the Year Award program, Tina continuously works to elevate the position of, respect for, and viability of the role of the CISO. Community service has always been a core value so Tina has actively supported and engaged with Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, JDRF, KABOOM, Lamb’s Farm, OAI, Inc, and World Vision.

Formal and Continuing Education
Ms. Hauri holds an Executive MBA from the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University of Chicago and a Bachelors degree from Northwestern University. She has completed ongoing professional educational programs in Executive Financial and Strategic Leadership at Boston University, with the Bank Card Management with American Bankers Association, and Executive Education coursework in Strategic Marketing at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. She is also a graduate of the Society of Information Management (SIM) MidAtlantic Regional Learning Forum.

Julianna Cole

Chief Technology Officer

Farm Journal Media

Julianna “Julie” Cole is an experienced technology and operations executive with more than 25 years of corporate, non-profit, consulting, and entrepreneurial experience. Her career reflects a series of leadership positions at organizations focused on leveraging information technology, business process improvements, and data-driven initiatives to respond to disruptive technologies while mobilizing for top- line growth.

Julianna is currently Chief Technology Officer for Farm Journal Media, the nation’s leading business information and media company serving the agricultural market via a range of digital products including websites, mobile apps and paid business services, business magazines, national events, and nationally broadcast television and radio programs. In this role she provides technical leadership for the development of new digital products and oversight of technology systems for the enterprise. Prior to her role at ACHE, Julianna held a series of executive technology and operational leadership roles including Chief Information Officer for the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), Chief Digital Officer of Black Heritage Network TV (BHNTV), the dual role of Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Officer at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Chief Technology Officer at Johnson Publishing, and Chief Technology Officer at Tribune Interactive.

Julianna was an early and active participant in the Internet ecosystem via her role as the primary software developer for ResearchTV – the first B2B internet product sold by Tribune Media Services to national network affiliates in the 90s. Her passion for technology and its promise evolved over the years to include the growth and oversight of the software engineering team responsible for the infrastructure powering high-transaction, media consumer websites including and, the initial expansion of digital properties and e-commerce solutions for Fashion Fair Cosmetics, the establishment of social media capabilities and mobile applications for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, and recognition of the organization as a Computerworld Honors Laureate for the innovative use of geographic information systems technology (GIS) to benefit society.

Julianna is a technology executive that acknowledges the impact of early mentors on her exposure to career possibilities and volunteers as a way of giving back to the community. She has served as a member of the board for i.c.Stars and chair of the i.c.Stars Program Committee – a technology-based workforce development and leadership training program for low-income adults.

Julianna is a native Chicagoan who received her MBA at the University of Illinois- Chicago and a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the Illinois Institute of Technology.  A life-long learner, she attended the MIT Sloan Executive Education program and was awarded a certificate in Strategy and Innovation and completed Big Data and Human Computer Interaction classes at DePaul University.


Sponsors – 2018

Agenda - 2018

09:00 AM – 10:00 AM : Registration/Breakfast/Networking
10:00 AM – 10:10 AM : Intro and Opening Remarks
10:10 AM – 11:05 AM : Morning Keynote – Veronica Buitron

  • How we can shape the face of technology – Inspire to Action
  • Change has to start somewhere and the best way to make a difference is starting with the things you can control. Veronica will discuss the diversity challenges in technology and actions you can start taking today with inspiration from her twenty years spent in technology and the changes she was able to embrace.

11:05 AM – 11:35 AM : Short Talk (2 Tracks)

  • Track 1 – Emerging Leaders
    • Josh Nixon: Creativity for a Poetical Science
    • Josh will be discussing the origins of computer programming and the role that creativity and craft plays in modern day development.
  • Track 2 – Leaders
    • Jennifer Farver: Talkin’ about Talking for Tech Leaders
    • Words matter and when you’re a tech leader, your team’s effectiveness will hinge critically on how good you are at talking about technology, challenges, change and the future.  We’ll talk through some common anti-patterns in talking tech and how to correct them, whether you’re talking to your team, your peers, your boss, your customer or your investor.

11:35 AM – 12:05 PM : Michelle Y. Bess (Short Talk)

  • How Being “Comfortable” Can Inhibit Diversity Efforts
  • We live in a time where comfort is a favorable attribute for both our personal and professional lives; therefore, most organizations design their Diversity and Inclusion programs to make their employees feel good. This session will speak to why feeling “comfortable” about diversity simply isn’t enough and how the practice could actually inhibit your efforts. Additionally, we’ll discuss how adding equity into your DEI program leads to productive discomfort and even better results.

12:05 PM – 01:00 PM : Lunch

01:00 PM – 02:00 PM : Panel – ARA

  • Tribe of Trailblazers: Lessons Learned from Women Breaking Barriers and Setting the Stage for Generations to Come
  • Join ARA, in partnership with ChiWitCon, as we showcase a panel discussion with leading women in traditionally male-dominated sectors who have broken down barriers, overcome obstacles, and created new career opportunities for themselves – all while opening doors for those who follow in their footsteps. The goal? A candid conversation to identify lessons that can help women, regardless of the career path they pursue, with time for audience engagement. We hope you’ll join us to learn, ask questions, and network.
  •  Panelists:
    • Elif Sagsen-Ercel, EVP, Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer, RR Donnelley
    • Helen Sun, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer, STATS LLC
    • Kelly York, IT Security Risk Management, McDonald’s Corporation
    • Megan McCann, CEO and Founder, McCann Partners and ARA Co-Founder (Moderator)
    • Deja Baker, Software Engineer, DRW Holdings, LLC

02:00 PM – 02:30 PM : Joe DeCosmo (Short Talk)

  • It’s All About Jane:  Lessons in Leadership from an Accidental Stoic
  • Lessons in leadership often come from the most unexpected sources and at the most difficult times in your life.  From ancient philosophy to growing up as the youngest of six kids with four older sisters, Joe will share his own story about learning to lead with patience and humility, while embracing the differences that make us all special and our teams stronger.

02:30 PM – 02:40 PM : Break

02:40 PM – 03:10 PM : Short Talk (2 Tracks)

  • Track 1 – Emerging Leaders
    • Melissa McSherry: 5 Simple Steps to Prioritizing Your Profits
    • Most women in business have huge potential for their companies. But a shocking majority never even come close because they are buried under all the things they believe they need to do to be successful. The fastest path through stress and overwhelm, and to experience true profit and freedom, is when you have a crystal clear Profit Priority Plan, designed to create huge results, fast, for your unique business. In my talk I walk you through 5 Profit Priority Points including getting clear on, and connecting to, your goals, realistic time management, as well as create with you a concrete plan of action to success.
  • Track 2 – Leaders
    • Tina Hauri: Ethics and Technology. Who is responsible?
    • Where do ethics fit in building and sustaining your reputation? IT professionals impact the workplace and society in general, often holding “escalated privilege”  meaning an even higher ethical standard. Our session will reflect on practical ways to consider the ethics of how we behave as we carry out our duties.

03:15 PM – 04:00 PM : Afternoon Keynote – Julianna Cole

  • The 4P’s of Career Life: Purpose, Passion, Profitability and Patience
  • Are passion and purpose the most important keys to success? Evidence-based research says “yes”, and iconic technology leader Steve Jobs said, “the only way to do  great work is to love what you do.” But what does this mean for the large number of people that research also indicates do not love their job? During this session we’ll discuss several techniques to align your passion , purpose and need to achieve career success during those inevitable times when work feels like a series of never-ending daily tasks.

04:30 PM – 06:30 PM : Happy Hour and Networking