ChiWitCon 2021

Speakers – 2021

Colette Mann

Colette Mann is the Chief Information Officer at First American Bank. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, she’s always made it a priority to be a woman of impact wherever she goes. At work, she has been tasked with the responsibility to protect the technological infrastructure of First American Bank. As a result of her work, she naturally and willing serves as a mentor for women in technology.

She has been known throughout her career as a transformational leader. She inspires positive changes in those who follow; all while being energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate. Colette has served on various technological and not-for-profit boards, where she has been able to leverage her personal and technical skills to assist others with building and strengthening of their technology systems.

Outside of the office, Colette enjoys giving back as can be seen through her 10-year tenure as a Troop Leader for Girl Scouts USA and her continued involvement in the Missionary Society at her home church, DuPage AME. In her free time, she enjoys singing and co-directing the DuPage AME Gospel Choir, knitting with the Hyde Park Knitters Guild, and traveling worldwide with her two daughters.

Colette earned her Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and Master of Science in Telecommunications from DePaul University.

Dana Scheider

Dana Scheider is a senior full-stack software engineer (primarily Ruby on Rails and React) at Envato. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, she currently lives in Melbourne, Australia. Since 2016, Dana has been one of the core maintainers of Cucumber. She is particularly interested in testing and quality management, diversity and inclusion, and improving processes within engineering organisations. Dana's extracurricular interests include mathematics, opera, foreign languages and Star Trek. An in-demand speaker, notable conference appearances include SwanseaCon, CukeUp! London, Full Stack Toronto, RubyConf Colombia, and Covalence Conf.


Priyanka Mehandiratta

Founder and CEO / Unmute

Priyanka Mehandiratta is a multi-talented woman with a unique award under her belt - one of “The 10  Most Influential Women in Technology 2020” – recognized by Analytics Insight and was recently  featured in Valiant CEO Magazine for her work in shaping the next generation leaders.

She is a Certified Trainer, Certified Executive Coach, and an MBA Graduate and has received numerous Super Achiever awards and has also been accredited by former colleagues as ‘the go-to person for  coaching and learning. Her experience has granted her solid trust from her clients.

After building her career of 16 years in talent management and run global projects for big banks and  consulting, she successfully transitioned into the world of leadership development.

After solidifying DX learning Canada in 2018 as a Startup in the space of accelerated Leadership Development, Priyanka recently founded “Unmute” with the sole purpose of creating the workforce of the future.

Ginnette Harvey

Founder & CEO / Harper & Gray

Ginnette launched Harper & Gray in 2021 to follow her passion to drive equity into the talent management process. She is driving change in the industry by providing talent solutions that put Diversity and Inclusion first.

Before this Ginnette spent 15 years as an SVP at Specialist Staffing Group, Inc., the US subsidiary of the international STEM recruiting firm SThree Plc.  Ginnette led Real Staffing, the company’s largest brand in North America. Ginnette achieved relentless year-on-year double-digit growth for the brand, and Real was and still is the company’s best performing contract business globally.

As the co-founder of SThree’s North American business, Ginnette played a vital role in marking the US as SThree’s highest producing territory taking it from 0 to $280m. Within the portfolio she grew the Real staffing business organically, and it is now one of the largest life science staffing firms in North America with over $100m in annual revenue.

In addition to this, Ginnette prides herself on more broadly championing diversity and inclusion and advocating for gender equality in leadership. Ginnette is a member of the American Staffing Associations Council of Women in Leadership. Her accomplishments also include being named a Woman of Influence by Chicago Business Journal, receiving the Woman of the Year Stevie Award, presented by the American Business Awards, and was named on SIAs 2020 list for the Top 100 most influential leaders in staffing.

Colleen D. Egan

Colleen D. Egan is President & CEO of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition and Institute. A serial entrepreneur, founder, co-founder and C-Level executive she has led numerous technology companies including 212°, Zula USA, Tiger Puppet Studios, Akoo, and MyBestRx.

She’s a founding member of The Women In Entrepreneurship Institute at DePaul University and serves on multiple boards including Chicago Tech Academy, Chicago:Blend,  Illinois Technology Association’s Talent Advisory, National Louis University’s M.S. Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship Program and is a member of the Chicago Innovation Women’s Mentoring Co-Op and U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s LGBTQ task force.  She’s received the 2018 Illinois Technology Association Prominent Woman in Tech award, the 2018 Connected World Woman of IoT award, and Crain’s Chicago Business Notable LGBTQ Executive in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Leslie Vickrey

Leslie Vickrey is a marketing expert and business advisor who began her career with McDonald’s Corporation and found a niche in technology and talent as the head of marketing for Spherion’s technology division. She founded ClearEdge Marketing in 2006, which is now a go-to, fully integrated marketing agency for talent and technology firms.

Leslie’s impact in the HR, tech and marketing communities far exceeds her day-to-day work as CEO. Passionate about the importance of diversity, Leslie is a frequent speaker on the topic and even co-founded ARA, an organization that seeks to attract, retain and advance women in technology - 6,000 people strong. She is part of the Women Business Collaborative Staffing Leadership Council; member of ASA’s Women in Leadership Council; is on the Board of Directors for Chicago Innovation; was recognized as one of 100 of Chicago’s most compelling innovators and entrepreneurs; is part of the UIC Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame; was named as a Staffing Industry Analysts Top 50 DEI Influencer; and was named one of the Enterprising Women of the Year. Leslie is a contributor to industry publications such as Recruiting Daily and Entrepreneur, a frequent industry speaker and host of an executive women in recruitment podcast, TheEdge.

Megan McCann

Megan McCann is an established IT recruitment and technology services leader known for building and leading highly successful IT services firms, and for the work she does to advance diversity and cultivate talent across the technology industry.

Megan is the CEO of leading IT recruitment firm McCann Partners, which she founded in 2011. She and her team deliver IT recruitment with intention and integrity to a growing portfolio of innovative organizations—from Chicago-based startups to companies with a global footprint. McCann Partners is dedicated to creating a more equitable and diverse workforce, and proud that more than 70% of their talent placements in the past two years have been diverse hires. Prior to McCann Partners, Megan co-founded and helped build Geneva Technical Services (GTS), and was a strategic force in growing SelecTech—both premier IT recruitment firms.

Megan’s impact on the tech community far exceeds her day-to-day work as CEO of her own firm. Passionate about attracting, retaining, and advancing women in technology, Megan is a proud co-founder of ARA, a national organization that seeks to promote women in technology and leadership through mentorship, events, and programs.

She is also a founding partner of the Chicago Executive Women’s Networking Group and an active member of Chicago Innovation’s Women’s Mentoring Co-Op. In addition, as a Chicago Business Journal Bizwomen Headliner in Technology, Chicago Business Journal Women of Influence, a three-time Midwest Women in Tech Awards finalist, and an Illinois Technology Association CityLIGHTS finalist. In 2021, Megan was named to Staffing Industry Analysts inaugural Top 50 DE&I Influencers list and selected as a ChiTech Academy Young Women's Leadership Society Ambassador of the Year.

Jane Hamner

Jane Hamner has been an IT staffing professional for more than 30 years, delivering top technology talent and IT solutions to businesses in a wide range of industries. She is especially adept at identifying and understanding today’s vast IT challenges and developing solutions that help businesses thrive in a competitive environment.

Jane brings a creative approach to the position of Chief Growth Officer for McCann Partners thanks to her background in solving unique client needs and her expertise in sales, leadership, training, development, and mentorship. In her role, she is responsible for growing the company’s recruitment service lines and expanding its executive search offering. She also plans to increase McCann Partners’ Chicago footprint and explore regional growth opportunities.

Jane is a proud founding member of ARA, a national organization that seeks to promote women in technology and leadership through mentorship, networking, and open discussion. She also co-founded the Chicago Executive Women’s Networking Group, and is frequently invited to speak on tech diversity topics.

Melissa Jurkoic

Chief Customer Experience Officer devoted to improving the human experience and empowering women in tech

Melissa has worked in the tech industry for over 20 years in roles ranging from Junior Software Engineer to her current role as the Chief Customer Experience Officer at addapptation. She holds a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of New Hampshire and an executive certificate in Management and Leadership from MIT. Always driven by her passion to have a positive impact on the decline of women in STEM education and careers, she has volunteered with organizations globally including ChickTech, Everwise, WITI, NH Tech Alliance, Microsoft DigiGirlz, wiseHer and This passion led her to co-found Diversify Thinking, an initiative focused on moving inclusion from conversation to action by enabling leaders to build an equitable culture from the beginning.

Twitter: @melissa_jurkoic

Lynn Catalano

Lynn has embraced change throughout her career. After achieving a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, cum laude, at Boston University, she continued her education at the University of Buffalo Law School. 

Lynn is a licensed attorney in New York State but chose to pursue other opportunities. The chance to build a new hospital foundation emerged and her fundraising career was born. After 16 years building that foundation, she went on to a large community foundation. Lynn led not-for-profits and was a successful fundraiser for more than 20 years.

Today, she has pivoted to speak to groups of all sizes to share experiences and help people rise above the chaos. Lynn loves to share stories about great leaders and toxic bosses. After learning her father is a narcissist, Lynn learned how to reframe her thinking, retrain her mind and her reactions. Now Lynn helps others do the same. Lynn helps them reframe their thinking in every aspect of their lives; from the workplace, to in their personal life, becoming an agent of change. Lynn helps people identify the toxicity that’s standing between them and success and develop a plan to co-exist.

Instagram @lynncatalanospeaks

Shivani Anand

Shivani Anand is a Sr. Principal Solution Architect at Discover, focused around providing technology and data driven solutions for Data and Analytics (DNA) organization. At Discover, she is actively involved in business-critical Data Science and Analytics initiatives which requires solutions around. Cloud technologies, Containers, CICD, Data Integration and managing sensitive data. She is an energetic leader with 20 years of experience in Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence space having an opportunity to work with multiple fortune 500 companies. She has led multiple technology forums within a company to promote the culture of learning from each other and showcasing your engineering craftsmanship. She is a big supporter of Women in Technology. She is a certified AWS Solutions Architect and a lifelong learner.

Sandra Dainora

Sandra Dainora is Chief Product Officer at Sittercity, where she oversees the Product, Trust & Safety and Customer Success teams. In her role, she’s focused on making child care finally work by building a platform that simplifies the way parents and caregivers connect and manage their relationships. She’s also called mom by a hockey-loving and shipwreck-obsessed, five-year-old. Prior to joining Sittercity, Sandra spent 5 years at Grubhub where she led the rollout of the takeout industry’s first in-restaurant tablet and Grubhub’s entry into the delivery space. Past roles have also included time at the Oprah Winfrey Network, Harpo Productions, Chicago Tribune, Discover Financial Services and A&E Television Networks. Sandra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Chicago.

Prajakta Yerpude

Prajakta is a part of the Cloud Data Products team at Discover Financial Services. She has been extensively working in cloud technology for over five years especially implementing a variety of data ingestion pipelines helping drive faster analytics. She has done her Masters of Science in Computer Science at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. Having published two research papers at an International Journal regarding data mining in college, right after graduation, she started hands on with data engineering and cloud technologies involving CICD, automation, data integration solutions, migration of legacy databases, and its reporting. She is passionate about solving data problems and modern technologies. She is an active supporter of Women in STEM and outside work she enjoys dancing and kettlebell weight trainings, plays a flute and does volunteer events at Chicago Cares.

Ell Marquez

Ell Marquez, advocate for Hacking Is Not A Crime and Operation Safe Escape has traveled the world for the last five years, educating security practitioners on subjects from on-prem infrastructure to the cloud and everything in between. The journey has not always been easy, however with solid community support, she's been able to continue spreading the message that, “It’s Okay to Be New.”

Katie Branch

Katie Branch is a senior manager, providing leadership for Ensono’s Mainframe Academy. Katie leads the development and enhancement of talent within the company’s mainframe sector. She holds over 18 years of leadership experience, previously working for companies including DXC Technology, HPE, and Acxiom. Katie is also a Regional Lead for Ensono’s Women Connected program, promoting the inclusion and recognition of women in IT on a local and global level. 

Katie is a first-generation college graduate. From the start, her ultimate goal in life was to find ways to give back to those that struggled to see opportunity and found the field of IT to be a fruitful avenue to accomplish this goal. Over the years, Katie has gained an increased appreciation for acknowledging unrecognized potential in others. She is eager to make a difference in the lives of aspiring and new IT professionals and believes that her current position is a perfect opportunity to make use of this passion. In her free time, Katie loves spending quality time with her family and seeking opportunities to give back to the community when possible through volunteerism to help those less fortunate, especially through mentorship of young girls and women.

Alicia Drucker

Alicia built her career in software consulting, in roles including Chief Employee Experience Officer, Project Manager, Program Manager, Consultant, DEIB Facilitator, Leadership Coach and Analyst. She’s worked across industries - financial services, healthcare, transportation, education, manufacturing, e-commerce and more.

Alicia recently transitioned to nonprofit work as the Interim Volunteer Coordinator role at Lambert House, an LGBTQ organization supporting youth. She also works with WalkShop, an executive coaching workshop and leadership conference for which participants spend a week hiking across the countryside to confront/solve shared professional concerns. Alicia moved to Spain in August 2021, and is focused on social impact, change, and adventure.

Judith Sol-Dyess

Judith is a strategy consultant working with software development consultancies to improve delivery and operations. She also works with code academies and individuals on a variety of Agile workshops and services. 

Judith shares her 20+ years of project management experience as an instructor for Code Platoon in Chicago and CodeOp in Barcelona. She also served as a board member for Black Diamond Charities, serving US Veterans. 

You can read more about Judith in

'Tine Zekis

Christine ('Tine) Zekis is an educator-turned-developer working as a Software Engineer in Chicago. She champions Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in tech, while delivering clean, well-tested code. She enjoys mentoring and sponsoring other career changers, especially those who are underrepresented in the industry. In her spare time...just kidding: 'Tine has a 3-year-old, a 1-year-old, and no spare time.


Kim Blight

Kim Blight leads Product Operations at ActiveCampaign. She’s passionate about product teams and advocating for women in tech and parents in the workforce. When not hanging out with her family, she can be found writing or watching the NBA.

Her Agenda
Product Craft

Ally Bubb

Ally Bubb combines enthusiasm, honesty, and authenticity into her work as an executive career coach and speaker, teaching people to tell compelling career stories to wow employers because when people genuinely love what they do, our workplaces, homes, and world are transformed. She is passionate about fixing the leak in the technology pipeline by equipping women and non-binary individuals to leverage their distinctive strengths in leadership creating more equity at all levels. She is the bestselling author of Success Authentically and Change Authentically. Ally earned a B.S. in Management of Information Systems from Michigan Technological University and a M.B.A. from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is an entrepreneur, coach, keynote speaker, blogger, educator, and author as well as a nature-lover, cat cuddler, and parent to two spirited kids.

Work Authentically is reinventing the world of work by teaching people to leverage their unique style, approach, and way of being through presentations, workshops, and individual and group coaching.

Ally Bubb's LinkedIn
Work Authentically LinkedIn
Work Authentically Instagram

Jenn Donahue

Jenn Donahue PhD is a civil engineer and US Navy Captain who works on large scale, high profile geotechnical projects. Over her 25-year military career, Jenn has built a bridge across the Euphrates River in the midst of the Iraq war, commanded an 800-personnel Battalion in Afghanistan, and constructed combat outposts in the middle of deserts filled with insurgents. Jenn has led earthquake and tsunami reconnaissance missions in places like Samoa and Japan; designed the seismic plans for a bridge over the Panama Canal; and built roads in the coldest climes of Ketchikan. Along the way she mentored scores of young leaders and facing down bullies in her own command structure. Today Jenn runs JL Donahue Engineering. She also lectures at UC Berkeley and UCLA. Jenn is working on her first book, Go Do Great Things: Ditch Your Camouflage and Become a Genuine Leader.



Kirsten Ramos

President / Elevate Performance Solutions, Inc.
Co-CEO / femmebought

For nearly 15 years, Kirsten Ramos has motivated individuals to look within themselves to work more effectively with others.

Kirsten’s background includes leading learning and development activities for smaller, post start-up organizations all the way to Fortune 500 companies. She is passionate about helping people communicate more confidently, especially women. She continues to partner with organizations developing empathetic leaders that recognize the need to change within their companies.

Kirsten is a proud graduate of the University of Iowa – go Hawkeyes! She is certified in administering several communication and behavioral assessments including, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment ® (MBTI), EverythingDiSC ® , and FourSight ® Mindset creativity assessment. She has a Synchronous Learning Delivery certificate from the American Society for Training & Development (ATD) and has significant experience creating and delivering virtual learning to meet the demands of the global workforce.

Fun facts about Kirsten:

  • Enjoys wine tasting and loves talking about inexpensive wine that tastes delicious.
  • She fosters kittens and has two resident cats, a dog and a guinea pig. A husband and a daughter join her in the chaos.
  • Loves a good Netflix series.
  • Hails from Iowa, but knew since she was 13 years old she would live in Chicago.
  • Her Myers-Briggs type is ENFP, DiSC profile is “i” and FourSight mindset is Driver.

Contact her to discuss personalized coaching, presentation skills, management training needs, individual contributor training, corporate-wide learning initiatives, early career program development and management, for short and long-term contract durations – in live and virtual formats.

Contact Information:
773-306-3036 (mobile)



Sponsors – 2021

Agenda - 2021

Day 1 – Authenticity (September 16, 2021)

  • 09:00 AM – Breakfast
  • 09:45 AM – Opening Remarks
  • 10:00 AM – Morning Keynote
    • Speaker: Kirsten Ramos
      Showing Up as Your Perfectly Imperfect Self: We will discuss how to show up as your imperfect self in a world that expects perfection in all we do.
  • 10:30 AM – Q&A for Morning Keynote
  • 10:45 AM – Break Time
  • 11:00 AM – Moderated Breakouts
    • Speakers: Alicia Drucker & Judith Sol-Dyess
      Making Big Changes (and Finding the Support to do it with Confidence): Former colleagues Alicia & Judith will share their inspiration, journey and tips that lead them to move their families and work — from the US to Europe.
    • Speaker: Sandra Dainora
      How to turn being a working mother into a superpower: The past 18+ months have thrown working mothers into the spotlight, Sandra will talk about how working mothers can make a child care plan, use technology to execute that plan and leverage their experience as moms to excel in the workplace and at home.
  • 11:30 AM – Break Time
  • 11:35 AM – General Talk 1
    • Speaker: Ally Bubb
      Stand Out in a Sea of Blandness: Forget the Unicorn Cactus Sloths and finally learn the secret of compelling career stories to stand out from the crowd, wow prospective employers, and land the job of your dreams!
  • 12:00 PM – Q&A for General Talk 1
  • 12:15 PM – Lunch Break for Networking
  • 12:35 PM – General Talk 2
    • Speaker: Jenn Donahue
      Take off your Camouflage — Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and “Tokenism” to Just be Yourself: If you feel like you have to wear “camouflage” to fit in at work or in other social settings, learn how to evaluate and begin removing it to be your genuine self.
  • 01:00 PM – Q&A for General Talk 2
  • 01:15 PM – Moderated Breakouts
    • Speaker: Melissa Jurkoic
      Why a Diverse Team is Crucial to Startup Success: How does team diversity impact your customers’ experience from the moment they learn about you through their journey with you? You will attract and relate to customers who look like you. They will understand your messaging and you will understand their needs. If you don’t represent the right dimensions of diversity, you are leaving an amazing experience behind.
    • Speaker: Ell Marquez
      How Hackers Saved My Life: I’m a hacker, and I am an impostor, and so are you, and that’s why we will succeed in this field despite any walls built to stop us, even the ones we create ourselves.
    • Speaker: Katie Branch
      Redesigning Tech Conferences with Women in Mind: According to research from Ensono, women of color makeup only 8% of tech conference keynotes. Ensono Senior Manager of Information Technology Katie Branch will discuss her personal experiences as a woman of color in the tech industry, as well as data from Ensono’s 2020 “Speak Up” research report that uncovers how companies can improve diversity, equity and inclusion — internally and at tech conferences.
  • 01:45 PM – Closing Remarks

Day 2 – Influence (September 23, 2021)

  • 12:15 PM – Opening Remarks
  • 12:30 PM – Morning Keynote
    • Speaker: ‘Tine Zekis
      Imposter Systems – The Structures that Induce the Syndrome: We’ve spent countless hours coping with the impact Imposter Syndrome has on individuals; let’s zoom out and address the structural causes.
  • 101:00 PM – Q&A for Morning Keynote
  • 101:15 PM – Break Time
  • 101:30 PM – Moderated Breakouts
    • Speaker: Dana Scheider
      The Joy of Docs, or, Technical Writing for Developers and Engineers: Have you ever struggled to use a tool because the docs were bad? Of course you have! It’s not surprising considering engineers are rarely taught the basics of technical writing. This talk will give you some pointers so your users and colleagues have a better experience.
    • Speaker: Kim Blight
      Are you ready for Product Operations?: You’ll learn more about the world of product operations and how to get started in the role, from someone who has done it a few times in their career.
    • Speakers: Prajakta Yerpude & Shivani Anand
      Cloud Data Journey – Story of adopting cloud technology and modernization of data pipeline: Focus on the 4Cs in this journey – Cloud, Changing mindsets, Collaboration, Continuous learning.
  • 102:00 PM – Break Time
  • 02:10 PM – General Talk 1
    • Speaker: Lynn Catalano
      Learn to Read the Room, Identify Toxic Relationships & Rise Above the Chaos: Relationships are the cornerstone to improving business and building your network. If you can quickly read the room, you will improve your chances of success in any environment!
  • 02:35 PM – Q&A for General Talk 1
  • 02:50 PM – Lunch Break for Networking
  • 03:20 PM – ARA Panel – From Influenced to Influencer: Wielding Power through Mentorship
    • Mentorship is at the core of ARA’s mission. The value and impact of mentorship, in many ways, is immeasurable. Whether navigating a career change, contemplating entrepreneurship, seeking business funding, or driving community engagement and change, the power of mentors often is a catalyst for fostering growth and opening doors. Additionally, there is a unique value proposition to consider with mentorship: the ability to move from being influenced to influencing.In this year’s final ChiWitCon session, ARA welcomes four leaders to share their personal journeys of moving from influenced to influencer. During the TEDx-styled talks, each will explore how you both get and give, opening pathways for women in all aspects of personal and professional life – from career championing, to increasing the number and influence of women on boards, to funding, to building influence and brand from speaking opportunities and more. Together, let’s learn how both to get what we need and then give in return, ensuring women thrive for generations come. Followed by an interactive Q&A session, the lineup is certain to inspire action.Featured speakers include:

      Colleen D. Egan, President & CEO, Illinois Science and Technology Coalition & Institute
      Ginnette Harvey, CEO & Founder, Harper & Gray
      Colette Mann, Executive Vice President & CIO, First American Bank
      Priyanka Mehandiratta, Founder & CEO, Unmute

      You also will hear from ARA’s Co-Founders:

      Jane Hamner, Chief Growth Officer, McCann Partners
      Megan McCann, CEO & Founder, McCann Partners
      Leslie Vickrey, CEO & Founder, ClearEdge Marketing

      About ARA:

      ARA aspires to Attract, Retain and Advance women in technology by cultivating relationships via events and programs. We nurture strong female leaders who bridge the talent gap as they support, influence and advance the IT community. Stay connected with ARA and other women in technology on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

  • 04:20 PM – Closing Remarks
  • 04:30 PM – Happy Hour