515.288.2128

leadership forum

Minnesota

Empowering Technology Leaders

Paragon IT Professionals is offering an exclusive opportunity for IT leaders to learn how to leverage their unique talents and strengths to influence outcomes, accelerate team members' development and drive positive transformation.

Paragon's Director of Leadership Development, Heidi Bedier, will facilitate the five-part series. Heidi has over 25 years of experience guiding leads, teams and organizations through change management, leadership development and culture formation.

What to Expect:

Five Group Sessions:

  • September 10: Communicating for Impact & Influence
  • September 24: Leveraging Versatility in Communication
  • October 8: Mastering Difficult Conversations
  • October 29: Leading with Authenticity
  • November 19: Your Blueprint for Future Growth

Four 1:1 Coaching Sessions:

  • Mine, Define, Refine Exercise to identify focus areas
  • Goal-setting with action plan

Why Participate:

Professional Facilitator

Heidi Bedier, Forum Facilitator

Heidi Bedier holds a Master of Science in Adult Learning, Performance and Development and is currently a PhD candidate pursuing her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. She is a graduate of the Brain-Base Coaching Program with the NeuroLeadership Institute and is a Ritz Carlton Service Excellence Culture Program Participant!

I'm interested!

Testimonials

 ITLF member, Karla Hillier, shares her Forum experience.

 ITLF member, Tim Eiler, shares his Forum experience.

 ITLF member, Bob Martin, shares his Forum experience.

Board of Advisors

Chris Gruener

Republic Services

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bio

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Chris Gruener

Republic Services

Current Role:
Senior Manager Digital Development

Chris Gruener is the Senior Manager of Data Management at Republic Services. He graduated from Illinois State University with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Business Administration. After a brief break to start his career and family, he went back to school and received a Master’s in Business Administration from Illinois State University. Chris has 20 years of experience across systems analysis, project management, product management, technology management, digital transformation, and program management. He has broad experience working within private and commercial sectors, including the insurance, financial, retail and technology industries. He is known for his ability to adapt and deliver. His agility, strategy, and people skills enable him to uplift any domain and team in short order. As such, he has a steadfast record of implementing strategic initiatives through building and enabling high-performing teams. Chris has served in multiple development, technology, and business leadership roles throughout his career and applied these experiences to deliver data, infrastructure, web, mobile applications, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, and enterprise digital transformation initiatives.

Currently, he leads a team delivering customer master data management for business analytics and improved customer experience. Before joining Republic Services, Chris served as Senior Product Manager at State Farm Insurance, a Fortune 50 company, and the largest insurance company in the United States. He was responsible for multiple initiatives including the State Farm Mobile App, Enterprise Claims System (which is still one of the 10 largest JAVA applications in the world) and focused on improved customer service and increased business growth. Chris is passionate about building an environment where his teams and those around him demonstrate the most authentic version of themselves, challenge the status quo and ignite a competitive drive to achieve their goals.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

Dan Rohda

Fortra

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bio

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Dan Rohda

Fortra

Current Role:
VP Global Support

Dan Rohda joined Fortra in March 2019 as Vice President of Global Support. His team is responsible for delivering world-class support to customers to ensure they are maximizing their utilization of Fortra's products and solutions. He brings a passion for service to the discipline of customer care and enjoys being an advocate for Fortra's customers.

Dan has over 20 years’ experience in Information Technology and Customer Operations leadership. Prior to Fortra, he served as the Senior Director of Support Experience at Code42. He has also held numerous leadership roles in high-tech organizations focusing on customer support, product development, and client services, including Ascend Learning, Digital River, Thomson Reuters, and Lawson Software.

Dan resides in Apple Valley, MN, with his wife, three children, and two dogs. He truly enjoys the adventure of travel. Most recently, his family was in Greece where they watched his daughter’s high school choir perform in several cities. Thanks to his kids’ choir and band activities, they have traveled to St. Louis, Indianapolis, Ireland, Hawaii, and even to New York City to watch them perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade!

Dan holds a B.A. in International Management from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.

Connect with Dan on LinkedIn

Douglas Ullman

Valmont Industries, Inc

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bio

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Douglas Ullman

Valmont Industries, Inc

Current Role:
Senior Manager - Global IT Operations

Douglas Ullman is a seasoned professional in the field of Information Technology currently based in Omaha, Nebraska. He has almost 30years of experience in various IT roles, ranging from entry-level Individual Contributor roles to Director roles. He is currently employed at Valmont Industries, Inc., where he started as a Senior Network Engineer and is now the Senior Manager of Global IT Operations. He holds a Master of Business Administration in International Business and a Master of Science in Management Information Systems -Information Assurance from the University of Nebraska -Omaha. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems from the same university.

Connect with Douglas on LinkedIn

Emily Karwoski

Principal Financial Group

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bio

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Emily Karwoski

Principal Financial Group

Current Role:
Product Manager - Product Leader

Emily Karwoski is a Product Manager currently leading a team of Product Professionals within Sales Compensation Administration, at Principal. Together they are creating and driving the strategic vision for the department, finding ways to elevate the customer journeys impacted by their work, and having fun along the way. Emily’s career at Principal has spanned more than 20years with a variety of roles and business areas. She has led cross-functional teams of engineers and product managers, was responsible for establishing and nurturing successful offshore teams, and managed several high-priority initiatives and vendor implementations over the years. Emily is highly collaborative and thrives on building strong teams. She has a passion for community engagement and leadership development, has served on a number of boards, was a graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute class of 2023, and is currently vice-chair of her local Parks and Recreation board. Emily is committed to making her work environment, and her community, great places to be!

Connect with Emily on LinkedIn

Michelle Pokrzywinski

Best Buy

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Michelle Pokrzywinski

Best Buy

Current Role:
Senior Director of Engineering

As a tech enthusiast, Michelle Pokrzywinski has spent her career diving into the many facets of software development while working on delivery teams. With a knack for problem-solving and a background in computer science, she has had the opportunity to make impactful changes at several organizations including C.H. Robinson, WEX, and most recently Best Buy. Michelle has spent the most years in payment processing, but she is now quite enjoying retail. She is a lifelong learner (thank goodness since she’s in tech) and has most recently been working with foundation models and GenAI. She’s excited to bring her expertise to the table, and is eager to join the advisory board!

Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn

Ryan Fye

Casey's General Stores

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bio

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Ryan Fye

Casey's General Stores

Current Role:
Director of Data Strategy

Ryan Fye is a senior leader with a proven track record of driving business growth through strategic data initiatives. With multi-million budget accountability, he has successfully managed end-to-end operations for across functional team of engineers, analysts, product owners, and consultants. As a passionate leader, Ryan has a strong focus on team growth and building high-performing teams. He takes pride in developing talent and fostering a collaborative environment that empowers individuals to reach their full potential. Additionally, he has spearheaded a successful internship program, nurturing young talent and providing them with hands-on experience in the data and technology field. Ryan thrives on building strong business partnerships, working closely with stakeholders to understand their needs and align data strategies with organizational goals. His consultant approach enables him to provide valuable insights and recommendations that drive informed decision-making. Ryan has successfully used this to facilitate a data-driven culture. Ryan’s expertise extends to cloud platforms, leveraging cutting-edge technologies to optimize data infrastructure and drive operational efficiency. With a solid background in data and engineering, he brings a unique perspective to the table, combining technical expertise with strategic leadership.

Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn

Sanaz Ahmadi

Nebraska Judicial Branch

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bio

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Sanaz Ahmadi

Nebraska Judicial Branch

Current Role:
CIO

Sanaz Ahmadi brings nearly two decades of extensive experience in technology leadership, strategic planning, and innovation to her role as the Chief Information Officer for the Nebraska Judicial Branch. With a profound commitment to driving digital transformation and fostering inclusive technological environments, Sanaz is dedicated to leveraging technology to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the judicial system.

In her current role as CIO, Sanaz is responsible for shaping the overall vision, mission, and objectives for information technology and network systems within the state's Judicial Branch. She oversees the Information Technology Division, ensuring the seamless operation of technological support and application development for court and probation case management systems. Sanaz is dedicated to enhancing the accessibility and transparency of court systems through improvements of the overall technology infrastructure, benefiting all stakeholders.

Sanaz is currently pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration in Technology Leadership, holds a Master's Degree in Network Architecture Management from, a Bachelor's Degree in Software Technology, and an Executive Presence &Influence Certification from the Wharton School of Business. She demonstrates an ongoing commitment to advancing her expertise and remaining at the fore front of technological innovation and leadership practices. Her educational background, combined with diverse leadership experience—including roles as Global Head of Technology, VP, Director of Information Technology, and Executive Technology Leader—attests to her proficiency in driving innovation and digital excellence.

Throughout her career, Sanaz has been driven by a passion for technology and a commitment to fostering connections and inclusivity. She firmly believes that embracing diversity not only strengthens communities but also fuels innovation. Sanaz is excited about the opportunity to contribute her expertise to the Paragon Advisory Board, where she aims to collaborate with like-minded individuals to drive positive change and advancement in the IT landscape.

Connect with Sanaz on LinkedIn

Shareen Islam

Choice Hotels International

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bio

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Shareen Islam

Choice Hotels International

Current Role:
Software Engineering Manager

Shareen Islam is a Software Development Manager at Choice Hotels. She is a seasoned IT leader skilled in end-to-end software development, content creation, and monetization. Shareen is known for fostering innovation, excellence, and continuous improvement. She is also a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion,and allyship, and mentoring women and girls in STEM. Her prior experience includes Senior Software Development Manager at General Motors, DEI Allyship Chair for GMIT, Software Development Manager at Ticketmaster, and Staff Software Engineer at General Dynamics.

Connect with Shareen on LinkedIn

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Amanda is the director of consultant relations at Paragon. She has been with Paragon for over seven years with 11 years of industry experience. Her focus is on leading efforts managing our consultants in the field. Amanda’s previous experience in the industry was in sales/account management for some of Paragon’s top clients. Amanda graduated in 2005 from Simpson College with majors in Criminal Justice and Sociology with a Management minor. She has worked in London, England, Chicago, and now Des Moines. She lives in Waukee with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

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Nick Roach is the Director of Sales at Paragon. Nick leads the performance and execution of our sales and recruiting teams. He is passionate about protecting a culture of accountability built around Paragon’s Core Values. He first entered the SAAS and Outsourcing industry in 2009. Nick spends most of his free time outside of the office enjoying time with his two sons.

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Jessica's Biography

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Donna is the director of operations at Paragon. She is responsible for overseeing the functionality of the organization including finance, systems, HR and payroll. Donna is passionate about supporting the efforts of our military by volunteering with the Wingman Support Team and the Patriot Guard Riders. She is active in her community, as well as her church choir. Donna attended Iowa State University and is married with two children.

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Mark is a senior business development leader at Paragon. Mark manages a territory focused on supplying IT talent to central Iowa companies. Mark is actively involved in the community, lending his time to organizations such as Junior Achievement and the Technology Association of Iowa, as well as youth sports. Graduating from of the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Marketing in 1991, he is married with two sons.

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Joel Jackman is vice-president and co-founder of Paragon. Joel is responsible for new market development, strategic planning, and running the IT Leadership Forum at Paragon. He developed and leads the IT Leadership Forum, a leadership and development group for technology managers in Central Iowa. He also leads the non-profit Paragon IT Leadership Forum Scholarship Foundation, that awards scholarships to high school graduates that commit to Iowa colleges for STEM degrees. Graduating from the University of Iowa with a Liberal Arts degree in 1993, he is married and has two children.

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Craig is the president and co-founder of Paragon. His career in technology started in 1993. He is responsible for leading the Des Moines office and strategic planning and execution at Paragon. Craig is active in the Technology Association of Iowa, The Greater Des Moines Partnership and various charitable organizations. Graduating from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Economics in 1989, Craig is married and has three sons.

Testimonials

"The IT Leadership Forum hosted by Paragon IT professionals is one of the best and most useful collaborations that I have participated in. The speakers and topics that are discussed with other professionals in the field is something that very helpful for day-to-day operations to helping ideate strategic plans. I have found the framework that Paragon has established encourages open and honest conversation that helps leaders grow by challenging preconceived ideology in a safe environment that encourages vulnerability and courage."

IT SERVICES MANAGER
LIFESOURCE

"My experience with the Paragon leadership program has been fantastic.  Joel does an amazing job bringing together a diverse group of IT leaders for the program and it creates a rich environment for learning and sharing from each other's experiences.  Tom and Joel do a great job weaving in their own experience and knowledge along with relevant and impactful outside speakers.  I would definitely recommend this experience for both aspiring and seasoned IT leaders alike."



CIO
POST CONSUMER BRANDS

"The Paragon IT Leadership Forum provides members with the unique opportunity to meet several times a year to collaborate and share thoughts, ideas, best practices. The forum has given me time away from day-to-day business activities enabling me to dedicate time to grow personally and professionally. The immersion with thought leaders, both presenters and participants, have sparked fresh ideas and an opportunity to calibrate some aspects of my work so that I can be more effective and successful.


DIRECTOR, TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS  NORTHERN TOOL + EQUIPMENT

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220 SW 9th Street
Suite 150
Des Moines, IA 50309

515.288.2128

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