35 Under 35: A Women’s Leadership Program

Written by: Fargo Inc
From left to right: Janice Tweet, Rachel Thurs, Jenna Kirschmann, Elisha Knaeble, Heidi King

Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography

ABOUT StrengthsFinderJanice TweetOutreach CoordinatorEpilepsy Foundation of MinnesotaRachel ThursMarket Placement RepresentativeGreat North Insurance ServicesJenna KirschmannHousing DirectorEventide Senior Living CommunitiesElisha KnaebleRisk Management AdvisorBlue Cross Blue Shield of North DakotaHeidi KingFood Service CoordinatorMinnesota State Community and Technical College – MoorheadKatie AuklandDirector of Clinic Operations – Sanford Children’s2015 AlumnaSusan LenschCommunication SpecialistJohn Deere Electronic SolutionsSarah NikleFinancial AdvisorEdward Jones InvestmentsMichelle DraxtenPublic Health NutritionistFargo Cass Public HealthKaarin RemmichLead Customer Service RepresentativeE.W. WylieKate TulibaskiAcademic Advisor & LecturerNDSU College of BusinessTamar EliasFraud Process Excellence AnalystU.S. BankDanna RademacherSales & Social Media Representative Courts Plus Community FitnessJesika JorgensonSenior Talent Acquisition SpecialistDiscovery BenefitsKelsey SmithDirector of Human ResourcesWestern State BankAshley DysteBusiness Development ManagerNetwork CenterRachel StoneFounder – P’s & Q’s Etiquette2012 AlumnaKatie Goehring KarnDirector of Massage Therapy & Assistant Director of Therapy ServicesApex Physical Therapy & Wellness CenterKatie MorischHuman Resources ManagerClinical Supplies Management HoldingsLiz JohnsonForensic Accounting ManagerEide BaillyCasey SteeleOwnerSquare One Rental Kitchen & Love in the Oven BakeryAshton HansenSenior RecruiterAllegro GroupKelly KrenzelFounder – Hope Blooms2016 AlumnaNicole CollinsOptometristBergstrom Eye and Laser ClinicJamie WepkingAssistant Director of AdmissionsMinnesota State University MoorheadLeah TrontvetSite CoordinatorYMCA of Cass and Clay CountiesMandie BeginHuman Resources ManagerWanzek ConstructionIrina SagertFinancial AnalystTitan MachineryCamille GradeDirector of Sales & Marketing – Myriad Mobile2009 AlumnaSara BakkenMarketing CoordinatorFlom Property Group – Keller Williams Inspire RealtyKarri MitchellSoftware EngineerMicrosoftBeth AlthoffDealerNET Communication SpecialistDoosan-BobcatLisa Svaleson HermanOffice ManagerTurf TamersNatalie MurchHR ManagerFirst State Bank of North DakotaSandi PiatzSite Leader & Director – Fargo Campus Microsoft2010 AlumnaYulia MurzaevaAudit ManagerWidmer RoelKelly CharbonneauLeadership & Succession SpecialistSanford HealthLindsay Kaye ArbachOwnerLindsay Kaye PhotographyRenee CharonStaff AttorneyLegal Services of Northwest MinnesotaKalie OlsonVice PresidentIntegreon Managed Solutions

With women projected to account for a more than 50 percent increase in total labor-force growth by 2018, it’s more important than ever to develop essential leadership skills in young, female professionals.

For the better part of the last decade, United Way of Cass- Clay has led that effort locally with its 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program. The program, which focuses on goal- setting, communication, and public speaking, among others, has helped hundreds of FMWF women better themselves and their organizations.

This year, for the first time, Fargo INC! and United Way have teamed up to present the class of 2017, as well as five 35 Under 35 alumnae who have gone on to assume a variety of leadership roles in the community.

ABOUT StrengthsFinder

The 35 Under 35 curriculum focuses heavily on identifying and building upon an individual’s strengths. To help to do that, the women take an online personal assessment called the Clifton Strengths Finder, the idea behind which is to focus on one’s strengths as opposed to weaknesses. Throughout the article, accompanying each of the 35 women is the category in which they scored the highest.

35 Under 35

From left to right: Janice Tweet, Rachel Thurs, Jenna Kirschmann, Elisha Knaeble, Heidi King

Janice Tweet

Outreach Coordinator

Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota

Q: If you could have dinner with one female leader, who would it be and why?

A: I would love to have dinner with Michelle Obama. Throughout her time as First Lady, Mrs. Obama served as a role model for people of all ages and backgrounds. She is a strong and confident woman who exemplifies grace, compassion and determination. She has also taken on many different roles throughout her life. She is a wife, a mother and an advocate for many different issues. Even before she was in the spotlight, she worked in law, local government, and the nonprofit sector in positions that focused on improving communities and the lives of the people who comprise those communities. I find this dedication to service admirable and inspiring and believe that Mrs. Obama demonstrates how we can also work to help our neighbors and improve our communities.

Rachel Thurs

Market Placement Representative

Great North Insurance Services

Q: What do you think is the biggest hurdle women have to overcome in the workplace?
A: Often, it is ourselves. As women, we tend to be very calculated in our decisions and don’t take many risks. During my short time in the 35 Under 35 program, I’ve already learned that taking risks helps you grow and builds confidence. When you set goals, set some risky goals, but do it with purpose. We need to push ourselves to take more risks and we will be more successful in overcoming any hurdles we may have in the workplace.

Jenna Kirschmann

Housing Director

Eventide Senior Living Communities

Q: What does leadership mean to you?
A: To me, leadership is doing the right thing day in and day out. A strong leader is one who gains the trust and respect of their team, supports and brings out the best in those around them, and relentlessly pursues significant goals through hard work. Leaders invest not only in their team but also in themselves because they know the importance and benefit of personal and professional growth. The best compliment I can receive is for someone to recognize that I am hard-working, motivated and not afraid to step in and help my team in any way needed for us to succeed together. That’s leadership.

Elisha Knaeble

Risk Management Advisor

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota

Q: How do you think this program will help you improve in your current role?

A: This program has allowed me to learn so much about myself. It has taught me different ways to communicate and work more closely with others who have a different learning or communication style than I do. It has given me the confidence to make a difference and has also taught me to push my boundaries, move outside my comfort zone and communicate my ideas.

Heidi King

Food Service Coordinator

Minnesota State Community and Technical College – Moorhead

Q: Why are programs like this important not just to the women who participate but to the larger community?

A: Programs like 35 Under 35 cultivate relationships among leaders in a similar age group who may not have met otherwise. In groups like these we have the opportunity expand our knowledge, learn new skills and form lasting relationships. Using these talents and ideas, we can support each other and help our community at large.

35 Under 35

Katie Aukland

Director of Clinic Operations – Sanford Children’s

2015 Alumna

Born and raised in Fargo, Aukland started working at Sanford in 2011 as an intern and worked her way up from there. In addition to her role as director of clinic operations, she serves on multiple boards in town, including Presentation Partners in Housing and the North Dakota chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

While her role varies greatly from day to day, she says she feels “blessed to work with one of the most talented, caring and dedicated teams around.”

Why healthcare

“I’ve always had a great respect for clinicians and caregivers but felt that my strengths aligned more with supporting the great work that our clinical teams provide.

“Being given the opportunity to enter the realm of pediatrics has been so wonderful. Seeing the full spectrum of care and services that we can provide to patients from the time of their birth through their teen years and into adulthood is something very special. Growing with our patients and their families is a reward in itself.”

Expectations vs. reality

“When I applied for 35 Under 35, I was most looking forward to diving into how I would discover what I wanted out of life—the path I was “supposed’ to take.

“I think I envisioned the program as something that would give me all the right answers. One thing I can tell you, though, is that while the program does not “give” you the answers, it does provide you the tools—and a fantastic group of supportive women—to help you find the answers you’re looking for.”

How I apply the program to my career

“Everyone’s strengths lie in different areas. Learning to respect and appreciate the different strengths of team members and colleagues has been hugely impactful. I now have a better sense of how someone with different personality strengths than myself might need time to process, react or respond.”

Why I give back as a volunteer

“Volunteering for the United Way has shown me that your impact in the world doesn’t just stop after a few hours of volunteering. Many of the volunteer opportunities available have the fantastic benefit of providing long-term impact.

“Additionally, volunteer opportunities have led me to find additional connections in the community and other niches where I am able to work toward a mission I am passionate about. As an example, as a Community Impact Panel volunteer, I was connected with Presentation Partners in Housing. Building upon that initial connection, I am now a board member there and have supported this nonprofit for the past year and half—with a bright future ahead!”

Understanding my strengths helps me better understand others

“I’m strategic, a maximizer, futuristic, competitive and an achiever. After fully digging into my strengths, I became more aware of the strengths of others around me.

“It began to be more noticeable to me when I realized someone may interpret information differently than me, need more time to reflect and respond, or have a different comfort level in new settings or experiences. With this understanding has come an appreciation of all the different strengths needed on a team and has allowed for great collaboration within our teams.”

35 Under 35

From left to right: Susan Lensch, Sarah Nikle, Michelle Draxten, Kaarin Remmich, Kate Tulibaski

Susan Lensch

Communication Specialist

John Deere Electronic Solutions

Q: Why is it important for employees to focus on their strengths? How does it impact their coworkers and team?

A: When you’re stuck, focusing on the solution will get you further than focusing on the problem. The same is true for our skill development. Focusing on our strengths ultimately leads to more highly engaged employees and teams. We all need a healthy awareness of our gaps, but understanding our natural talents allows us to develop quicker, appreciate other’s strengths and improve performance.

Sarah Nikle

Financial Advisor

Edward Jones Investments

Q: Do you think the traits that are admired in men in the workplace are looked at as a negative in to women?

A: This can occur with certain traits, but that perception is beginning to diminish. For example, being assertive as a woman can be perceived as aggressive, unappreciative and demanding. However, being assertive is starting to lose its gender bias as the focus is shifting more to effective communication. It comes down to how you communicate prior to and following that assertive moment. Are you compassionate? Do you have grit? Are you sincere? If you can answer “yes” to these, then your gender is no longer part of the conversation.

Michelle Draxten

Public Health Nutritionist

Fargo Cass Public Health

Q: What are the advantages of having such a wide variety of professionals who participate in the program?

A: It’s not only allowed me to learn more about these women as individuals and their distinctive roles within their organizations but has increased my awareness of the wonderful opportunities that exist for women in the community. The role of the dietitian, specifically, has transformed over the years and continues to evolve across various disciplines, and so it is exciting to participate in the program with a wide variety of professionals because you never know when the possibility of a unique collaboration may arise in the future.

Kaarin Remmich

Lead Customer Service Representative

E.W. Wylie

Q: You work at a company that is a leader in the trucking industry. What are some tips for success working in a male- dominated industry?

A: I was fortunate to have several amazing women mentor me in my career. From them, I learned to have confidence in myself and my abilities. They encouraged me to accept challenges and take risks. Growth happens outside of your comfort zone so confidence and courage have served me well. My advice for others is to find those people who will support and challenge you. Talk with them regularly and learn from them. Change will not happen overnight. Then, in turn, find other young women you can encourage and mentor.

Kate Tulibaski

Academic Advisor & Lecturer

NDSU College of Business

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?

A: The part I like most about my job is helping students problem-solve and plan. Whether it’s helping them talk through finding the correct major; finding ways they can balance work, family, and school; or helping them develop ways to be more academically successful, I enjoy when they become an active part of that process and I can help them find a solution. I also love it when students see a plan they put together come to fruition. Overall, students are great at setting goals throughout their college careers and it is extremely gratifying when they realize that the work and commitment they put in has paid off.

35 Under 35

From left to right: Tamar Elias, Danna Rademacher, Jesika Jorgenson, Kelsey Smith, Ashley Dyste

Tamar Elias

Fraud Process Excellence Analyst

U.S. Bank

Q: What unique perspectives do women bring to the table?

A: During one of the sessions for 35 Under 35, we completed an activity about our personal brand. The number of women who included their ability to invest in others or to help others become the best version of themselves really stood out to me during that session. I believe focusing on the success of other individuals is based on building authentic relationships. Those relationships in turn build trust and open up lines of communication. When trust and communication exist, a leader gains the ability to assess a problem from multiple viewpoints and is then able to come up with the most comprehensive solution.

Danna Rademacher

Sales & Social Media Representative
Courts Plus Community Fitness

Q: Why would you encourage others to take the time to identify their strengths through the StrengthsFinder exercise?

A: When you know your strengths, you can take these into your workplace. You realize how you work, retain information and communicate. Someone may have the same strength as you but uses that strength in a different way. It also shows things you’re strong in, but a coworker may be stronger in another. This makes you realize how your team works together and why each person is essential to the team. It motivates you to keep improving and learn how to better understand others.

Jesika Jorgenson

Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist

Discovery Benefits

Q: It can be easy to feel lost in the shuffle at a big organization. How can someone still feel like they’re making a difference among hundreds of employees?

A: I think our core value of open communication makes a big difference in how an employee views his or her contributions. Company successes, goals, and challenges are shared regularly and employees are kept in the “why” when it comes to changes. While not everyone knows exactly what each position does in the company, we all know how our individual efforts are impacting the business.

Kelsey Smith

Director of Human Resources

Western State Bank

Q: In what ways are you hoping the program makes you a better HR director?

A: The mission of the 35 Under 35 Program directly aligns with what I do as a human resource director. As a human resource professional, I am dedicated to developing and strengthening the performance, potential and leadership of team members. This involves providing to them the resources and support they need to excel in their position while providing the vision and outlining the connection and impact they have on the overall goals and purpose of the company.

Ashley Dyste

Business Development Manager

Network Center

Q: What advice do you have for the next generation of female leaders?

A: The advice I would give for the next generation of female leaders is to be bold. I want them to live a life outside their comfort zone, take chances and be uncomfortable. Many women before us have taken the initiative to clear a path for each of us to do great things in our communities.
I would advise to never feel that you should hold back because you are a woman. If anything, confidence shows the strength in our ability to balance all that we do and do it well.

35 Under 35

Rachel Stone

Founder – P’s & Q’s Etiquette

2012 Alumna

In 2006, Stone made history when she became the first African American woman to be crowned Mrs. North Dakota International. She has traveled from state to state sharing her message of living life with purpose. She currently works at Horizon Middle school in Moorhead and also holds a license in cosmetology.

She has now started her own girls empowerment program called P’s & Q’s Etiquette, where she focuses on teaching girls leadership skills. In addition to teaching students vocal and etiquette skills, she’s a recording artist, professional model and youth leader. The daughter of a pastor, Stone says her strong faith in God and a passion for empowering girls is what drives her.

Our nonprofit’s mission

“The mission of P’s & Q’s Etiquette is to greatly impact the lives of our young girls and women from all walks of life—with a big focus on minority youth. We want to empower and give them the necessary social and life skills needed to reach their greatest potential, manage daily activities, and face new situations, all with greater self confidence.

“In an ever-changing, fast-paced world, success is determined by good choices. In what career choice are good manners not needed? With competition for spots in college and good jobs becoming increasingly tough to come by, it is crucial that our children start learning these skills as young as possible. Leadership skills are not inborn but learned, and with any talent or skill, practice makes perfect.

“The importance of community involvement It’s important for our community to embrace diversity by getting more involved in programs and events so that they can learn more about it. P’s & Q’s encourages our community to become responsible, engaged citizens working toward creating important impacts that address issues facing our youth—to step out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves to do more.”

Why seeing me matters

“It matters for young women of color to see visible role models like me doing good in the community because it gives them hope. I believe lots of women of color can relate to my story, and if they see me overcome obstacles and make a great impact, then so can they.

“I want to give them a realistic picture of what success is. Yes, if we are determined, we
can be successful no matter where we come from or who we are. Yes, we can be beautiful without becoming another music video girl. Yes, we can be both happy and satis ed by taking the focus off of ourselves and placing it on giving and investing in the lives of others.”

Why I applied to 35 Under 35

“When I applied for the program, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was already stepping out of my comfort zone but wanted to really launch out into the deep and learn how others were doing that. After going through the program, I realized that there was no magic potion. We were all like-minded women with fears and anxieties. Everyone can be touched by someone. With a plan of action, determination, and the support of each other, we would definitely accomplish our goals.”

Our greatest workplace hurdle

“I think women are always in the position of having to prove themselves. We have to prove that we are capable or even worthy of a certain position. We have to be extra tough, so to speak, to show that we have the strength and ability to carry out certain assignments. That, to me, will always be a challenge for women, as we are always looked at as the weaker vessel compared to men.”

35 Under 35

From left to right: Katie Goehring Karn, Katie Morisch, Liz Johnson, Casey Steele, Ashton Hansen

Katie Goehring Karn

Director of Massage Therapy & Assistant Director of Therapy Services

Apex Physical Therapy & Wellness Center

Q: Why is having a network of female support important?
A: I’ve grown up with strong women in leadership roles my entire life. My grandmother was one of the first women ordained in the United Methodist Church, my mother worked tirelessly over four summers to get her masters degree and become the principal of a rural elementary school, and my sister started her own business. Strong, smart women empower more strong, smart women. I believe I can learn from and grow from other women and their experiences. Gaining perspective and knowledge can only help with future growth on my leadership journey.

Katie Morisch

Human Resources Manager

Clinical Supplies Management Holdings

Q: What role does leadership play in HR?

A: I believe that human resources plays the role of modeling what good leadership should look like within a company and helps to develop the leadership capability in others. It may be through the actions we take, coaching someone through a situation or leading a group initiative. When we are able to motivate, engage and empower those in the company, a ripple effect happens and you start to see a positive change occur.

Liz Johnson

Forensic Accounting Manager

Eide Bailly

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

A: The most rewarding part of my job at Eide Bailly is identifying and understanding my clients’ challenges and the impact of fraud and embezzlement on their organization. I love being able to work with them to rectify the situation and facilitate the process of trying to recover their stolen funds.

Casey Steele


Square One Rental Kitchen & Love in the Oven Bakery

Q: Your company suffered a devastating re last year. Was there a silver lining you took from the experience?

A: The re changed many aspects of my business and myself. The business I had spent more than three years building had been destroyed in a matter of hours. The support from our community was heartwarming and overwhelmingly positive and reassured me that what we were doing was something that was appreciated and enjoyed by others. From the experience of rebuilding, I’ve grown so much as a small business owner. I’m more focused than ever and am exploring the numerous ways we can serve our community while helping small business owners start up their food- based businesses. I’ve gained additional confidence in my business and myself through this process and am forever grateful for the support.

Ashton Hansen

Senior Recruiter

Allegro Group

Q: What’s the biggest advantage of working at a smaller company?

A: Working for a small business allows you an opportunity to wear a lot of hats and gain exposure to multiple areas of the business. I feel more connected to the bottom line and can see an immediate impact on the business from the work I am doing. I love being a part of the growth initiative to build our company. Also, there is not a lot of red tape to go through when implementing an idea, process, or tool. We can make decisions fast.

35 Under 35

Kelly Krenzel

Founder – Hope Blooms

2016 Alumna

In her day job as a marketing and communications specialist for Hospice of the Red River Valley, Krenzel focuses on telling the hospice mission through those who have experienced it firsthand.

“I’m truly moved by the small but beautiful moments I have witnessed among our patients, their families and staff,” she says.

Inspired by this work and with a bit of a green thumb and an incredible amount of compassion for others, Krenzel founded Hope Blooms, a flower recycling project focused on spreading joy and happiness to those facing difficult times.

Why I want to help hope bloom for those in need

Spreading joy and compassion is very much a part of who I am. In July 2016, I started a project called Hope Blooms to inspire hope, happiness and emotional healing through repurposed flowers. The idea for Hope Blooms was sparked by a similar project in Idaho and my love for my grandma. With the help of volunteers, Hope Blooms has created more than 1,000 bouquets for community members in need.

Hope Blooms repurposes donated flowers by rearranging them into individual, bedside bouquets and delivering them to those with long-term illnesses or in hospice care, people living in nursing homes or in assisted living, struggling mothers, and families facing difficult times or loss. All with one message: you matter. Small acts of kindness change lives. Simply knowing that you are valued and cared for—especially during challenging times—can be a great source of hope and comfort. It is in those moments that you realize the smallest gestures, like receiving a small bouquet, can mean so much.

It was Kismet!

Acceptance into the 35 Under 35 program came at the precise moment in my journey to make Hope Blooms blossom. The remarkable women I’ve met through this program—combined with programming and strong female leaders in our community— gave me the courage to step outside of myself and do something to make a difference.

Christy Tehven, a fellow 35-er, helped me realize I could do this project just by simply starting. She continues to lift me up and support me every step of the way. I don’t know that I would have been brave enough to take the leap and create a project on my own if it weren’t for the confidence I gained through the program.

Different backgrounds = richer experiences

While our individual experiences may have differed slightly, I felt as if myself and the others were one unit—a beautiful group of women whose lives now intertwined, giving us an opportunity to learn and grow together.

I love that everyone came from different backgrounds and offered something unique to the program and appreciate that we all had something special to give one another. One aspect of the program that really stood out to me was that these women were all seeking authentic connections. Even though everyone was busy with their own life and schedule, we found time to foster positive relationships outside of the regularly scheduled sessions.

My advice to the next generation of female leaders

Be authentic and vulnerable. So many beautiful things can grow out of your ability to be open and exposed with others—even in the workplace. Some may see this as a weakness, but it’s not. It’s empowering to be yourself and allow others to be a part of that. If you don’t know something, ask.

Be open to learning and speaking up because the best experiences can come from your ability to be vulnerable and unapologetically yourself. Allowing myself to be vulnerable has helped me be my most authentic self.

35 Under 35

From left to right: Nicole Collins, Jamie Wepking, Leah Trontvet Mandi Begin, Irina Sagert

Nicole Collins


Bergstrom Eye and Laser Clinic

Q: What is something that most people don’t know about the optometry profession?

A: The optometry profession has seen a major demographic shift in recent years. Optometry was once a male-dominated eld and now more than 65 percent of graduating optometrists are women.

Jamie Wepking

Assistant Director of Admissions

Minnesota State University Moorhead

Q: Working in admissions, you get to play an active role in helping young people pursue their dreams. What does that mean to you?

A: Preparing for and attending college is a very formative and vulnerable time for students. Between leaving home, meeting new classmates and friends, and starting their college careers, so much is changing in their lives. Our prospective and current students look to us for support, stability and compassion. I’m incredibly lucky to be a part of a university that cares for students on an individual level, encouraging personal connections to help foster their success.

Leah Trontvet

Site Coordinator

YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties

Q: Why did you apply for 35 Under 35?

A: I applied because I loved the mission behind it. This leadership program focuses on empowering women and helping women discover their best self. The idea of being surrounded by like- minded women made me excited. That kind of energy is contagious. Something I have personally been striving for is strengthening my own leadership skills and becoming the best version of myself. I knew this program would not only allow me to form lasting relationships but would also challenge my way of thinking. It would help me develop new perspectives and get outside of my comfort zone.

Mandie Begin

Human Resources Manager

Wanzek Construction

Q: You’ve worked in a variety of industries. How has that diversity of experience helped you in your current role?

A: In all my previous positions, I have strived to learn from the leaders who came before me. I found myself learning what type of leader I aspired to be and also what type of leader I really did not want to be. The biggest thing I have taken away is that no matter what the industry, job knowledge can be learned. The harder things to learn are attitude and behaviors. I have found that focusing on helping others, communication, making sound decisions and being accountable have given me what I have needed to be successful in any position.

Irina Sagert

Financial Analyst

Titan Machinery

Q: What is a unique perspective you bring to your workplace?

A: I have been in the US for 10 years and find that, no matter where I go, my views are somewhat different from the majority of people. Being that my original education was from a non-US university, I approach solving problems from a different angle. Working with people from different countries and backgrounds taught me the patience and understanding to know that if someone has a different opinion, it doesn’t mean it’s not valid. There is always value in an opposing point of view. The only way to see it, however, is to truly understand that point of view. This is how I usually approach a problem and that helps me look at it from a different angle, as well as identify and address flaws in my plan.

35 Under 35

Camille Grade

Director of Sales & Marketing – Myriad Mobile

2009 Alumna

Grade says she often jokes that she’s made a career out of not really knowing what she wants to do when she grows up.

“I’ve treated every job I’ve ever held, though, with the utmost respect while I’ve been entrusted to its care,” she says.

In charge of sales and marketing at Fargo- based mobile-development company Myriad Mobile, she spends most of her days researching, writing, analyzing marketing stats, collaborating with teammates and strategizing with the director team—”herding cats,” as she puts it.

Grade considers herself a very mission-driven person, and before joining the team at Myriad in early 2014, she spent time at several organizations in Fargo-Moorhead, including the FMWF Chamber of Commerce, Plains Art Museum and Prairie Public Broadcasting.

Why our team reflects our clients

“As a young(ish) leader in tech, I have had to work on making my voice heard. We know that tech has a stereotype of being a boys’ club, but I think people would be surprised to see the diversity of our team. We know, without a doubt, that diversity makes us stronger. We work with a wide variety of clients so why shouldn’t we have a wide variety of people on our team? We’re building a solid team of good human beings who happen to love technology. I’m really proud of that.”

The genetics of giving back

“Quite simply, being active in the local entrepreneurial community is in our DNA. A lot of my teammates grew up in rural communities throughout North Dakota and Minnesota. We saw our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and teachers involved with their local communities.

“I think it just feels natural for us to be involved. It’s important to us because we’ve received a lot of support and grace from this community as we’ve grown Myriad. It’s a privilege to be involved in our community and have the opportunity to give back.”

My biggest takeaway from the program

“I vividly remember State of North Dakota COO Jodi Uecker talking about community involvement and how it can ebb and flow depending on what stage of life you are in. Right now I’m a little bit in ebb mode. I’m still involved with a lot of community activities but I’m trying to be more purposeful and proactive about where I spend my time. We have big goals for Myriad in 2017 so I need to make sure I’m allowing myself the energy and space to push Myriad forward and not come home on an empty tank. I want to be cognizant about who is getting the best parts of me. My ‘yes, and’ mentality is turning into more of a ‘let me think about it first’, mentality in 2017.”

Who I’d have dinner with

“I’d love to be profound and give a really deep answer, but I really want to hang out with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Their books, “Bossypants” and “Yes Please,” respectively, should be required reading material for every junior-high girl.

“I come from a long line of funny people (I’m looking at you, Mom and Dad). Wit and humor are embedded in my DNA. Moments of levity have carried me through tough situations. I think that’s what I like about Tina and Amy. They can be funny and strong at the same time.”

Give yourself a break

“I’m a big fan of focusing on strengths. It’s exhausting trying to overcome weaknesses, isn’t it? I think we as women tend to be harder on ourselves about our weaknesses, too. We are our toughest critics.

“What if we own our strengths AND our weaknesses? That’s what we try to do in business. We sharpen our areas of strength and partner with others to help augment our weaknesses.”

35 Under 35

From left to right: Sara Bakken, Karri Mitchell, Beth Althoff, Lisa Svaleson Herman, Natalie Murch

Sara Bakken

Marketing Coordinator

Flom Property Group – Keller Williams Inspire Realty

Q: Why is it important for employees to focus on their strengths? How does it impact their coworkers and team?

A: Our company works hard to feed into everyone’s strengths and personality types in each role. Each position is developed and tasks are determined by who can do the work exceptionally and efficiently. I think this makes employees enjoy their jobs more and the flexibility allows for so much growth.

Karri Mitchell

Software Engineer


Q: There’s been a big push in recent years to get more young girls involved in programming and coding. What can we be doing to ensure that happens?

A: Historically, girls have not stumbled into programming independently the way boys have. That’s why group programs such as Microsoft’s DigiGirlz program and the Girl Develop It workshops here in Fargo are such wonderful endeavors. These programs strive to avoid the temptation to girl-ify coding—making it pink and sparkly or simplifying it, which only reinforces the idea that traditional tech is for boys. Girls see through the superficiality.

Beth Althoff

DealerNET Communication Specialist


Q: Why is it important to the area to have an international brand like Bobcat headquartered here?

A: It not only provides jobs that have an impact across the globe but it also brings even more diversity to the FM area. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with colleagues from Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and it’s provided me unique challenges and the ability to learn about business concerns outside of my own point of reference.

Lisa Svaleson Herman

Office Manager

Turf Tamers

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

A: My parents have always been my greatest source of advice, and they truly live life by the words they preach. When I was young, they taught me to live by the Golden Rule and treat others how I would like to be treated. They expanded the rule and said, ‘Act with kindness, compassion, truth, humility, and love, and you will always like the person looking back at you in the mirror.’ I feel making the world a better place begins by looking the person in the mirror in the eye and believing that you matter and can make a difference. 

Natalie Murch

HR Manager

First State Bank of North Dakota

Q: What are some ways employees can ensure their thoughts, opinions, and, work are respected and valued in the workplace?

A: By showing up and being present each and every day at work. This will get them further in the workplace than anything else. It shows that they are committed to the job, the company and the values that the company stands for. If they can do that, they will have success, no matter what the job or eld is. An employer needs to know their employees are with them, not just putting in the time until the next paycheck.

35 Under 35

Sandi Piatz

Site Leader & Director – Fargo Campus Microsoft

2010 Alumna

Beginning her career at a startup partner of Great Plains Software, Piatz then went on to work for Microsoft, where she focused on business development and global-program management.

After going back to school to earn an MBA, in 2007, she joined Eide Bailly in a technology consulting capacity, eventually achieving partner.

This past September, she rejoined the team at Microsoft as the director & site leader of Microsoft’s Fargo campus.

Active in the community as a volunteer, Piatz is also an avid runner—having completed two full and 13 half marathons—and is currently pursuing her second master’s through the University of Jamestown.

It’s all about STEM

There has been great attention toward STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education for women, and we have seen positive trends for women holding STEM jobs. However, studies have shown that women have tended to gravitate toward the science and medical professions versus mathematics and computer technology.

Ultimately, we need to make greater advancements and efforts to educate women at a young age of the career opportunities for them in math and computer science. In addition, we need to continue to drive STEM program in computer science into a young, female age group.

How we get more women in leadership roles

I believe there are four core areas we need to focus on:

1. Leadership development programs starting in school for women that span through high school and into college

Our daughter is a sophomore at the University of Jamestown and is currently getting a minor in character and leadership. This wasn’t even an option when I was in school. It’s so exciting to see programs like this now offered in our schools and at our universities.

2. Leadership and mentoring on the job and formal programs for women

The formal programs must include support in identifying oneself as a leader, not just understanding the fundamentals of leadership— programs like 35 Under 35 or leadership programs through your place of work.

3. Eliminate bias

We need to continue to work to eliminate biases of all diverse populations, and this can be done through education of our work forces and communities.

4. Ensure we have a solid slate of candidates, which includes women in the candidate pool when hiring for these positions

Statistics show that when you have a diverse slate and you work to eliminate the biases of hiring managers, you will, over time, see a more diverse population hired.

How I still apply the program’s lessons today

One piece of wisdom I took from 35 Under 35 that I apply to my current role is the great value in community. 35 Under 35 is a leadership program where leaders are developed and grown by, for and within a community.

That sense of community is something that I have carried into my work life. It’s something we can leverage as we build leaders and a sense of community within our organization and as we as leaders continue to build the community we live in.

Collaborate & cooperate

In the workplace, I think that we as women should prioritize to collaborate and cooperate versus compete with other women. It’s scientifically proven that when businesses have an unhealthily competitive workplace, it kills the internal culture.

We need to support and build on each other’s brilliance. We need to choose to collaborate and cooperate with other women and raise each other up, and we will be more successful in the long-term. “Forget the Pecking Order at Work” is a great TED talk on the topic that I’d recommend. It really gets to the heart of the value of collaboration.

35 Under 35

From left to right: Yulia Murzaeva, Kelly Charbonneau, Lindsay Kaye Arbach, Renee Charon, Kalie Olson

Yulia Murzaeva

Audit Manager

Widmer Roel

Q: What are some things companies can do to encourage and help the development of their female employees?

A: The best thing that any employer could provide for its female staff is flexibility and opportunities for development regardless of a family situation or other commitments. So many determined and highly intelligent women are lost from the workforce because they don’t think they can succeed while focusing on their family. It’s really important to be able to go to that doctor’s appointment for your kids or leave early for their school event and not feel guilty about missing work. It’s critical to know that you won’t be passed over for a promotion or get lower pay in case you decide to have a baby.

Kelly Charbonneau

Leadership & Succession Specialist

Sanford Health

Q: For someone with “leadership” literally in their job title, why do you think it’s still important to go through a leadership program?

A: Leadership is action and example, not a title. We are responsible for our own growth and goals and when we recognize that and do something about it, others want to join in and be a part of it. Investing in your development role models that behavior and gives you a platform to empower others to do the same. Consider what your current behavior says about your thoughts on leadership and development when you’re trying to develop another.

Lindsay Kaye Arbach


Lindsay Kaye Photography

Q: How have you been able to apply what you learned through the StrengthsFinder exercise to your daily life?

A: One of my top strengths is Empathy and I’m using that to relate to my clients. I’m often alongside them for very intimate moments—wedding days and births, among others—and it’s important that I’m always paying attention to how they’re feeling. Another one of my strengths is Learner and I love that that one came up. I’m constantly learning and trying to grow my craft, my business and myself.

Renee Charon

Staff Attorney

Q: Why does the legal profession need more female voices?

A: While the media may portray the legal profession as overrun with old, white- haired, male attorneys, in recent years, there has been a shift from this more traditional model to one of greater inclusion. While I can’t speak for all women in the profession, I generally believe that female attorneys approach clients and cases asking about points of agreement that can be used as a starting point to resolve the larger issue. The women attorneys I have met are amazing at bringing people together and presenting alternative resolutions to complex problems.

Kalie Olson

Vice President

Integreon Managed Solutions

Q: How important do you think mentorship—either in the office or outside of it—is to young, female professionals?

A: An honest, constructive mentoring relationship is critical to the long-term success of any professional. Having a trusted external voice to help you see your journey from a different viewpoint offers a unique perspective as you make decisions both professionally and personally. It is not required that your mentor have significant experience in your specific field. The main requirements should be that they are invested in both your personal development and long-term success and will provide honest feedback to improve your self-awareness.

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Brady Drake is the editor of Fargo INC!