Meet the 13 DisruptHR Speakers

Written by: Brady Drake
Back row, left to right: Jeremy Ostrowski, Heather Ostrowski, Rachel Olson, Lindsey Cernik, Jess Engel. Front row, left to right: Molly Klein, Brandy Miller.

By Heather and Jeremy Ostrowski

Community connection is where it all starts for us and community connection begins with the partnerships we have with our sponsors. The sponsorship experience is one that has evolved in a cool way over the years. Without our sponsors, this event wouldn’t be possible-so, it is important to deliver a good experience and add value for them. Our sponsors are engaged in the process and bring great ideas to the table. We listen and work to elevate their expectations.

We appreciate HUB International for sharing our passion for this event, innovative ideas to get better, and helping with our first sponsor-to-sponsor feedback session where past sponsors got together to discuss their experiences and brainstorm ideas of what we can do new in the future.

Chezy and Fargo INC! have truly been game changers for us regarding the sponsorship experience. Chezy is a local company producing really cool, quick videos, and we instantly knew they would be a great partnership for our sponsors. The videos they created last year brought a whole new level of exposure to our top sponsors and we can’t wait to see what they do this year! Fargo INC! has been so generous to us in the space they give us in their reputable magazine and the creativity they have in bringing our event to life before it happens and creating an additional buzz as well as attracting a whole new market of sponsors, attendees, and speakers.

We literally wouldn’t be here without Livewire. They took a chance on us the first year and have stuck with us every single year. Their work is amazing and we are so proud to upload our videos onto DisruptHR’s global website and know that we are knocking it out of the park with this quality partnership.

Brandfolk is another lifer sponsor that we just love! Matt and his team are so incredibly innovative, they bring unique and disruptive ideas for us every year even through wild market changes, and they deliver quality and a personally branded experience time and time again.

We are excited to work with all of the sponsors this year, and a special shout out to all of the Ultimates: Aldevron, Dakota Supply Group, HUB International, and Pro Resources.

Speaking of connection, our friends and sponsors over at ND ATD are having a learning event on the same day as our DisruptHR event. If you attend ND ATD’s event, bring your ticket when you check in at DisruptHR for a free drink to cap off an amazing day of learning and connection!

Now, Let’s Meet the Speakers

Ben Zietz

Employee Benefits Advisor, Marsh McLennan Agency

About Ben

Ben Zietz is responsible for the overall management of his client’s benefits programs. He partners with organizations to understand their unique objectives and build strategies focusing on long-term sustainability. Ben works primarily with construction, agriculture, and multi-state employers.

Ben enjoys building a team to help solve complex problems and defines success as creating long-term relationships with his clients. He is active in the community as the chairperson of the Fargo Moorhead Symphony Board of Trustees. Outside of work, he enjoys hunting and fishing, spending time outdoors, traveling with his wife, and cooking whenever possible.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

What if you modeled your HR department after Tom Hanks? The actor who has played Captain Sully, Mr. Rogers, and Forrest Gump has a lot to teach us about being our best. Whether it’s finding compassion, being decisive, or just being our true selves, this talk will focus on what we can bring to the table as HR leaders to help support our organizations in today’s fast business climate.

Why are you passionate about this topic?

I think being adaptive, curious, and genuine are the greatest skills that HR professionals can bring to work. By finding the connection between the movies and our daily lives, maybe we can bring new energy to the important work that we do every day.

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

I’ve been lucky enough to attend and speak at DisruptHR in the past and the level of excitement and enthusiasm is electric! Being able to share ideas with your peers and other thought leaders makes the event one of a kind in the area!

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

Be curious. Be genuine. Be present. If you focus on these traits, you can really go far!

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

“If Not You, Who?” by Jill Christensen
This book focuses on employee engagement and how trust can help in every aspect of your organization.

“Drive ThruHR” with Mike VanDervart, Robin Schooling, Dwane Lay, and Crystal Miller Lay
The “Drive ThruHR” podcast covers topics relevant to HR professionals. Featured guests discuss various topics including HR technology, recruiting, talent management, leadership, organizational culture, and strategic HR.

“How I Built This” with Guy Raz
On the “How I Built This” podcast, Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best-known companies. The show weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists and the movements they built.

Steven Reuter

Organizational Health Consultant, Minnesota Management & Budget

Steve Reuter is a conflict management expert and consultant with a passion for understanding human behavior. Raised in Stillwater, MN, Steve’s homeschooling experience fostered an insular world until he attended his local high school and later pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. This exposure to differing worldviews and political beliefs ignited his fascination with human behavior, and how we come to see the world so differently.

At Adler Graduate School in Richfield, MN, earning a Master’s in Adlerian Counseling and Psychotherapy. This formative period deepened his understanding of human behavior and the liberating power of embracing imperfections.

Steve’s experience as an in-home mental health practitioner, social worker, and organizational consultant helped him refine his approach as a nonprofit, and government leadership, guiding them through dynamic changes, complex civil and cultural issues, and multifaceted conflicts. Steve’s current work ranges from developing human-centered leaders to navigating statewide and national issues and advancing Alongside his consulting work with executive leadership, Steve regularly engages audiences as a speaker and workshop facilitator on various topics, including conflict resolution, change management, resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety, and effective communication.

Central to his philosophy is the belief that focusing on shared needs and interests is vital to bridge divides caused by unhealthy conflict and political turmoil. Steve strives to build environments grounded in psychological safety, ensuring that individuals feel heard and valued. Through his role and experiences, he aspires to create a more harmonious and understanding world.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

In this talk, I discuss the concept of trust in human relationships and its impact on workplace dynamics. I propose that the traditional binary view of trust is flawed and limits our ability to build relationships effectively. Instead, I introduce a new framework for trust that acknowledges its complexity.

This framework helps us become aware of our contributions to trust and how we can improve it. I also address the challenges of transitioning from negative to positive trust and emphasize the importance of effort, patience, and a genuine desire to grow as both leaders and individuals.

A few points I’ll discuss are:

I. The traditional view of trust
2. A new trust framework
3. The trust improvement process
4. Outcomes of better trust

Why are you passionate about this topic?

This topic is core to how we show up for one another, including how we disagree, problem-solve, and support each other. The better we can understand what’s going on, the better we can attend to its impact.

We frequently lean on assumptions, personal narratives, and flawed thinking when interacting with others. When we are engaging people we disagree with, these assumptions and narratives make moments of conflict turn unhealthy and self-fulfilling. Our current political polarization is a stark example of this dynamic.

It’s absolutely essential, in my eyes, that we delve deeper into the interactions we have with one another, the stories we tell ourselves, and how we perpetuate the pain we experience, if we are ever going to find ourselves in a place of healthy conflict, innovative solutions, and collaboration.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

“How Emotions Are Made” by Lisa Feldman Barrett
This book discusses the theory of constructed emotion. This understanding of how our brain and body operate is helpful for understanding the predictive nature of trust.

“The Upside of Stress” by Kelly McGonigalay
This book discusses mindset science and how we view the world and others can have predictive impacts on ourselves and others.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
In this book, Kahneman discusses his research on how we think. This book helps illustrate how deliberate thought can result in significantly different perspectives and outcomes than our faster, reactive thinking; even when looking at the same information. This is because our faster thinking uses cognitive bias to speed up judgment, and many of these biases are limited, flawed, or downright wrong.

“Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg
This book discusses communication skills that help to articulate our emotions, thoughts, and needs. Common speech combines these three or even omits them completely, leaving us at risk of believing our perceptions are fact. If we speak more intentionally, we are able to communicate our needs more clearly while recognizing the impact of the stories we tell ourselves.

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

DisruptHR is a refreshing shift from the daily routine many of us have come to know. The connection with colleagues and the jolting exposure to new mindsets bring some much-needed energy to a part of life that can feel complacent. It’s programs like DisruptHR that help to spark innovation, and for that I love it!

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

There is a lot of advice already out there, and a lot more that could be said. So I’ll just say this: You know far less than you think. The assumptions you make and the beliefs you hold are, by nature, imperfect at best. Curiosity is the best antidote to the pain you create by holding so fast to your opinions and beliefs. Embrace your fallibility. Instead of making a judgment, ask a question. Then, let your opinion change with the facts.

If we can be more curious in our lives, we create opportunities for trust, healthy conflict, connection, and safety. But we need to set our egos aside. That takes inner work.

Kristi Spindler

Human Resources Director, Dakota Supply Group

Kristi Spindler, Human Resources Director at Dakota Supply Group, has nearly 20 years of human resources experience leading HR teams focused on company growth and engagement. Kristi grew up just south of Duluth, MN, lived in Minneapolis for 10 years after receiving her undergrad, and has now been in Fargo with her husband and two daughters since 2014. Kristi received her bachelor’s degree from The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN, and has a Master’s degree in Organizational Management from Concordia University in St. Paul, MN. Kristi is the current Board Chair of BIO Girls, was the prior Board Chair of Agassiz Valley Human Resources Association (AVHRA), and was named to Prairie Business’ 2021 Top 25 Women in Business. Kristi has been an avid soccer player her whole life and now enjoys coaching her daughters in soccer.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

Women in the workforce. I am passionate about women and working moms in the workforce as this has been my life for the last 20 years and an area I am deeply aware of and experienced in. All moms are working moms, whether in the workforce or not, however, recent research and my personal insights focus specifically on women and more specifically, moms, who work in the workforce. We have made wonderful progress towards women in the workforce and specifically in leadership positions-although there is much more progress to be made however, our societal structure is lagging as a result and the support that is now necessary for women to take on more and higher roles within the workforce and both parents working outside the home, needs to progress at the same rate. Today’s generation of females in the workforce is truly paving the way for generations to come by silently doing the heavy lifting for the continued progress of women by increasingly taking on the role of breadwinner while handling the majority of household management. The two main areas of focus that need to progress and need our attention to continue to support working moms are childcare and household management.

I will speak to both our current childcare crisis and where the burden of household management falls, as well as recent research that supports it as well as solutions. We all know there are not enough people in our workforce. Supporting, recognizing, and celebrating working moms and their efforts, and creating a societal structure that supports working moms cannot only fill the workforce gap and create more much-needed availability within our talent pools but pave the way for generations to come.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

“You Don’t Have to Carry It All: Ditch the Mom Guilt and Fine a Better Way Forward” by Paula Faris
This reveals a game plan that will not only make being a working mom “work” but will also reveal how and why society needs to value mothers first. Weaving together groundbreaking research with inspirational wisdom.

“Lean Out: The Truth about Women, Power, and the Workplace” by Marissa Orr
Lean Out offers a new and refreshingly candid perspective on what it’s really like for today’s corporate underdogs. Based on both in-depth research and personal experiences, Orr punctures a gaping hole in today’s feminist rhetoric and sews it back up with compelling new arguments for the reasons more women don’t make it to the top and how companies can better incentivize women by actually listening to what they have to say and by rewarding the traits that make them successful.

“Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg’s provocative, inspiring book about women and power grew out of an electrifying TED Talk Sandberg gave in 2010 in which she expressed her concern that progress for women in achieving major leadership positions had stalled. The talk became a phenomenon and has since been viewed nearly 2,000,000 times. In Lean In, she fuses humorous personal anecdotes, singular lessons on confidence and leadership, and practical advice for women based on research, data, her own experiences, and the experiences of other women of all ages. Sandberg has an uncanny gift for cutting through layers of ambiguity that surround working women, and in Lean In, she grapples, piercingly, with the great questions of modern life. Her message to women is overwhelmingly positive. She is a trailblazing model for the ideas she so passionately espouses, and she’s on the pulse of a topic that has never been more relevant.

Research: “In a Growing Share of U.S. Marriages, Husbands and Wives Earn About the Same.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (April 13, 2023) Husbands and Wives Eam Similar Wages in a Growing Share of Marriages | Pew Research Center

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

I first heard about Disrupt HR about eight years ago and I was thrilled when Fargo-Moorhead decided to bring it to our area! What an impactful, fun, progressive, and efficient way to continue to challenge and grow ourselves as HR professionals. Topics are progressive, which naturally leads to a little bit of disruption, but what better way to be cutting-edge and proactive in the future of HR.

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

People First Culture:
I guess I work in HR for a reason! I’m a strong believer in a people-first culture. When you invest and rely on your people as your company’s greatest strength, I promise you that will translate into a remarkable customer experience and a high-performing, highly profitable organization.

Leadership and People Managers:
Never underestimate the impact you make as a people manager and leader. Your ability to effectively lead has a direct impact on your employees’ optimal performance and thus the optimal performance of your organization. If you are in a leadership position, there is no room for ego or insecurities.

Positive Change Maker:
Be a positive change maker, embrace innovation, and challenge the status quo. Look for ways to continue to make yourself and your company better. But do it in a way that makes others want to follow you.

Don’t be afraid of feedback-whether you are giving it or receiving! Always be respectful about it, but this is truly what will make you and others around you grow.

Heidi Reisenauer

Vice President of Video and Content, Flint Group

Heidi Reisenauer is a marketing executive, a mother of three amazing kids, and a professional storyteller. Heidi was diagnosed with ADHD at age 38 and is now working to better understand the way her brain is both her superpower and kryptonite.

Heidi previously worked as a journalist and graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She is currently the Vice President of Video and Content at Flint Group in Fargo, where she specializes in content and social media strategy and leads Studio 46, a 16-person video and photography production team. Her approach to work and life can be summed up by two of her ADHD superpowers: creative brainstorming and organizing chaos into simplicity. Heidi, her husband, and three kids live in North Fargo, where they enjoy bike rides, sledding, and endless art projects.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

As an adult diagnosed with ADHD while serving in a high-performance leadership role, I questioned how I lived my whole life with a misfunctioning brain but had managed personal and professional success. After leaming more about ADHD, I realized I’d held a lot of misconceptions about this and other brain disorders. I’d previously thought of ADHD as a learning disability that made school and sitting still hard. While both of those things are true for many, ADHD also provides superpowers. My talk will focus on what ADHD is and how it can look different for individuals, especially girls and women. Using personal experience, I’ll explain some of the “life hacks” that I subconsciously developed as a kid that helped me achieve my big goals in adulthood. I’ll also share some of the deficiencies I still have to work to control or counteract

The main reason I want to share my story and experience is to help others with ADHD, their peers, families, and colleagues utilize the strengths this disorder provides while minimizing the negative symptoms, including:

  1. Adopting various forms of communication
  2. Allowing for a flexible work environmentt
  3. Accepting alternative approaches to tasks
  4. Encouraging employees to disclose and discover neurodivergent disorders

Why are you passionate about this topic?

This topic affects not only my everyday life, but one of my children’s as well. I consider the fact that I’ve reached this level of professional success in some ways the luck of circumstances and that I found “my thing.” I want to empower others who are still searching and those around them to understand ADHD and that it’s okay to embrace and talk openly about it. I believe schools and workplaces are still structured for the neurotypical brain, making it even more difficult for those with neurodivergent brains to succeed in that environment. The accommodations needed by those with ADHD are generally not extreme and can have a huge impact. There are also many behaviors that may be perceived as negative or disrespectful that are simply symptoms that someone is either unaware of or unable to control.

As a professional storyteller, sharing my story with others feels like the most natural way to help fight misperceptions and stigma around this topic.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?


“Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder” by Gabor Mate

“What Does Everybody Else Know That I Don’t?” by Michele Novotni

“A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD” by Sari Solden and Michelle Frank


“Struggle Care” by KC Davis

“ADHD Experts” by ADDitude

“Faster Than Normal” by Peter Shankman

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

DisruptHR isn’t just for HR professionals. People and workplace culture are huge, and all leaders can benefit from understanding ways to better support employees.

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

  1. Figure out your personal values and use them to fuel your work goals. Dig deep and ask yourself why you want to achieve your professional goals from a very personal level and why those goals matter to you as a person.
  1. Focus. It’s so easy to get pulled into the day-to-day chaos of the modern work world, but maintaining steady progress toward your long-term goals is what will take you to the next level. For me, this means carving just 15-60 minutes a week so that I’m really focused on the tasks that need to happen now to reach quarterly and yearly goals. Sometimes this means declining a Teams meeting that doesn’t have a clear agenda and having very structured check-ins with my employees to maximize what both of us get out of it.
  1. Help employees love their job. Everyone has bad days or weeks, but what gets you through it is remembering the big picture of fulfillment and support from your workplace. “Culture” has been a buzzword for years now, but spending extra time/money embracing employees’ personal and professional interests or hobbies helps everyone feel and do better in the long run.

Kelsey Lubbers

Talent Partner, Collective

From perfecting the ideal cast to crafting her next home wreath, Kelsey is an HR expert with a passion for hobbies. With her mission of helping people get the most out of their lives and careers, Kelsey currently manages payroll and benefits for the Collective and Great States teams. When she’s not working on adding a new company benefit, you can find Kelsey at home snuggling on the couch with her dogs, and sometimes her husband. Want to chat? Kelsey loves talking over a vanilla latte.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

Infertility is still a “taboo’ topic. Many women, and men, are uncomfortable talking about this common occurrence. Approximately 1 in 6 people struggle to conceive. This is a topic that should be discussed when evaluating benefits. Younger generations are looking for a comprehensive compensation and benefits package that includes things outside of traditional medical insurance coverage. Providing fertility benefits for employees can be a great retention tool for those thinking of starting a family.

It’s time to break the stigma of discussing infertility. I plan to share my journey with infertility, how my employers and coworkers support me, and how my role in benefits gives me a front-row seat to the types of support you can give to others in my shoes.

Why are you passionate about this topic?

My husband and I have been trying to start our family for nearly four years now. We’ve gone through testing and treatments, had to put treatments on hold due to cost, and suffered through the dreaded “just relax and have fun” advice. Infertility is a rollercoaster and can feel so isolating, regardless of how common it is. I’m grateful that I’ve worked for employers who have provided me with a great deal of flexibility, but sadly, some of my peers can’t say the same.

The current and upcoming workforce are looking for work/life balance. The idea of “leaving home at the door” when you get to work is quickly becoming an outdated mindset. Part of that includes talking to your employees about what’s going on in their life outside of the office. I feel that when people are going through hard things, they should be able to talk to their teams about it, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Outside of benefits, I really want women and couples to advocate for themselves. We have a close friend who pushed us to get a consultation at a reproductive clinic after about 12 months of trying. The thought of seeking help and being diagnosed with infertility was nerve-wracking, but in hindsight, it gave us clarity and a projection of what our journey would look like. Most people aren’t lucky enough to have someone close in their lives that is very knowledgeable in women’s health and reproduction so they wait much longer than they should to seek treatment. Don’t wait, start your journey!

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

I am very grateful to have a close friend who works in a fertility clinic, so most of my knowledge comes from her. The difficulty with books and podcasts is that it’s a lot of personal experiences, “I swear by this diet. I took this supplement and was pregnant the next month. These were my symptoms, and this was my diagnosis.” Unfortunately, two people can have the same symptoms but not the same diagnosis. Sticking to evidence-based resources is best, especially if you try the diets or supplements that others suggest and they don’t work for you. Speaking from experience, it’s crushing.

Fertility Out Loud ( is a great resource for anyone. They have a ton of information and can help find a clinic near you if you’re unsure where to go. They also have social media pages where they’re constantly sharing tips, stats, and people’s stories.

Everlasting Hope ( is a group local to North Dakota. Their site features information, testimonials, and even a place to donate to help those going through infertility.

According to our infertility clinic, ASRM ( is the most up- to-date on research and information and as providers, they follow their guidelines. They have information available in formats from podcasts to news articles.

Resolve ( is a national infertility organization. They have a lot of information and are huge when it comes to advocacy for patients.

Lastly, is the podcast called “As A Woman” by Natalie Crawford, MD. Not only is it free, but she talks about a variety of topics like treatment processes and different diagnoses.

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

If you’re anything like me, long presentations aren’t your favorite thing. This, on the other hand, is fun and engaging-each speaker only gets 5 minutes to talk! That means they pack a punch and you learn a lot in a short amount of time. Along with that, there’s an emcee who keeps the energy up the entire time.

My favorite part of DisruptHR is that the speakers choose subjects that are important to them, so you’ll get topics that are outside of the norm. DisruptHR is designed to “shake up” how HR thinks about standard practices. It’s an event unlike any other’s exciting, fun, eye-opening, and a great place to network!

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

Employees are there to do a job but don’t forget they’re still human. They’re your most valuable asset, treat them like it!

Veera Khalil

Integration Strategist, FMWF Chamber of Commerce

Veera Khalil, the esteemed Integration Strategist for the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, carries a life story rich in resilience, leadership, and a deep commitment to the community. Born into the Kurdish community in Iraq, her early life was marked by profound adversity. At the tender age of 12, Veera faced one of the most trying experiences of her life when her US military father was facing death. With unparalleled bravery, she, as the eldest of five siblings, spearheaded the journey to lead her family to the safety and opportunities of America.

Drawing strength from her past, Veera now channels her energy towards fostering connections, promoting cultural understanding, and integrating diverse communities within Fargo Moorhead West Fargo. Her story is not just one of survival, but of thriving against all odds and empowering those around her to do the same.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

Drawing from my personal journey of resilience, leadership, and community integration, my talk at DisruptHR is bound to be a captivating exploration of building bridges and fostering inclusion in the modern workplace. Here’s a hint:

Amidst a globalized world teeming with diverse cultures and backgrounds, HR holds the key to crafting a truly inclusive workspace. My talk will delve into the challenges and opportunities presented by multicultural workforces, focusing on how organizations can harness the strengths of diversity to forge stronger, more resilient teams. Drawing from my personal journey, I will underscore the importance of cultural sensitivity, understanding, and open dialogue in creating a harmonious workplace. Here are some of the points I will touch upon:

  1. How sharing stories can foster understanding and bridge cultural gaps.
  2. The need for HR professionals to be equipped with the skills to navigate the complexities of diverse workforces.
  3. How fostering an inclusive environment can drive innovation, creativity, and collaboration.
  4. The importance of leaders in setting the tone for a culture of acceptance and mutual respect.
  5. Techniques to build strong bonds between team members from varied backgrounds, leveraging their unique perspectives for the collective good.

My talk will be a masterclass in integrating diverse communities within an organizational framework, drawing inspiration from my own life’s journey to empower HR professionals with the tools they need to thrive in today’s diverse workplace.

Why are you passionate about this topic?

I am profoundly passionate about the integration and inclusion of diverse cultures within the workplace, largely because of the life I’ve lived. Our backgrounds and personal narratives shape us, molding our perspectives, decisions, and interactions. Embracing these diverse stories in the workplace not only enhances cultural sensitivity but also ignites innovation, creativity, and resilience. Each individual’s journey, including my own, has a wealth of lessons and insights that can significantly enrich organizational culture and strategy.

Furthermore, as someone who has personally navigated the complexities of cultural integration, I recognize the imperative role of HR in crafting inclusive workplaces. This isn’t just about fairness or ethics; it’s about leveraging diverse talents, experiences, and perspectives to drive business forward. By promoting a culture of understanding and mutual respect, we pave the way for a harmonious, productive, and innovative work environment. Every story, like mine, can become a catalyst for change, a bridge between cultures, and a testament to the limitless potential of diverse teams working in synergy. This deep-seated belief in the transformative power of inclusivity and diversity fuels my passion for the topic.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

“The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business” by Erin Meyer

“The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality In the Workplace” by Ruchika Tulshyan

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

DisruptHR is a game-changing HR event designed to challenge traditional thinking. It’s where industry disruptors share transformative insights on cultural integration and the power of diversity. Beyond the talks, it’s a prime networking hub, gathering thought leaders and passionate professionals. I strongly believe that attending DisruptHR will be an invaluable experience for anyone involved in the HR space, be it seasoned professionals or newcomers to the field.

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

Having faced unimaginable adversities in my early life and leading my family to a new land in search of better opportunities, I’ve come to value the strength that comes from embracing diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and narratives. Such experiences have honed my belief in the transformative power of inclusivity and the rich tapestry of stories that individuals bring to the table. Some of my business advice:

  • A business thrives when it welcomes and integrates a myriad of backgrounds and perspectives.
  • Understand the personal stories and journeys of your team members. When you lead with empathy, you create an environment where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.
  • Challenges are inevitable. Drawing from my personal journey, resilience is not just about weathering the storm but growing stronger because of it. Embrace adversity as an opportunity for growth.
  • Promote a culture where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. An open dialogue encourages mutual respect and understanding.
  • Engage with your local community and understand its needs. Businesses that are rooted in their community and give back tend to have a stronger reputation and a more loyal customer base.
  • The world is ever-evolving, and so is the business landscape. Encourage a culture of continuous learning and development to stay ahead of the curve.
  • Flexibility is key in a rapidly changing global market. Stay agile, be open to change, and always be prepared to pivot when necessary.
  • Integrity and ethical considerations should be at the core of your business operations. It not only builds trust but also ensures long-term sustainability. Recognizing achievements fosters motivation and boosts morale.
  • Your core values should guide every business decision.

One of my mentors told me “Business is not just about profits; it’s about creating meaningful impact, building strong relationships, and leaving a lasting legacy.”

Natalie Gruchow

CVPM, SHRN-CP, FFCP, PASC; Founder, Animal Advocate

Natalie Gruchow found a way to make a career out of her passion for animals. Her whole life, Natalie’s patient parents allowed all sorts of critters in the house, from salamanders to birds. As an only child, her dogs were equivalent to her siblings. After graduating with her bachelor’s in psychology at MSUM, she was introduced to human resources which led her to her dream job as HR Generalist at Animal Health Clinic in 2014. Six months later, she was promoted to Practice Manager, where she oversaw all business functions. Her passion and leadership gained attention with national veterinary industry leaders and she is now part of several speaker’s bureaus to share best practices with audiences of all sizes.

A favorite part of her previous role at AHC was providing grief support to pet parents saying goodbye to their furry (and nonfurry) family members. As a sufferer of anticipatory grief and a person with first-hand experience of the painful grief of pet loss, she knew she would be able to make a difference by adding Pet Loss Grief Support to her nonprofit, Petiquette. She will be one of the only Certified Pet-Loss Grief Support Specialists in our region, and is now taking new clients that are seeking support in learning how to cope with pet loss.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

66% of US households own a pet. That means up to 2/3 of your employees may experience grief from pet loss at any given time. Research has shown that for some pet owners, losing a pet is just as emotionally and physiologically disruptive as grieving the death of a human family member. The lack of societal acceptance for grieving the death of a pet may cause a range of emotional responses, such as anxiety, stress, and shame. These emotions may lead to isolation, loneliness, and even suicidal thoughts. Unresolved grief costs businesses nearly $100 billion per year due to absenteeism, presenteeism, mistakes, and employee attrition. I will talk about why introducing a pet bereavement policy in your business is a great addition to your benefits package and employee wellness initiatives.

Why are you passionate about this topic?

To some people, taking care of their pets is their lifeline. It could be the reason they stay sober, the reason they get out of bed in the morning to go to work to give their pet a better life. Their pets are their only constant that provides unconditional love. Everything reminds us of them when they’re gone. The nose-print window art in the car and by the front door. Driving by the park and daydreaming about walking together. Old toys were found under the couch. Without being able to effectively cope with the deep emotions, the physical and emotional anguish is debilitating. Pets are family and it’s time we support each other through their loss by eliminating disenfranchised grief.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

“Honoring the Journey: A Guided Path Through Pet Loss” by KaLee R. Pasek, DVM

This is a must-read for anyone going through pet loss. This book captures the reader with powerful illustrations and raw emotions. This guidebook assists with the healing process one must face when a pet dies. The book is unique in its symbolism and style offering affirmations to replace the pain that one feels while still honoring the path of grief and healing.

“Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss: Personal and Professional Insights on the Animal Lover’s Unique Grieving Process” by Sid Korpi

This book ends the misperception that we must suffer in solitary confinement and thus prolong, or stay permanently stuck in our grief. The pain of losing a beloved animal companion is unlike any other. The reader is empowered to not be stuck in disenfranchised grief by introducing coping methods. The book melds the author’s personal perspectives and stories to help us understand that death is part of the cycle of life, and how to embrace it.

“The Grieving Brain” by MaryFrances O’Connor, PhD

This gives us a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. The author is a renowned grief expert and neuroscientist and shares groundbreaking discoveries about what happens in our brains when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning

Podcast: “When Your Fur Person Dies” by Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW

This podcast talks about why pet loss is so significant and why it’s important to talk about it as well as how to talk about it. Jill talks about things we can do when we’re in the grief process, or anticipating death. She explains how to handle when others don’t recognize the significance of the loss; the symptoms of grief; how to talk with kids about death; how to prepare them, and involve them.

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

DisruptHR is meant to exchange information and bold ideas with changemakers worldwide! We are lucky to have this available in Fargo. You don’t have to be in the human resource field to benefit from this energetic, informative, and empowering event!

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

When I was going through some major life changes in my “previous life,” an anonymous coworker put a fortune cookie message on my keyboard that said, “Action is worry’s worst enemy.” I still have it to this day, and I don’t know who I should thank because this power changed my life. No matter what you’re going through, whether it is asking for a raise or trouble with something deeper, worrying about a problem does not get you one step closer to the solution. Take risks and be the change. Stay true to your core values and let them guide your decisions.

Donna Smith

President of Property of Management, Enclave

Donna Smith is the President of Property Management at Enclave, a unified real estate investment firm founded in 2011. A North Dakota State University graduate with more than 15 years of property management experience, she joined Enclave in 2016.

Since starting at Enclave, Donna has led with a growth mindset, managing a portfolio that has quadrupled in size with over 5,000 multifamily units and 1 million+ square feet of commercial space. With her data-driven and transparent approach, Donna leads a high-performing unified team of over 100 property management employees. As President of Property Management, she oversees Enclave’s portfolio of multifamily, mixed-use, commercial, and industrial investment properties, focusing on efficient operations, exceptional tenant experience, and total results for partners.

Recognized as a Top 25 Woman in Business, Donna has shared her industry and professional experience, speaking at local, regional, and national professional events. In 2022, she presented at the National Apartment Association convention about practical solutions for the industry’s top challenges.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

My presentation, “Other Duties As Assigned: Build a Team of Adaptable Change Champions,” revolves around onboarding your team to prioritize adaptability through transparent communication of company goals. It empowers team members to understand the why of the organization, which fosters a culture where people are more comfortable with change that impacts their jobs as business needs evolve.

Why are you passionate about this topic?

I believe a well-informed team will thrive in the face of evolving job duties and roles due to company growth, changing technology, or varying economic climates. I am fortunate that two of Enclave’s core values focus on being empowered and promoting innovation. Employees, now more than ever, want to understand the big picture. By transparently talking about business goals and what you are trying to accomplish, it provides better buy-in to be adaptable as business needs evolve.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

1: “The New One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.

2: “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility” by Patty McCord.

3: “Lead and Disrupt” by Charles A O’Reilly III and Michael L Tushman.

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

DisruptHR is an intentional time for professionals to think differently and be open to new ideas. I like that the presentations are five minutes; it’s not an event for you to become a subject matter expert, it’s about inciting curiosity for you to take it to the next level.

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

Embrace innovation and empower your team with information to understand the big picture and their role in achieving company success. Combining an innovative mindset with an empowered team unlocks creative problem-solving and initiative to propel the business forward.

Jodi Jordheim

Founder. Styled with Strength

Jodi Jordheim is a wife, mother, sister, friend, and fierce advocate for building safe communities for all. Originally from Grand Forks, ND, Jodi climbed the corporate retail ladder for decades working for major brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Target Corporation, leading large-scale and high-level teams.

In 2022, Jodi made a pivotal life change to step away from stability and success and was determined to step into a cause she felt continued to be overlooked. She founded Styled with Strength, a collaborative community and outreach- rooted in helping women in business succeed and accelerate while providing opportunities for them to serve and support women healing from abuse.

Styled with Strength provides care coordination, peer support, and recovery services to women in the region as the only female provider in North Dakota. Jodi believes that all deserve the right to feel safe at home and work, with the freedom to achieve safety regardless of the circumstances.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

“Creating She’s Safe Here Cultures: The responsibility and advocacy needed by HR and all leaders within an organization to ‘think like a survivor’ when it comes to Domestic Violence.”

Acknowledging that those experiencing abuse may demonstrate alarming employee performance issues and it’s our responsibility to create safe spaces for them to disclose and seek safety. The role that financial manipulation plays in domestic violence, how to streamline and create opportunities for safety in the workplace, and overcoming bystander fear.

Why are you passionate about this topic?

I was the last person anyone that knew me would have thought could be a victim of domestic violence. I was outgoing and confident. I was a high performer in a thriving career and was in a relationship in my early 20s that could have potentially de-railed my entire life, as it did for a season. As I approached the 10-year anniversary of the conclusion of that relationship and the freedom and healing I had worked through in those years, it became evident to me why this topic is so hidden in our communities—the shame we have, even when we survive something so traumatizing, we are still believed that the root was our fault.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

Book: “No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Could Kill Us” by Rachel Louise Snyder


“Root For Each Other – A Branches Podcast”

“She is Your Neighbour”

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

I was a first-year attendee last year and was invited by a friend but knew very little about the event or what I was stepping into. I was blown away by the intentionality, the range of topics, and the genuine investment that presenters had in their work and specific topic. Topics were so wide-ranging and carefully curated by event organizers that I felt like I had just attended a multi-day conference. We have an incredible community with thoughtful and inclusive organizers that we are lucky to have in Fargo!

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

It always starts and ends with your people, creating a culture of honor and alignment that flows from a leader’s ability to create safe spaces. Safe means honesty, process improvement, and an environment for growth at every level within the organization.

Servant leadership and outreach care are so aligned that being better in our communities often allows us to lead our teams and businesses more effectively.

Sandi Piatz

Chief MarketOfficer, Advantage Payment Services

Growing up, the middle of five girls on a Dairy Farm, “work” has been essential since Sandi could walk and carry a small milk bucket pail. Sandi has always found joy in a good day’s “work,” especially when done alongside others.

Post-university, Sandi landed in the technology industry at a startup software company. Her career evolved from there to Microsoft where she recruited partners, then was a Global Program Manager. In 2007, Sandi joined Eide Bailly’s Technology Consulting practice where she served in multiple roles-ultimately, ultimately achieving Principal (Partner) at Eide Bailly. In 2016, Sandi returned to Microsoft as the Site Leader for Microsoft’s Fargo Campus. Most recently, Sandi joined APS, a regulatory technology software company for the payments, fintech, and banking industry where Sandi is the Chief Market Officer. In addition, Sandi serves on the board of directors for Ascensus Trust, FMWF Chamber, Oxbow Country Club, and the Board of Trustees for the University of Jamestown. Sandi has an undergraduate degree in education, a master’s in business administration, and a master’s in leadership.

From the farm to the tech company to the board room, what Sandi has always loved about “work” is creative problem solving, collaborating with others, developing and implementing innovative solutions, being challenged to learn something new, and of course… celebrating milestones together.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

Workism has been defined as the belief that work is not only necessary for economic production but it’s also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose. When work becomes your identity, it can have a long-term impact on yourself and where you work. In this talk, I will define workism, the impact it has on us as individuals, its impact on organizations, how to know if you are enmeshed with your work, how to avoid your job becoming your identity, and how organizations can support their employees in creating or maintaining their unique authentic identities.

Why are you passionate about this topic?

I have always been very driven and passionate about my “work.” As my career progressed, the line between work and my personal identity became blurred. I saw this similarity across many of my team members as well. I needed to intentionally take a step back and understand who I was outside of my “work.” In my research, I learned about the concept of workism and how we can stay authentic to our true selves while keeping joy in our everyday work.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?


“If Aristotle Ran General Motors” by Tom Morris


“The Gray Area: Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle” with Sean Illing

“This is Working” with Daniel Roth

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

DisruptHR is an innovative platform for new ideas and current challenges that every organization and industry is struggling with or may not realize they are dealing with. If you are looking to be inspired and hear new ideas, DisruptHR is like lightning bugs igniting across a field of open minds that are waiting to be inspired and create change at their organization for a better future.

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

Try new ideas and new initiatives. Be outside in focused (listen to your customers and the industry). Be curious. Always be learning. Stay authentic to your true self.

Rob Ashe

Business Applications Sales Origination Lead, Avanade

Rob Ashe is just your average small-town bookish nerd turned pro guitarist, tech executive, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor. In his 10+ years at Microsoft, Rob held numerous enterprise software sales roles and earned 2x “Key Talent” awards, as well as a selection for the Next Step Leadership Development program. For three years, he served as Sr. Commercial Manager, where he led a team of contract and licensing experts to manage commercial sales operations for a $2B business division. In his current role at Avanade, he leads Business Applications Sales growth for the Midwest where he advises C-Level executives on industry trends, technology innovations, and digital transformation initiatives. Rob is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under Professor George Andersch and has been an instructor at Fargo Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the past seven years.

Rob is known as an industry thought leader with national-level impact through his efforts to educate and entertain with unique social content and speaking engagements. His popular Linkedin series, “Rob’s Reads”, is widely considered the greatest book review of all time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Minnesota State University Moorhead, completed the Credential of Readiness program from Harvard Business School Online, and earned his MBA from Boise State University. Rob was also honored to be selected as one of Prairie Business Magazine’s “40 Under 40” in 2023. He lives in Fargo, ND with his wife of 10 years, Nicole, their adorable 3-month-old son, Roger, and their two dogs, Doc and Cece, and grumpy old cat, Doyle.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

Have you ever heard the acronym CLM? It stands for ‘career limiting move’ and usually refers to irreversible decisions, gaffes, and overall bad moves that impact your professional brand negatively. I heard plenty of stories early in my career about legendary CLM’s at holiday parties, all-hands events, and conferences. But what if some of those CLM’s were the best decisions towards designing a lifestyle that reflects your authentic self, despite what everyone else thinks about it?

I’ll share some of the funny stories and lessons I’ve learned in carving out my own unlikely journey.

Why are you passionate about this topic?

I get questions frequently about how I’ve navigated my career with a ‘useless’ philosophy degree, a couple of large neck tattoos, juggling multiple interests with playing in bands and pursuing competitive martial arts. I think my story can provide some entertainment and inspiration for just about anyone out there trying to figure this life out.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

This is one of my favorite questions to be asked! I’m the kind of person that keeps a spreadsheet of books and podcasts and here are some of my favorites that I recommend to people.


“Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink

This is the best leadership book and my #1 recommended book for anyone wanting to improve their life, career, and relationships.

“The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene

I refer to this book almost weekly to advise peers, influence for impact, and bring a mischievous smile to my face regarding current affairs.

“The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss

This book completely changed my approach to work and time management.


Naval Ravikant on “The Joe Rogan Experience”

This is one of the most interesting and impactful podcasts ever. Naval has an incredible perspective on how to view investing, skill development, and lifestyle design.

Jocko Willink on “Tim Ferriss”

This podcast introduced me to Jocko, as one of his first public interviews if I recall correctly, highlighting stories from his military career and lessons in leadership.

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

This is a unique format to present ideas and expose attendees to diverse perspectives from individuals making an impact in our community. I’m personally excited to attend to meet professionals across the region and learn from them!

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

Be certain you know what your values and goals are before you fill up your calendar. Know what an hour is worth to you and invest those hours appropriately into your goals and priorities. If you feel like you can’t relate to others, just remember that scarce things are considered valuable if you can find the right market.

Gulsah Mattson

Health & Benefits Practice Leader, Mercer Benefits LLC

Gulsah is a Sr. Principal and Business Leader for Mercer Health & Benefits. Gulsah joined Mercer in 2021 and has over 17 years of health care and group benefits experience, both in consulting and as an insurance carrier. Gulsah is committed to continuing to grow the operation and make clients’ businesses better.

In her role, Gulsah is responsible for leading, managing, and overseeing employee health and benefits business in the local office for business retention and growth. She partners with lead consultants to help employers assess their current benefit offerings and develops programs to match long-term-strategic benefit goals with overall business strategy, including developing strategies to help clients manage benefits competitiveness and cost trends with an emphasis on compliance, communications, administrative streamlining, and employee engagement.

Prior to joining Mercer, Gulsah worked on the carrier side and had multiple responsibilities during her long tenure including product strategy management, national account implementations and service delivery, senior leadership in health business operations and overall customer experience and member journey.

Gulsah is dedicated to collaborating with HR leaders to optimize benefit offerings and drive cost containment strategies, passionate about enhancing well-being while delivering measurable results for organizations.

Gulsah is also engaged in the community through her role as a Women’s Health Leadership TRUST, TCSHRM, MNSHRM and HREF member and is actively involved in various women leadership, women entrepreneur, and women business owner groups.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Why are you passionate about this topic?

As an immigrant in the United States, I am passionate about supporting DEI initiatives in our communities and employer groups. It’s easy to see the differences in people, but we also have many similarities to embrace.

What books or podcasts would you recommend for people looking to understand your topic a little bit more?

“The Loudest Duck” by Lisa Liswood

“Unconscious Bias” by Mark Murphy

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

People shouldn’t be afraid of disruption if they want to question status-quo, be a change agent, and transform our organizations and communities. DisruptHR is a perfect start for pushing the envelope while engaging with other leaders in the industry, networking with peers, and hearing about thought leadership from different points of view and lenses.

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

Follow 80/20: It’s easy to get sucked into a whirlwind at work, in life, etc. It’s okay to pause to think about the 20% that we will get off of the treadmill to make progress. There will be always humming in the background, are we tuning it down as leaders to shape the future of work decisions?

Trina A. Michels

Senior Manager, Eide Bailly, LLP

Efficiency has been Trina’s pursuit since her upbringing in rural North Dakota. This skill has helped her as a dedicated working mother of two, harmonizing drop-offs, pick-ups, and a thriving career. Over the last decade, Trina has immersed herself in technology consulting, where she’s guided companies towards streamlined success.

Beneath her practical approach to business, a profound belief resides in Trina’s heart: Every human desires the satisfaction of meaningful work. Trina advocates for companies to evolve, all while honoring that behind every process is a human.

Balancing poignancy with humor, Trina’s storytelling captivates audiences and fuels their drive for positive change within their own circle of influence. She strongly encourages companies to embrace digital transformation while keeping a compassionate focus on the human side of progress.

Can you give us a hint about what you will be speaking on at DisruptHR?

In today’s business climate, the drive to accomplish more with less is unceasing. Companies hunt tirelessly for the next transformative tool.

Automated recruiting, Al customer service bots, and automated emails are fueled by the quest for predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to conjure flawless answers. However, within this whirlwind journey toward technological excellence, humanity is often overshadowed.

Beneath the algorithms and flowing data, it’s a human spirit yearning for belonging, meaning, and direction. As we embark on digital transformation, let us not lose sight of the heart of progress- the essence of the human being.

Why are you passionate about this topic?

My passion for this subject stems from a powerful observation: I’ve seen people I care about go from being satisfied with their jobs to feeling discontent, all because of changes in technology within their workplace. Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed firsthand how poorly implemented technology can hinder people’s abilities. At the same time, I’ve also seen how successful digital transformations can give people the gift of more quality time with their families, freeing them from the burden of manual business processes.

In a world where we spend so much of our lives working, it’s clear that work stress isn’t something we can simply turn on and off. It’s an integral part of who we are, and it should ideally be confined to the workplace. Thoughtful digital transformation offers a greater chance to improve people’s lives.

Why should people consider attending DisruptHR?

There’s nothing more exhilarating than being in a room with others who share a passion for growth and understand the importance of our most valuable global resource: humanity. Real-life, face-to-face connections are essential.

What general business advice do you have for readers out there?

The world is a lot smaller than you think – be nice to everyone. – I’ve been surprised working all across the country with how connected the world is. It’s important to remember that every interaction holds the potential to create lasting connections and opportunities. Embracing kindness and respect sets the stage for unexpected collaborations and positive outcomes.

Well-implemented technology enhances employee retention – Thoughtfully integrating technology into your processes can create a more satisfying work environment, empowering employees to focus on meaningful tasks and fostering engagement. By using technology to streamline administrative tasks and nurture workplace culture, you contribute to improved employee retention.

Align technology and people strategy for success – A cohesive technology strategy, aligned with your people strategy is a secret sauce. Integrating technology seamlessly into your approach creates a thriving ecosystem for growth.

Start with outcomes while considering comprehensive impact – While aiming for specific outcomes, remember that every change resonates throughout the organization. By anticipating challenges, considering broader effects, and taking a holistic approach, you pave the way for smoother transitions and a more resilient business strategy.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.