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Denise Jacobs

Founder, CEO, and Chief Creativity Evangelist at The Creative Dose

Denise Jacobs is a Speaker + Author + Creativity Evangelist who speaks at conferences and consults with companies worldwide. As the Founder + CEO of The Creative Dose, keynote speaker, and trainer, she helps individuals in companies unleash their creativity through banishing their inner critic and hacking their creative brains. Denise’s keynotes and trainings give A Creative Dose™ – an injection of inspiration and immediately applicable tools to help people do their best work. Through working with Denise, people become engaged contributors, synergistic collaborators, and authentic leaders. Denise is the author of Banish Your Inner Critic, the premier handbook on silencing fears to unleash creativity. A web and tech industry veteran, Denise is also the author of The CSS Detective Guide and co-author of the Smashing Book #3 1/3 and Interact with Web Standards. She is also the founder of Rawk The Weband the Head Instigator of The Creativity (R)Evolution.

Keynote: Swipe Left: Banish Your Inner Critic to Unleash Creativity

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Jeff Gibbard

Partner and Chief Social Strategist at I'm From The Future

Since 2008, Jeff Gibbard has been one of the most outspoken voices on the topic of social business. As a popular keynote speaker, Jeff is known for his ability to simplify complex topics while keeping things lively, engaging, and fun.

Jeff is also a prolific blogger, podcaster, and video producer with Google results that are sure to impress. He’s been populating the web with insights on a range of topics that include social business, social media, content marketing, social selling, and entrepreneurialism.

As founder and chief strategist of True Voice Media, an agency headquartered in Philadelphia, Jeff designs custom social business strategies to help clients rethink their businesses from the inside-out to grow revenues and decrease costs.

Jeff is a graduate of Temple University, where he majored in film but also studied a wide variety of creative arts, including photography, graphic design, and web design. Jeff later earned his MBA from Drexel University, LeBow College of Business.

Learn more about Jeff Gibbard at jeffgibbard.com, connect with him on Twitter: @JGibbard, and definitely follow his wacky antics on Snapchat: jeffgibbard

Pre-Conference Workshop: Content Marketing and Social Ads Mastery: What to Make, Where to Put It, and How to Measure It

Keynote: Social Media MBA: Everything You Need to Master Social Media for Business

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Maria Naggaga

Senior Program Manager at Microsoft

Maria Naggaga is a developer and an artist. She is a senior program manager on the Visual Studio and .NET team where she explores ways to engage and teach new developers about .NET OSS.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Razor Pages

Keynote: It Starts With a Search

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Ashley McQuaid


Ashley is a Senior IA/UX designer at iFactory, and leads information architecture, interaction design, and user researching and testing for clients. She collaborates directly with sales, strategic research, and content strategy teams to advocate for users at all stages of the design process. The best part of her job is digging into complex problems and discovering new ways to adapt her knowledge for each client; she loves getting to know each client individually, creating unique solutions for institutions that make an incredible impact on their communities.

Breakout Session: We Do What? A Higher Ed Customer Experience Audit

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Bradley Woodruff

The Career Center at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Bradley Woodruff is the assistant director of information and technology for The Career Center at University of Illinois. Coming from a background in library science and information management, he is currently pursuing a PhD in informatics with a focus on data analytics and visualization. His research involves using predictive analytics to determine student outcomes.

Breakout Session: We Used Reddit as a Way to Reach More Students: Ask Us Anything!

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Brian Gervais

Aten Design Group

Long ago Brian discovered he could add CSS to his band's Myspace music page. Next thing he knew, he was a front-end web developer. He is proud to be working for Aten Design doing work for clients who do meaningful things for the world. In his spare time he fashions himself as a woodworker, bass guitarist, and dad.

Breakout Session: Creating Powerful and Flexible Authoring Tools with Drupal

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Brian Walters


Working with the web professionally for 9 years. Working at Pixo for over three years. A front-end developer who is expanding to full stack. Love the Web. JavaScript, CSS, and HTML are my bread and butter.

Breakout Session: Modern CSS

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Bryan Jonker

University of Illinois

Bryan has been working at the University of Illinois for a few years, helping set up the new College of Education website. He has been developing in C#/.NET for a while now, but he's done stints in Java, VB, classic ASP, and other languages. He likes usable websites, elegant code, and cats.

Breakout Session: Elasticsearch in Action

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Bryana Holcomb

The Art of Definition

Bryana is a life coach and author dedicated to empowering, women. Through coaching and motivational speaking, she offers clarity and happiness to her clients. She's that extra set of ears you need when you just want to talk it out, connected to the certified coach you need to WORK it out. She's basically your bestie on steroids. Her aim is to inspire YOU to be the best version of yourself! She gets the job done through dedicated coaching sessions, constant support, and a motivated mindset. Life is a canvas allowing the artists to create it how they envision. Now's the time to take charge of your canvas and tools and explore The Art of Definition! Mission: To Motivate, Inspire, and EmpowHER

Breakout Session: The Social Media Checklist

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Caitlin McCoy

University of Illinois

Caitlin is the marketing and communications coordinator for Materials Science and Engineering and the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois.

Caitlin received her bachelor's in journalism from Illinois in 2009 and since has written for museums, ad agencies, ag technology, magazines, and more, all while growing their social media presence. She is also a professional photographer.

She started an Instagram for her departments upon arriving and is excited to watch them flourish.

Breakout Session: Intentionally Instagramming

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Chris Lorenzo


Chris has worked at Comcast for 10 years - currently as a senior principal engineer. He enjoys building and motivating teams, and ramping up new projects using the latest patterns and web primitives. Besides coding in JavaScript, he loves spending time with his wife and two children and helping out in the community. Chris is also heavily involved with local colleges and schools to mentor the next generation.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Introduction to Web Components and Polymer

Breakout Session: Ensuring Design Standards with Web Components

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Cory Rylan

Crylan Software

Cory is a full-time front end web developer and a Google Developer Expert for Angular/Web Technologies. He works full time building responsive web applications and progressive web apps. When not building web apps he is busy teaching Angular and other web technologies in workshops and conferences. He loves the web and is optimistic about the places it can take us.

Breakout Session: Progressive Web Apps with Angular

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Danielle Mitchell

Average Black Girl

Danielle Mitchell, the creator of Average Black Girl, utilizes her background in marketing to promote black businesses and products. The mission is to galvanize her audience to buy black and invest in black entrepreneurship. She teaches classes ranging from strategy to website development. Unlike many platforms, she gets technical and helps the DIY entrepreneur start making money and creating partnerships on every level of her business. Danielle has previous experience with Coca Cola and L'Oreal USA.

Breakout Session: The Social Media Checklist

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David Needham


David Needham is the agency and community training manager at Pantheon where he creates training curriculum and leads workshops to teach people how to build lightning-fast websites. He also serves on the board of directors of Enjoy Creativity, where he helps churches and ministries put their best foot forward with digital marketing and creating beautiful websites. David has been a public speaker since 2008, and an entrepreneur since 2000. David has about 10 years experience in the Drupal community and nearly as much in WordPress. David is based in Champaign, Illinois. He enjoys photography and playing board games with his wife and two kids.

Breakout Session: Peak Productivity and Continuous Improvement

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Dena Strong

Technology Services at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

With an MLIS from the School of Information Sciences and over 20 years of experience, Dena has worked with a wide range of web design, organization, content, and interaction topics. Some of her (many) areas of interest include cross-campus collaboration, information organization, interaction design, usability and accessibility, author and editor interface design, and information lifecycles. As a service liaison for Application Services and an avid collaborator with the Research Data Service at the library, Tech Services Research IT, and the Web Hosting Power Plant, as well as the IT Pro Forum, Caffeine Break, and Software Carpentry teams, if Dena doesn't know the answer to a question, she'll probably know who you should ask.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Accessible Beginning-to-End: Integrating Accessibility Into Your Team's Workflow

Breakout Session: Designing for Accessibility: Changing Users' Mental Models

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Emily Freeman


Emily Freeman grew up in the "swamp" as Trump lovingly refers to it. After many years of ghost writing, Emily had a slightly-older-than-quarterlife crisis and made the bold (insane?!) choice to switch careers into software engineering.

With no experience at all, she threw her six-month-old daughter in the carseat and drove across the country to attend the Turing School of Software and Design in Denver where she learned Rails. After falling in love with Denver, a city as vibrant as she is, Emily decided to stay and currently works as a developer advocate at Kickbox. In her free time, she's a competitive powerlifter.

Breakout Session: Scaling Sparta: Military Lessons for Growing a Dev Team

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Emma Andruczyk

University of Illinois

Emma has been a professional in the field of higher education and student affairs for six years, with experience in residence life/housing, student programming and involvement, and career services. Currently, with The Career Center, she provides career exploration and development advising for students, and works closely with faculty and advisors to bring career development presentations/workshop into the classroom. In an average school year, she holds over 80 classroom presentations/events and provides individual career advising for over 500 students.

Breakout Session: We Used Reddit as a Way to Reach More Students: Ask Us Anything!

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George DeMet

Palantir.net, Inc.

George DeMet is the founder and co-owner of Chicago-based Web design, development, and strategy firm Palantir.net. For over two decades he's helped high-profile corporate, educational, cultural, and nonprofit clients develop effective online strategies.

George is currently the chair of the Drupal Community Working Group, whose mission is to maintain a friendly and welcoming community for Drupal, one of the world's largest open source projects. In this role, he has dealt with numerous issues related to open source contributor frustration and burnout. He has also helped deal with incidents of harassment and abuse. George has also helped write codes of conduct for open source community events, including DrupalCon, and has provided consultation and guidance to organizations and groups who are looking to adopt codes of conduct for themselves.

Breakout Session: Supporting Inclusive and Sustainable Open Source Communities

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Holly Rushakoff

University of Illinois

Holly Rushakoff has worked in communications and marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 2005, where she has been managing social media accounts since 2009. She has been presenting on social media topics since 2012. Holly also founded the annual University of Illinois Social Media Conference in 2014, which ran for three years until it merged with the University of Illinois Web Conference in 2017. Now she organizes informal social media coffee chats on campus throughout the year.

Breakout Session: Facebook Ads vs. Google AdWords

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Jemma Ku

University of Illinois

JaEun Jemma Ku's professional career spans more than two decades in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) research and web development. In particular, she is a passionate advocate for designs that deliver accessible user experience with ICT. She holds a PhD in public administration, an MS in public policy, and a second MS in information science. She is also a certified project management professional and trusted tester by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Accessible Systems and Technology. As a member of the W3C Accessible Rich Internet Application (ARIA) Authoring Practices Group and W3C WCAG Silver Taskforce, she contributes to improve web accessibility and usability.

Breakout Session: Designing for Accessibility: Changing Users' Mental Models

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Jane Lockhart

Jane Lockhart Designs

After working for 10 years as a technical writer and UX designer for large corporations, Jane left her job at an agency to open her own studio, Jane Lockhart Designs. She works with companies large and small to create real relationships with their users—whether for products, websites, or mobile applications—by working to discover how the user actually incorporates the products into their daily lives. She then works to use the knowledge gathered about their users to create tailor-made content strategies and web/app designs. Jane earned an MS in information architecture and knowledge management from Kent State University, and has worked over the last 10 years with Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Bissell, and other household brands. She is a member of the Society for Technical Communication as well as the Interaction Design Foundation.

Breakout Session: Empathy and The User Experience: Creating Brand Loyalty by Being Real

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Jeff Strauss

Arana Software

Jeff Strauss is both a software consultant and an attorney. Because of his unique experiences that combine technology and law, he is equally comfortable presenting to a room full of "geeks" or donning a suit to meet with corporate executives. He maintains a passion for solving problems with inspired solutions, improving life through technology.

A dedicated member of the developer community, Jeff travels internationally to speak on both technical and business-oriented topics. He is co-owner of Arana Software and a Microsoft MVP, was a lead organizer of Dev Up Conference for seven years, and now enjoys serving on the board of directors for the Kansas City Developer Conference.

Breakout Session: The Impact of Leveraging Open Source

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Jenny Hutchinson

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Jenny has more than 15 years of experience in website design, development, content creation, and governance. At Stanford Graduate School of Business, Jenny is responsible for the overall governance, maintenance, and enhancement of the school's public website. In this capacity, she leads, trains, and supports web authors in their efforts to produce engaging content for the website; leads projects to enhance website functionality; and manages sitewide SEO and analytics efforts. She's passionate about creating processes that encourage collaboration, increase transparency, and improve efficiency in creating website content that delights audiences.

Breakout Session: How to Build Process for Successful Content and Website Management

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Jim Crone

Bradley University

Jim Crone has been a member of Bradley University's professional staff since 2002 and is also a proud alumnus, with a BS in communication. He currently serves as the executive director of digital marketing and communications within the University of Illinois' Marketing and Publications division, where he manages all aspects of the University's digital marketing strategy. This includes the University's website, social media presence, online advertising, digital content creation, and video production. Jim's responsibilities touch all constituents of the institution including, but not limited to, prospective and current students, faculty and staff, alumni, and friends of the institution. In addition, he serves as the University's Electronic Information Technology (EIT) accessibility coordinator where he oversees the institution's compliance with web and digital accessibility guidelines.

Breakout Session: To Centralize or Not to Centralize: That Is The Question

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Joe Crespo

Aten Design Group

A former developer turned project manager, Joe has played a role in nearly every part of web development: from ideation to implementation, and the all-important organization of project and product management.

Breakout Session: SOLO: An Agile Software Development Case Study

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John Riviello


John Riviello created his first hypertext document on the Internet in 1996 and has been obsessed with building for the web ever since. He spends his days as Distinguished Engineer and Lead Frontend Developer at Comcast, where he works on the XFINITY customer websites and web applications. He loves discovering and building new tools that make web development more enjoyable and sharing that knowledge with everyone around him through speaking at conferences and facilitating workshops. He is also the author of the Lynda.com course "CSS to Sass: Converting an Existing Site." In his free time, he prefers surfing waves over surfing the internet.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Introduction to Web Components and Polymer

Breakout Session: Ensuring Design Standards with Web Components

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Jonathan Barronville

1791 Labs

Jonathan Barronville is a generalist and polyglot software engineer who’s very passionate about software development and research, and building software that can have a meaningful impact on the world and people’s lives. Jonathan also enjoys designing UIs, drawing/sketching (which he’s been doing since he was a toddler), and making digital illustrations. He looks forward to a future with a truly decentralized web, safer internet communities, and smarter software.

Breakout Session: Functional Reactive Components

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Karl Hughes

The Graide Network

Karl Hughes has been building software and teams for education technology startups in Chicago for the past several years. He is currently the CTO at The Graide Network where he oversees architecture, testing, and product planning.

Breakout Session: Testing Layers in a Distributed Architecture

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Keith Hays

University of Illinois

Keith Hays is a lead information design specialist with Technology Services at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He has been an IT accessibility evangelist since coming to the university seven years ago, when he learned about Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) and wrote the accessible ARIA widget examples for the OpenAjax Alliance accessibility website (oaa-accessibility.org). Keith conducts training for the university on a variety of topics in IT Accessibility, and he is available for consulting. Keith is an instructor in the Information Accessibility Design and Policy (IADP) program, offered by the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois. Keith brings to the table a truly eclectic skillset, with twenty years of professional software development and web design experience.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Accessible Beginning-to-End: Integrating Accessibility Into Your Team's Workflow

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Lindsey Gates-Markel


Lindsey Gates-Markel is the content strategist at Pixo. She played Hamlet once. No big deal.

Breakout Session: Creating Within Constraints: What Content Strategy Can Borrow From The Arts

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Marcus Finley

FIN Digital

CEO and Founder of FIN Digital, a full service digital application and innovation development firm, Marcus graduated from Florida State University where he majored in mechanical engineering and public administration. Marcus is a certified scrum master with expert knowledge of a number programming languages, user experience design and web/mobile application development. Marcus has managed over $3 million dollars of contracted technology development and strategy projects, with an average project budget of $200,000. In his professional roles he has provided technology strategies and user experiences to achieve client's goals. He has helped developed UX practices and led a number of UX workshops with clients and guided companies with emerging needs of validating applications. He co-founded a Meetup called Color of Tech to bring together a diverse group of technology professionals to network and thrive.

Breakout Session: How Unconscious Bias Effects Product Development and User Experience Design

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Matt Baker


Matt Baker has been working in software for over 12 years. Specializing in .Net and NodeJS stacks, he loves finding simple solutions to complex problems. A strong believer in constantly improving, he takes pride in his code bases and the value they deliver to his customers. As a coder, trainer, speaker and open source contributor, he enjoys taking on new challenges and remains amazed at the power of properly implemented technology. Matt has a wide array of experience in multiple industries, such as online learning, video game development, insurance, and government contracting. Currently working as a software craftsman at Pluralsight, he is helping people learn through an online training platform. When not tinkering on his computer, he enjoys live music, the Wasatch mountains, and a good book.

Breakout Session: Perfecting Dependency Injection

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Maya Harris

Classic. City. Chic.

Maya J. Harris is a 26-year-old Chicago native. Maya grew up on the South Side and attended Morgan Park High School and continued her education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she received her bachelor's degree in communication. Maya is currently a Route Logistics Analyst for PepsiCo and has been employed with the company for almost two years. Outside of work, Maya is a full time mom to her two year old daughter and a style blogger. Maya co-founded the blog Classic. City. Chic. which focuses on professional style for millennial women and has grown a substantial audience since it's start in 2014. Maya is passionate about her family, creating, writing and reaching out to serve her community and the next generation of leaders.

Breakout Session: The Social Media Checklist

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Nicholas Hoyt

Disability Resources and Educational Services at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Nicholas Hoyt is a software developer and interaction designer with Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) at the University of Illinois and has served in this capacity for the past nine years. He led the software development, user interface design, and interaction design of the Functional Accessibility Evaluator (FAE) 1.0 and 1.1. He is currently responsible for the software development and interaction design of AInspector Sidebar for Firefox. In addition to these responsibilities, he led the development of a conceptual model for web accessibility evaluation used as the basis for AInspector Sidebar, AInspector for Firebug and FAE 2.0. He has made significant contributions to the user interface design of FAE 2.0 and the design of the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for the OpenAjax Evaluation Library and other software tools developed by the DRES Accessibility IT Group.

Breakout Session: Designing for Accessibility: Changing Users' Mental Models

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Pete Gaioni


Pete works as a strategist and in Account Services. With 15 years of experience in both web and traditional marketing, he has worked within a variety of vertical markets to include higher education, not-for-profit, healthcare, and consumer electronics. He loves his job and gets an immense satisfaction out of talking to his clients, hearing what keeps them up at night, discovering how their organizations work, and passing along a good overview of mission critical priorities to his team. His favorite part of his job is talking to users, interviews, focus groups, surveys, and figuring out how to balance their needs with organizational priorities.

Breakout Session: We Do What? A Higher Ed Customer Experience Audit

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R. Scott Wennerdahl

College of Business at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

R. Scott Wennerdahl earned his BA in elementary education (1988) and MA in art education (1996) from the University of Illinois. He created the first online courses at Parkland College (1996) and Joliet Junior College (1998). He has served as a head teacher (1988-90) and assistant teacher (1993-1996) within a preschool classroom as well as master teacher of the Pre-K Art Room in Illinois' Saturday School Program (1990-1995).

Working at Illinois since 2001, he is currently an eLearning specialist for the College of Business. He designs and manages undergraduate online courses, as well as hybrid, blended, and flipped courses. He coordinates any college project, excluding the iMBA, which has a need for the inclusion of eLearning.

Recent projects include the creation of an online academic integrity module, the addition of Digital Badging to courses and college professional development activities, and heading up the integration of TurnItIn into Illinois Compass.

Breakout Session: Digital Badges in Courses and Professional Development

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Rakia Finley

FIN Digital

Rakia is the innovation director if FIN Digital. Her work includes consulting on the use of software systems to achieve corporate mission, information technology planning, and the strategic use of technology. She specializes in mastering technology and web systems to increase development among organizations. Her strength is in planning for specific technology projects that involve complex information systems. With over 10 years of experience in the information technology industry, she has become an industry expert on organizational issues associated with program creation and growth. She is active in the technology-for-enhancement movement and is frequently invited to speak at conferences across the country, primarily focusing on business strategy, development and technology.

Breakout Session: How Unconscious Bias Effects Product Development and User Experience Design

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Elijah Byrd

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Eli is a full stack web developer in the College of Education. He's been developing front-end content since the days of blink tags and glow filters, though he only started getting paid for it in 2012. He currently lives in Champaign with his cat, who is significantly more popular than he is. His hobbies include making Star Wars costumes and playing Pokemon Go. As an accessibility journeyman, he helps to moderate monthly Explore with Hadi meetings, where he’s always happy to remind you that your beautiful website doesn't meet color contrast standards. He’s still trying to figure out how to use a screen reader.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Accessible Beginning-to-End: Integrating Accessibility Into Your Team's Workflow

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Ron Searle

PCS International/BCSS

Ron Searle is the founder/President of PCS International since 1986 along with a number of other companies specializing in Cloud Hosting, Cyber Security, and Cost Management Solutions. Ron’s education started at Purdue with a B.S. in Computer Science and continued his studies afterwards to complete his MBA, Masters in Project Management, MCSE, Private Pilot’s License, and dozens of technical certifications over the years.

Ron is passionate about solving business/IT problems with technology for the small/medium business and private schools. He can work from the CEO to the IT user and offer common-sense solutions that address specific client and business needs without technical jargon. Serving as Virtual CIO for over 40 organizations in Chicagoland and a regular presenter to the Illinois CPA Society Chapters in the area, he gets to do what he loves every day.

Breakout Session: Common Web Attacks and What You Can Do About Them

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Ryan Dietz


Ryan Dietz is a Senior Solutions Consultant with Adobe. He works with higher education institutions on reaching their goals around student acquisition, retention, and alumni nurturing through Adobe Experience Cloud. Ryan has five years of experience at Adobe, previously working with the Creative Cloud. Previously, he worked with students on digital media projects at Northwestern University. In his free time, he is an avid golfer and lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Breakout Session: Turning CMS Into The Experience Hub for All Channels

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Sudesh Kannan

PCS International/ University of Phoenix

Sudesh Kannan, PhD, is a cybersecurity consultant at PCS International, associate professor at University of Maryland- University College, Maryland and business faculty member at University of Phoenix. He specializes in Social Engineering and Organizational Cybersecurity Awareness Training.

Breakout Session: Common Web Attacks and What You Can Do About Them

Photo of Tiffany Farriss

Tiffany Farriss


As CEO of Palantir.net, a Chicago-based web design and development team, Tiffany provides project leadership and strategy through consultation, project planning and coaching. She has over 20 years of experience on a wide variety of projects for higher education, healthcare, cultural and media clients. Tiffany also serves as the treasurer of the Drupal Association.

Breakout Session: Learning at Work

Photo of Tracey Barrett

Tracey Barrett


Tracey Barrett has 20 years experience as a Java developer, application architect and agile project leader. Along the way she's built some very big systems, including the first online reservation system at Hertz.com, a bedside patient monitor for GE Healthcare, Aurora Health Care's patient portal, and H&R Block's first mobile tax prep solution. Now, as managing director of NVISIA, she oversees all of their projects and consultants in Wisconsin. She is also part of the Milwaukee Agile leadership team.

Breakout Session: The 5 W's of Docker

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Virgil Carroll

High Monkey

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple hats of principle human solutions architect and SharePoint architect. Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project, and never forgetting that the end user experience is the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies out of the box as much as possible. He focuses on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience, on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. He regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States, and occasionally in Europe.

Breakout Session: Developing Your Content Strategy Like a Coder