Julia Smith is the Assistant Director of Leadership Development, DEI at Northwestern Mutual. In this role she designs, develops and implements Northwestern Mutual’s Home Office D&I leadership development strategy, enabling HR and business leaders to build a pipeline of high performing, diverse talent for critical roles and engaging all employees in creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment.
Prior to Northwestern Mutual, Julia has over 10 years of experience in Adult Education, Talent Development and Organizational Design in both the public and private sectors including Healthcare, Retail Non-Profit. Julia currently serves as a leader on the Northwestern Mutual African-American Employee Resource Group governance team board, Diversity and Inclusion Council. She is a founding member of the Greater Milwaukee African American ERG Connection and serves on the board of Directors at Arts@Large.
Julia is a Milwaukee native but she loves to travel. Her favorite in person PD activities include the dinner and lunch programs, she misses gathering in person but she has enjoyed the virtual Happy Hours and Third Thursdays.
Julia’s personal mission is to inspire others to use their talents, skills and abilities to impact the world through building relationships and connecting to others and opportunities.
Be sure to say hi to Julia at an upcoming PD event!
Tonnetta is the Associate Director of Investments for nationally ranked venture capital fund and accelerator gener8tor. In her new role, she is responsible for gener8tor's fund oversight, managing investor relationships internationally, to include Puerto Rico and Luxembourg, and leading the fundraising process for the gener8tor's next capital rise. Prior to joining gener8tor, Tonnetta worked in development for the Medical College of Wisconsin playing an integral role in their $300M Hope to Health comprehensive campaign, where she focused on philanthropy supporting the institution's community facing initiatives, cancer research and patient care.
Tonnetta is a true Wisconsinite and Milwaukee native, having attained her BBA in Finance from UW-Whitewater and currently pursuing her MBA in Finance at UW-Milwaukee Lubar School of Business. She is passionate about equity and advancing women and girls across various sectors, which led her to joining PD in 2021. She has enjoyed attending the Sacagawea Awards in the past and is most looking forward to meeting more members and getting involved with the Charitable Fund’s Ripple Effect project and SIG Investment Club.
As prior military, she spent time abroad strategizing efforts around the demobilization of US troops in Afghanistan and she proudly serves on the Board of Veteran Affairs for the State of Wisconsin. She is an advocate for and member of Milwaukee Urban League Young Professionals.
Something that you won’t find on Tonnetta’s resume is that she is a former dancer specializing in contemporary ballet and tap! She also dabbled in cheerleading and track and field all while maintaining AP honors! Once she began college, she hung up all of her shoes to get down to business. Tonnetta's favorite activities are brunch and pilates.
Patrice Nault is Director of Operations for Plub Media. Plum is a video and events production company in Milwaukee where she facilitates communication between Plum staff and clients or prospective clients so they can achieve their communication, marketing, branding training, recruiting or fundraising goals. She is often the first point of contact for a party wanting a video, TV or radio spot, or for planning an event. She specifically enjoys maneuvering between diverse clients to create unique projects. It’s extremely fulfilling for her to help produce content that makes a client say, “I love it,” or brings a tear to their eye. It’s satisfying for her to be a part of a team and a process that can actually make a difference in a life, or the success of an initiative, company or organization.
Patrice moved to Milwaukee in 1977 to attend Marquette University and has been a PD member for 12 years. Her favorite PD event is the annual awards event, formerly known as Sacagawea and now referred to as the PD Imprint Award.
Patrice has been the driving force for our Third Thursday outings. Before we had to go virtual, Patrice sought out a venue each month where PD members could gather for an informal, social networking event. While PD has continued to host our Third Thursday’s virtually throughout the last year, we are all looking forward to meeting in-person again in the near future!
A few things about Patrice that we could not find on her resume are that she played percussion instruments from grade school through high school, she was crowned “hockey queen” in her hometown of Superior, WI and her first part time job was as a dental assistant in high school.
Please be sure to say hi to Patrice at an upcoming PD event (she’s always on Third Thursday!) and introduce yourself.
Yvonne Brodsky joins Facebook! In her new role, she is responsible for scaling Diversity & Inclusion recruiting priorities to achieve two company goals: 50% of workforce comprised of underrepresented people by 2024 and 30% more people of color, including 30% more Black people, in leadership positions in the US by 2025.
Prior to Facebook, Yvonne spent the last 7 years at GE in multiple global roles: Talent Management, Leadership Development Programs, Early Talent and Diversity and Inclusion. Prior to GE, she was part of the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion team that created the D&I framework for Froedtert Health, and led the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, with the mission to advance Latinos.
Change, adapting to new environments and cultural diversity have been part of Yvonne's life since she was a toddler. She was born in Peru and lived in four countries before arriving in the US at the age of 5. She grew up in Stamford, CT and White Plains, NY before moving to Milwaukee for her undergrad at Marquette University. She met her husband, Dmitry, her freshman year in college and has lived in Milwaukee ever since. She is the proud mom of two kids and a dog: Chloe (6), Bennett (17) and Coco (2). She spends her evenings carting Chloe around to her afterschool passions of gymnastics and horseback riding while getting ready to apply to colleges with Bennett.
In a non-pandemic world, Yvonne loves to travel with the family. Two of her most memorable trips are celebrating Bennett's Bar Mitzvah at The Wall in Jerusalem and going back to her native country Peru to visit Machupichu. In a pandemic year, Yvonne has been trying to master Shakira's latest moves in the song with the Black Eyed Peas, "Girl Like Me". Although she has not yet been able to master the moves, she continues to practice and dance with the kids. The kids, music, movies and planning future travels keeps her busy these days.
Yvonne currently serves on the MIAD and YWCA board and is a proud member of Professional Dimensions and HOAN.
Silke Cole is a Pursuit Strategy Manager at accounting and advisory firm Baker Tilly US, LLP. She leads a team of proposal writers in developing custom business proposals for clients in a variety of industries, including software and technology, energy and utilities, government contractor advisory, specialty tax and private wealth. Silke also serves as Local Engagement Chair on the regional board of directors for the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), providing continuing education and networking opportunities for its members. She came to proposal management from a 20-year career in film production, marketing and distribution, most recently at Warner Bros. International Television Distribution.
Born in Germany, Silke lived in Berlin and Los Angeles before relocating to Milwaukee with her husband and daughter in 2011. She is engaged in a range of community causes and initiatives in the city she now calls home, including serving as a docent for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Burnham Block, a nonprofit on Milwaukee’s south side dedicated to architectural preservation and education.
Silke joined Professional Dimensions in 2019. Her passion for racial and gender equity led her to become involved in "The Ripple Effect," our Charitable Fund Signature Project with YWCA Southeast Wisconsin, in a communications role. Her favorite Professional Dimensions event so far has been the Race Relations Initiative’s Conversation Circle, a truly eye-opening learning experience.
One thing about Silke that is not found on her resume is that she loves to travel and enjoys a good adventure. She has backpacked all over the world, from Hawaii to Honduras, Egypt and Indonesia. Because of her international background, Silke has always felt that America’s greatest strength is the diversity of its people. She is thrilled to join forces with likeminded PD women to learn from each other and effect positive change in our city.
Kerri Balliet is a certified transformational coach with Red Baron Coaching. She works with clients to transform themselves from the inside out giving them the opportunity to live more meaningful, joyful, and authentic lives so they can achieve their dreams instead of sitting on the sidelines. After transitioning out of a 35-year corporate career, she started Red Baron Coaching in 2018, and has worked with many corporations and individuals to help people tap into the maximum potential.
Kerri and her wife, two kids and two dogs moved to Milwaukee 16 years ago. She has been a PD member since 2018 and her favorite event was a summer member connect where she had the pleasure of connecting with fellow member Sharon Kevil. The two became fast friends and learned to kayak together.
Something about Kerri that you can’t find on her resume is that she loves the word “why.” It’s an adverb, a conjunction, a noun and an interjection. In scrabble, it will earn you 12 points. But most important, WHY Is a way to describe your destiny or your purpose. Why are you here on this planet?
Be sure to introduce yourself to Kerri at an upcoming PD event if you haven’t already!
As Founder of Denisha Tate & Associates Consulting, Denisha Tate-McAlister guides nonprofits and faith based organizations to operational success through systems alignment, staff development and launching of strategic goals. Her current project is the resident led revitalization efforts of the Amani Neighborhood on the northside of Milwaukee, working with over 8,000 residents, more than 30 non-profits over a 130 block segment of the city.
Denisha has lived in Milwaukee for 12 years and joined Professional Dimensions in 2016. In her words, PD has provided her with the most amazing networking opportunity that she could ever imagine. Every PD gathering allows her to meet someone new that has a skill she wants to learn from or an interest that she shares. Denisha also served on our Sacagawea Awards committee this year, helping drive the event to be successful.
Something about Denisha that you couldn’t find on her resume is that she is blessed to have 9 amazing children and 18 grandchildren. She always wanted a big family but life seemed to be heading in another direction, then two years ago she married the love of her life and look at her now!
Be sure to say to Denisha at the next PD event!
Nina Johnson is the Consumer and Business Banking Leader for the Wisconsin market at US Bank, managing more than 400 employees throughout the southeastern segment of the state. She was hired to create a “Bank of the Future” experience using digital solutions that result in a positive costumer experience within the area. She’s worked in the banking industry for more than 35 years and has held several leadership roles in her tenure, ranging from computer operations and consumer leading to direct auto finance and private label loss mitigation.
Nina feels like this year has opened the door to having transparent dialog about sensitive topics and she has used this season as a catalyst for change in her market. She has taken this moment in time to create a safe space for courageous conversations by hosting Town Halls/Panel Discussions to address civil unrest, quarterly leadership development guest speaker events supporting DEI, peer mentoring for white executives that aspire to be a part of the solution, small conversation circles to address difficult topics like privilege, “black lives vs all lives” and other taboo topics impacting society.
Carving out space for real conversation was based on her desire to protect her team both physically and psychologically. Her goal was to use various modes of communication to harness true relationship building and sincere service as essential leaders. The concept is based on the core principle of knowing your audience and delivering a positive experience in the workplace.
Nina’s favorite PD activities are the annual events where she can reconnect with female leaders of all ages. She looks forward to a time where we can gather in-person again and catch up.
Be sure to say hi to Nina at an upcoming PD event and thank her for all she’s done in our community!
Jean Casey is Director of Business Development for GROTH Design Group, an award winning architecture and interior design firm serving many markets including: Corporate, Healthcare, Senior Life, Education, Religious and Community projects. She has provided strategic direction to leading architecture firms in Wisconsin for over twenty years and also connects individuals to jobs through Circuit-jobs.com, a website she created to support the Built Environment: Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Commercial Real Estate.
Jean was born and raised in Milwaukee and is very engaged in our community through a variety of service opportunities and professional association memberships, previously serving on the boards of Rotary Club of Milwaukee, the Social Development Foundation and Alexian Village.
Jean's biggest source of pride though are two children, Ian, 27 and Emmy, 25 (PD’s Member Relations Coordinator!)
Jean joined PD in early 2020 and her favorite virtual event this year was the Ideation Summit. Something about her that you can’t find on her resume is that she skews Type B and asks that you keep that to yourself.
Be sure to say hi to Jean at an upcoming Professional Dimensions event.
Jessica Pharm has been working in Human Resources for several years, working in a variety of different positions. She is also the founder of Blackness and the Workplace, a platform dedicated to creating space for Black professionals. She also hosts a podcast with the same name, where she interviews industry leaders and talks about the various issues and topics that impact Black professionals.
Jessica was born and raised in Milwaukee, growing up in the Sherman park area. Her favorite Professional Dimensions activities are the various networking events that help her connect with like-minded successful and ambitious women entrepreneurs and thought leaders throughout the city.
For more information on Blackness in the Workplace, please visit www.blacknessandtheworkplace.com and be sure to say hi to Jessica at the next virtual event and ask her about her new business!