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Every woman has a story to tell. Some read like a Shakespearian tragedy, some a Nora Jones romcom, while others mirror something more like a Harvard Business Review whitepaper.

Whatever the story, there’s lessons to be taken and to be learned.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we shine a light on four women of The Northridge Group, along with our fearless founder, Therese Fauerbach. These women come from different areas of their lives – from age, stage, geography, and career – but all have one thing in common: grit. It’s the same cellular grit that carried families across oceans, travelled through plains and prairies, found cures, launched men into space, endured childbirth, childrearing, and child-like behavior. And yet, they smile. They love. They thrive.

These are their stories.

Kelsey’s Story

Last Valentine’s Day when many were celebrating their love relationships, Kelsey Williams was standing in divorce court. And while it may not seem like it, for her, it was a day for celebration – she would be free from a marriage that wasn’t working. Now she would be able to start a new chapter in her life.

But it also means that she is now a single mother of two toddlers with a full-time job.

“It’s difficult,” she says with a frank tone. “Getting two children up, awake, dressed, fed and out the door at a reasonable time and pace, dropping them at daycare and then racing home to prepare for meetings and forget whatever may have happened before takes a great deal of mental, emotional, and physical energy.”

Kelsey earned a degree in economics and later worked at a marketing agency before coming to NRG as a Consultant. She believes working for a Woman-owned business after working at a fast-paced agency has provided a wealth of insight into the sharp contrast of managing people.

I think there’s an overwhelming sense at my previous job that the client came first no matter what, even if that meant your personal life suffered. Here, while our clients are VERY important, it’s more ‘take care of your family’ because the attitude is that you can’t be a good employee if you’re not managing your personal life, too.”

“There are several women that I feel very confident personally and professional to ask questions and I know they will give me all they know, giving me the best advice and setting me up for success. I value those relationships immensely.”

As a single mother, Kelsey says it’s important to her that she is surrounded by strong women who can stand on their own, but offer support to others, too. It’s this core culture – the support and sharing, the mentoring paired with training and empathy – that creates a space for her to not only work a flexible schedule when needed but know there’s a career path forward for her.

“Having to tell your direct report that you can’t make a meeting because your little one is home sick is less intimidating here because the women I report to have small children, too, and they know I will do whatever it takes to get the job done and done well.”

NRG is comprised of women (and men) in varying stages of their career and life – some starting out, others moving up. Some with kids, some without. Some are preparing for retirement. This creates a rich and dynamic tapestry of experience, knowledge, and viewpoints.

“I love working with women in different phases of life because I have a preview of different decades,” she explains. “It’s an opportunity to realize how much you have in common regardless of different ages and phases of life.”

For Kelsey, creating safe, strong relationships and mentoring are critical to her success, both as a person and as a professional.

“There are several women that I feel very confident personally and professional to ask questions and I know they will give me all they know, giving me the best advice and setting me up for success. I value those relationships immensely.”

Shereen’s Story

Some people are just born with a more technical mind. Shereen Barnes is one of them.

As the IT Manager for NRG, Shereen manages all day-to-day technical needs of a the business, as well as creating the overall strategy and architecture of the IT infrastructure that keeps NRG running.

Shereen earned a degree in marketing, where she worked in that field in Chicago. She would later go into advertising, which as a single woman, was fun, but demanding. She recalls the advertising world being extremely demanding and stressful – the fear of being one step away from losing your job based on your accounts and client happiness. But the stress was manageable then because she didn’t have children or a partner.

“After I had my kids, that’s when my career tanked,” she explains. “After 911 – there was a whole lot of things going on and I had twins and didn’t have a lot of support. I just had to go get a job to support my children.”

She recalls that this time in her life was very stressful, but a different kind of stress than when she was single. Now, she was a single mom with twin boys, just trying to make it work – paying bills, being a mother and working.

“I tried to go back to school to get my master’s but couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go to school and go to work full time and take care of my kids.”

“Taking risks is one of the things that I have learned. I’ve learned to not psych myself out and not try those things that I think might work because I’m afraid of getting in trouble. I’m not going to get in trouble,” Shereen explains.

So, she opted for a job in education, counseling students.

“It was a great job because I was helping enhance other people’s lives,” she says. But salaries in education are often lower, and Shereen knew she wanted more.

“I went back to school for IT because at that time, my kids were older. In all my careers, I was always the ‘IT go-to’. It’s just how I think – I think technically and creative at the same time,” she says. “So, I took classes online and pushed myself.”

Shereen would graduate and accept a tech role at Illinois Tool Works (ITW) – one of the only women in a very male dominated company and department.

“I was so scared because I was the only female. They held my hand and walked me through some things. I was the only female. I could tell they weren’t used to working with females.”

While she learned a great deal at ITW, Shereen said her position was very compartmentalized, keeping her to one small area of the IT world. She realized she would need to find a different company to grow her skills. It was then that she would apply and accept a position with NRG.

“I had access to everything – server management, more in depth work into the Microsoft side and networking and exposure to all of that,” she recalls about her early days at NRG. “It’s still a male dominant area and was still intimidating because there’s never another female in the room with me.”

As her tenure has progressed, that has changed. Now Shereen is head of the IT department at NRG and one of several women who work for the women-owned company.

“Taking risks is one of the things that I have learned. I’ve learned to not psych myself out and not try those things that I think might work because I’m afraid of getting in trouble. I’m not going to get in trouble,” Shereen explains.

“I have been in other companies where they weren’t woman owned, like big corporations and there is a difference. Here there is a respect factor, and we are pushed in a good way. I just think as women, we are going to support each other. At bigger a corporation, there’s a lot more weeds to get thru and often more heavily male dominated.”

But what about taking risks in the name of growth and success? Many employees eager to push boundaries to testing purposes have often been met with reprimand, replacing curiosity with fear. Shereen says not being afraid of fear has been a hard lesson to learn.

“Taking risks is one of the things that I have learned. I’ve learned to not psych myself out and not try those things that I think might work because I’m afraid of getting in trouble. I’m not going to get in trouble,” Shereen explains.

“I will research and do my best. AT NRG, they say ‘you can do’, so I just go and ‘do it’,” she says with a laugh.

“I like that and I’m growing because of that. I know how to better communicate. All of this helps me be a better person and helps in my career. If I were to ever move on, I know I would be better prepared than when I first started at NRG. Being at a woman-owned business, I feel like they have more faith in me,” Shereen says. “We all encourage one another, and I love that.”

 Tressa’s Story

When you ask Tressa Kett what her area of specialty is at NRG, she will tell you she is a ‘jack of all trades’. Tressa has been with NRG in one capacity or another – consulting, process work, IT and program management – for 12 years.

With a degree in electronics engineering, Tressa was only one of two females in her college graduating class, but she would be the only one to receive a diploma. She graduated with the class’s highest GPA of 4.0 and her name on the honor roll.

“I very quicky realized there is a niche spot for those who can speak to senior managers and talk tech and I love to talk,” she says, laughing. “That communication bridge between those layers is a very underdeveloped skill that became lucrative.”

Tressa would go on to work in various roles in corporate America before she would eventually land a position at The Northridge Group.

“The woman owned aspect brings a lot of personal support in addition to professional support,” she explains. “People care about people here – there’s that element of emotional and mental support in addition to career support. I’ve had great mentors who have helped me grow in my career in other companies, but I’ve had great mentors help me grow personally at Northridge.”

In 2019, Tressa and her husband would divorce, an event that impacted their then 10-year-old son much harder than they imagined.

“He was grieving for the loss of the marriage and his dad, even though his dad is still very much in the picture,” she explains. “He kept all of his feelings bottled up, but in 2022, it all came to the surface in the form of acting out, outbursts…”

It would be his guidance counselor that would find evidence that Tressa’s son was contemplating suicide – thoughts that had developed into Suicidal Ideation. He would later be diagnosed with Dyspraxia – a neurological disorder that affects movement and coordination – and anxiety induced depression.

“That’s when we started his mental health journey – one that he will be on for the rest of his life,” she says.

Aside from navigating her life as a recently divorced – now single – mother, Tressa had to manage the choppy – and often misunderstood – waters of mental health.

“I kept it (the news) real minimal at first, kept it under wraps for a while because of the stigma of mental health,” she explains. “Then I realized I had to let some of the internal work (at NRG) go in order to make it possible to take him to all his appointments.”

Tressa had to make the difficult decision to scale back her work to be able to meet the growing demands of her son’s health. While she admits she was nervous at first to talk about his issues for she knew it was something she had to do to help her son.

“When I finally told NRG, I wouldn’t say I was surprised by their reaction, because they had always been great with everyone and everything when life events come up, but I think a better word is relieved,” she explains. “I felt a sense of relief.”

This relief would lead to a sort of turning point for Tressa – both in her career and personal life.

“I found support within the organization and because of that, I was able to balance his needs with my project work sometimes outside of normal business hours. I reduced my workload and honed my focus on client projects,” she explained. “It’s nice to know that if we do have a setback and he needs immediate care or more intense therapies, I can go to Northridge and know that there would be zero repercussion…I haven’t always felt like that at most of my jobs. That’s part of the nurturing and compassion that we have at NRG, driven mostly by women.”

Today, Tressa continues to work a flexible schedule based on her son’s therapy appointments and needs. She remains a vital part of the NRG team, providing excellent support for her clients. And her son? While he continues to require therapy, he ‘owns’ his mental health and is committed to becoming the best part of himself.

Leading the Way

After several years as a consultant and leader at NRG, Lisa Butler was named President of the company in 2023. With a career that has spanned more than 30 years, she’s no stranger to climbing the ranks amid a male-dominated industry.

She attributes her successes old fashioned hard work, along with “giving 110% all the time and proving that I had what it takes to be a leader.”

“I will say that prior to consulting, I spent a large part of my career in the telecommunications industry.  In my former company, I was the first women to reach the level of vice president in a very male-dominated company.”

According to a February 2024 Forbes article, only three public US companies were headed by women in 1999. By 2009, that number had increased to 15. Close to that same period, the Center for Women’s Business Research reported that 10.1 million firms owned by women, many of which were industries traditionally considered to be male dominated.

“I will say that prior to consulting, I spent a large part of my career in the telecommunications industry.  In my former company, I was the first women to reach the level of vice president in a very male-dominated company.”

Lisa leads with a direct approach, carefully articulating what she needs, what she wants, and what she expects, but always letting people know that with the expectation of excellence comes compassion and understanding. With a 17-year-old daughter preparing for college, she is keenly aware of the role model she needs to be for her daughter.

As of 2023, women held 10.4% of leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies – an all-time high. To add weight, in 2021, two Black women were running Fortune 500 companies for the first time ever. While these are certainly huge milestones worth celebrating, there’s still great disparity. In September 2022, women represented over half of the American workforce (58.4%), but only held 35% of the senior leadership positions.

So what does this mean for Lisa’s daughter, and so many before and after her?

“I think the future is bright,” Lisa explains with a slight smile. “Just like I did, they have many talented women ahead of them helping to pave the way. I think in their lifetime they will see a women President, many more women rising to the C -Suite in corporations and an increased presence in STEM fields.”

“They are a generation of fierce girls, largely raised by women who are in the workforce so they are able to see what can be accomplished,” Lisa adds. “If I can give them any advice it is work hard, support each other and stay true to yourself.”

When Therese Fauerbach made the decision to leave her executive position with MCI 20 years ago, her peers told her she was making a mistake. They told her to stay because it was safer. But when she asked her husband what he thought, he told her he trusted her. That would be the beginning of a 20+ year company that has provided jobs, started, nurtured, and advanced careers, and has helped dozens of large companies perform better.

“I have no problem with risk,” explains Therese, Founder, CEO and Board Chair of NRG.  “I sometimes succeed, and I sometimes fail. I think owning your own business is really hard and you have to take the good with the bad.”

Like Lisa, Therese began her career in the Telecom industry  – a mainly male dominated sector.

“One thing I noticed as I was moving up was the men got mentored and supported and the women did not,” Therese recalls. “There were only two women above me at MCI and they were both incredibly strong and didn’t take any crap from anyone, but they never played the ‘woman card’. They taught me how to handle myself when stupid things would happen.”

Therese also attributes some of her success to peer support from women in The Chicago Network, an organization of Chicago’s most senior and influential women leaders who are committed to empowering all women to lead.

“When we got into business, small businesses were predominantly women,” Therese explains. “When we started to get into growth – multi-million-dollar revenue a year – there wasn’t a lot of women in that area. When I joined the Chicago network, they were willing to talk to me, willing to share succession planning, willing to see other women succeed.”

The advice Therese was given would prove valuable as she planned for long-term growth.  Today, NRG continues to thrive and provide valuable consult to some of the world’s largest companies – and it all started with a woman who realized she had to do more for herself and her family.

Through the years, Therese has amassed not only a small empire, but respect and support from hundreds of business connections and close friends, proving her a force. While all this is valuable, it’s when the sun begins to lower and the laptop closes, when she finds the greatest gem.

“My husband has been 100% behind me every step of the way. None of us could do it without our partners,” she says with a warm Irish smile. “Having that person who 100% always has your back. The person that’s not afraid to tell you what no one else will tell you. Your partner in life has more to do with your success than anything.”

So, what would Therese, a warm yet gritty, no-nonsense, avid golfer, gardener and networker tell her younger self?

“Don’t change a thing.”

Here’s to every woman around the world who wakes every day and performs greater than she thought she could.


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