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MARLIN G. WILLIAMS - Diversity and Inclusion Entrepreneur In-Residence, TechTown Detroit

Marlin G. Williams has over 20 years’ experience as a Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer for two Fortune 500 organizations, Speaker, Media Contributor, Deputy Chief Information Officer and Technology Entrepreneur. Passionate about diversity, inclusion, and empowering women in tech, Marlin founded Sisters Code in 2013, with a purpose to "Awaken the Mature Geek" by educating, empowering and enticing women ages 25–85 to explore the world of coding and technology. Currently she serves as the Diversity and Inclusion Entrepreneur-In-Residence for TechTown Detroit, working to bridge the racial and gender gap in tech entrepreneurship.

After college, as an aspiring mortician, Marlin learned to code in seven languages in 13-weeks. In less than a year she emerged as a mainframe programmer developing and maintaining code for the automotive and banking industry. It was during this time Marlin noticed a severe lack of women and people of color at the technology table, thus her passion for diversity and inclusion in technology emerged. Ultimately, Marlin was asked to serve as the first Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Compuware Corporation.

As the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the City of Detroit, Marlin and her team successfully developed the City’s first e-government initiative and led the collaboration across ten unique agencies to support the technology and infrastructure required for Super Bowl XL.

Marlin’s insightful and thought-provoking presentations include Microsoft Corporation, TEDx, SXSW, Techonomy, MSNBC, Tech Week, Tech Inclusion, Meeting of the Minds, Yes We Code and WDIV amongst others.




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KYLE BAZZY - Chief Operating Officer, Grand Circus

Kyle Bazzy is a passionate entrepreneur and dedicated to building up others around him. Currently, he serves as COO at coding bootcamp Grand Circus, co-lead at Detroit Startup Week and co-founder/Director at Venture Catalysts (non-profit).

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PAULINA JOHNSON - Founder, Achieve Against All Odds

Being no stranger to Achieving Against All Odds in her personal and professional lives, Paulina Johnson has utilized the knowledge she has gained to champion diversity and inclusion initiatives for women and minorities whenever she is given a platform to share. She has received numerous awards and is a sought after motivational speaker.

Paulina is currently serving as President of the National Black MBA Association Detroit Chapter and founder of the non-profit, Achieve Against All Odds.

A graduate of Indiana University Northwest with a degree in Computer Information Systems and a MBA in Marketing Management, Paulina has achieved corporately in the steel industry as a Sales professional.  

Over the past 15 years, she has excelled in the Automotive Sales Unit of ArcelorMittal USA, taking on ever increasing roles within the company while servicing accounts for Ford and General Motors.

Paulina Johnson is the author of two books, “I Am You-Achieving Against All Odds”, and “When Success Calls, Achieve Against All Odds”.

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CANDICE SIMONS - Chief Executive Officer, Brooklyn Outdoor Advertising

Candice Simons returned to Detroit from a decade in the advertising industry in Chicago to start Brooklyn Outdoor – an outdoor advertising firm with a fresh and energetic take on out-of-home advertising in most major and minor markets across the country. In just five years, Brooklyn Outdoor has expanded from $600,000 to 6 million in annual sales with 1 employee to 12 employees. Brooklyn Outdoor offers billboards, digital billboards, wallscapes, hand painted mural advertising, transit advertising, experiential marketing, and events with a beautiful industrial-chic loft space in Eastern Market – Detroit – that functions as the company HQ and an event venue.

With offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, Simons has been using her company as a tool to bridge relationships between the cities most creative artists and entrepreneurs with national companies. She is a master curator of people, places, and things. This has not only kept advertising dollars in Michigan and boosted the economy in Detroit, but it has aided in the growth of relationships between the city’s diverse populations.

It is her adoration for the city of Detroit that lead her to create j’adore Detroit, a lifestyle and culture blog. What began solely as a hobby for Simons, has grown into another entity of business. J’adore Detroit has always been a way for readers to keep a pulse on the city through a pair of fresh eyes. However, it has expanded past any boundaries imagined into becoming a platform for connecting the city’s most inspiring entrepreneurs with the media.

Her talents did not stop here. Simons is also exploring her other talents with a restaurant in Midtown – Alley Taco – and will be launching a new lifestyle brand – Sable and Bone.

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ALEX SIMPSON - Attorney, Microsoft

Alex Simpson is an attorney at Microsoft in Detroit where he supports the commercial teams in the Great Lakes, North Central, and South Central US regions as well as Canada. Alex joined Microsoft from Meijer, where he supported the retail operations, retail pharmacy and specialty pharmacy business units. Prior to Meijer, Alex worked at IHS Markit (Carfax) where he supported the automotive business line and Bodman PLC, a Detroit-based law firm where he was a member of the enterprise procurement practice group.

Alex received his Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Eastern Michigan University, Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan, Doctor of Jurisprudence from Indiana University and Master of Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. While in law school, he co-founded the Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality.

Alex previously served as a Board Member for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and currently serves on the Board of Regents at Eastern Michigan University.  He is the Immediate Past President of the Wolverine Bar Association. In his spare time he coaches youth football.