Entrepreneurs / Founders / Hiring

Power Moves: Why Heather Qader left La Colombe to become ‘your external chief relationship officer’

Plus, hiring and leadership transitions at Tech Elevator, Code for Philly, Department of Commerce and Exyn Technologies.

Heather Qader. (Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, new gig or promotion? Email us:

As of this January, former La Colombe and Department of Commerce staffer Heather Qader is jumping into biz ownership with her new relationship management consulting firm, The Qader Group.

“Think of us as your External Chief Relationship Officer,” she wrote in an email. “We build out expansion strategies for growing businesses that want to enter the next stage of business, whether that’s scaling their influence in their current market or doing the groundwork for expansion in other markets. Our goal is to help our clients build influence with a consequent impact on revenue and profitability.”

Before joining the prominent coffee roaster and retailer as CEO Todd Carmichael’s senior aide in July 2018, the Fox School of Business grad worked as manager of business development for the City of Philadelphia. Those experiences informed her desire to pursue entrepreneurship, she said.

“I am surrounded by entrepreneurs on a daily basis and I am inspired by their work ethic and dedication to doing what they love,” Qader said. “Through my work with the City and La Colombe, I recognized that I had a passion for creating and managing relationships. I always knew I wanted to start a business and it was only in the past year that it was made clear.”

She’s bringing two big lessons from those previous roles: “Any opportunity that you get is what you make of it,” and “relationships will last through whatever position or company you are associated with.”


Rich McMillen and Charlie Costanzo are passing the Code for Philly leadership baton to Marieke (“rhymes with Paprika“) Jackson and Michael Chow, the group’s new co-directors. Chow and Jackson have previously served on Code for Philly’s organizing team.

“Thank you to all of our Code for Philly advocates, partners, and organizers that have helped Code for Philly be successful and grow these past few years,” McMillen wrote in a blog post. “It’s because of you that we still believe in the power of volunteers lending talents and time towards crafting solutions for Philly’s public challenges.”

Michael Chow and Marieke Jackson, Code for Philly’s new co-directors. (Courtesy photo)

Jackson is a data scientist at Health Union, a Center City-based company that manages online communities for people facing chronic health conditions. She has been working with Code for Philly on a project to create a unified reporting system for the harm reduction center, Prevention Point. Jackson has also been working closely with the Data Science Hackathon which is scheduled to kick off this Friday.

Chow is also a data scientist who focuses on assisting local nonprofits. This past year, he has been working to make Code for Philly a space where nonprofits can increase their technical capacity.


Mayor Jim Kenney announced Wednesday that the City’s commerce director, Harold T. Epps, will leave his position in March to pursue new opportunities in the private sector.

Harold Epps. (Courtesy photo)

“[Epps] brought genuine relationships and a sense of credibility within the business community that was unmatched,” Kenney said in a statement. “Harold’s interest in spreading economic vitality to all of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods aligned perfectly with the priorities of this administration.”

Epps has served as the City’s commerce director since January 2016. Prior to that, he spent seven years as the president and CEO of the high-performance business solutions provider PRWT Services, Inc.

During his time in the role, he submitted Philly’s bid for Amazon HQ2 that made the company’s shortlist in 2018.

Sylvie Gallier Howard, the current first deputy commerce director, was appointed as the acting commerce director until Epps’ replacement is found.


LeeAnn Kinney. (Courtesy photo)

Tech Elevator, a 14-week coding bootcamp, opened its sixth location in Philly last year. LeeAnn Kinney, the former director of programs at Girl Develop It, has been hired as the location’s first campus director.

Kinney credits a friend of hers for the introduction to Tech Elevator cofounder and CEO Anthony Hughes. Prior to meeting him, she was not sold on coding bootcamps.

“I had heard negative experiences and was skeptical of ones that seemed to accept anyone and were more focused on their financial gain over student success,” Kinney said. “After speaking with Anthony and others on the team, the difference between [others and] Tech Elevator was so apparent.”

After continuing her research, Kinney found the program’s transparent reporting and positive student reviews impressive, too, she said. Tech Elevator reports a 94% job placement for its graduates. The new Center City location is its largest to date.

“This is not only a win for our students who learn a new, in-demand skill set, but it’s also a win for the companies in the Greater Philly area in need of quality tech talent,” Kinney said.

Philly’s first Tech Elevator cohort. (Courtesy photo)


Exyn Technologies, a Grays Ferry-based aerial robotics company, was named one of the 65 finalists for the 23rd annual Innovation Awards, to be held at SXSW 2020 in Austin. The Innovation Awards showcase projects across 13 categories including music and audio, robotics and hardware, and visual media experience.

Exyn is a finalist in the AI and Machine Learning category “honoring digital systems which have the ability to adapt to changing data, stimuli, and circumstances.” Exyn will demonstrate its project for conference attendees and judges at the finalists showcase on March 14.


P.S. Want to make your own power move? Consider attending NET/WORK Philly, our tech job fair returning to The Fillmore on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Companies: Tech Elevator / Exyn Technologies / La Colombe / City of Philadelphia
Series: Power Moves
People: Anthony Hughes / Todd Carmichael / Harold Epps
Projects: Code for Philly

Knowledge is power!

Subscribe for free today and stay up to date with news and tips you need to grow your career and connect with our vibrant tech community.


What is geospatial intelligence? A geographer explains the powerful melding of maps and data

BarCamp Philly: Share your inner geek at this year's unconference

As Guru turns 10, CEO Rick Nucci reflects on evolutions in AI and workplace culture

One uCity Square is officially open, housing life science companies and research labs

Technically Media