Get to know your IIBA Chicagoland Chicago chapter officers better.

Feel free to drop any of us a line if you have questions or want to get more involved!


Norman Eliaser

Back in eighth grade, I fielded 18 classmates’ calls for help within 24 hours before an assignment on assembly language was due. Those classmates always believed I’d end up working with computers. As for me, enabling them to understand the material delighted me.

Interested in how people learn, I pursued my Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, focusing on mathematical reasoning. As a grad student, I also improved communication within and beyond the department by setting up and maintaining the department’s website (debuting it in 1994).

Since then, with my commitment to greater understanding, quality service, and clear communication, I do that “computer work,” while enabling colleagues and clients to solve problems and understand how to use or build technology solutions.

Vice President (VP) Programming

Peter Mandra

Pete Mandra, Lead Business Analyst at the American Medical Association, has more than 20 years of experience in business analysis, management consulting, business process improvement, and Information Systems optimization in a variety of industries, including transportation, energy utilities, telecommunications, and health care.

Pete enjoys teaching others about the importance of business analysis and the value of obtaining industry-recognized certifications. He has launched and led two Business Analysis Centers of Excellences in the workplace to implement and support improvement measures, elevate the business analyst role, and provide mentorship opportunities for junior colleagues. Pete has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College Chicago, an MBA from Lewis University, and possesses IIBA’s CBAP, AAC, and CBDA certifications. On multiple occasions, he has also served as a subject matter expert for various certification bodies.

Vice President (VP) Education 

Arun Karthick Shanmugam

Arun Karthick Shanmugam (AK) is a distinguished Senior Advisor and Enterprise Architect with two decades of expertise in IT, specializing in Microsoft Dynamics Suite of Products, client/project management, presales consulting, business process reengineering, and more. He has a proven track record in various industries, including retail, manufacturing, automotive, and telecom, among others. At HSO Enterprise Solutions LLC, he leads as a Senior Solutions Architect, managing and architecting Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Projects. Arun is adept at business process reengineering, developing POCs, and leading high-value engagements. His skill set encompasses Dynamics 365, AX versions, CRM, and NAV solution

Arun holds an MBA in Management Information Systems and Marketing from Madurai Kamaraj University, along with numerous certifications in Microsoft suite of products and TOGAF, among others.

Vice President (VP) Finance

Gauch Nikolas

Gauch Nikolas is a dynamic and seasoned Senior Business and Data Analyst with over 15 years of diverse industry experience, including more than 10+ years in the business analysis domain. His expertise spans sectors such as software development, banking, fintech, automotive, and agriculture finance, reflecting a robust capacity to adapt and excel in varied environments.

Gauch is passionately driven to devise innovative solutions that align with business objectives, fostering growth and efficiency.

Vice President (VP) Marketing & Relationships

Michael Plichta

Mike Plichta has 25 years of IT experience, the majority of which was spent as either a Business Analyst or a manager of Business Analysts at Allstate, Motorola Solutions, and Heidrick & Struggles. He is currently an IT Director at Heidrick, a publicly traded company with $1B in revenue specializing in executive recruiting, management consulting, and on-demand niche talent services. Mike has spent his past two years fulfilling the Business Relationship Manager role for Heidrick’s two fastest growing product lines. His team leverages vendors of software and implementation services to meet their business needs for sales automation and digital marketing. He has been an active member of IIBA and a CBAP since 2014. He has certifications as a ScrumMaster and Product Owner, an MBA, and an MS in Computer Science.

Vice President (VP) Membership 

Karen Richards

Karen Richards is a Senior Account Executive with NueVista Group, an IT Consulting and services firm focused in the Chicagoland market. She has been with NueVista for the past 15 years and has been involved in the Chicago chapter of the IIBA since 2007.

Karen’s expertise is relationship management, sales and marketing. She has worked with numerous clients over the years assisting with technology projects and organizational growth via the best resources available. She has built and fostered a reputation of partnering with her clients and looking after their best interests rather than just filling a role. Through the IT Leadership practice at NueVista Group she’s worked to introduce organizations to the IIBA and to further the careers and increase the effectiveness of their BAs.

She has a B.S. from Loyola University in Chicago.

Vice President (VP) Volunteers

Marci Watts

Marci Watts, MBA, FLMI, ACS, ARA, CTM, SAFe 6 SP, SAF3 6 POPM, SAFe 6 APM has over 25 years’ experience working as a Business Analyst/ Product Owner/ Product Manager for Allstate Insurance Company in its auto and property insurance lines. Marci also has 25+ years of volunteer experience with organizations such as Junior Achievement and Community Threads.

Marci holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration with a minor in Economics from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. She holds several SAFe Agile certifications and is working on her IIBA Agile and Product Ownership Analysis certifications.

Past President

Meredith Schmidt

Meredith Schmidt has 10+ years’ experience working in the financial markets, fulfilling a variety of roles that all have centered around business analysis, including business data analytics, customer experience, business process improvements, and business analysis as a service. She has conceptualized and gained executive support to invest in business analysis as a service and has since built out the practice at OCC.

She’s hands-on in development and plays a critical role in the mentorship and oversight of analysts fulfilling the BA role. She has a passion for business analysis and believes it’s the foundation to success on all endeavors.