Authenticity. You hear the word frequently from Meredith Bronk. Some say she's often the only woman in the room. Meredith says there are plenty of women in technology; that leadership isn't about gender; that collaboration at Open Systems Technologies, where she was promoted to president April 1, is so strong no one notices when she's the only woman.
OST is big on authenticity, yet employees and families come first. One of three daughters, Meredith has three daughters: Tori, Talia, and Ainsley; fourteen, twelve, and ten. She and her husband, Kipp, worked together at OST for nine years; he now runs the household as a stay-at-home dad. It's about making the choices that work best as a family. The couple has a partnership.
Authenticity colors Meredith's world. She thinks about it with her daughters, telling them we don't always have the answers. She seizes opportunities. She wants to be an influence for young women. She's had an opportunity to tell her daughters she didn't do her best, because she wasn't well-prepared. "Sometimes, you won't do great—but it's what you do about it."
Meredith began playing softball as a child, and continued through her years. She's coached since Tori began playing; she'll cease when Ainsley stops. It's a chance to be influential; a message for her daughters. At each season's parents' meeting, Meredith talks about her goals for their daughters—teaching them love and respect for softball, helping them learn and understand. She learned to love the game when her dad coached, and carries the lessons learned: Authority matters. Show respect. Seek to understand.
OST employees aren't big on titles and reporting structures; they do what's needed. Meredith recalls co-founder Dan Behm (former president, now CEO) pulling weeds. "It sets an example. No one is better or worse than anyone else." She's proud to work with Dan. "He's authentic. He puts himself out there." He's a mentor who was instrumental in her recent graduation.
Meredith grew up in South Bend, Indiana, enjoying Notre Dame and its surroundings. In May, she graduated from the university's Mendoza College of Business Executive MBA Program. "So many people sacrificed for me to be able to do this." Her family was supportive: parents, sisters, husband and daughters, Dan and his wife, Barb. The OST team shared pride in Meredith's pursuit. "I think part of it was aspirational—inspirational—people wondering, 'Could I do that?'" Success at Notre Dame was a dream come true. She learned confidence comes in embracing yourself as a leader; knowing you don't have to have all of the answers, because capable others could help; exploring strengths and gaining from others' strengths.
She's authentic. "I'm humbled by the fact I've been given certain gifts and talents." Meredith wonders whether she does them justice. During a conference, she thought a conversation was missing the boat and said so. "As a woman, you have to challenge the absurdity of what you see around you, in a respectful way." She strives to maximize her talents, and help others improve. She welcomes those who help her, calling on folks who tell her if she's getting it wrong.
Shortly after Meredith's promotion was announced, she was asked if she was nervous. "Of course! I have a responsibility every day to one hundred fifty families. Am I ready? Yes. Am I confident? Yes. Am I excited? Yes. Am I nervous? Yes. All of these are true."
Meredith enjoys talking about being a leader first and woman second. Drawing girls into technology is big. Meredith encourages girls to explore and pursue their passions. She talks of problem-solving, working with people, empathy, analysis. She wants to lose stereotypes and see more innovation. She wants to empower girls. She's the unwitting, not unwilling face of a movement.
Click here to read the West Michigan Woman magazine profile story on Meredith Bronk.