The People Behind SPARK
An Empathy-Driven Team
Meet the team! Our employees love what they do and care about each individual customer. We’ll be by your side as you adapt to SPARK, make big wins, and help improve the product into the future.
Nick Elders is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ignify Technologies Inc. Ignify is responsible for the design, development, testing, delivery, selling, and support of SPARK, the cloud-based loan origination platform designed to simplify the process of delivering secure and efficient lending products to small business owners. With SPARK being the only Public Benefit Corporation in the bank loan origination space, Nick is a leading advocate for leveraging fintech innovation to improve economic opportunities for small businesses and is a champion for financial inclusion, especially in underserved communities. Before starting up Ignify, Nick worked in technology strategy, process design, product management, fundraising, investor pitching, business development, team development, and sales for the national non-profit, Community Reinvestment Fund, USA (CRF). At CRF, Nick led the teams that developed the SPARK platform from the first line of code to its use by more than 30 financial institutions.
He is a graduate with an economics degree from Macalester College in St Paul and when he’s not strategizing SPARK’s next move, he enjoys [dis]assembling classic cars, mountain biking, urban farming, and spending time with his family.
Erik Swenson is Chief Operating Officer of Ignify Technologies, Inc. and oversees the company’s operational strategy and implementation. With 20+ years of experience in legal and financial SaaS technlogy, Erik is focused on establishing the technology, tools, people, and process necessary to grow the company, continue to deliver a high-quality product and exceptional customer service, and pursue Ignify’s vision of creating a more inclusive economy.
Erik holds a computer science degree from Macalester College in St.Paul, MN.
Erik Mau is an experienced software architect, well-versed in all web technologies. With 25 years of experience in software development, architecture, and business analysis, Erik is passionate about product development and solving business problems. As CTO, he oversees the product development team and is responsible for the technical product management of the SPARK platform.
Erik earned a degree in computer science from Iowa State University. He enjoys cooking, bass fishing, working out, and spending time with his three children.
Sales Executive Melissa Ewen has spent most of her career serving the small business community through a variety of roles including teaching, training, consulting and ultimately through the SBA loan program. With over ten years’ experience in SBA Loan Operations and a commitment to operational excellence, Melissa became one of SPARK’s first customers. She fell in love with the product and the team, becoming a brand ambassador long before coming on board herself.
Melissa holds a BS and an MBA in Entrepreneurship from Ball State University. When she’s not directly supporting small businesses, Melissa enjoys fitness, boating, serving her community, and spending time with her husband, two daughters, and three pups.
Tanner Bruhschwein has spent his career in both the lending and technology industries. Prior to joining the SPARK team, he was one of the first SPARK users, applying the system to originate and underwrite SBA loans. Tanner also has experience in ensuring the successful implementation of software to healthcare organizations. He leverages this experience, as well as his time as a SPARK user, to offer a consultative approach to implementation, training, ongoing support, and everything in between.
Tanner holds a BS in Finance from the University of Nebraska. He is a hopeless golf fanatic who enjoys cooking and traveling abroad with his wife.
Emily McCarty helps SPARK users leverage technology for increased day-to-day efficiency. As Lead Customer Success Manager, she uses her knowledge of interpersonal skills to bring a human element to implementation and technical support. Through SPARK, she hopes to further the mission of small business lenders by helping underserved communities secure financing for their small business ventures.
Emily holds a BA in Psychology from Transylvania University and an MA in Clinical Psychology from the University of Dayton. She is a self-proclaimed outdoor junkie who loves hiking, biking, running, and more — all with her dog in tow.
Dawn Tata has spent her career assisting people and businesses alike with all their banking and lending needs—from non-complex auto loans to complex New Markets Tax Credit transactions; SBA to small business loans, and everything in between. Dawn’s experience has strengthened her deep understanding of the challenges lenders face daily, as well as the efficiencies that SPARK can offer.
Dawn holds a BA in Finance from Western State College of Colorado. She is a beach fanatic and looks forward to any time she can spend at the beach with her two kids. When not at the beach, you will find her in her backyard gardening or in the kitchen whipping up a delicious baked treat.
Keegan Mack is a uniquely skilled professional who has strong technical aptitude, senior leadership experience, and 20 years advanced customer solutions experience, including a proven track record of strategic business scaling. She joined SPARK as a Customer Support Manager because she believes in the mission of efficiency that can be achieved through automation. Prior to joining SPARK, Keegan played an instrumental role in scaling a SaaS company from start-up to a well established international business.
Keegan has a passion for all things music-related and enjoys watching true crime documentaries.
Kyle Holder has spent a decade supporting customers as they pursue software solutions in the medical, government, and financial industries. As Senior Customer Success Manager, he blends a respect for customer process with a deep knowledge of the SPARK platform to help customers do what they do best, only better and faster.
Kyle has a BA in English from the University of Nebraska and an MA in Education from Edgewood College. He has been known to spend time discussing good fiction and bad movies.
Customer Support Specialist Jeffrey Katz has spent over a decade in customer and technical support, including his most recent experience building and leading the consumer technical support department at GN ReSound. Prior to his current career, he worked as a full-time musician (trumpet) for 14 years, traveling extensively throughout North America and much of Europe and Asia. Jeffrey still performs in the Twin Cities area.
In his free time, Jeffrey and his wife enjoy attempting to re-create the delicious pastries featured on ‘The Great British Baking Show’ and exploring the outdoors… before Minnesota plunges back into winter for nine months of the year.
Alex Herman has spent his career building software for the lending industry. He combines an in-depth knowledge of small business lending with years of experience implementing enterprise software solutions to consistently deliver high-quality software solutions to our customers.
Alex holds a BS in Computer Science from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and dogs.
Craig Macy is a senior application developer for SPARK. With a love for learning and problem solving, he brings more than 10 years of technical expertise from a variety of positions. Craig provides both business and technical analysis for features, develops functionality to expand and improve SPARK, and handles support for complex technical issues.
Craig holds a BS in Computer Science and Information Systems from the University of Vermont. He is also a scuba diver and pilot who enjoys traveling, cooking, gardening, and building anything he can out of wood.
Briana Como has over 20 years of experience designing digital products for a wide variety of industries and users with a focus on goal-directed design and cross-discipline collaboration. As Principal Product Designer, Bri tackles tough business and technology problems by creating intuitive, elegant, and functional products. She has worked for companies of all sizes, including Foodsby, where she built and led the design function from the ground up. Prior to that, Bri led design for 3M’s Health Information Systems division, focused on high-profile enterprise software programs.
Bri holds a degree in Digital Media from John Brown University. She plays sand volleyball, enjoys outdoor concerts, and is learning the ukulele.
Elle Harstad is a Senior Product Designer on SPARK’s product design team. Prior to SPARK, she worked in technology as a product and UX designer across healthcare, food delivery, and fitness industries. With a background in visual and interaction design, Elle brings her attention to detail to design exploration, information architecture, data visualization, interaction design, and design systems.
Elle studied graphic design at the University of Minnesota. She loves to garden, cook, bake bread and pizza from scratch, and spend time outdoors with her two dogs.
Johnson Anyarah is a Senior Cloud Engineer focused on improving SPARK’S overall cloud infrastructure. He uses his background in building and maintaining cloud infrastructures to deploy, manage, monitor, and troubleshoot SPARK’s cloud-based systems.
Johnson holds an MS in Information Technology from Minnesota State University. He enjoys traveling and playing soccer.
Alex Reich is a full-stack Application Developer for the SPARK development team. Specializing in modern front-end frameworks, Alex applies his prior experience building web applications for small and large companies to iterate and improve the SPARK user experience.
Alex holds a BSBA in Actuarial Science and Finance from Drake University.
John Howes is a Principal Architect on the SPARK platform. He is an experienced software developer with over 20 years of experience designing and building web applications for a number of industries, including retail, healthcare, and banking. John’s focus is on helping to deliver a high quality, beautiful, accessible product that delights our users and stands the test of time.
John has an MA in Political Science from SUNY Buffalo. He enjoys spending time with his family, loves books and music, and is learning to play the guitar.
As a product manager, Alia Abboud works cross-functionally to guide each step of the product lifecycle, from researching and gathering requirements for new features and enhancements to collaborating with product design, development, and QA to implement SPARK’s product updates. Meanwhile, she supports Customer Success to prioritize and respond to customer requests. Prior to SPARK, she worked in client operations and product management in the tax compliance technology space.
Alia holds bachelor’s degrees in International Business and Musical Arts from Hamline University. She is also a semiprofessional cellist and vocalist, performing regularly in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. In her free time, she enjoys trying new restaurants, traveling, and listening to podcasts.
As SPARK’s Senior Product Designer, Manuel Larios creates, refines, and innovates user experiences across multiple platforms — led by his firm belief in designing with intention. With over a decade in UX Design, Manny has been leveling up since The Legend of Zelda on NES in multiple disciplines, including graphic design, motion design, branding, and front-end development, in addition to user experience.
Manny studied web development and graphic design at The Art Institute of San Diego, CA, and loves spending time with his wife and two little girls — whether that means taking a cross country trip or sitting on the couch for movie night.
As SPARK’s Finance Manager, Deepika Yeldandi maintains financial statements and relationships with vendors, customers, and employees, providing expert guidance on the best way to build SPARK’s infrastructure for optimal growth.
Deepika holds a BA in Accounting and an MBA in finance from CSU, East Bay. She is an outdoor enthusiast from hiking, camping, biking, swimming, and road trips with her dog.
Vanessa Phung has 10 years of HR experience in the oil and gas industry and the fintech industry, and has lent her talents to both Fortune 500 companies and startups. Throughout her career, she has supported operations, tech groups, culture, design, and every department in between, and she even helped grow a startup team from 40 to 1,800 employees.
Vanessa holds an MBA from the University of Houston – Downtown and a Bachelor’s degree in HR from Texas A&M University. Outside of work, she likes to read books, take dance classes, hang out with her dog, and volunteer in her community.
Join Our Team
Looking for a team that values people, work-life balance, and fun? Discover a different kind of career at a different kind of tech company. Join the SPARK team and work in the industry’s most flexible, innovative, and inclusive environment.