About Us

Some basic misconceptions stand in the way of women rejoining the workforce. Employers often believe that time away from a career means lost ability or skill, or that the need for flexibility means a desire for less responsibility. Women often fear that without 100% of the skills listed in a job description, they aren’t qualified to apply.  All of these add up to the very real challenges for women, the most significant of which is the gender pay gap, otherwise known as the “Mommy Tax”.

Today, 43% of highly-qualified women leave the paid workforce, yet only 74% of those who leave will rejoin the workforce in any capacity, 40% with full-time jobs.

With a growing job market, aging workforce and lower work participation, greater opportunities for women are within reach. But sometimes finding them is a challenge. 
As one expert put it, “There’s this industry that says, ‘We don’t have enough talent,’ and there’s this talent that is just waiting to get back to work.” 

So now's the time to get started!
Our Community     |     Our Story     |     Our Team

Our community 

Why are we focused locally at NextGroup?  You. That’s why!
In Evanston, 2/3 of women hold bachelor’s degrees or higher, and at least 2/3 of public officials and individuals in leadership positions on boards, nonprofits, and civic initiatives are women.  
Evanston has a greater percentage of women-owned businesses and self-employed women, with a greater degree of diverse career and educational experiences than neighboring communities.
What does this translate into:  a highly-qualified, diverse, leadership-focused workforce!

Our Story

We’re Evanston moms. We’ve worked together for years, on PTAs, at fundraisers, raising kids and driving carpools. We also put careers on hold, professional lives we worked hard to create. 

Ready to return to the workforce, we didn’t anticipate the challenges we would face. And looking around, we recognized we weren’t alone.  In sharing the stories of our own journeys, the unexpected obstacles and setbacks, we realized our greatest resource was each other. 

Harnessing the wealth and strength of the community of women we've build over the years, we founded NextGroup. At NextGroup, we’re committed to making things easier for you. 

By connecting women relaunching or pivoting careers to businesses searching for talent, we want to ensure that a career break or a new chapter chapter doesn’t need to be the end of a career.

Our Team

Headshot of Candance Chow

Candance Chow, NextGroup Managing Director and Cofounder, is dedicated to empowering women to be valued both in and out of the paid workforce. She started her career advocating for gender equity and the advancement of women in the workplace, serving as Deputy Executive Director of Business and Professional Women/USA. After earning her M.B.A, Candance owned InSight Consulting Group, a management consulting firm focused on growth and innovation strategy. As an Evanston community leader, Candance serves on the District 65 School Board and recently ran as a Democrat for IL State House of Representatives. Candance holds a B.A. from American University and an M.B.A. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Headshot of Melanie Wright

Melanie Wright, NextGroup Managing Director and Cofounder, has a passion for coaching and career development and has served in both admissions and career-coaching roles at Kellogg School of Management. She was instrumental in rolling out career development programming before taking on the role of Director for the MS in Management Studies program. She started her career as a systems analyst at Eli Lilly before entering the world of management consulting at Diamond Technology Partners. Melanie currently serves on the Chiaravalle Montessori Board and as Treasurer for Evanston Dance Ensemble. Melanie holds a B.S. from Indiana University an M.B.A. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Headshot of Kimberly Glover

Kimberly Glover, NextGroup Search Associate, is a Certified Career Coach and SHRM-CP Human Resources Professional who has a heart for molding the next generation of girl bosses. She owns her own consulting company, GotKim LLC, where she provides recruitment services to small businesses. She also coaches new grads who are unsure of their career path and job seekers who are moving into the Human Resources field. Kimberly has been a coach and mentor for several local non-profit organizations. Her true desire is to enrich the lives of African American girls in underserved communities. Her goal is to instill in those around her the F.EA.R.L.E.S.S. mindset (Female, Elite, Ambitious, Relentless, Lucrative, Entrepreneurs, Striving Successfully. Kimberly holds a B.S. in Communications with a concentration in Media Studies from Northern Illinois University.
Headshot of Marissa Elliot

Marissa Elliott, Operations Associate, is a “jack-of-all-trades” who excels at all things operations.  She started her career in Human Resources and now returns to the workforce in that capacity to manage Talent Operations for NextGroup.  While raising her children, Marissa lent her expertise in several areas.  She has extensive knowledge and experience in education.  She worked as a preschool teacher and became a certified teacher in Illinois.  More recently she became immersed in the world of interior design and spent several years as a design consultant. Marissa has served extensively on the parent boards where her children have attended school.  She holds a B.S. from The University of Illinois, a M. Ed from DePaul University and a M.S. in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from Loyola University- Chicago.  
Headshot of Patty Barbato

Patty Barbato has worked to create strong and equitable opportunities and outcomes for the children, families and communities she serves. Patty started her career as a public relations professional after earning her BS in Journalism from Marquette University in 1988. Armed with nearly a decade of experience in consumer product marketing and media relations, she followed her calling to become an educator (helping pay for graduate school by working as a media relations freelancer.) She earned her MSEd in Elementary Education from the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University in 1997 and went on to work in Chicago Public Schools as an elementary teacher. She co-founded Foundation 65, the educational foundation for Evanston/Skokie public schools and was recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2017 with a “Those Who Excel” Award for her volunteer work at ETHS. 

Kirsten Ballard, NextGroup's Marketing and Social Media Coordinator, began her career as a feature writer for a small town newspaper in North Carolina. Though she's left the world of news, she still loves telling stories and connecting women and resources using digital media. She is the Communications Director for a financial services association in Washington, D.C. and freelances on the side. Kirsten earned a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Our Cofounders/Advisors

Tracy Quattrocki, NextGroup Cofounder, has dedicated her career to advancing educational opportunities for students both inside and outside the classroom. After earning her Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies, she has taught at George Washington University, Roosevelt University, and most recently, Carthage College, in both literature, drama, and philosophy. She has dedicated her time outside the classroom to broader issues of educational opportunity and student engagement, serving eight years on the District 65 School Board, mentoring first-generation college students through Evanston Scholars, and serving on the Y.O.U. board.  She has a B.A. from Stanford University and a Ph.D. from Yale University. 

Joan Sherman, NextGroup Cofounder, is a program, strategy, and evaluation consultant working across a wide range of sectors, including women's empowerment and gender equity, girls education, micro-finance, public health, and philanthropy. Joan worked for CARE International in Haiti and India, at the MacArthur Foundation, Northwestern University, and The Libra Foundation. For 12 years, she was on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Global Education Project  and has served as an advisory board member for Children's Place International and is a founding board member of the Grand'Anse Heath and Development Association. Joan has a B.A. from the University of Minnesota and a M.A. from George Washington University.