Ember Carriers

About Our Team

Mary Hladio


B. S. Psychology.  Western Illinois University

Mary HladioEmber Carriers Leadership Group – the Background

Mary Hladio is the founder and Managing Director of Ember Carriers Leadership Group -- an organization that focuses on helping individual leaders and teams become more effective by improving their people skills.

Mary’s background in psychology lays the foundation.  From the beginning, she chose the non-traditional route – instead of going into counseling, she chose to enter the world of business using her people skills to make technology and computers more approachable.  She later became a business analyst and then a project manager. 

Like you, she learned that relying solely on technical skills to manage people was not a formula for success. 

Mary’s expertise gained over the years in mixing business and people skills to motivate employees to create more effective organizations lays the foundation for what has become Ember Carriers Leadership Group.

A Funny Story

Mary loves to share the following story about her first job with her “cool” uncle to illustrate her belief that you can do whatever you want to if you put your mind to it and don’t hold yourself back with the fear of failure – a philosophy she builds upon in her Ember Carriers workshops to help others achieve their full potential.

The story starts out with her mother firmly believing that Mary should spend her summer vacation someplace other than in front of the TV.  Mary did not want to go to camp or summer school so she chose to spend some time with her “cool” uncle in Indianapolis who was in advertising and marketing and owned a small local newspaper.

She arrived by lunch and was instructed that by dinner she had to tell him how much she was going to charge for helping him that summer.  Basically, through trial by fire, she was thrust into the situation of negotiating her “salary” at the ripe age of 14.

Using some calculations that only another 14-year old could understand, when the time came, she responded with the figure of $200/week.  The “cool” uncle responded with “Are you kidding me!  Are you worth that?” 

It pays to have friends in high places and her aunt put in a good word for her and the rest is history.

Mary Hladio at  the Finish LineLet’s Get Personal

Mary is an endurance sports enthusiast with two full marathons and one half marathon under her belt.  She recently coached her father, age 67, to participate in his first 5K run and she was there to walk across the finish line with him. 

Mary loves to travel and has enjoyed trips to Germany, France, England, Ireland, and the Netherlands.  Her love of history and architecture was reinforced on these trips.  And to this day, she is amazed at the architecture that the ancient cultures achieved without the benefit of today’s technology.

Avid reader, amateur chef…Mary lives with her husband, Bill and her two Schnauzers (Cleo and Loki) in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Reginald Burke

Director of Operations

M.A.T. National Louis University (Chicago)
B. S. Business Administration.  Fisk University

Reginald BurkeSummary

Life is not a dress rehearsal.  You must arm yourself with skills to handle what life throws your way.  You never know what skills you will need, so train and hone your skills so it is second nature when you need it.   Yes, when you are presented with choices that can be life changing, often times you have to step out of your comfort zone to grow — professionally and personally.  It takes courage.  But it is those very experiences that help mold you into a person capable of leading because you yourself have led the way on your own personal journey. 


Reggie Burke comes from a family with a strong commitment to education and tradition — he is the 3rd generation of graduates from Fisk University in Nashville, TN and a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.  That education gave him a firm foundation of knowledge and skills from which to draw as life threw challenges his way.  He realizes that he is the person that he is today because of the choices he has made.

Reggie draws his confidence from a string of successful decisions he has made and the lessons learned from some that were not always successful.  He takes pride in having the courage to try new things to challenge himself and grow.  Reggie strongly believes that if you are presented with an opportunity to do something different or beyond your comfort zone then that is certainly what you need to pursue... win, lose or draw. 

Reginald BurkeA self-proclaimed Chicago-born city-slicker, Reggie likes to tell the story of when he was living in Nashville and catching himself being swept up in a certain southern lifestyle.  Back then, there was a popular "Like a rock" ad campaign for Chevy trucks.  He was watching it on TV one day when he caught himself actually convincing himself that he could be just as happy slopping food to animals, bailing hay and driving his pick up truck like the good ole boys in the commercial.  It did not become a reality, but he knows the power of putting yourself in the mind set of the person you want to be and making hard decisions to find the route to get you there. It's 90% mental.

Reggie's background and experiences are diverse.  His careers have included teaching middle school science in inner city Chicago, working for an IT consulting firm, working in sales, and as a banking professional.

These various careers exposed him to many different business models and management styles.  He came to learn what worked and what didn't, both for him personally and for others.  Some organizations did not have strong organizational structures, others lacked continuity plans, and others lacked boundaries for roles and responsibilities.  Some made you feel powerless with no autonomy to make decisions that could help the company.  All these things affected employee moral and productivity.  All these thing affected the bottom line of the company's profits.

He is a strong believer in the Ember Carriers' concept of passing along knowledge and passing on "lessons learned" to teach our leaders of the future how to motivate and inspire. 

Reggie lives in Chicago with his wife Trena and his three children:  Taylor and fraternal twins Reginald Jr and Rachel, all under five.

Jim Russell

Director of Learning & Development

M. B. A.  Keller Graduate School
B. S. Electronic Technology.  Indiana State University

Jim RussellSummary

Jim Russell has worked in a wide variety of business sectors including defense, pharmaceutical, electrical, transportation, heavy trucking and automotive industries. Jim was a Plant Manager for three different manufacturing organizations, successfully leading as many as 600 employees at one time. He now provides technical and leadership development consulting and training services to employers throughout the United States.

Jim has taught 44 cycles of the Ember Carriers leadership workshops.


Jim Russell's career is a lot like a tornado — covering a lot of territory, touching down here and there and making a big impact.

Jim RussellJim started out in retail, like many of us, working 80 hour weeks for not a lot of money.  Realizing that this was a dead end job, but not knowing what he wanted to do yet with the rest of his life, he joined the Air Force, where for six years he worked as an electrical technician. 

Things finally started coming together after he earned his B. S. at Indiana State University and got a job at Merck in the pharmaceutical industry.  Jim was promoted four times in four years.  It was here that Jim gained experience supervising union employees.

Wanting to move back to the Midwest, where he grew up, he got a job at FedEx in Indianapolis where he had two-thirds of the United States as his sales territory.  He got to know the airports quite well as travel was a part of the job.

Wanting to settle down and enjoy his family, Jim next took a job with Borg-Warner where he had five different jobs in four years. Here is where he got his first taste of manufacturing and production.  He was quickly targeted to be a plant manager.

Years later he took a job as operations manager in the trucking industry at Hendrickson International.  He implemented many of the management techniques he had learned at his previous companies and basically worked himself out of a job.

Next, Jim worked at UGN (United Globe Nipon) — a Japanese / Swiss venture.  It was at UGN that Jim gained experience working with a diverse workforce.

Over time, Jim also worked at Lear Corporation (automotive supply), flipped houses in the real estate market, and taught college.  It was when he was teaching college that Jim found that he enjoyed teaching leadership training.

Yes, Jim had a lot of jobs, not all that unusual in today's environment, but the interesting thing is that Jim learned that regardless of the size of the company, or the location of the company, or the culture of the company, or the industry sector -- they all have the same problems everywhere.  Problems that can be solved with the right set of leadership workshops that focuses on develop people to be leaders.

Let's Get Personal

Jim Russell - reserve police officerJim Russell is married and has three kids — one of each —
(a blonde, a brunette, and a red head).

Jim is a competitive swimmer in the butterfly event and works out at the gym 5-6 times a week.  His claim to fame is that he finished in the top 10 in the USA in 10 events for people over 40. 

Interestingly, Jim is also a cop.  Jim volunteers his time 40-50 hours a month as a reserve police officer -- with full police responsibilities and powers. 

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