Thursday, October 2, 2014

Highlights from the 44th Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 44thAnnual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus.  This was my third consecutive year attending the conference and each year has surpassed the previous.  The first time I attended I was invited to be a part of a panel convened by Representative Hank Johnson entitled Beyond the Digital Divide.  I had a great time and share the stage with some great minds to include Hank Schocklee of Public Enemy fame.  Last year I was invited to participate in Bloggers Row.  I wrote about last year's experience as well and you can check out that post here.  That gig came with a press pass and I was asked the chronicle my observations.  It was big fun and I was able to connect with bloggers Norm Bond and Faye Anderson.  This year was my first time simply attending without having to prepare to speak or write and I found myself being able to relax and simply enjoy the festivities and I did just that.

I had a had a great time at the event not only meeting and mingling with leaders and celebrities such as George Wallace, Martin Luther King III, Roland Martin and Jessie Jackson but I also enjoyed some of what The District has to offer from Ben’s Chili Bowl to the Frederick Douglass Museum.  It was a great three days and I am already eagerly anticipating attending the 45th event where I am hoping to participate in The Authors Pavillon.  As a matter of fact I have already reached out to Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson about being included on her Science and Technology BRAINTRUST for next year!

Some Observations:

·       I stayed at the new Marriott Marquis across from the convention center.  This was a perfect choice as we did not need to ride the train or hail cabs.  We simply walked across the street and we were at the convention center in the midst of all the activity.
·        I attended several sessions on STEM.  These discussions have stalled.  They are problem-focused.  We are aware of the issues it is time to move to solutions.

·       Several other sessions that were not STEM focused were discussing real solutions.  In the fatherhood session hosted by Omega Psi Phi fraternity the conversation got down to the real issues and challenged churches and other cultural mainstays to step up their games as well as acknowledged that there needs to be a strategy to mediate the media (no pun intended).

·         Networking at this event may be best that I have ever experienced.  One of the reasons for this is that this conference is not targeted to one group.  Everyone is here.  One minute I could be having a tech conversation with Wayne Sutton (I ran into Wayne in the hallway) and the next minute I am mingling with folks whose passion is health and family.  The intersection of these varied interests and people is quite powerful.

·         No more Powerpoint.  Someone on the advisory board should make PowerPoint illegal in these sessions.  Some of the sessions were brutal as panel participant after participant walked up to the podium and double-clicked on their slide deck icon.  Stop.

·       Last year I rocked my black patent leather Creative Recreation kicks with my black and grey suits.  It was a great call.  I looked good and I was able to handle all of the walking.  This year I figured since we were so close to the hotel I would go back to rocking the Mezlans.  Big Mistake!  At least bring or pack a pair or sneakers that work well with suits so if you have to make the switch you will be prepared.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Is Bringing Awareness to Disease A Good Thing?

Lately I have noticed an alarming trend on social media particularly on Facebook where those who have been diagnosed with disease have decided to embrace or bring awareness to the disease by posting pictures and facts regarding the disease.  This is unwise.  You should never own a disease.  In fact, the goal should be to reduce the amount of time that you speak or think about being ill.  Moreover, you should be diligent in refusing to allow illness a place in your consciousness.  You should only place your attention on that which is desired.  The reason being whatever you place in your consciousness will become your experience. 

Socrates said:  The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

It is my feeling that most folks who do this are not aware of the harm they are attracting to themselves.  They believe they are empowering themselves and facing their circumstances head on.  They are not.  Recently in good faith I reached out to one of my Facebook friends to make them aware of the unintended consequences of focusing their attention on the disease.  I sent my friend a private message and suggested that they recognize the power of their thoughts and that it would be wise to refrain from posting about her bout with the disease. 

I received a terse reply.  It was something along the lines of:  Thanks Kai, I am well aware of the power of words.  Obviously not!  One may understand something intellectually but that does not mean that you have not internalized it in such a way that is has transformed your behavior and behavior transformation is the goal of any understanding or habit.  You see when you make yourself aware of something then it becomes part of your consciousness.  That which becomes part of your consciousness will become part of your experience.  There is no way around this truth.  You can take it or leave it.

According to Esther Hicks, author of Ask and It is Given, You get what you think about whether you want it or not.  Just because your post says:   you are going to beat cancer, it does not negate the fact that you are actually focused on cancer!  What you focus on expands.  The fact of the matter is that you are still mentally involved with cancer, thus it will continue to be a part of your experience.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Use Your Imagination

Each year, #SXSWedu invites the greater online community to share their input on content they would like to see at the event. Public voting will open at 10AM Monday, August 11 and close at midnight Friday, September 5. The community will have the opportunity to vote on session proposals (votes will be kept private) and add comments on the ideas submitted.  Once again I have submitted a proposal and I would like to enlist my readers support.
This year I decided to try something different.  In previous years I have been part of a panel discussion and our focus has been much targeted toward the digital divide.  In fact, my topic last year Plugging the Links in the STEM Pipeline.  I have moved on.  I am ready to change the game.  My approach this time around was to try my hand at a solo panel.  I have never done a solo panel at #SXSWedu but I must say I am looking forward to getting all of my points across.
Also, this year’s topic is entitled Use Your Imagination.  The idea was to dig a little deeper and be more proactive.  Our children are born utilizing their imagination but somewhere along the way this instinctive behavior seems to dwindle.  My goal is to not only rekindle the creative instinct but to also share practices that will aid them in cultivating this faculty which will allow them to not only flourish and thrive in STEM but in any field of endeavor of their choosing.  Help me to help them. 
Can you imagine that?  If you can, do me a favor and click here to cast a vote for my panel.  And if you are really feeling imaginative, share this link with a friend and help me get the votes I need to move closer to making this important presentation in Austin in March.

Click here to vote.

Monday, May 5, 2014

You Got 99 Problems...

Last Saturday I was watching the biopic Jobs and I was reminded of something that I learned later in my career as a software developer.  There was a scene, after he had returned to Apple after having being ousted by the board,  that he charged each member of his team to start to work on something new.  He told them he did not care what they decided to create but that his only requirement was:
It must be something that you care about, because if it is not something that you care about, you won't have the passion to see it through. 
In my opinion that was one of the most important scenes and lessons of the movie and it has nothing to do with technological prowess.

The most important thing an aspiring software developer needs to determine is what problems are interesting to them.  I have known this for years but sadly I was not aware of this when I started my career as a software developer thirty years ago.  What problems are you passionate about?  In most cases, your skills as a software developer will be employed to solve a business problem, but you certainly do not have to limit yourself to solving problems of business.    I have known many software developers over the years who became burned out and switched careers at about the 10-year mark, and looking back on it most of them would agree it was not the role of being a software developer that burned them out, it was solving the same dull, boring, problems in the same organizations ad infinitum.  Boring because they had already solved them many times over.

I find this particularly interesting because as an African American male who grew in an impoverished community it never dawned on me to use my newfound skills as a developer to solve the very problems that plagued my community.  Currently, there are many efforts underway to recruit and attract under represented groups into S.T.E.M. and while I certainly applaud the efforts and I myself am an advocate for having more Women, African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans participate in STEM careers, but I would also like to see the communities that these future technologists emerge benefit from their ingenuity as well.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

How Do I Connect My Students to STEM Mentors That Are Not Available In Our Neighborhood?

Last year during SXSWEdu, I was part of the Plugging the leaks in the STEM Pipeline panel and it was wonderful to share my thoughts among such thought leaders as Dr. Raphael Travis and Sonia Galliard.  One of the great things that came out of that discussion was this question from one of the attendees:

How do I connect my students to STEM mentors that are not available in our neighborhood?

On Wednesday March 5th during BiTHouse SXSW Inclusion Factors, Dr. Crystal Jensen, Andrew West, Brittany Fitzpatrick, and Dr. Mateen Diop will pick up where last year's conversation left off.  We will dig deep and provide attendees with the kind of information and resources and examples that they can take back to their communities and make a difference.  This year it is about SOLUTIONS.  I will have to hold my tongue as I am serving as moderator but I am so excited to be among such brilliant minds that are devoted to using their powers for good.  The BiTHouse SXSW panel the year is entitled:  Education and Technology:  Innovative Resources to Increase and Maintain Minority Interest in STEM. 

Please click on the links above to learn more about these remarkable change agents.  These are not only brilliant minds, but these are folks who have dedicated a big part of what they do to increasing the opportunities for minorities in the technology space.  

I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to Jewell Sparks.  She is the driving force behind what will take place this week and she has done a remarkable job adding to the conversation during SXSWEdu

Friday, December 20, 2013

Let Me Ask You Something...

Over the years I have received many questions from aspiring software developers.  Many of these questions stem from (no pun intended), the posts from this blog, my social media work, speaking engagements and training seminars.  Over the years I have probably answered a couple hundred questions that range from technical development questions regarding patterns or object-orientation to what is the best route to becoming a professional software developer.  On my flight home today, I was reading the new book from my friend Pamela Slim, Body of Work.  In the book, she mentions how she hosts a free monthly webinar and answers questions about the many components of being an entrepreneur.  The minute I read this I immediately thought to myself.  What a great idea!  I could do the very same thing for those who send questions from my blog and social media properties.  This would allow me to better organize my efforts and allow those who have questions to queue them so they are more cohesive and thought out when they participate in the call.   Consider this the announcement.  If you think this is something that would be useful drop a comment here or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know.  If the interest is there I will start hosting my first webinar to answers questions starting in January.  I will provide the details in the next couple of weeks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reflections on the 2013 NBITLO National Technology Conference

On Saturday I delivered the keynote address for the 5th Annual National Black Technology Information Technology Leadership Organization (NBITLO).  The conference was held in Houston, Texas at the Houston Marriott West Loop.  This year’s theme:  Beyond STEM:  Building Bridges for the Next Generation of Black Technologists, Engineers, Scientists, and Innovators was the perfect forum for me to deliver my talked entitled Spiritual Technology.  As a software developer I have attended my share of technology conferences however this conference was different and I came away with several nuggets that I feel are worth sharing.

Keynote Speaker is a Technologist
Imagine that!  I must acknowledge Founder and CEO of NBITLO Mr. Andrew West.  I made a point to publicly praise him for having the audacity to commission a technologist to deliver the keynote address at a technology conference.  I have been so very disappointed over the years when technology organizations convene for their national technology conferences and the keynote address is delivered by an actor or a journalist or someone else who has never worked as a technologist and certainly has no idea what it means to feel the isolation experienced being the only black person on the team.  It was a bold move and it illustrates the commitment that the leadership of NBITLO has to its mission and vision.  They are taking a different approach and they are to be commended.

 Relevant Conversations
The next thing I noticed was the content of the conversations taking place on the panels.  The panels were not technology-centric.  I loved this because in my opinion the lack of blacks in technology is not due to our not having access to proper training in the latest technologies or practices.  Nevertheless many of the conferences that I have attended, even conferences organized by African Americans, focus on just that.  For example, many conferences focus on technology disciplines such as cloud computing or project management.  Not that these disciplines are not important to a practitioner, they are, but there is no shortage of conferences or avenues to have those conversations. 

Questions that Matter
The kinds of questions we need to have answered are precisely the kind that was posed by Anjuan Simmons, author of the new book Minority Tech, when he posed the question to a panel of Black women technologists who made up the Women in Technology Leadership and Service Professions:  Exploring Equity, Dispelling Gender Myths and Empowering Women for Promotion when he asked:.  What Can Black Men in Technology Do to Facilitate the Careers of Black Women Technologists in the Workplace?  Now that my friends is a question and one that gets to the heart of the matter.  When we come up to answers to questions of this nature we will be moving toward true digital diversity.  It was a beautiful moment and the wealth of information that came forth was priceless.  My only regret was that more young African American men in technology were not present to drink from the hose.

The conference was well organized but as always there is room for improvement.  CEO Andrew West has shared with me that the planning and refinements for 2014 are already underway.  All I can say is bring on 2014.  I can’t wait!