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!


Saturday, October 5, 2013

How an Investment in Spirituality Can Lead to Academic Achievement

The Second Annual African American Male Student Achievement and Success Symposium convened this week at the luxurious Four Seasons hotel in beautiful downtown Houston, Texas.  I was honored to be included with such esteemed scholars as Dr. Ariel Hilton, Assistant Vice President for Inclusion Initiatives at Grand Valley State University as well as award-winning filmmaker Janks Morton who created and produced the controversial film Hoodwinked.

I was very excited to be a part of this event for two reasons.  First, I am always passionate when I have an opportunity to do work that impacts the lives of black males.  That is what I am all about so this was a great opportunity to do that with like-minded individuals.  But the greatest joy this time out for me was that I was able to bring a topic to the fore that I have yet to this point not been able to do.  For this particular conference I submitted my topic on the impact of spiritual principles on education.  Whew!  I did not think it had a chance of getting accepted.  I made it clear I was not to speak on religion, but universal principles of spirituality and my proposal was accepted.  Now that is exciting for me because it certainly will not be the last time I bring this topic.  My official title was:

Where Are Black Men in STEM:  How Spiritual Investment Leads to Academic Achievement

It was a very small group.  Much smaller than I am used to but I am grateful that they were there.  And I am grateful that they listened.  As we continue to grapple with the issues surrounding the education of African American males this is a conversation that needs to be had.  This is a component that is largely ignored.  Well it will no longer be ignored on my watch.  As I mentioned to the small group of scholars and educators the original meaning of the word education means 'to bring out', while we spend must of our time in education working to 'put in'.  Perhaps this is part of the problem?  And further, what is it that the ancients were referring to bringing out when they coined the term educare?

Ah yes.  I was loving it.  I must give credit to Founder and Publisher of the Texas Higher Education Journal, De Juana Lozada for having the courage to include my topic.  I feel that in the future the topic of spirituality will play a larger role in education as folks wake up to the truth and that truth is we are mental beings and in order to experience success we must adhere to mental laws.  Of course, I can speak on STEM, technology, and educational technology until I am blue in the face, but at this point in my journey I have come to the conclusion that the concepts of spirituality are poised to make the biggest difference in the plight of black males in education and anywhere else they seek to create an experience for themselves.

Although I speak often times around the issues of digital divide and education as I evolve I will speak more on issues of true education, which by definition is spiritual, and these principles aligned with practices are the best way to solve the problems that we have erroneously named educational problems, self-esteem problems, and confidence problems.  These are issues of consciousness.  As author of Power vs. Force, David Hawkins tell us:  There are no causes within the observable world, the observable world is a world of effects.  Think deep on that for a few moments.  I believe that the reason African Americans males continue to struggle in school and in life is due to a lack of knowledge of self.  By that I mean the knowledge that we are spiritual beings or as W. Clemente Stone put it You are a mind with a body. How does someone teach confidence or self-esteem?  These are qualities that must emerge from within one's self not from the outside. Most approaches to these issues are approaches that are external to the student but the way you change the observable or the world of effects is not by dealing with the effect, you must deal with the cause and the cause is consciousness.

"Not once, neither in grade school or in college were we ever instructed in the simple techniques of learning how to apply mental laws; laws that have the power to overcome adversity, eliminate self-defeating habits, and increase our self-confidence (Kimbro, 1991).  That being the case, I feel certain that an understanding of spiritual principles anchored in practices such as meditation, affirmative prayer, visualization and gratitude can go along way in creating the kind of achievement and success that founder and publisher De Juana Lozada had in mind when she caught the idea to create such an awe-inspiring event.

Sources:  Think and Grow Rich:  A Black Choice, Dennis Kimbro
Power vs. Force, David R. Hawkins

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bloggers Row at The Congressional Black Caucus Conference

Bloggers Row
As a result of my speaking last year at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference last year I was invited to be a guest blogger on their new blog The Village.  I was delighted and surprised to learn of this opportunity.  I did several posts on the blog around technology and the digital divide, my passion.  I wrote my last article for The Village in April and as a result I was honored to receive a media pass to this year's conference.

I have only been here for a few hours and it has already been so worth it.  First of all my boy Dr. Mateen Diop was selected as a featured author.  Also, this year the foundation to incorporate a Bloggers Row.  This is the first time they have done this and I was selected as one of the bloggers to participate.  As soon as I arrived at bloggers row I was able to meet such wonderful bloggers and advocates for Blacks in business and technology as Faye Anderson of Tracking Change as well as economic activist out of Philadelphia Norm Bond.

Media Pass
Mateen and I headed over to the conference this morning at around 10:00 am to register.  Immediately after registration with bumped into Faye already firing up the iPad and burning up Bloggers Row.  I don't believe in co-incidence so it was synchronicity that education advocate and a career educator should meet.  Faye filled Mateen in on the problems going on in the school districts of Philadelphia and Mateen was able to inform Faye about his new book.  

It was kind of quiet during this time so we started to map out our day, charged our phones and surveyed the landscape.  I also registered as a blogger on Bloggers Row and decided I would come back and blog a few hours later. This would give me a chance to check everything out before putting keyboard to blog.  There are several great sessions that we intend to attend.  But for now it is off to the Author's Pavilion to support Mateen as a featured author.

This was very cool.  We arrived at the Pavilion only to realize that Mateen's table was setup adjacent to the iconic representative John Lewis.  At the end of his row was actress Victoria Rowell of Young and The Restless fame and on the end of this row was Keith C. Holmes author of Black Inventors.  I had actually brought his book with me in order have him sign it as it has been very useful to many in many of my presentations aimed at attracting young African Americans to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  Keith has agreed to come on the The Kai Dupé Show so be on the lookout for that.
Several folks showed interest in Mateen's book but unfortunately there was a mix-up and he did not actually have any books for sale. Although we were able to have folks order the Kindle Version as well as place pre-orders for the book on-site.

Norm Bond
All-n-all it has already been a wonderful day of networking, learning and fun.  I owe a debt of gratitude of Jada Irwin of the CBC Foundation for giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do.  I love attending events such as this because it renews my batteries to continue moving forward with my work.  Last year the conference did not have a row dedicated to bloggers.  The fact that there was a bloggers row here this year illustrates that the foundation understands the impact that bloggers have as well as serves as form of validation for what and others are working to change in our community.  I am honored and humbled to have been chosen as part of this inaugural group!

I had to leave early this year but I am already looking forward to attending this wonderful event next year.