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.

bo
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.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Programmin' Ain't Easy

Last week for the first time in 3 years I sat down at my desk and began to develop a piece of code.  I have been working for myself the last 3 years and I have not worked as a software developer since October of 2010.  The only reason that I was working on this piece of code is because I was completing an assignment as part of the interviewing process for a software company.  I still love working for myself but this was an opportunity to work for a company that I felt shares my vision for what software development can and should be as a force for good.  At first I was very reluctant to even pursue the exercise but the I quickly found myself into it.  My development juices started flowing and I quickly found myself working to improve each iteration of my algorithm.  Initially I thought I would spend a few hours working on this code.

This quickly became 3 days of development time and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I have to admit it.  I love developing a piece of code.  The reason I no longer program is because I don't care for what most companies create in terms of a development environment.  Most have no clue what kind of work area is conducive to the creative flow of a developer.  Be that as it may, the point of this post is to let you know that I quickly realized that my skills were not as sharp as I had hoped.  I found myself struggling to design each piece of code as well as remembering how to do something in the language I have coded in for many years.  I gleaned several lessons from this experience and decided I would post and share my experience.  Here is what I learned.

If You Don't Use It You Lose It
I have taken breaks from programming over my 25 year career before but I have not taken a break quit as long as this current break.  Most of the techniques one uses in programming I have been doing for so long that they are second nature and I never thought I would struggle to do things such as write a piece of code to open and process a flat file.  But I found myself at the computer struggling to access the areas of my brain that I know housed this knowledge.   I probably spent the first day just booting up this part of my brain.  After I got back in the groove that is when I really recognized how much I miss solving problems by developing software.  LESSON:  If you intend to take a break from development for six months or longer spend some time working on small pieces of code or at least review and debug code from previous projects so that this knowledge does not move back into the deeper recesses of your knowledge base.

What Language Do You Speak?
Several programming languages have emerged and become serious players in the 3 years since I worked on my last professional project.  Among them are Ruby, Python, and PHP.  While I acknowledge these are not new languages they are definitely more popular and in-demand now than they were say 10 years ago.  When I was asked to develop this piece of code as part of the interview process I was given a choice of programming languages none of which I was familiar with.  For the last ten years I have been working with C# and Delphi exclusively.  I quickly learned that this was somewhat of a disadvantage and I had to request that I develop my solution in C# since this was the language I had some proficiency in that was also on the list of acceptable languages.  But even still I have not programmed in C# since 2010.  LESSON:  Languages evolve and improve.  Things are removed and added that are meant to make it easier for developers to create quality code.  As a developer you must keep up with the latest incarnation of not only your language of choice, but you must consider whether the language that you have mastered has a future, that is, it is being used by a large number of companies as their development tool of choice. Otherwise you are effectively out of the market.

Think About It
The other thing that I noticed was that my ability to think computationally or should I say abstract was very, very  rusty.  My method of programming has always been to analyze the problem thoroughly.  Before I ever touch the keyboard I make sure I have a solid understanding of the problem.  Next, I solve the problem in my head.  After I have a good idea of what I wish to do I set out to determine how to best do that with the language I have chosen to solve the problem.  Lastly, I continue to iterate through my code as an effort to refactor it.  It was during the thinking phase as I was solving the problem in my head where I encountered, how shall I say this, a fog.  I must admit I found this surprising.  I found myself tapping my head as if to say to my brain:  "hello in there, we have done this many many times, let's go".  It took a couple of days before I shook off this rust.  LESSON:  Don't assume you will be able to pick up where you left off.  I thought I could.  I was wrong.  This was probably the biggest thing I learned.  Going forward I will do something to exercise the left side of my brain.  I have signed up for lumosity as well as subscribed to several cool magazines that will keep my mind engaged in problem solving such as the MIT Technology Review and Fast Company.

In Dan Pink's book from 2006 A Whole New Mind, he asserts that having a technical background is the new price of entry in the global economy, but if you wish to excel you must synthesize your left brain with the creative and design aspects of your right brain.  I am thankful for the opportunity that writing this code has presented to me, not only because of the chance to work for a company that shares my vision of software development but I am infinitely more grateful for the lessons that this opportunity has delivered to me in terms of my enthusiasm for software development and for my new focus to keep both sides of my brain engaged.  Indeed I intend to bring forth A Whole New Mind!








Sunday, September 1, 2013

Kai Dupé to Deliver Keynote for The National Black Information Technology Leadership Organization's 2013 National Conference!

On Saturday I had a wonderful time with the executive leadership team of The National Black Information Technology Leadership Organization (NBITLO).  NBITLO is hosting their annual conference on October 25th and 26th in Houston, Texas and I have been asked to deliver this year's keynote address.  The theme for this year's event is:  Beyond STEM:  Building Bridges for the Next Generation of Black Scientists, and Innovators.  I am very excited about preparing my talk for this event as this year's theme could not be more appropriate.  There are many leaks in the STEM educational pipeline and one of the biggest leaks is that many African American technologists of today are reluctant to mentor and encourage those who are following in their footsteps.

The conference will also present the Meet the Authors symposium that includes Andrew West, Founder & CEO of NBITLO and author of The Modern CEO:  Technology Tools, Innovation and Guidebook for Today's Tech Savvy Leader.  Also featured are Technology Translator Anjuan Simmons and award-winning educator Dr. Mateen Diop.  Mr. Simmons is the author of Minority Tech:  Journaling Through Blackness and Technology and Dr. Diop is the author of 3 books his latest Inner City Public School Still Work:  How One Principals' Life is Living Proof has been featured on the The Joe Madison Show and will be showcased at the upcoming Author's Pavilion at The Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Legislative Conference in DC next month.

The conference will be featured in the October issue of i10 Media Magazine.  Saturday's photo shoot was to capture the cover for the magazine feature.  I had met Anjuan and Andrew previously but it was the first time either one of them had met Dr. Diop.  The NBITLO Executive Team was very professional and I think the chemistry of all the men in the photo shoot was excellent.  Everyone seemed focused and ready to ensure the success of the 2013 conference as well as the Meet the Authors event.  I am looking forward to October as I am confident this will be a weekend that many in attendance will not soon forget.  I must say I was in awe to be in the company of such esteemed and talented individuals who are focused on doing EXACTLY what this year's conference theme suggests:  BUILD BRIDGES FOR THE NEXT GENERATION!

Register for NBITLO's 2013 National Conference here.