Saturday, December 12, 2009

HSCC Testimonial: Julia Josefina Berg (Boston)

Originally Posted: Dec 13, 2008

There are times when BDPA leaders begin to doubt the sanity of our involvement in a volunteer organization. We give our time, talent and energy and we wonder if our efforts are making a difference.

That is the reason that BETF continues to seek out and share these High School Computer Competition (HSCC) testimonials. Sometimes we simply need to reminders about the impact of BDPA programs directly from our HSCC students.

Here is one that lifted my spirits from Julia Josefina Berg. She is currently a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute who is very active as webmaster for the school's Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) chapter. She was a member of the HSCC team trained by BDPA Boston chapter in 2004. She shares her thoughts on the impact that the HSCC training and competition had on her life. I hope you enjoy her testimonial as much as I did:

"You have eight hours to create an online DVD rental store. You will be judged on teamwork, solution elegance, unique Graphic User Interface (GUI), and the completeness of the application. You may use your choice of Sun Microsystems Java Technology, Microsoft ASP, Open Source Software PHP, or Microsoft.NET, as your database technology. READY..SET..GO!"

The doors were closed and locked shut. Suddenly there I was...a tiny Latina from Boston in a large, strange, hotel ballroom in Dallas, Texas. The room was packed with adolescents, separated by state into small groups and assigned to computer stations. Even after six months of Information Technology (IT) training, I knew my knowledge from school courses and my creativity were about to be pushed to the

I remember looking around the table and the adrenaline rush that streamed through my body. Never had I been so proud of my peers and myself. There we were - the first team from Boston in over ten years. Yet we were not only representing Massachusetts, but also our own native countries, Chile and Pakistan. As the three finalists, we battled our way through programming boot camp and won our regional competition to gain a spot for the national contest. The long Saturday classes, the trip across the nation, the individual quiz bowl, and now the eight-hour programming contest! This was actually fun for me - what once was overwhelming was now a natural routine. Fingers typing, ideas flowing, this was what I was meant to do.

The first time I learned of Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) I was a high school freshman and was thrilled to have IT training with other motivated teenagers. Yet I never expected my mentors and teammates to become like family. I had attended class expecting to be an outcast, the same frustrating sensation I often met in the computer classroom. Despite living in a diverse community, I constantly found myself the sole racial minority and the only girl. Here at the competition I was not the only one who had felt lonely in her endeavors. We had all come out on top, the underdog role only motivating us to work harder.

At the national conference I had the honor of meeting Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to venture into space, and a role model for women in technology worldwide. Her words have stayed with me ever since. She said, "I had to learn very early not to limit myself due to others' limited imagination."

That is what BDPA helped me to realize: where you are from and the culture you are raised in has a lasting impact in establishing your identity, but should not limit your success. Dr.Jemison taught me that you could both keep your ethnic pride, as well as make your mark in this world. BDPA was about more than striving for equality in the IT field, but aiming for the top.

And... Time! Suddenly it was all over. The eight hours of grueling mental stimulation had knocked me out like no other experience. Depleted, I removed my sore fingers and wrists from the keyboard and fell back in my chair. The scene itself was spectacular; hundreds of minority adolescents brought together for a common goal - to show the world that we were the future IT leaders.

I left that Texas ballroom with the confidence to succeed. For the last four years I have dedicated myself to fulfilling my own dreams. I started a web design company and have worked with major organizations such as the Museum of Science and Intel Computer Clubhouse, a global organization that gives minority children the opportunity to learn computer technology. I hope to guide them like BDPA guided me, by following the trails blazed by influential pioneers like Mae Jemison. Why not go for it?

Please take a moment to share your COMMENTS with Julia about her remembrances. Afterwards take a moment to think about ways that you can help BDPA create more love for technology in young people. How can you help?


Julia Josefina Berg said...

It is Julia Josefina Berg, what a pleasure to have found your article! I am glad that it inspired you and other BDPA members to continue making an impact on lives like my own. Since that testimonial was written I've had the opportunity to work for Disney and BBN Technologies, largely because of the confidence BDPA gave me to aim high. I am thankful every day of my career that BDPA gave me the chance to learn. Thank you all!
p.s also a small typo, I attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute :)

Villager said...

Julia - We are proud of you! Have you been in contact with the BDPA chapter in your area about reconnecting?

Also, we corrected the typo!

Julia and Nina said...

Someone recently contacted me about this site and I just noticed your reply. Apologies for the belated response - unfortunately I have not been able to commit back to the metrowest chapter since I now work for a consulting firm with 100% travel. I am a BDPA facebook fan and will reach out to Wayne about virtual contributions!

Wayne Hicks said...

Julia - Is your consulting work in the Information Technology industry? If so, we would love to talk with you on BDPA iRadio Show so that we can share your continued progress from the classroom to the boardroom with our current BDPA students. You can reach me by email if you want...

J. Edwin Sapp said...


Thanks for your continued Excellence in support of Youth Development!

"There are times when BDPA leaders begin to doubt the sanity of our involvement in a volunteer organization. We give our time, talent and energy and we wonder if our efforts are making a difference."

My Raison d'être as it related to BDPA was Youth Development!

As Chapter President during the time that Julia and other HSCC Team members went to Houston, IT literaly took "A Village" beginning with Danna Strudivant, Tim Wilson , our eBoard and the "Investment" which Fleet now The Bank of American made in our SITES STEM+ Program.

I am as Proud of Julia as I am of you for publicizing this.


Your Friend, Edwin

Julia and Nina said...

Hi Wayne!

Yes, I am doing IT Consulting around Health Care Reform. I would love to participate on your radio show / do a video testimonial as featured on your Facebook page. I have sent you an email and look forward to reconnecting!


Wayne Hicks said...

Julia or Edwin - I appreciate both of you! Any chance that either of you have digital or scanned photos from those early BDPA days in Boston?