Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Black Technology Professional Networking in Columbus, Ohio

by Cecil Jones, past president
BDPA Columbus Chapter

Do you want to network with other success minded technology and business professionals? Are you interested in technology and new to Columbus? Do you need a technology mentor or want to mentor technology professionals? Consider visiting the BDPA Columbus, an organization focused on the development of technology acumen in the African American community here in Columbus, Ohio. The chapter is a strong, dedicated, caring network. Some of their activities are described below.

BDPA is a national technology organization that focuses on developing African American with a technology interest. There are chapters in most of the larger cities in the country, including Columbus. It is a good local and national network. They sponsor a national conference in a different city each year. The national conference highlights include a Career Fair where you can talk with hiring companies before, during and after the Career Fair. In the evenings, before and after the career fair, the companies sponsor free, informal ‘get-to-know the company’ gatherings in large meeting rooms. There, the companies describe what they do, answer any questions provide help with resumes and do career coaching.

The conference also provides many seminars focused on technology, management, project management, career development, entrepreneurship, networking and other valuable skills. It sponsors technology competitions for high school student competitors from around the country. BDPA national conferences include meetings of the IT Senior Management Forum (ITSMF) for those at the CIO, Vice President and Director levels. The ITSMF is a national forum that national organization dedicated to fostering upper-level executive talent among African American IT professionals. Those not at the upper-level can join as a protegee to be mentored by an executive.

The local chapter of BDPA has a great history. Several of the founders of the local chapter have become business owners or IT executives.
Cecil Jones
  • One of the founders is Archie Williamson, the CEO of Diversified Systems, a regional Consulting company. 
  • Another founder, Delden Fane, has moved to Atlanta and started his IT Consulting company. 
  • The longest serving chapter president, Cecil Jones (author of this article), has been Vice President/Administrative Manager at JP Morgan, Director of Technology at Computer Sciences Corporation, Director of Interactive Technology at Cincinnati Bell and Associate Director at Network Applications at The Ohio State University, after starting his career at IBM.  
  • Reggie Hillery, the immediate past chapter president, is an IT Consultant. 
  • Deborah Smedley, the current president of BDPA Columbus, has held multiple management roles in Information Technology and teaches technology at the university level. Deborah has received the Alpha Phi Alpha Jewel Award for Technology Leadership, among other honors. 
  • Wayne Hicks is a former national president of BDPA and former president of BDPA Cincinnati chapter. He is the president of BETF (BDPA Education and Technology Foundation), a 501c3 non-profit charity, founded in 1992 to support the education and technical programs of BDPA. Wayne is a speaker at some BDPA Columbus chapter meetings and has advised and supported African American technology businesses here in Columbus on a hands-on basis. BETF support chapters across the country.
The local BDPA chapter has had a successful record of attracting corporate sponsors. These sponsors have in the past assisted with providing instructors and sponsoring the High School Computer Competition team to attend and participate in the national competition. Training for the August 2012 conference competition has begun. Students are needed. Instructors are needed.

Along with BDPA members and guests, recruiters and hiring managers typically attend the BDPA meetings. The Information Exchange chapter meetings typically focus on a technology or business trend around technology. Previous topics have included the secure usage of Facebook, Security concepts, Web development and Branding, Project Management, Vendor product demonstrations and other topics.

In addition to the High School Computer Competition teams, additional programming is developed for middle school children. The local chapter’s training focuses on middle school through high school students. BDPA Columbus chapter took home the bronze medal in the 2011 national BDPA HSCC championship.

The strategic value for members surrounds the networking with other members, the education and training and also the ability to quickly get to a hiring manager when looking that new position. Mentoring occurs across the chapter. Businesses come to BDPA looking to hire employees. Some small businesses have attended BDPA chapter meetings to find a competent web site and branding builder.

The Columbus chapter has had chapter meetings at multiple locations, including: JP Morgan Chase, Nationwide, Cardinal Health, Limited Brands, and the Urban League. Employers like BDPA as a resource to support their existing employees, in addition to helping them find qualified new employees.

BDPA participated in a December 2011 community gathering with other Black professional organizations (Columbus Association of Black Journalists, the National Society of Black Engineers and the National Association of Black Accountants). Collectively, they produced a couple of thousand dollars for needy families to have good Christmas seasons. They bought clothes and other necessities for African American families with limited funds that were selected via Franklin County Children Services.

The BDPA mission includes developing their members, developing our children, assisting BDPA stakeholders, and reaching out to the community.  BDPA Columbus supports Black Family Technology Awareness Week in February of each year.

Do yourself a favor -- contact BDPA Columbus chapter or National BDPA (for those of you that live outside of Ohio). You, your family or someone you know will benefit from taking that 5 minutes to reach out to BDPA.

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