The twenty-seventh annual national conference of Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) brought more than a thousand attendees together in the Motor City for four days of networking, workshops and celebrations.
This conference, the highlight of the BDPA year, takes untold hours and days of preparation by the host chapter and national officers. This year's team was headed by conference director Carole Y. Johnson of the Detroit chapter and the Oakland County, MI IT department.
At the opening ceremony, BDPA founder Earl Pace noted the group now has fifty-four chapters and is going strong. National president R. Wayne Hicks discussed the need to encourage more African American IT pros to earn their PhDs. Omar Wasow, executive director of blackplanet.com and a commentator for national press on new media technologies, noted that black technologists have completed the journey "from consumer to creator."
ITSMF plays its part
The IT Senior Management Forum (ITSMF, www.itsmfonline.org) was once again an active conference participant. ITSMF works to increase the number of African Americans at executive IT levels through networking, executive mentoring and strategic partnerships with BDPA and other groups.
This year ITSMF members conducted two very popular workshops, notes BDPA president Hicks. One, on work/life balance for women, featured a panel of female ITSMF members from companies including Thermo Electron, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft and Georgia-Pacific. The panelists shared their strategies for surviving and prospering in the corporate world.
The second workshop focused on change management and careers. It starred IT execs from HSBC, AVP Erie Insurance, Marriott, Becton Dickinson and HP.
Catalyst for invention
Many major corporations both supported and participated in the conference. HP's Mark Townsell, who heads business development for the company's computer-services business in the Americas, declared that "diversity is a catalyst for invention."
The annual High School Computer Competition (HSCC) is a popular feature of each BDPA conference. Teams of BDPA members work with students, often for a full year, to prepare them for regional and national competition. This year's winner was the Southern Minnesota team, with runners-up from the Connecticut and New Jersey chapters.
The annual awards banquet includes recognition of outstanding chapters. This year's community service award went to the Chicago, IL chapter, which was also named chapter of the year. Cleveland was recognized for service to its professionals; Cincinnati for management and Baltimore for its membership efforts.
Corporate awards went to Allstate, Bank of America, Compuware, Dell, HP, Lockheed Martin EIS, Mayo and Merck.
Allstate was a platinum sponsor of the conference and is a major contributor to BDPA's work. Anthony Abbattista, VP of enterprise technology strategy and planning at Allstate, commented afterward that "The energy and spirit of the conference were inspiring." He was thrilled, he said, "to listen to other IT leaders and hear how they attribute their success in part to their association with BDPA."