'This year's conference will offer more professional development opportunities for our members," says Gina Billings, the new national president of Black
Data Processing Associates (BDPA, www.bdpa.org). The organization's twenty-eighth annual convention and career fair will be held at the Hilton LAX in Los Angeles, CA this August 2 to 5.
Breaking ground with DEC
Gina Billings is a groundbreaker. When she joined Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) as a field service engineer in 1982, she was not only the first woman DEC-tech to be hired in Cincinnati, OH, but the first African American DEC-tech as well. "I was simply pursuing my interest in technology and electronics," Billings notes modestly.
She's stayed with her first employer for her entire career, through its acquisition by Compaq and merger with Hewlett-Packard (HP, Palo Alto, CA). She's currently HP's partner coordination agent, in charge of coordinating vendor service delivery throughout the U.S. and Canada. It's her business to make sure the company's partners give their customers the level of service everyone expects from HP.
EE, PM and BDPA
Billings earned a 1982 associate in EE technology degree from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH) in 1982. Ten years later she completed a BA in liberal arts at Xavier University (Cincinnati, OH). Her 2001 masters certificate in project management is from George Washington University (Washington, DC).
She's spent many of those years actively involved with BDPA. She co-founded the Cincinnati chapter, BDPA's second largest, served as its CFO for the first ten years, and has been part of the team that repeatedly won top ranking for Cincy at BDPA national conferences.
She's served on local and national BDPA executive boards and as a director on the national board. She's been on planning teams for several conferences.
Focus on development
As president, Billings will focus on developing professional IT members. The BDPA IT Institute pilot program, introduced this year, will be heavily promoted at the conference. The online program is designed to take IT pros through three levels of certification. Auburn University in Georgia will implement and manage the program.
Another Billings goal is to obtain public school accreditation for BDPA's Student Information Technology Education and Scholarship (SITES) program. Students in the program get hands-on computer training and mentoring to prepare for IT in college and career. It's great, intense training, and Billings thinks the kids should get course credit for it.
Billings is a native of Cincinnati where she lives with her husband and their two dogs. She was featured in the 2004 inaugural issue of Who's Who in Black Cincinnati, which presented her as an African American woman on the move.
About the conference
BDPA conference theme for 2006 is "Picturing the future of IT." The event will start with a corporate tech tour for professional members.
"There's always been an exciting tour for students. This year our adult members can see the latest technology as well," Billings says.
The conference will feature workshops in IT leadership, professional and business development, research, project management, communications, advanced technologies and more.
New this year is the opportunity for members to earn continuing education credits at certification workshops. "The credits can even apply toward eligibility to take the certified project manager exam," Billings notes.
Networking is always a draw, especially when members of the IT Senior Managers Forum (ITSMF) are present. As usual, this elite group of black CIOs and other top IT execs will hold its quarterly meeting within the BDPA conference.
There will also be fun events for high school and college students: workshops and seminars plus an IT showcase where students present their research. "Some of it is pretty intense," says Billings.
Well-loved by all is the High School Computer Competition (HSCC), the culmination of the SITES program. Each chapter sends a team to compete for scholarships and prizes.
138 corporate sponsors
BDPA has some 138 corporate sponsors, with HP, Billings' employer, in a leading role. In addition to its platinum sponsorship HP provides technology infrastructure and onsite staffing support at the conference. This year's national honorary chairs are HP's Jackie Wynn, VP of managed services for the technical services group; Joseph Smialowski, EVP of Freddie Mac, and Kevin Purdy, assistant general manager of Toyota engineering manufacturing of America.
"It's really an honor to be president of BDPA, and to work for a company that supports our initiatives at this high level," Billings says.