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BDPA stages its thirtieth national conference in Atlanta

Consulting firm CEO Randal Pinkett and wealth engineer Ephren Taylor headline the speaker list; media guru Mario Armstrong is the MC


Anita Vega coordinated last year’s BDPA conference, too.Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) will throw itself an anniversary party at its thirtieth national conference in Atlanta
on August 6-9. It’s the fourth conference the organization has held in the Peachtree City; previous events were in 1986, 1996 and 1999.

Long-time BDPA member Anita Vega, conference coordinator
and principal of Onyx Computer Concepts (www.occiny.com), notes that attendees will find all their favorite elements of the conference in place. The High School Computer Competition (HSSC), the IT showcase for college and university students,
a technology camp for youngsters and the IT golf classic will all be there, plus an array of adult workshops, special receptions and ceremonies, awards galas and “of course the two-day
BDPA current president Denise Holland enjoys the gala at last year’s show.career fair,” she adds.

The theme of this year’s event is “Harnessing emerging technology to advance IT careers.” The idea, Vega explains,
is to reinforce BDPA’s role as an advocate for minorities in IT.

Exciting speakers
Vega and her team have signed on a roster of stimulating speakers.

Mario Armstrong.Master of ceremonies for both the opening ceremony and the awards gala is Mario Armstrong, who covers technology for National Public Radio, XM Satellite Radio, local and national TV news programs, newspapers, magazines and more. He’s also managed IT for the Maryland Department of Tourism, and was named “technology advocate” for the city of Baltimore in 2002. Armstrong is deeply involved in efforts to involve urban youth in technology through video games and other projects.

Keynote speaker for the opening ceremony will be Ephren Taylor, CEO of Capital City Corp, who describes himself as a “wealth engineer.” Taylor started early as an entrepreneur, developing and selling a video game to his grade-school classmates at the age of twelve. When he was named CEO of Capital City in 2006, Taylor was the youngest African American to head a public company.

Dr Randal Pinkett.Dr Randal Pinkett is the keynote speaker for the awards gala. Pinkett is known to the public at large as one of the few successful contestants on the TV show The Apprentice, but his tech credentials are equally impressive. He has a BSEE from Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ), and was the school’s first African American Rhodes Scholar. He went on to a masters in CS from Oxford University in England and an MSEE and MBA from MIT. His PhD is from MIT’s Media Lab.

Pinkett is currently CEO of BCT Partners (Newark, NJ), a management, technology and policy consulting firm. BCT works with companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations on housing and community development, economic development, human services, nonprofit and community technology, healthcare and education.

Focus on youth
The HSSC is always a highlight of the BDPA conference. Chapters and corporate sponsors start working with local youth early in the year, with local and regional contests to pare the list down to the five teams competing at the conference.

For six months before the conference the teams train for the last, on-site phase. Another eighty students participate in technology camp during the conference, including a field trip to see technology at work at a local enterprise.

The IT Showcase, introduced several years ago by HSSC founder Dr Jesse Bemley, lets college and advanced high school students present original projects and get feedback from a panel of professional techies.

“BDPA does an excellent job training youth and directing and analyzing the kids’ future so they have a head start,” Vega says. “That’s one reason I’ve remained committed to this organization!”

Staying informed
Job futures of professional members claim an equally important focus. “With more jobs going offshore, we need to figure what we have to do to stay employed, especially since technology is moving so rapidly,” Vega warns. “We’re letting our members know you have to be global, you have to upgrade your skills constantly. Every year you need a different certification!”

Professional sessions, still being finalized, will offer a range of career-building topics, from high tech to personal development. Some even rate continuing-education credits.

Information will also be available on the BDPA IT Institute, run in conjunction with Auburn University, which offers a series of fourteen-week distance-learning courses leading to certifications and continuing-ed credits. The courses are discounted for BDPA members.

Career booster
Vega stresses the value of the conference to members’ careers. “As an individual you could not possibly explore so many different career areas and topics. And on top of that, there are opportunities to network with and talk to people in your own and other industries. It’s an invaluable resource.”

New president takes office
This will be the first conference under the leadership of 2008-‘09 BDPA national president Denise Holland, who started her two-year term this January. Holland is director of IT for SAP at Amtrak. Among other innovations, she’s putting together the organization’s first corporate advisory council.

Holland notes that for the first time in BDPA history, the past national president, Gina Billings, the national president-elect, Yvette Graham, and herself, the current national president, are all women. “But the executive team is about fifty-fifty, so we have a balance,” she says with a smile.

Two-day career fair
The career fair on Friday, August 8 and Saturday, August 9 will wrap up the conference with a flourish. A wide range of companies will be there with jobs to fill. The fair is open to all.

Visit www.bdpa.org for more about the conference or to register online.

D/C

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