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At ITSMF gala, IT execs look beyond the glass ceiling

Awards and speakers spark annual event for top IT pros

At the gala, from left: Dr Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft; Monte E. Ford, American Airlines;  Dr Randal D. Pinkett, BCT Partners; James D. Cook, Hewlett-Packard.IT leaders from the public and private sector gathered in Irving, TX in February to honor colleagues and share information. The goal was to help African American and Hispanic IT execs compete in today’s global marketplace. The occasion was the fifth annual awards gala of the Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF, www.itsmfonline.org). This year’s event was co-sponsored by the Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC, www.hitecglobal.org).

Both ITSMF and HITEC provide intensive and structured mentoring for aspiring IT pros, with the goal of increasing the number of African American and Hispanic CIOs and other C-level execs in American corporations.

About 500 corporate, government and association execs and guests gathered for the gala. The featured attraction was a keynote address by Dr Randal D. Pinkett, technology entrepreneur, speaker and author, who is also the first black winner of the NBC TV show “The Apprentice.” Pinkett is co-founder, chair and CEO of BCT Partners (Newark, NJ), a technology and policy consulting firm.

In his speech, Pinkett proposed that “glass ceiling” is no longer a relevant term for the challenges facing minorities in the twenty-first century. A more appropriate analogy, he says, would be that of an “ever-changing game.”

To succeed in IT today, Pinkett suggests that IT pros adopt “game-changing strategies.” He emphasized the importance of working across lines of difference, creating partnerships between IT entities, and fostering mentoring relationships between IT corporations and minority IT firms.

Recognizing leaders
Dr Elva Jones accepts her award.The ITSMF awards honor industry leaders who contribute to the advancement of both the IT industry and the next generation of African American IT leaders. This year’s top awards went to Monte Ford, SVP and CIO, American Airlines; Dr Pinkett; Dr Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft Corp chair for the Middle East and Africa; Dr Elva Jones, CS department chair, Winston Salem State University; and James Cook, VP for data center transformation, Hewlett-Packard.

Global banking giant UBS was corporate sponsor of the year; member of the year was LaTasha Gary, senior director of global channel partner information for Hewlett-Packard. A special recognition award went to David Segura, CEO of VisionIT (Detroit, MI) and vice-chair of HITEC.

The evening also included an executive online auction. Members had a chance to bid on one-on-one networking opportunities with execs from America’s top global organizations.

Global emphasis
ITSMF/HITEC’s globalization symposium, held in conjunction with the gala, featured a lineup of session leaders with an international emphasis, including recruiting and international business experts.

Mark Polansky, senior client partner and managing director of the IT officers practice of exec recruitment firm Korn/Ferry, looked at the changing role of today’s CIO, who is often expected to be a corporate “change agent.” Cross-cultural expert Terri Morrison spoke about local customs and proper business etiquette throughout the world.

Leo Abruzzese, editorial director in North America for The Economist’s intelligence unit; and Jorge L. Lopez, VP and analyst for the Gartner Group, looked at global economic projections for the next eighteen months and considered what the economic situation might mean to IT execs.

Sponsors and more
Corporate event sponsors were American Airlines, Bank of America, Blackwell Consulting, Chubb, Cisco, Coca-Cola, Comerica, Cox Enterprises, CrestPoint, Cummins, Daman, Deloitte, Delta, EDS (an HP company), Embarq, Estee Lauder, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Korn/Ferry International, Liberty Mutual, Lockheed Martin, Macquarium Intelligent Communications, Marriott, Medtronic, Microsoft, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pitney Bowes, Procter & Gamble, UBS, VisionIT, Wells Fargo, Whirlpool and WSF Associates.

ITSMF members meet quarterly. The organization works closely with universities and other professional societies to promote IT careers for African Americans.

This year ITSMF has scheduled CIO summits at North Carolina Central University and Howard University. It will hold its third-quarter meeting during the national convention of Black Data Processing Associates in Raleigh, NC, August 6-8.


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