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BDPA conference "transforms the IT professional"

The annual national conference in Baltimore included a focus on youth

More than 500 professional BDPA members and 125 students gathered in Baltimore, MD in August for the 2012 National Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) Technology Conference. This year's theme was "transforming the IT professional."

In today's world, "clouds are no longer associated with the weather and phones are truly smart," says BDPA president Monique Berry. "We, as IT professionals, must always remember…to use IT to engage and transform the world we live in.

"The reality of that can be daunting," she notes. Attendees to the conferences got plenty of chances to learn about the latest technologies and, even more importantly, to "build and strengthen relationships, which are the cornerstone of an effective career and life," Berry says.

Informative panels
Panels and presentations covered emerging technologies and concepts: the cloud, big data, cybersecurity, mobile computing and more. An entire track was devoted to project management; another tackled important concepts like Six Sigma, along with career development strategies. An additional track was slanted toward entrepreneurs, who are a growing part of the BDPA membership.

The emerging technologies track concluded with a high-powered panel on the "look of the new IT professional." The speakers explored new challenges for the IT professional: fundamental roles like bridging the gap between business and technology as the pace of technology change accelerates, to managing "bring your own device" issues in the enterprise.

The IT pros of the future
Developing a pipeline of future IT pros has been a focus for BDPA almost since its founding. The centerpiece of that focus, the High School Computer Competition, was well attended this year. A team fielded by the BDPA Atlanta chapter took first place in the competition, which involves a specific programming challenge to be solved on the spot by each team. Second place went to the St. Louis team, followed by Southern Minnesota, Los Angeles, and the Minnesota Twin Cities team.

Teams are formed in the fall and coached throughout the year in preparation for the national competition.

Younger students attend a Youth Technology Camp that includes an offsite tour, and college and advanced high school students participate in the IT Showcase, a series of live and poster presentations on IT topics. This year, students sponsored by the Washington, DC, Greater Columbia, Chicago and Philadelphia chapters received awards.

Chapter and corporate recognition
Corporate recognition is an important part of each conference. Oracle Corporation was named Corporation of the Year, and Traci Wade, its senior diversity consultant, was named Corporate Champion of the Year. Other top companies for blacks in technology included Health Care Services Corp, HP, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Company, Walmart, WellPoint and Wells Fargo.

BDPA chapters were recognized for their efforts in specific areas and overall excellence during the past year: the New York metro chapter was named Chapter of the Year; Philadelphia received a Community Service award. New York also received an award for chapter management, and a Professional Service award went to Chicago.

BDPA, founded in 1975, became a national organization in 1979 and has more than forty active chapters.

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