|At last year’s BDPA conference, Earl Pace, left, and Milt Haynes.
Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA, www.bdpa.org) is bringing its 2003 national convention back to Philadelphia this year. The conference will run from August 13-17.
“Philly is the birthplace of BDPA,” says Milt Haynes, BDPA’s national president. Haynes is an IT project manager at Lucent Technologies (Naperville, IL).
IT pros Earl Pace and the late David Wimberly started BDPA in Philadelphia almost thirty years ago. This will be the organization’s twenty-fifth national conference.
“We expect the conference to have a big impact this year,” Haynes says. He estimates that attendance may top last year’s figure of 2,000 by 25 percent.
In attendance and perhaps available for networking will be members of the elite IT Senior Managers Forum, the mentoring/networking group for African American CIOs and top IT execs. The Forum traditionally holds its annual conference within the BDPA meeting.
This year the career fair will take place on one day, Friday, August 15 – and it’s likely to be mobbed. Haynes expects to see sixty companies there with IT jobs to fill.
|Happy winners of the 2002 High School Computer Competition.
Classroom to boardroom
“IT – from the classroom to the boardroom” is the conference theme this year, and events have been scheduled to support all phases of that cycle.
High school and college students are always a major BDPA focus, Haynes notes. BDPA’s High School Computer Competition (HSCC) has been a fixture at the meeting for the past twenty years. Competitors have been in training since last fall, coached by BDPA chapter members in programming and computer-building. The teams that survive regional competitions in the spring meet in Philly for the ultimate test of skills.
Showcasing student projects
“I’m really excited about the new IT Showcase,” says Roxanne Clinton. Clinton is BDPA’s national conference director and a data warehouse project manager at Kraft (Parsippany, NJ).
The Showcase is a chance for HSCC alumni, many now in college, to show off innovative projects. The event was created by Dwight Hugget, HSCC director at a past conference, and organized by Dr Jessie Bemley, who helped create the HSCC two decades ago.
BDPA members are working with the students on their presentations. “It’s a chance for BDPA to reach into colleges, and for the students to form relationships with senior IT pros,” Clinton points out.
A new approach to workshops
Workshops for IT pros are always a popular part of the conference. This year the sessions are being organized by Dr Juan Gilbert of the CS and software engineering department at Auburn University (Auburn, AL). “This is the first year we’ve had an academic person organizing the workshops. It’s given them a different slant,” Haynes explains.
Gilbert has put together a variety of sessions on challenging technical topics like wireless technology and .net XML. He’s also included workshops like “Hip-hop and IT – a way to bridge the digital divide,” presented by Dr Allison Clark of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign, IL).
Connections for entrepreneurs
Last year’s successful entrepreneur showcase will be back, this time supplemented by a pavilion on the career fair floor where new companies can display their products and services. “It will give them a chance to network with the other career fair exhibitors, and take the first steps to build themselves into the supply chain,” Haynes notes.
Several venture capitalists will be on hand as well, to look at business plans and make connections.
|D/C’s Janet O. Penn and BDPA president-elect Wayne Hicks with friends. Walt Disney World is a 2003 BDPA corporate sponsor.
Corporate sponsors, media glamour
President-elect Wayne Hicks, an entrepreneur himself, is enthusiastic about the opportunities for new companies. He’s also enthusiastic about the commitments of corporate support that the conference has attracted. FleetBoston, repeating last year’s role of Platinum Level sponsor, has been actively involved in conference planning, even helping recruit other corporate sponsors. Merck and Compuware are active too; and Walt Disney World and Microsoft recently signed on. “That support is important to me as I start my presidency,” Hicks declares.
As always, there will be media glamour to go along with the technology. Tavis Smiley, host of his own show on many National Public Broadcasting stations, is honorary chair of the conference. His Tavis Smiley Foundation is an active advocate for programs to help black youth develop leadership skills.
“The conference gives us the opportunity to showcase our promise and potential in our industry and our communities,” Hicks declares.
And besides, it’s a lot of fun.