Author Archives: Bill O'Connor

Paid Summer Internships at ELCA

We are looking for featured candidates with disabilities who are looking for paid summer internships in information technology. The interns would be with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Candidates must qualify that:

  • individual should be presently enrolled in an undergraduate/graduate program
  • individual has not attended an internship program in the past with the ELCA
  • individual is not presently employed for the summer

The positions are:

Application Developer Intern

IT Service Delivery Intern

Other internships might be featured in the near future.

Please contact me directly if you have any questions.

Thank you.

Bill O’Connor
Information and Social Media Specialist
AbilityLinks.org

26W171 Roosevelt Road
Wheaton, Illinois 60187
630.909.7444 office
312.420.0576 cell
boconnor@abilitylinks.org

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ITKAN Chat – Interview with John Wilhelmi

John Wilhelmi is one of our consistent members at ITKAN meetings. He is also a skilled networker and life-learner. When John doesn’t know something…he knows who to ask.  ITKAN members have come to be immersed in the technology field from many paths. Some use “Falling Fruit”, others fight hard for new perspectives on education, and still others become… firefighters to trail-blaze their path. Read on!


Thanks for your time, John. When did you start to develop an interest in IT?

During my freshman high school year, I had to take 2 public buses that met each other at a local mall to get to the school. The morning bus schedules were synced and my transfer between the buses was immediate and arrived at the school 45 minutes prior to the first class. I spent the time in the computer lab learning about programming. The afternoon trip was different. Rather than an immediate transfer to the 2nd return bus, there was a 40 minute delay. I spent the time in the computer section of Radio Shack learning about the Tandy and IBM compatible PC’s.

John Wilhelmi goes “old school” with his background of his Tandy computers!

Did IT assist you in your early education?

For me, writing was very difficult. When I went through grade school, such technology was non-existent. It was only in high school that you saw computers in specialized classes and teacher labs. Although in my senior year in high school, I did have the Commodore 64 in my basement lab to synthesize analog signals (DSP) and was writing equations on the Apple II to solve electronic circuitry deficits using Thevenin theorem.

What is your target sector in IT?

I enjoy both systems administration and software development. Currently I provide software programming support for some applications I wrote in the early 2000’s. The applications have limitations because I designed them for the LAN. Some of the users want to see the same functionality in the cloud and have access to the data on their phones and tablets. For them, I’ve been migrating the application to Salesforce. On the systems administration side, I provide IT consultancy and web design to a variety of small businesses through-out the Chicago area.

ITKAN Member

John Wilhelmi

How did you come across ITKAN?

In 2008 I had started an IoT (Internet of Things) automation business geared towards the house of worship community. Part of the business development strategy was to join the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and expand out from there. Opposite of my expectations, the business collapsed and I found myself looking for a transition out of that particular market. I reached out to friends at the chamber and they directed me towards ITKAN and nAblement.

What direction do you envision in the next 12-24 months in IT?

People say that the desktop is being replaced by the tablet and the phone. I tend to disagree. You might have shrinkage in market share because accessibility to the immediate need of items like email, mms and applications that are portable in nature, but the creative process takes place on the desktop. I see more desktop-cloud hybrid applications being developed. The cloud is a wonderful place to slice and dice data, and distribute applications to a large variety of people. The cloud does not render engineered graphics well and has security concerns that make the public leery of its value.

What’s the one thing most people don’t know about John Wilhelmi?

In the late 80’s I was a volunteer firefighter and earned the Illinois State firefighters II certification. While most of my friends played sports, I was fighting fires and rescuing people. If I was to take on a municipal fire department or communications project, I do have subject matter expertise, and with briefings on how the particular organization works can implement projects with a clear understanding of its goals.

Name your top 5 favorite websites and why.

I enjoy learning. Since I’m not enrolled currently in any university programs, I’m updating my skill set using various on-line sources.

BLS.gov – keeps me abreast of what is really happening in the economy.
Channel9.msdn.com – IT is always changing, why not learn directly from Microsoft about their products.
www.learnvisualstudio.net – great source to update my programming skills.
www.cbtnuggets.com – great source to update my systems administration skills.
www.Youtube.com – additional learning sources.

Thanks John! We hope to hear more from you at our next meeting on July 10th at the Microsoft Technology Center. Email me if you have questions. or would like to register.

Marc Stein’s CafePress page

One of our most tenured ITKAN members, Marc Stein, has been joining ITKAN meetings and offering his insight regarding IT subjects. He also has an excellent CafePress website, called “MarcArt”, where he presents his artwork like the one below on various types of clothing, office supplies…you name it! You can take a look at his work through this link.

By Marc Stein

“Back To School”, by Marc Stein, ITKAN Member

Great job, Marc!

ITKAN Chat – Interview with Steve Luker

The disability community in Chicago is an active one in various sectors, from advocacy and accessibility to various employment resources like AbilityLinks, nAblement and ITKAN. These three organizations have grown in myriad ways during the past ten years. One of the most interesting people – and colleagues – that I have worked with is Steve Luker. I actually first encountered  Steve through an educational film entitled “The Forerunners”.  The film was a collaboration between The Mind Alliance, Professor Fong Chan, and Pat Maher of nAblement. It profiles several nAblement consultants, and is intended to support students with disabilities from diverse backgrounds to consider Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines and careers. Steve was also profiled as part of a Chicago Sun-Times article related to ITKAN .

Steve Luker

Steve Luker

Steve has been able to focus his disability workarounds and use of accessible technology into a budding career in IT, specializing in .NET programming and mobile game development. I was able to sit with Steve to discuss his background, career and views on IT.

Hello Steve, we have known each other for years, but for our readers, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came into the IT sector?

I have been a Chicagoan for all of my life. I moved to the Wheaton, IL area and I am married to Michelle. I am a developer focusing on the Microsoft side of the industry. I worked on projects for BP and other large corporate clients, as well as other smaller companies. I have worked on websites and desktop applications, and am currently working on a game called “Falling Fruit”.

When did you start to develop an interest in IT?

As you know, technology users with disabilities sometimes have the opportunity to test out new accessibility devices. When I was a young child, a company came to my school with a computer which would make communicating with people easier. One of the challenges that my Cerebral Palsy creates is verbal communication. That was when I developed a rabid interest in IT. Everything I saw I thought, “I can do this or anything with this technology”.

Did IT assist you in your early education?

I started to read at age 3 so it could have been when I was 4 to 6. My disability does not allow me to speak, so I learned American Sign Language finger spelling at 5 and I was spelling every word out. What’s interesting is that I was not a good speller until I got a speech synthesizer, because I couldn’t sound out words in my head. I always found myself thinking about the possibilities that IT would bring in the future.

How did you come across nAblement?

In 2006, I met Pat Maher at an AbilityLinks networking breakfast at the College of DuPage. It was a few months after I got my degree in IT. He asked me to serve on a panel at Manpower’s corporate headquarters in Milwaukee for the Breaking Down Barriers program developed by nAblement. I was able to meet Rob Figliulo, the CEO of SPR Companies, and I really became more involved with nAblement and SPR.

I understand that you have developed a game for the Windows Phone platform. ITKAN has seen Falling Fruit, and it’s very good (and difficult!). Can you tell us about your considerations for developing the game and challenges you have faced?

I wanted to do some kind of app that would go into all of the app stores. I began thinking about how people were actually making money and what tips they gave. Instead of developing an app that people might use for a few seconds every day or two, I thought of a game that might hold people’s attention longer. That’s important when income is coming from ads or in app purchases.

I know that you are registering Falling Fruit on the Windows Store for the Windows Phone operating system. As there is so much money moving with app purchases, I’m assuming this isn’t a labor of love altogether. As Microsoft, Apple and Google are making millions with their app marketplaces, what are your expectations for revenue from Falling Fruit?

Created by Steve Luker, ITKAN member

Falling Fruit, Created by Steve Luker, ITKAN member

Well, at first, I initially thought of sit-down comedy, as there would be a lot less competition than in stand-up, but that didn’t pan out 🙂 .

From there, looking at apps as a prospective business, Apple and Google app stores take 30% of each app sold. Microsoft is different in that they take 30% up to the first 25,000 of sales. Then they take 20%. That makes it more profitable if you come up with the next Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja. I don’t mind not receiving 100% of my work, because the nice thing about all of the app stores is that they do so much of the work for you. Distribution, the billing…all of the back-end work is done well by all of the app stores. However, all of the creativity is in the hands of the app designer themselves. For example, I did some of the art myself. However, I am not much of an artist, so I ask family members and friends to help me with the more involved work.

After Falling Fruit is established and earning revenue on the Windows Store marketplace, my next goal is to roll it out on Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

Were there any core needs that you had in developing Falling Fruit?

It has to do with the processor and its ability to do virtualization. That’s when the computer creates a virtual computer. The game is being developed in a game engine so it could be exported to other platforms with a lot of code reuse. So I know .NET, but the game isn’t written in that. The game engine was key to being able to create Falling Fruit.

Name your top favorite websites and why.

Microsoft has news, learning resources, documentation, etc., even for a rookie programmer, and you can use Yammer to ask Microsoft programmers questions on their message boards and internal social network. Also, any Microsoft-related sites go here as well. At ITKAN we have access to BizSpark as well, which is a great developer site for Microsoft technologies offered free to not-for-profits. Thanks to Adam Hecktman of Microsoft for supporting us in securing our BizSpark license.

Feedly is my personal news reader. There are many others out there that work well, but as a matter of personal taste, this is my pick.

Twitter is great for following news and political discussion. You can reach out and really interact with who you are tweeting.

Finally, Twit.tv is an excellent resource for programmers.

What do you think of ITKAN’s progress, the upcoming year and the road ahead for the organization?

I think we have come a very long way. There’s such a strong bond on technology and careers in technology. We had service providers, technologists and so on in the past, but now we develop a critiquing atmosphere where we want to be better IT geeks as well as prospective IT employees.  For example, I know a little about accessibility and I know where it affects me, but now I know so much more after working with ITKAN members who have visual disabilities. I’ve learned so much more that I would have ever thought I would.

Thanks, Steve.

Thanks Bill. See you on 13th of February at our next ITKAN meeting.

The Final Megatrends Presentation for 2013 and an Outlook to 2014.

The Final Megatrends Presentation for 2013 and an Outlook to 2014.

November 15, 2013 by Bill O’Connor

ITKAN’s last “Megatrends” meeting was an outstanding discussion based on “Cloud Computing”, led by Chris Kabat, Vice President and Co-Founder of MPS Partners.

Starting from a more general perspective on how cloud computing works well for small to mid-sized business to the “how” of the cloud, The presentation was very well-received, provoking questions on cost, security, control and efficiency as well as an appreciation for the incredible technology associated with a cloud data center.

Cloud

Subjects discussed were:

  • Speed of cloud setup, scale of setup and cost control
  • Cloud workforce patterns through different platforms and devices (This was fascinating stuff!)
  • The differences between how the cloud is delivered – Packaged Software, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Virtual Machines

We also discussed the Microsoft Global Data Centers, who are impact players in developing cloud services for Microsoft end-users. One of the main Global Data Centers is right here in Chicago…and it’s a green complex!

ITKAN 2013 - Megatrends

ITKAN 2013 – Megatrends

This meeting was emblematic of the essence of ITKAN, technology leaders reaching out to those who want to dig deeper into IT and developing technology, process and trends. As always, many disabilities were represented within this rich and diverse group. ITKAN extents a heartfelt thank you to Chris, Jeff Seagard  and Ross LaForte as well as our other presenters for excellent Megatrends presentations for 2013.

As always, a special word of thanks goes to Adam Hecktman, the director of the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago, for access to this great  space and his great insights, and the supportive staff of the MTC.

If you would like to join us for our strategy session for 2014 (which will be spirited!), we will be having our next meeting on December 12th at the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago, 5 PM. If you would like to reserve a spot for your next meeting, contact Pat Maher or Bill O’Connor via email, and we’ll get you on the ITKAN mailing list to  stay abreast for meeting times, subjects and other ITKAN happenings!

IT and Education – a perspective from Joe Blasi

When I discuss career issues with anyone, no matter what occupation, I always promote the idea that networking is the X factor towards finding employment. You never know who you will meet and what viewpoints they have to build your knowledge.

Through ITKAN and working in other networking formats, I have found Joe Blasi to be one of the most tenacious job seekers that I have worked with in my career. He is engaging, always full of questions and is always up for looking hard for the complete answer.

Since I have known Joe, he has crusaded against the traditional education system, supporting a hands-on study approach and intense training for IT knowledge, and makes solid arguments for his point. I have talked with Joe about how the educational process should change, and his strong beliefs have always been the same.

“I’ve been frustrated that those making hiring decisions can’t see a little further. In some formats, especially in IT, the 4 year process doesn’t work for some, especially those who have learning disabilities,” Joe says.  “I’ve been passed on jobs  even though I have had training in non-degree classes, and been more knowledgeable than my competition,” Joe said.  “The older college system is not for all, and some people learn better on their own.  It’s an antiquated system, especially in IT.”

“Schools that are based around 2 years of intensive, hands-on IT training are much better equipped than those spending on English or composition classes. That’s how you can be more flexible and keep up with the industry. Even awarding badges would make the system more relevant.”

After the last ITKAN meeting, Joe marveled at our first discussion on Big Data, which is a big part of ITKAN’s “Megatrends” discussions in 2013.

Big Data
One of ITKAN’s Megatrends in 2013

“I learned how important Big Data is to industries like the medical industry, marketing and so on. I never realized how much data is compiled through a simple drive-thru transaction at McDonald’s…it’s so hard to get your head wrapped around it, but rather than study about theory, I want to be hands-on, learn the processes on how to compile that data and see how it can be used. It’s great.”

Join us for our next meeting on August 8th at 5:00 PM to find out about Big Data, meet Pat Maher and Bill O’Connor from nAblement, and talk to Joe more about IT. You’ll always walk away from the conversation with more knowlege.