Author Archives: pmaher59

Avatars in a virtual meeting space sit on benches in front of a presentation screen showing survey results on skills gaps and continued learning related to data analysis and data science

ITKAN in the Metaverse!

We launched ITKAN, Information Technology Knowledge and Abilities Network, in early 2008 with the tagline of  “Fostering Knowledge, Network, and Opportunity”. Early members of the tech meetup that targets people with disabilities may recall our blue and white swirling, mirroring logo that reminded me of Boomerangs. Well, while we’ve updated our logo and tagline to our recognizable signature above, we’ve remained true to our mission. We continue to foster all of these while remaining on the leading or bleeding edge of tech.

Speaking of leading edge of tech, we recently debuted our first formal topic meeting in the metaverse! For the past eight months we’ve been working with a great team from Virbela, who brings people together to work, learn, meet and train in an immersive virtual world – from anywhere. Migrating to a virtual-first community negates challenges and enables growth opportunities for us. The disability community has always faced logistical and travel challenges – gone! Some members of our community also face socializing, face-to-face challenges which may be reduced in a virtual world.

The promise of the metaverse and Virbela’s Open Campus are what really excite us at ITKAN. Virbela staff and specifically Sarah Segrest, their VP of Community, is open, engaging, willing and excited to learn the challenges of disability, and most importantly very creative and forward-thinking. While they admit it’s early in creating an environment that can work for all of us, we couldn’t imagine a better partnership.

“We are so fortunate to have ITKAN as part of the Virbela Community in our open campus. Including the voices and perspectives of people and professionals with disabilities is important to us. ITKAN can help Virbela continue to broaden accessibility for all in the virtual worlds of the metaverse. We’re glad to have ITKAN as neighbors and friends in our community.” – Sarah Segrest, VP of Community for Virbela Open Campus

Virbela is poised as a global competitor in the field of Virtual Reality, and that creates opportunities for every organization in-world to become global as well. Look for our January 2023 meeting announcement and join us. While we target disability, we are an open meetup and members without disabilities are critical to our mission! In the interim learn how to register with Virbela and experience campus for yourself!

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November 2022 Meeting – The State Of Data Science and Data Analytics

Register for the November 10 meeting.

Join us on November 10 for our first presentation in Virbela’s virtual campus. Adam Hecktman, Data Scientist / Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility Professional / ITKAN Advisory Board Member, will discuss the state of data analytics and data science today. In this session, we will discuss the actionable issues within the data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence spaces. What are the demographic shifts in data science? What are the current job functions in the space? Which industries are using data analytics and data science and which are falling behind? We will also get into the practical side of the current state in data science. What do data professionals spend their time doing today? What are the top tools they are using? How is data being evaluated in the face of growing standards?

We will get together in our at our meeting space. Go to the instructions on our website to learn how to join us on Virbela.

Thu, November 10, 2022
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM CDT

ITKAN’s meeting space at the top of the Auditorium Building in Virbela’s Open Campus

Adam Hecktman has been in the tech sector since 1988. Spending 30+ years at Microsoft, the last 10 of which have been in social impact roles, he has had the opportunity to work with private, public, and social sector partners. Adam is a Data Scientist with a passion for civic technology and tech for social good His desire is to help Corporate Social Responsibility organizations have an impact that is aligned to their strengths and mission, and to help non-profits gather and use their data to drive insights.

In a virtual open air auditorium, a female avatar sits on a bench talking to a male avatar nearby while a third avatar stands on a stage watching.

ITKAN’s 15th Anniversary Celebration

Join us as we celebrate 15 years of ITKAN in our new home in the metaverse! We have been engaging the Civic Tech and Disability communities since 2008! We are celebrating in the metaverse at our new virtual home community on Virbela’s Open Campus in the Speakeasy with a dance party, music, a slide show and some surprises!  

It’ll be a fun time for everyone…and simple. You can even wear your fuzzy slippers, and no one will know! 

  1. Go to on your PC or Mac and click on the Get Started button 
  2. Register on Virbela (see below for helpful tips)
  3. Download the app for your device 
  4. Create your avatar  
  5. Join us in the Speakeasy on Th., October 13th from 6-7pm! 

Virbela Registration
When you register, choose ITKAN as the Organization. The Organization Size is 11-50.

Username and Avatar
Consider creating a username that is close to your real name. We will be interacting with other professionals in the environment. Have fun with your avatar, but if you veer far from a real work likeness and you use a non-recognizable username please greet people in world with your true identity.

Where is the Speakeasy?
Don’t worry. Virbela staff members are super friendly, engaging, and helpful. Once you appear in world, someone will be there to assist you. You can also join us Wednesdays from 5-5:30pm in world to get used to the controls.

Event Registration
We encourage you to also register on our Evenbrite page. Doing so will allow us to keep Virbela aware of how many people they can expect and will allow us to keep you informed.


ITKAN is proud of our history of presenting lead edge technology in a fun environment to anyone with even a kernel of passion. We’ve partnered with so many great companies and organizations over the years, including Illinois Technology Foundation, Microsoft/MTC Chicago, SPR, Abilitylinks, Yolbe, 1871, Equal Access, Computerworld, Marriott Bridges, Virbela and many more. Thanks to all of them! 

We hope to see you at our 15th Anniversary Virtual Party! 

In a virtual office an avatar of Nisarg Thakkar looks at a photo of an ITKAN advisory meeting projected on the virtual wall.

September 2022 Meeting – Open VR Meeting on Transformation

Register for the September 8 meeting.

This year’s theme for ITKAN has been Transformation. Whether of yourself, your professional role or job, or the technologies that our experts have presented like artificial intelligence, machine learning or virtual reality.

In fact, for the past several months members of our advisory team have worked with a forward-thinking company that’s building the next-generation of products for the Metaverse and VR. Virbela has created solutions for school, work, meetings, conferences and more that are deeply immersive and transformative. They have been generous in enabling and training us to take advantage of their virtual campus and a private room with an array of functions that presenters can utilize to create a “like being there” experience for us.

They will also soon be releasing new accessibility features to both their avatars and virtual campus. While Virbela knows that building full accessibility features is an ongoing process, we are impressed with their mindset and interest in welcoming everyone to Virbela.

Before our maiden Virbela/ITKAN presentation in October, we need to strengthen our community first and we’re asking you to download the app on your desktop or laptop and create your avatar. Even if you’re new to immersive VR environments (and most of us are!), I promise this is a fun and highly communal environment and Virbela staff are wonderfully supportive and don’t judge.

Here’s the link to download:

We have a standing informal get together on each Wednesday from 5-5:30 or 5:45pm just to get comfortable on campus and with your commands. We’re also holding an Open Members meeting on September 8th starting at 5:30. The advisory team will hang out and collect the group and then either head to our private space or explore the campus a bit and then head up. Please join us for either or both and get transformed!

Thu, September 8, 2022
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM CDT


ITKAN has been a community since 2008 that takes care of its own, and we’re proud of that. Members have secured 1st careers, transitioned careers, and made life-long friendships.  We are perpetual learners and active community members, and through ITKAN and it is our hope that with the focus this year on transformation it will help us to continue this legacy. 

Follow @ChiTechForGood on Twitter…and consider contributing a blog!

Hi everyone – if you’re on Twitter, please make sure to follow @ChiTechForGood and consider contributing a blog. Adam Hecktman created this Twitter page to amplify the great work that is occurring in Chicago in the Technology space that contributes to social good…like ITKAN! If you have any questions please ask on our ITKAN Teams page. Please email Brian or me (Pat) if you aren’t on Teams yet or the ITKAN Team. Our emails are and