Category Archives: Visionary Innovation

VoiceOver is Being Heard in Innovative Ways!

I was taking a look at the upcoming entries, which will include more interviews with ITKAN members and supporters, and I came across a video today about hands-on usage of the iPad by Wesley Majerus. Wesley was an Access Specialist for the National Federation for the Blind, and he is giving a great demonstration on how the iPad can become such an effective tool with their VoiceOver utility.

Excellent stuff!

One of the most insightful comments came across here:

…Cutting edge developers are keenly sensitive to ALL users of their products…no matter what abilities the tech user posesses. Keep up the good work Apple and hopefully folks with visual impairments can be advisors for updates to the iPad, Galaxy, Xoom, etc…

ITKAN’s Visionary Innovation Team is looking towards the future with monthly meetings and insight on accessibility for those with visual disabilities. Our next meeting is Interested in joining us at SPR offices in Willis Tower?  Email us here.

ITKAN Chat – Interview with Kathie Topel

The information technology industry is comprised of a multitude of proficiencies, and “ITKAN’s Chats” will attempt to reach as many as possible to bring insight to its members, thereby finding their niche and taking another step towards the fulfillment of their mission.

In our last ITKAN Chat, we spoke to Brendan Ginty at Sonicwall about the IT security industry. Continuing our focus on ITKAN supporters, we chat with Kathie Topel, the managing director of IMPACTinsights, part of SPR Companies.

Kathie has led seminars and executive workshops that have fundamentally changed the way organizations operate and improved their performance and results. She created the POWERSHIP®model and wrote a book of the same name, based on her experience as an expert in IT-business alignment.

Now she is putting her formidable skills and knowledge to work for Impact Insights and for the many companies she works with. Also, she recently led the inaugural meeting of the ITKAN Visionary Innovation Team!

Hi Kathie, thanks for your time today. Can you tell us a little bit about IMPACTinsights and your book?

POWERSHIP® is a single source that outlines a complete corporate culture landscape or POWERSHIP Culturescape™ Environment.

IMPACTinsights works with CIOs to ensure that IT is at the Heart of Business Success.  We are IT Performance Consultants who build award-winning IT departments.  The POWERSHIP® book is used in our implementations as the model to optimize performance which results in highly engaged employees and greater contributions to big business goals including revenue, profitability, innovation,  customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction.

After reading about Impact Insights on your homepage, it seems that your company focuses on streamlining companies towards common goals. How often is corporate culture a roadblock towards streamlining a division and/or an organization?

Corporate Culture is frequently a roadblock for organizations.  IMPACTinsights works to make sure that everyone from the front line to the top line realizes they have a role in leadership and that everyone is accountable for bottom line business results no matter what role they are in.  We find that when individuals are engaged in their work and understand how their day to day role integrates with the strategic direction they can be upward of 40% more productive.

Part of ITKAN’s mission is to “Support the Aggressive Adoption of Deep Diversity”™”. Diversity is one of the hottest keywords in business today, and it goes hand in hand with corporate culture. What is your opinion on where people with disabilities fit here? 

Individuals with disabilities can be such key contributors in the workplace of today.  The way they view and understand concepts adds a dimension to the work place that can’t be overlooked.  I frequently see them being extremely focused, very consistent, constantly driven and key participants of innovation.

One perception that we concentrate on from participants during ITKAN Chat is what do they think of the future of IT as a whole. What do you think, Kathie?

“I believe you will see the role of IT across the board needing to be more strategic.” – Kathie Topel

I see the role of IT in the future continuing to evolve at a much more aggressive pace than ever before.  I believe you will see the role of IT across the board needing to be more strategic.  The leadership of IT will need to be more like the leadership of an entrepreneurial company and understand as much of how bottom line value is generated as they will need to understand technical concepts.

Kathie, we appreciate your time for this interview and your contribution to ITKAN. Any final thoughts?

Professionals with disabilities have so much to offer within the space of technology.  Keep up all of the great work in the area of Diversity and Inclusion.  I look forward to supporting ITKAN in way possible.

Thanks, Kathie!

“Getting to Know” ITKAN Members – Dan TeVelde

Creative leaders in technology take different paths, but it doesn’t necessarily call for a certification or degree to achieve their goals (of course it helps speed their progress). The booming growth of the I.T. field calls across all educational parameters, including ones that wouldn’t come quickly to mind.

Many people in information technology today come from fine arts, specifically in the field of music. The study of music emphasizes creativity, timing and performance, and this compliments a career in information technology very well. Ask our featured “Getting to Know” ITKAN Member, Dan TeVelde.

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Name: Dan TeVelde

Home: Forest Park, IL

Involved and Interested in IT – 22 years as a  Programmer & Analyst, McDonald’s, Oak Brook, IL

Education:  M.F.A. in Music, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

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Thanks for your time, Dan.  Can you tell me how did come to the realization that IT was for you? 

I heard about a program to teach computer programming to the disabled.  I was working at another job and felt like it wasn’t going anywhere.  I had always wanted to learn how to use a computer so I took a chance on the training program.  After a year the school placed me in my current job.

Where do you think the information technology field will be in the next five to ten years, Dan?

I think the emphasis in IT will keep shifting away from just coding to more use of communication skills.  People will be working together to enhance their companies’ role in the economy.  As people become more sophisticated computer users, there won’t be as much of a need for IT people to do tech support or application development.  I think we will see more use of social media and mobile applications.  Everyone in a company will be collaborating rather than having their own spheres of influence.

People will also need to be more flexible when the priorities of a business change and must be ready to take on new roles and responsibilities.  Desktop computers are disappearing and I think the same may happen to laptops.  There won’t be a distinction between mobile and traditional operating systems.  Everyone will be using some kind of interchangeable mobile device.

As you are an employee of McDonald’s, can you offer insight on working with such a great company in regards to diversity and inclusion?

None of Us Is As Good As All of Us: How McDonald’s Prospers by Embracing Inclusion and Diversity

McDonald’s has had a forward-thinking outlook on social responsibility.  All types of employees are valued for their unique contributions to the company.  There are always opportunities for any company to expand the scope of what diversity means.

ITKAN has been gaining traction in various areas with its mission. What do you think about this dynamic group, and I’d love to hear your views on your participation on the new Visionary Innovation Team! 

I think what ITKAN is doing is great.  I would like to see more participation by businesses to send people to represent their companies at our meetings.  This would help connect people with jobs and other opportunities.  It would also be helpful to have other technology companies involved.  It’s great that Microsoft is being such a good host, and we need other tech companies like IBM, Oracle and others to participate in our meetings.

As far as my involvement with the visionary team is concerned, I think there is a lot of potential to make a difference.  We will need to find software developers who can work within the parameters we determined at our last meeting.  It would also be helpful to have some engineers there at the meeting who could interact with us about how to develop and deploy new hardware and software.

I can’t think of a time when the need has been more critical to develop better computer interfaces for the blind.  This is very important and timely.  Failure to do so would allow the IT field to completely pass us by and most blind people would either lose their jobs or not be able to find new ones.

What are your top 5 most visited Web sites? 

That’s a hard question to answer but the ones I can think of now are The American Foundation for the Blind, the American Printing House for the Blind, the American Council for the Blind,  Google and Facebook.

You have a knowledge and love for music. Can you tell us about that and does that compliment your occupation today? 

I’ve always had a love of music I grew up hearing it, studied piano in grade school and high school, and majored in it in college.  I was going to teach at the college level but things didn’t work out that way.  I would say where music relates to what I do now is that it is part of my ministry at my church and it provides a conversation piece with people.  I once had a manager who said he would recruit IT people from the music departments of colleges.  There’s a relationship in how the brain handles music and also logic for IT work.

Any closing remarks, Dan? 

I appreciate the opportunity to put myself out there and try to make a difference.

ITKAN’s Visionary Innovation Team Blazes Another Trail

ITKAN’s mission is stoking the fires of passion and technology without limits for students and professionals with disabilities. The spectrum of disability ranges far and wide, and after an outstanding ITKAN monthly discussion about the creative possibilities of Microsoft’s X-Box Kinect gaming product, ideas and passion came together. 

The new Visionary Innovation Team will explore current and emerging technologies that can impact the lives of people with vision loss and blindness, to improve  their careers and lives as well as how society views and interacts with them.

Through the Team’s efforts to follow ITKAN’s mission of promoting the development of passionate technology leaders with disabilities, the Team ultimately wants to make a difference through analysis, discussions and solutions to the quandaries that they face.

Kathie Topel, founder of Impact Insights

Led by Kathie Topel, the founder of Impact Insights and author of POWERSHIP, along with Pat Maher, the managing director of nAblement, and Adam Hecktman, the director of Microsoft Technology Center Chicago, the members of ITKAN focused on its mission of passion, exploration and knowledge of technology in another vein.

Would you like to be a part of this engaging group and make a difference? Want to find out more about ITKAN and it’s members and supporters? Join us at our next meeting on May 17th at the Microsoft Technology Center and you’ll see that we have the setting, the people and the ideas to get the Chicago technology industry listening. (Email here to RSVP)

Coming next week,  ITKAN’s “Getting to Know”  feature will focus on Dan TeVelde, an Associate Programmer (and ITKAN Visionary Team Member) at McDonald’s World Headquarters in Oakbrook, IL.