Category Archives: Employer Spotlight

“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 Chat – Interview with Brendan Ginty

Views of the IT industry from the Eyes of a Systems Engineer:

An ITKAN chat with Brendan Ginty 

By Bill O’Connor

ITKAN is feeling good about the past week!

We were recently honored as a 2012 Computerworld Honors Laureate as well as having an informative  ITKAN monthly presentation by Pat Shanahan, the CEO/Founding Partner of Shanahan Consulting Services, on his training directed at wounded veterans. We’re hoping to take advantage of Pat’s program in the future for our members. Finally, as always, ITKAN members enjoyed the exchange of passionate ideas of professionals and aspiring professionals with disabilities in information technology.

Focusing on IT professionals who support ITKAN, we previously featured Adam Hecktman, Director of the Microsoft Technology Center in Chicago. This week,  ITKAN spoke with Brendan Ginty. Brendan is a Pre-Sales Systems Engineer at Sonicwall, where he has been employed for the past eight years. Previous to his career experience with Sonicwall, Mr. Ginty was a Network Systems Engineer at UUNET (now a division of Verizon Business) for almost five years.

Brendan spoke with the ITKAN team to talk about the Systems Engineer position, his views on the information technology industry and where it is going, and his views of the future of the hiring professionals with disabilities. He is a resident of Chicago.

Hello Brendan, and thanks for your time to speak with us today. Can you tell us a little more about Sonicwall and your position there?

Sonicwall is a network security company.  boundary fenceMost people are familiar with our firewalls, but we extend our network security reach into other areas including secure remote access, content control, wireless and even data backup and recovery.  I’m a systems engineer and have the responsibility to educate and train our channel partners on these different solutions.

As there are so many different ways to breach networking systems through different types of attacks, I would imagine that a systems engineer has to be a “good” guy and “bad” guy at the same time. Would that make sense?

To a degree yes.  There are white hat hackers or ethical hackers who look at network vulnerabilities and attempt to patch those holes.  There are also black hat hackers who look for vulnerabilities with malicious intent in mind.  Both approaches are designed to find flaws within a network.  It’s my job to give our customers the tools they need to protect their business from these flaws and enable them to continue doing their job without having to sacrifice productivity.

How did your career path lead you to becoming a systems engineer as well as to IT itself?

Computers were always a hobby of mine going back to the days when I had a Commodore 64 as a kid.

I never really saw computers or networking as a profession, until a friend of mine made a career change into the industry.  I ended up taking some courses at a local college, got some certifications and then worked a few types of entry level IT jobs which helped me gain experience.  From there I had gotten to know people in the industry and the “human” networking piece was essential.

From your point of view, how do you feel about the security industry in IT as a whole? Where can someone start on the path towards this specific occupation?

The security IT industry is a great place to be, because it’s constantly evolving and you’re always seeing and learning new things.  As long as human beings are writing code, they are going to make errors (bugs) within that code, and there is always going to be someone out there looking to exploit that error.  As far as a path, I would take some classes to get a solid foundation in whatever area interests you.

There are a  lot of different directions you can go within the IT world, so narrowing down the field will make things easier.  There are also a ton of organizations that are available like ISC2 for security professionals, that hold seminars, trainings and other helpful things to promote your continuing education.

So after work, is the tech world put away until work rolls around again, or does technology bleed into your leisure time?

I don’t think I ever put it away.  Especially with smart devices like the iPhone and iPad, I feel like I’m wired in most of the time.

Before I asked you to visit us for a few moments, you mentioned your interest in ITKAN. As you know ITKAN’s mission is to support the development of passionate professionals with disabilities in technology. I’d like to know your thoughts to wrap things up.

I think ITKAN is a great resource.  Technology enables people to do things they may not have been able to do otherwise.  People with certain disabilities may automatically count out an opportunity, but within the IT world there are so many roads to choose, I think it’s important people understand that.

Thanks Brendan. Your opinion and insight is valuable and appreciated. Any final thoughts?

If you’ve got a passion for something, just stick with it through thick and thin and you’ll eventually get there.

ITKAN Chat – Interview with Adam Hecktman

Adam Hecktman

Adam Hecktman, Director, Microsoft Technology Center

Using social media to foster broad, interactive dialog:
A chat with Microsoft’s Adam Hecktman

By Hsuan-min Chou, hsuan@jumpbean.com

Adam Hecktman, a native Chicagoan, leads Microsoft’s Midwest region as Director of Technology where he builds relationships with the city’s Fortune 500 companies.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Mr. Hecktman consulted at Andersen Consulting as a rank-and-file employee. Mr. Hecktman’s next assignment at Andersen was two years in Grand Rapids, Mich., while Microsoft was ready to send him to Hawaii for a sales meeting. An easy decision, no doubt!

Mr. Hecktman is active in the non-profit industry, sitting on the advisory boards of Chicago Children’s Museum and Northwestern University’s Family Institute. Despite his busy schedule, Mr. Hecktman was able to answer a few questions regarding his engagement with ITKAN/SPR and how he uses social media at Microsoft.

Tell me about yourself, and your role at Microsoft?

Adam Hecktman: I am a lifelong Chicagoan. Chicago and Technology are my two passions. I love them both. So my role as the Director of the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago is kind of tailor-made for me. I have been with Microsoft for almost 20 years. I’m one of the few people I know of that can say with conviction that every day at work has been a fantastic day!

What led you to become involved with ITKAN/SPR? 

AH: I was involved with SPR before ITKAN. Microsoft has a close, long-standing relationship with one of the SPR companies (MPS Partners). It was through that, years ago, that I met Pat Maher. Pat runs another SPR company (nAblement) and is also the leader of ITKAN.

Pat has had a very powerful impact on my way of thinking about a lot of things. One of those things is the potential that people with disabilities bring to the workforce table.  And a second is the obstacles that they must overcome to participate in that workforce.

Having now been part of ITKAN, I have made friendships with some very talented people that any company would be lucky to have on their staff.

Why are you so invested/interested in social media, and in what types of social media do you engage? Blog, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn? How do they help you?

AH: I am invested in social media, and yes, I use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn regularly. However, I might not be your typical social media user.

I mean I do love user-generated content, and I love how that informs broad interactive dialogue. But the social media that I use regularly are the social networking tools internal to my own company, Microsoft. Let me give you two examples:

We have an internal feed that we call OfficeTalk. It is micro-blogging internal to the company. Think of it like you would an internal Twitter. I am not using it so much to broadcast news or topics. I am using it for what I think is a higher purpose—to recognize broadly people’s accomplishments. Whenever I see someone who has done something to make other’s great, I post a little note on OfficeTalk. That way, potentially everyone in the company can see this person’s accomplishments.

In that same vein, we have a tool called Kudos. This is a peer-recognition service that allows you to thank people at Microsoft, and track who has recognized you for something. Since it is a cloud service, it is available to me when I am on or off the corporate network. Oh, and it sends a message to your manager so that you are recognized up the chain. :^)

This is how I get value from social media. I know that everyone has their own reasons for using it or not using it; this is mine.

How have you used social media, and what has been your greatest challenge?

AH: My greatest challenge is understanding how to filter social media tools in the most efficient way possible. Tools like TweetDeck help. But the content you see is only as good as the content people post.

What has been your strategy for creating visibility to yourself? For Microsoft? For ITKAN?

AH: I like to think that everything I do helps me represent Microsoft and the organizations I work with like ITKAN.

So it can be as broad as discussing a technology on the TV news, or as narrow as a discussion with someone I met on the El [Chicago’s elevated train system]. It all reflects on you, your company, and your organizations. Beyond that, I really do not have a strategy for creating visibility for myself.

Tell us about some of the people you’ve met while working in social media.

AH: There are some people who have really mastered the art of generating great content in social media. One of my favorites is Dr. Mark Drapeau, who edits the site http://Publicyte.com .

This is a social media play that takes a theme of public interest and riffs on it. He has a great term for it: Civic Innovation. Recent themes have been around connectivity, and the public interest and policy surrounding it. Other themes have included cybersecurity, etc.

Probably the master of social media in Chicago is Howard Tullman. Howard runs Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, which is a fantastic two year digital media school right here in the Loop. It is a very forward-thinking, push-the-envelope kind of school that is building the next generation of digital media talent.

But the driving force behind it is really Howard himself. What makes him such an icon in this space is the way he can take a story, and combine so many different types of social media to surround it. He is one of the people in the city that I admire most.

Where do you see your involvement with ITKAN going? 

AH: That is a good question. Right now, I support them by providing them with a space to meet, access to interesting and (hopefully) helpful speakers, and of course my personal friendship. I’m really happy with that involvement.

But what I want to see is more people recognizing the potential that each of these members possess. The company that recognizes that—to the point where they engage with one of the members on a career level—is going to be a far better company for it.

What do you so when you’re not involved in social media?

AH: My job is not really social media. It is really about running the Microsoft Technology Center so that we can work with our customers and help them envision solutions that meet their business needs.

I love my job and I put my heart into it. And when I am not having fun with my colleagues, partners, and customers… I am spending time with my family and enjoying this fabulous city we call home.

Thank you again, Adam, for agreeing to answer some questions for the ITKAN blog.

You’re welcome, Hsuan.

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NEXT WEEK: An interview with a ITKAN member, Joseph Blasi