Category Archives: ITKAN Mission Supporters

Meet the members of the information technology community that engage and support ITKAN!

Creating New Realities for Young Adults with Disabilities

ITKAN’s Partnership with the Marriott Foundation’s Bridges From School To Work Program

Christian Sullivan wears an HTC Vive to view the virtual reality film “Walking New York” with the assistance of Microsoft CTO Paul Edlund

Christian Sullivan (left) wears an HTC Vive to view the virtual reality film “Walking New York” with the assistance of Microsoft CTO Paul Edlund (right).

When 18 year old Chicago resident Christian Sullivan arrived at the Microsoft Technology Center for ITKAN’s September meeting, he had no idea that by the end of the evening he would be walking the streets of New York City. After an interactive discussion on the technology of virtual, augmented, and mixed realities, panelist Paul Edlund of Microsoft gave audience members the chance to try out some VR devices for themselves. Christian slipped on the HTC Vive headset—a gadget that until then he had only read about online and seen in videos—and suddenly found himself on a Manhattan sidewalk alongside a group of artists and filmmakers. Christian commented that he could barely believe his good luck; he had been researching VR equipment recently but had figured that it would be long time before he’d be able get his hands on such cutting-edge devices. After one visit to ITKAN, though, Christian had tested not only the Vive but also Microsoft’s HoloLens, a pair of state-of-the-art mixed reality smartglasses. He left the meeting that night energized by the experience and more inspired than ever to pursue a career in IT. “I never thought this was where I’d be tonight,” he said as he took one last look at the screens, sensors, and “new reality” equipment positioned around the room.

Over the past year, the organizers and members of ITKAN have been welcoming young adults like Christian to their meetings and into their network through a partnership with the Marriott Foundation’s Bridges From School To Work program. The Bridges program focuses on preparing young adults with disabilities for the workforce by providing them with job-readiness training and connecting them with job opportunities with local employers. Christian, a current student at Harold Washington College, recently joined Bridges to learn the skills he needs to find his first job. Because of his enthusiasm for technology, Bridges immediately introduced him to ITKAN so that he could meet with and learn from professionals in the industry.

Less than one year ago, Orlando Herrera was in a similar position. Like Christian, Orlando had just graduated high school, wanted to study computer science, and needed help finding his first job. He joined Bridges during the early stages of the program’s partnership with ITKAN and attended the technology group’s October 2015 meeting, along with three other Bridges participants. Orlando enjoyed the experience so much that he continued to come back to ITKAN every month, meeting new people and learning new things each time. Meanwhile, Bridges helped Orlando find part-time employment as a meat clerk at Mariano’s Fresh Market, where he has worked for over nine months and has proven himself a valuable and reliable team member.

Between a busy work schedule and his classes at Daley College, Orlando always manages to carve out time for ITKAN and other tech-related opportunities—including a recent job shadow with Adam Hecktman of Microsoft Chicago. This particular day in the life of the company’s Director of Technology and Civic Innovation took Orlando from the West Loop offices of digital marketing agency Mabbly (for an interview with entrepreneur Wayne Kimmel about his new networking guide, Six Degrees of Wayne Kimmel) to the Goose Island campus of UI LABS (for a demonstration on advanced radar, drone, and anti-drone technologies as used by Israeli Special Forces). His involvement with Bridges and ITKAN made this whirlwind tour of the local tech scene a reality for Orlando, who reflected on the impact of ITKAN. He considers the organization “very important” and remarked that “technology is being advanced daily, and ITKAN helped me meet people with initiatives and ideas to help promote people with disabilities in this area.”

Orlando Herrera listens to a presentation at the Microsoft Store during a job shadow with Director of Technology and Civic Innovation Adam Hecktman.

Orlando Herrera (far right) listens to a presentation at the Microsoft Store during a job shadow with Director of Technology and Civic Innovation Adam Hecktman.

Whether it’s through a thrilling virtual reality demo or an equally immersive job shadow, ITKAN is giving the young adults of Bridges a glimpse into what is possible. As the partnership between the two organizations enters its second year, more young people like Christian and Orlando will have the opportunity to build the professional knowledge and relationships to one day become IT leaders in their own right—one meeting at a time.

What’s an ITKAN meeting like? – From an ITKAN member’s perspective

Many times, prospective candidates, service providers and employers ask me, “What are ITKAN meetings like? Are they formal? Laid-back?”. I can tell you that from the greenest rookie to the most grizzled veteran, ITKAN fits a need – they work on developing their skills, they meet…and even get a great opportunity. After attending these engaging meetings, we’ve really hit a groove with our Megatrends (see our previous blog post to find out more in 2013, a growing network with employers, entrepreneurs and the like, and we are constantly looking for opportunities for fellow members. Networking groups can be loose-ended or with strong ties to fellow colleagues, and ITKAN is definitely one of the best groups I’ve been involved with. I did not foresee that I would meet such a great bunch of folks who are dedicated to the the mantra of ITKAN, where we are building (and nearing) towards a goal of showcasing solid, passionate professionals that any company would be interested in hiring.

It’s the tall one, and we are on the second floor.

On arriving to ITKAN meetings, which are held at the Microsoft Technology Center in Chicago, I enter a work-space for us that  is a collaborative environment that provides access to innovative technologies and world-class expertise.  Take a peek here to see what the MTC is like, how it works and the space itself.  Usually, there is always a few ITKAN members that arrive early. We network, talk about work, and talk a little bit of play as well (gaming and the Chicago Blackhawks are the conversation du jour.) After our intros, ITKAN goes to work. We discuss IT in different sectors and formats, going from general info to the most granular info that Microsoft professionals give to us. We get out around 7, but there’s always a few folks who hang around to network, have a laugh and separate until next month. Adam Hecktman, director of the Microsoft Technology Center has a room set up for us, and Pat Maher, the director of ITKAN, starts our meetings. We introduce ourselves to the group and find out a bit about new members. I’ve been working with ITKAN for over 2 years now. I started using ITKAN as a basis to build a stronger personal brand for my career as well as an opportunity to see where information technology would go next.

Our gracious hosts, Microsoft and Microsoft Tech. Center in Chicago.

The location for ITKAN meetings is in the Aon Center, at Michigan and Randolph, and there are great transportation options via Metra & CTA to the Center. My personal favorite is driving as parking at Aon Center costs $6 after 4 PM. Not only is a great price, but it’s accessibility is great. Join us next time. 2nd Thursday of each month (July 11th is next), at the Aon. Email me if you have questions

A message from ITKAN and Pat Maher – National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Come Celebrate NDEAM at the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago!

by PAT MAHER on SEPTEMBER 24, 2012

Members of ITKAN Visionary Innovation Team

Members of ITKAN’s Visionary Innovation Team

In early 2008 we founded an initiative dedicated to creating a community of candidates with a passion for technology who managed disability in their lives. ITKAN was launched at the Illinois Technology Association’s (ITA) TechNexus incubator space with their generous support. Our tagline, “Fostering Knowledge, Network and Opportunity” remains a central theme to this day. We have met each month – with some exceptions – to establish this community by bringing in expert presenters in leading edge technology applications and processes, educating members on a variety of assistive technologies, considering applied technology shifts such as the evolution in the mobile office and engaging our members in forward-thinking projects to enhance their career or future career opportunities.

We have been supported in this mission by the ITA – and now the Illinois Technology Foundation (ITF), SPR Companies and its strategic family, and for the past two years theMicrosoft Technology Center (MTC) and staff. We moved our meetings to the MTC in Autumn, 2010. With the support of Adam Hecktman, Director, and Shelley Stern, Citizenship and Public Affairs Director of Microsoft we have settled into the beautiful MTC with its Envisioning Center, many creative spaces and generous hosts.

Information Technology Knowledge Abilities Network

Join us on Eventbrite

Join us at the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago (directions in Eventbrite link at bottom of post) from 3-5PM on Monday, October 22nd in celebrating the ITKAN collaboration as we recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month and our Computerworld HonorsLaureate, tour the technology world of the future in the Envisioning Center, and view the CINE Golden Eagle and Chicago International Filmfest Silver Hugo award-winning short film the forerunners in this creative environment

“The forerunners is a great film! Very powerful. Beyond the business case, I really enjoyed a lot of the insights it gave into the broader disability experience – putting a strong, tender and human face to it. Bravo.”

– Rob McInnes, Diversity World

Register for this MTC Chicago and ITKAN special event today athttp://www.itkan.eventbrite.com!

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!

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.

——

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