Category Archives: IT Trends

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.

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.

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!

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

Passion starts with ITKAN, and StopGap shows how passion works.

Recently, I came across an article about Luke Anderson and StopGap, an organization in Toronto that is based around raising awareness  of accessibility issues to local businesses.

Luke Anderson, speaking at the Canadian Urban Institute forum in November 2011.

You might think that StopGap was an initiative of an aggressive disability advocacy organization or well-oiled city government, but in fact it’s the concept of passionate 12 and 13 year olds. Coupled with the support of grassroots educators and area professionals, StopGap is making a big difference in overall accessibility.

After reading this great story, I immediately made connections to our efforts within ITKAN. Our mission is to strengthen our members’ professional technology network, expand their knowledge base in developing IT applications and tools, and better prepare them for a career in this exciting and demanding field. We are a passionate and engaged membership – and we’re always looking to grow!

Throughout 2013 we’re exploring four Megatrends in technology at ITKAN. We’ve begun with mobile which we’ll continue covering in February and March. We will explore social media, big data and cloud computing respectively through the balance of year.

Come join us to find out more to gain insights and career-impacting knowledge in technology Megatrends!.

Megatrends & Education.

ITKAN kicked off our year of IT Megatrends in a big way at our January meeting!  We began exploring mobile computing principles, products, advantages and challenges. Jeff Seagard, a senior technology architect for Microsoft, led our January meeting to start ITKAN on the Megatrends path. He will be back to drill a bit deeper in the mobile sphere for our February 14th meeting.

ITKAN 2013 - Megatrends

ITKAN 2013 – Megatrends

First quarter 2013 – Jan, Feb, Mar – Mobile Technology, (Jeff Seagard, Microsoft)

Second quarter 2013 – Apr, May, Jun – Social Media and Business (Todd Nilson, Social Syntax)

Third quarter – July, Aug, Sept – Big Data (Jeff Seagard, Ross LaForte)

Fourth quarter – Oct, Nov, Dec – Cloud Computing – (Chris Kabat)

One of ITKAN’s charter members, Joe Blasi, feels that Megatrends is a framework that traditional IT education could learn from…

“Education needs to be better fitted into today’s fast paced IT, and needs to take a page from the traditional trades with some kind of apprenticeship system”, says Blasi. He also believes a more hands-on approach is more effective, especially for IT prospects and workers that have disabilities. “The older education system is left behind when it comes to offering more hands on work.”

Each topic will begin with a high-level overview, then drill down to more granular or applied knowledge, finally culminating (in the 3rd month of each quarter) with a more innovative, creative delivery for student attendees who have attended each of the previous 2 sessions on that topic. This could include an industry case study, an exercise that applies some of the knowledge delivered/gleaned from the earlier sessions, or some other innovative approach.

Join us in February at the Microsoft Technology Center at 5 Pm on every 2nd Thursday of each month. Click here to reserve your spot for our second Megatrends meeting!!