Weekend confab connects Blacks in technology

Urban Tech Weekend planned in Houston

Cynthia E. Griffin | 7/17/2014, midnight

After working 16 years in the technology industry, Andrew West has come to realize something critical—the digital divide is a global problem that must be addressed locally. And that is a large part of the motivation that helped him and the National Black Information Technology Leadership Organization (NBITLO) create a three-day event designed to cast a spotlight on Blacks in technology.

Called Urban Tech Weekend, the event will be held in Houston, Texas, Sept. 25-27, and is the sixth annual conference of Black tech thought-leaders from around the country.

Speakers, entrepreneurs, industry experts and panelists will come together to discuss how to bridge the digital divide and get more African American and other underrepresented minorities into tech careers.

This edition of Urban Tech Weekend comes as the industry edges toward a projected shortfall of more than 100,000 stem jobs in 2016, says West.

The NBITLO head attributes the looming shortage not to the absence of workers (although that is a part of the cause) but more to a skills gap, where the people needed to fill the jobs don’t live where the employment is.

The Urban Tech weekend will also be divided in seven major tracks that range from helping introduce participants to the high-level Blacks involved in the industry; to teaching people how to create the best resume possible, to helping people learn how to conduct themselves in an interview to arranging private meetings with industry movers and shakers. There will be seminars on career paths as well as women in tech, a diversity job fair, and a codathon for youth ages 12 to 18.

There will also be an opportunity for Black tech entrepreneurs to demonstrate their innovations.

This is part of the effort to dispel the myth that African Americans are not innovators. According to the group Black Founders (blackfounders.com), Black entrepreneurs make up only 1 percent of venture capital-backed tech startup founders and during the period measured from January to June 2010, the median amount of funding secured by all-Black founding teams was $1.3 million, compared to $2.2M for a racially mixed team, and $2.3M for an all-White team. (source: CB Insights).

Ideally, West said Urban Tech Weekend is also about changing mindsets. It’s about getting African Americans (both males and females) to understand that math and science are in their DNA; that Africa is home to the world’s earliest known use of measuring and calculation, confirming the continent as the birthplace of both basic and advanced mathematics.

The conference will also help introduce participants who want to get into tech jobs to free resources that will allow them to access self-paced learning tools that can give them the skills and certifications needed.

The cost to attend the weekend ranges from $75 for a one-day pass to $125 for full access. There are also scholarships available for youth. For additional details, visit the website: http://urbantechweekend.com or call (877) 778-4780.

NBITLO has chapters established or in the process of starting in Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. For more information about the group, visit the website http://nbitlo.org.