The influence of BPDA, Black Data Processing Associates, was clearly evident with the appearance of four-star General Colin L. Powell as the Town Hall speaker for the 2015 Annual Technology Conference and Career Fair. (Photo By Karen Hudson Samuels/Tell Us USA)





National IT Conference Draws General Colin L. Powell

By Karen Hudson Samuels/Tell Us USA

WASHINGTON DC (Tell Us DC) - The largest and oldest organization dedicated to African Americans in Information Technology is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of its founding at a convention wrapping up this weekend in the nation’s capital.

Each year the BDPA conference attracts attendees from 45 chapters around the country who gather to network with colleagues, attend workshops and mentor aspiring information technology professionals.

The influence of BPDA, Black Data Processing Associates, was clearly evident with the appearance of four-star General Colin L. Powell as the Town Hall speaker for the 2015 Annual Technology Conference and Career Fair.

The connection between IT and a former Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Secretary of State, was a revelation to the capacity audience and one General Powell joked would surprise most people. “I am perhaps the only person in this room who can program in both Fortran and Cobol.”

So how did an advisor to Presidents get into computer programming languages? Powell delivered an inspirational story his IT journey that started after nine years in the Army and two tours in Vietnam, when he noticed his colleagues applying to Graduate school which seemed like a good idea.

With a less than stellar academic record Powell said an Army representative discouraged higher education but he took the Graduate Record Exam anyway and filled out college applications, while still in Vietnam.

“Low and behold” I was accepted by George Washington University said Powell. “I’m going to study political science, foreign affairs and military affairs.” No, said the Army “You’re going to study Data Processing.” Powell asked “Why” the Army rep replied because it didn’t have anyone studying Data Processing.

And so despite lingering doubts about his being able to succeed academically, Powell said he finished George Washington with an M.B.A in Data Processing. “I was very proud to have that start in life”.

The point Powell said he wanted young people to understand was “It’s not where you start in life that counts; it’s what you do with life that counts”.

When General Powell rose through the U.S. Army he said it was a time of segregation and that he was often questioned about discrimination and benefiting from affirmative action.

Setting aside race as a problem that was not going to be a burden on his shoulder Powell said “The only way the Army is going to measure me is on my performance.” He said his attitude was “I’m going to do my very best with every assignment you give me; and everything you throw at me I’m going to deal with, I’m going to improve myself daily.”

Bringing his remarks back home, Powell said “All you young people here have to fully understand is, you are being given opportunity though the programs offered by this great organization, to learn a skill…you do your part to make sure nobody sees anything coming out of you except performance.”

The BDPA programs Powell was talking about include the annual High School Computer Competition [HSCC] and the Youth Technology Camp. The large contingent of young people at the conference also showcase their knowledge of IT with poster board displays, in keeping with the conference theme of “Evolution of IT: Embracing the Digital Future”.

The HSCC in particular is an exciting highlight of the conference, teams of high school students from chapters around the country who participate in a three part competition that culminates in developing a web application, in eight hours! Winning teams are awarded scholarships and other prizes.

Over 30 companies are represented at the conference Career Fair with IT opportunities in a broad array of industries, from the military, health care and accounting, to insurance, retail and pharmaceuticals. Recruiters looking for new hires have a rich talent pipeline at BDPA.

The continued future for BDPA over for the next 40 years looks promising with the leadership of its founder Earl Pace and the future generation of IT professionals.


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