Tech standouts seek to increase numbers

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 9, 2009 — How to increase the number of African-Americans in technology is not rocket science,  says Mary Spio — a rocket scientist.
“I was always inspired to go into science by watching people who looked like me succeed,” says the president and co-founder of Gen2Media Corp (GTWO:OB) , an Orlando based digital media company that enables clients to create, deliver and market video content and advertising online and in-stores. By age 26, she was head of digital satellite communications for Boeing. Then, she co-created the technology for the digital cinema and holds four patents in digital cinema.
Capturing the interest of people is a focus of Dr. Juan Gilbert, chairman of the Division of Human-Centered Computing in the School of Computing at Clemson University, SC. “We build technological innovations that capture the interests of people because the technology is grounded in their culture,” he says.  “For example, we use hip-hop to teach African-American kids algebra with game-like computer software featuring familiar faces and surroundings. Our efforts are socially inspired and appeal to students of color that normally would not pursue computing.”
Dr. Melodie Mayberry-Stewart, New York State Chief Information Officer, has increased procurement from MBWE IT firms three fold in two years from 4.8% to 14.3%.  Her office just began inFielder, a monthly newsletter to share information on resources, upcoming events, and highlight successes being achieved to advance supplier diversity throughout New York.
Her deputy, Sharon Cates Williams, recently accompanied students from Greentech Academy to visit IBM’s Data Center in Poughkeepsie, one of three scheduled visits to high tech facilities to expose students to technology development and real world application production and deployments..
For Professor Joseph Saulter, CEO of Entertainment Arts Research Inc. (EARI: OTC) in Atlanta, who has launched a drive to inspire hundreds of new game developers using his company’s architecture, it could be a matter of faith.
EARI is creating a virtual environment for major churches called Universe of Faith, said Saulter, reachng thousands of Christians using a virtual game-like environment.
That’s a thought that animates the likes of Karen Rupert Toliver, vice president of animation for 20th Century Fox, digital online communities expert Belinda Hankins, Roland Poindexter, vice president of Nickelodeon and Corey Rosemond, Global Gaming Manager for Microsoft.
Rosemond is responsible for driving the strategies and relationships that enable Windows to be a preferred platform for gaming. Corey manages the evaluation and forecasting of gaming market trends for Windows and works with other industry leaders to ensure that the Windows platform delivers compelling experiences for gamers while also serving as a viable and profitable game development space. In addition, he leads the Games for Windows program which has grown under his leadership to include independent game developers and launch a self-certification program which will grow the program worldwide.
Spio’s premise is being proven in places like Prince George’s County, MD, home to 14,000 African-American computer professionals, led by County Executive Jack B. Johnson, and Cook County, IL, where Alana Ward Robinson of Robinson Group Consulting, a former CIO of Sara Lee and R.R.Donnelley, works with youth organizations  to motivate youth towards technology careers.  Cook County, with over 6,000, has the second largest number of African-Americans in computers.
They are all among the selections to the 10th annual 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology, announced by San Francisco-based publisher eAccess Corp.  President/Executive Editor John William Templeton was editor of the San Jose Business Journal in the 1980s and has tracked equal opportunity in the industry for more than 20 years.  He is co-founder of National Black Business Month each August.  He is producer of the documentary Freedom Riders of the Cutting Edge.
“African-American contributions to technology are as ubiquitous as our movie screens and video games,” notes Templeton, “and as massive as our space exploration, airlines, manufacturing, retail, finance and healthcare.   By raising the profile of  our overlooked overachievers, we expand the talent base available for the challenges of the future.”
Selectees of the 10th edition will gather in San Francisco Friday, Jan. 15, 2010, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to shape a plan to double African-American involvement in technology during a symposium on innovation and equity at Pier One, Port of San Francisco.
Templeton said, “We pick the people who we expect to have the greatest impact on technology and society over the next year.  This year, we’re focusing on innovation, workforce development and technical complexity because of the dramatic new investments in science and engineering due to transformations in energy, communications and health care.
Some of the listed are in positiion to drive policy, like Johnson.   Timothy A. Simon is commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission has pushed companies under his authority to increase contracts with African-American and other minority firms and to get involved in improving education.
The list includes three new agency heads in the Obama administration: Maj. Gen. (ret.) Charles Bolden, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency and Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner, Food and Drug Adminstration.
Three state and local information directors: Sharon J. Cates-Williams, New York State deputy chief information officer; Jeff Stovall of the City of Charlotte, NC and Mayberry-Stewart are also included.
Corporate IT leaders include Whirlpool’s Kevin Summers, Sherrie Littlejohn and Martin Davis of Wells Fargo, Mikey Butler of Cisco, Talvis Love of Chrysler Financial, Ben-Saba Hasan of Walmart and Daphne Jones of Hospira.
“Encouraging technology studies is vital in today’s changing economy. We need to foster the interest and stimulate the desire for learning technology as early as possible with our youth,” says Sherrie B. Littlejohn, executive vice president of Enterprise Technology Architecture & Planning at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC).  “Employers, universities, as well as our grammar schools need to maximize awareness around the skills needed in a world where technology is inherent in everything we do. Achieving and maintaining business goals in today’s competitive environment is increasingly dependent on the successful management and integration of technology.  As such, we need to relay this message to our future workforce to encourage interest in technology fields, which is great for all kinds of talents, imagination, creativity and innovation.  At Wells Fargo, we are working hard toward attracting, retaining and developing technologists of diverse backgrounds.”
Top executives include Xerox’ Ursula Burns, Oracle’s Charles E. Philips Jr.,, H. James Dallas of Medtornic and MetricStream’s Shellye Archambeau.
Origins of the list date back to the late 1980s when Templeton organized the Black Executive Forum among Silicon Valley’s African-American executives.  By 1998, his exhibition at the Tech Museum of Innovation showcased 20 major innovators from the area. The first national list was published in 1999.
The overall statistical environment for African-Americans in high technology has been documented yearly by an annual report called Silicon Ceiling: Equal Opportunity in High Technology, which will be released Monday, Nov. 16.
Profiles of the 50 Most are included in a book The Black Students Internet Guide and will be presented daily within lesson plans geared to elementary and secondary grades between Thanksgiving and Jan. 15. through the web site
The symposium will also launch a national innovation competition geared to conclude in time for National Black Business Month in August.