Brad Feld

Category: Philanthropy

On May 15th and 16th leaders from over 100 distinguished universities, corporations and non-profits from across the country will attend the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) semi-annual meeting at the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

I’ve been chairman of NCWIT for the past few years and am incredibly proud of what Lucy Sanders and her team have created.  NCWIT is a capacity-building coalition working aggressively to increase women’s participation in computing/information technology (IT) – we believe that women’s participation is a compelling issue of innovation, competitiveness, and workforce sustainability.

On the evening of May 15th, at 6:00 pm, NCWIT and the ATLAS Institute at CU Boulder are hosting a reception on the CU Boulder campus (on the North Club Level of Folsom Stadium) at which you can meet these leaders and share ideas with them about the meaningful role women can play in technical innovation.  If you are a member of the tech community in Colorado, I encourage you to come join us.

The reception is sponsored by NCWIT Investment Partners Avaya, Microsoft and Pfizer and we are honored to have State of Colorado Lt. Governor, Dr. Barbara O’Brien, and CU Boulder Chancellor Dr. Bud Peterson offer remarks.

I hope to see you there.

At the National Center for Women & Information Technology we are about to embark on a “heroes campaign” – a new project to highlight 20 successful women IT entrepreneurs via 15 minute podcast interviews accompanied by text transcriptions. We’ve got a great initial set of women that we’ll be interviewing but are casting our net far and wide to find interesting, amazing, and inspirational stories.  If you fit the profile (female IT / software / Internet entrepreneurs) or know someone that does, please give me a shout.

Overview of NCWIT

Nov 29, 2006

As chairman of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, I’m enjoyed observing the regular evolution of how we describe the organization.  My friends Larry and Pat Nelson just interviewed Lucy Sanders – the CEO of NCWIT – and I think Lucy did a particularly crisp job of describing what NCWIT is about and why it’s important.

Amy just blogged about her trip last week to New Orleans.  Neither of us had been there since Hurricane Katrina.  She went as an attendee at a conference organized by the Women Donors Network called Revitalizing Democracy: What We Can Learn from Katrina

We were together in Boulder over the weekend and had plenty of time to talk about her experience during the few days she was in New Orleans.  Her post summarizes her thoughts well and end with some concrete suggestions about what she (we) are going to do.

Bill Erickson sent me a link to a TUAW article on Introducing Nike + Group Goals.  Nike has a super cool Nike + iPod Sport Kit (which I’ve bought and have sitting on my desk – I guess I need to get my act together and actually try it).  Now – they are donating $1 to a cause for every mile that you run and record on their website.  The Lance Armstrong Foundation is up first – Nike is donating up to $50,000 for 50,000 miles contributed (he’s got $24,469.28 contributed at this point.)  The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society are in the mix as is a showdown between the Northside and Southside of Chicago.  Awesomely cool stuff.

Amy and I have been supporters of KidsTek for the past several years, even since we were introduced to it by Pat Maley when he was the CEO of Dante Group (Mobius was an investor / I was on the board.)  Amy and I are big supporters of education – especially in Colorado – and when Pat described the KidsTek mission to me, it was a no-brainer.

KidsTek works closely with Colorado youth (ages K-12) service providers in underserved communities to provide the keys to successful technology education, including:

  • Technical Resources: The development and ongoing maintenance and supervision of technology centers.
  • Curriculum: A project-based educational model for KidsTek Partners to utilize and build upon.
  • Supervision: A Technology Program Coordinator to establish, monitor & assess KidsTek Programs and train instructors.
  • Mentoring: Engaging volunteers from the technology community in a meaningful partnership
  • Assessment: Ongoing outcomes-based measurement to assess the long-term impact on kids.

On October 12th, from 6:30pm to 10pm at The Denver Aquarium, KidsTek will be having their 6th Annual Tech Leader’s Dinner.  In addition to being a super fun event with plenty of unique stuff (for example, CEOs of the companies that are the table hosts actually serve dinner and compete for the “best waiter award), KidsTek will be honoring Amy and I with this years “Phil Award” which is given to leaders in the technology industry who have made a difference through philanthropy.

Come join us, have some fun, and help support a great organization.

David Brin has an outstanding article up on Salon titled Why Johnny can’t code

I’ve been the chairman of the National Center for Women & Information Technology for the past two years and have learned an enormous amount about the sociology of computer science, especially among women and kids.  This summer I decided to “practice what I preach” by teaching my Alaskan 14 year old neighbor Eric how to program.  I received a bunch of interesting comments and eventually settled on Ruby – which we are making ok progress with.

However, Brin’s article smacked me over the head.  I learned how to program on an Apple II using BASIC when I was 13.  I eventually learned Pascal, but did most of my programming – until I was in college – in BASIC.  When my best friend Kent came home with a prototype for the first TI PC in 1982 (his dad – ultimately one of the early Compaq guys – was the TI project manager for the PC) we programmed a complex Yahtzee game in BASIC (the TI graphics were incredible – I learned a lot about abstraction manipulating them.)  In my first real job (in 1983) at a company called Petcom I wrote two sophisticated commercial programs in Basic (PC-Log – Oil Well Log Analysis; PC-Economics – Economic Forecasting for Oil and Gas projects).  Lest you wonder how sophisticated this could get, I also contributed to an Oil and Gas Accounting System (PC-Accounting) that ultimately used Btrieve as the database engine and probably could have been a competitive stand-alone accounting system in the 1990’s if the company had evolved that way.

So – when I read Brin’s article, I longed for the simplicity and beauty of BASIC as a teaching tool.  Yeah – I know – it teaches you “all the wrong stuff”, but as I’m working through basic looping with Eric, I’m not sure objects and methods are the right way to learn this stuff.  Maybe I’ll hop on eBay and buy Eric an old Apple II.

Lucy Sanders – the CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology – was a key participant in last week’s Microsoft Annual Faculty Summit.  InformationWeek has a good summary of the meeting – and the issues – up on the web in an article titled “Funding Innovation Where It’s Incubated.” 

The basic message – as stated directly by Dan Mote (president of the University of Maryland) is that “”Students do not see opportunity in our field [IT and computer science]. And it’s not just kids in poor districts–even the rich kids don’t get jazzed about tech. That’s going to be a problem as computer companies hunt for the next generation of workers.”

Lucy – who is one of the most insightful and articulate people I know when discussing this issue – added “Part of the reason the U.S. isn’t grooming enough future computer jocks could be that the discipline mystifies lots of kids.  Computer science is a stealth profession – no one really knows what we do. Instead of teaching how computers can help solve practical problems, schools’ coursework couches things in terms of technologies – Java and C vs. business and medicine. That’s just the wrong way to approach it, [Education needs to get] away from the notion that computing equals programming.”

Google is having a similar summit in a few days.  I’m glad major software companies are thinking hard about this and getting engaged.  We’ve got to figure out how to get our kids to get re-excited about computer science. 

My friends Larry and Pat Nelson just put up an interview with Lucy Sanders, CEO of National Center for Women & Information Technology.  Not surprisingly – Lucy is the most articulate person I know concerning the issues NCWIT is addressing.  If you have any interest in what NCWIT is up to, have a listen.