If you are an IT executive looking for a true thrill and profound inspiration in 2008 (one that I guarantee will make your knees tremble and your palms sweaty), I suggest you consider high tea. Tea might not sound very intimidating, but let me introduce you to the hosts: they are young, bright, thoughtful achievers from across inner-city Chicago, and they represent the future of our IT industry. They are i.c.stars.
i.c.stars is an innovative technology mentoring program designed to foster the skills of driven young people (ages 18-27) who often lack formal education but are rich in ambition, ideas and smarts. An intensive four-month technology and business immersion, the program is producing skilled, inventive technology enthusiasts who are going on to jobs at leading IT firms across the Chicago community. You can read a profile of the program, its history and its success by Chicago Sun-Times writer and former news anchor Carol Marin here.
i.c.stars high tea events are part of their leadership training program in which interns host an afternoon tea for a technology leader from the Chicago community. Their job is to interview the professionals they invite to tea in order to gain knowledge, learn from the experiences of an industry veteran and challenge norms. Let me tell you this: The toughest job interviewer you have faced is nothing compared to a table of 10 eager and intelligent i.c.stars interns ready to question, challenge, discuss, debate, laugh and learn.
My high tea experience with i.c.stars was mind-blowing not only because of the rate at which these young people are learning and growing, but also because I was learning as quickly as they were. I had tea for an hour with the current crop of i.c.stars interns, and it was one of the most important hours in my technology career. They were sponges who, after introducing me to the entire table of interns, began an interview process during which I was put on the spot, challenged, asked serious questions and invited to question their ideas and assumptions.
It was both exhilarating and exhausting, but most of all it was full of promise. I was able to see the potential of our IT industry in the eyes and ideas of these young interns. And, despite what economic reports may warn, our future is full of promise.
The goal of i.c.stars is to help develop future IT leaders, which is an important objective for the entire IT industry. If we want a stronger IT industry tomorrow, we must commit to training and educating tomorrow’s leaders. i.c.stars offers today’s IT leaders a perfect opportunity to help strengthen the future of the technology industry while also giving back to the community. If you are like me, finding the time to “give back” in a meaningful way is not simple. However, attending high tea with i.c.stars is a simple (albeit challenging and provocative) way to share your knowledge and give to both the community and the industry.
I would like to challenge IT executives and leaders from across the Illinois region to have a cup of tea or two with i.c.stars. Discover how i.c. stars can turn one hour into a week’s worth of learning and get a glimpse of how great our future technology leadership can be. If you are not in the Illinois region, then let me encourage you to consider a professional mentorship program in your own community. Giving back to future generations is not only rewarding, it is inspiring. What could be better for the soul or our technology future than pure inspiration?
President & Founder