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IT-oLogy: Opening Doors in Raleigh With ‘All Things Open’

The story behind All Things Open (ATO) is IT-oLogy, the nonprofit behind the conference coming to Raleigh later this month. This occurred to me last week as I was preparing for the event, on a night when I’d decided I knew as much as I wanted to know for the moment about the speakers and their workshops and started to look into IT-oLogy.

IT-oLogy school kids
IT-oLogy working with grade school students
Like most, I imagine, I was basically ignorant about the organization. I knew a few scattered facts. I also knew that in our dealings with them, FOSS Force has been treated with respect and encouragement. As I read about them, and started to connect the dots, I began to realize that IT-oLogy and All Things Open are joined at the hip. This conference isn’t separate from them; it’s just part of what they do.

In an email I posed the question to Todd Lewis, Executive Director of IT-oLogy in Columbia, South Carolina, IT-oLogy’s home base or birthplace, depending on how you look at it.

Is IT-oLogy and All Things Open pretty much one and the same?

“The conference really does mirror what we do. We’re all about education and access. We believe All Things Open accomplishes both.”

If you read up on IT-oLogy just a little, this makes sense. They cranked-up just five years ago, born out of a partnership forged in 2008 between the University of South Carolina, BlueCross/BlueShield of South Carolina and IBM. That was just the beginning. They now have an even more impressive list of supporters, mostly big business with an interest in big tech, either as developers or users. It’s a symbiotic relationship; these supporters receive a payback in good people.

Mr. Lewis describes the organization this way:

“IT-oLogy is a nonprofit organization with the goal of ‘filling the IT pipeline.’ Basically, making sure we have enough people to fill the multitude of IT needs/jobs in the future.”

For the industry, they’re sort of a recruitment agency. For school children and college students they are tech industry guidance counselors offering all sorts of great resources. Educational institutions use them on many different levels. Everybody seems to gain.

According to Mr. Lewis, they accomplish their goals through a three pronged approach which they’ve turned into the catchphrase–Promote IT. Teach IT, Grow IT:

“‘Promote IT’ focuses on schools, grades K through 12, by introducing students to IT in an engaging and instructive way. We try to inform students that IT can be a viable career choice and show them why. We design and deliver workshops both in schools and at our facility.”

Cool. They give financially strapped local school systems some help–equipment, facilities, speakers and more. Kids attracted to tech can learn of their options and get some guidance.

“‘Teach IT’ focuses on higher education. The goal is to make sure graduates are ready with real world, marketable and in-demand skills. The focus is on making sure business needs match up with curriculum, as well as internships, job shadowing, etc.”

Their relationship with the industry means IT-oLogy can predict the future of tech, making any career advice they give valuable. Again, they also can offer the use of facilities and such. I would say they’d be able to steer them to the right job fairs and make sure the right people are met, but actually they are the jobs fair.

“‘Grow IT’ focuses on the professional. We create and facilitate educational and networking opportunities for current IT professionals and those looking to make a career change. We host professional conferences, workshops, and other events like these.”

All Things Open, then, does seem to be an extension of how IT-oLogy earns its bread and butter. In addition, the conference is also breaking new ground for the organization, which for five years or so has hosted POSSCON in their home city of Columbia, South Carolina. ATO crosses the state line to North Carolina to bring their influence to Red Hat’s hometown.

“We love Raleigh, Durham and the RTP and hope to have a presence here very soon. We’ve been looking to do something here for a while. It’s a national center for IT and open source and it’s growing rapidly. In short, we’re long on the area. Having Red Hat and other prominent companies and educational institutions located here certainly helps of course.”

RTP would be Research Triangle Park, the largest research park in the world, home to more than a hundred companies with at least ten universities involved.

“The goal of ATO is to make world-class speakers and education available to as many people as possible. It is a professional event designed for professionals with the technology itself as the focus (you won’t see sales people speaking). That being said, we very much want students to attend also. If open source is to grow and prosper we have to realize students are the future. It’s vital they are involved.

“At the end of Thursday, October 24 we want people to leave having learned a lot, met new friends and formed new relationships, and feel like they got tremendous value.”

IT-oLogy's Todd Lewis
Todd Lewis, Conference Chair for All Things Open and Executive Director of IT-oLogy/Columbus
I believe them. Admittedly, my experience with IT-oLogy is extremely limited, but I believe them. I’ve been burned in the past and I don’t trust easily, but I’m willing to go out on a limb for these people.

If they have an agenda, it’s simply that they believe in the future of information technology. They’re not working to help IBM indoctrinate children into the gospel of Big Blue. Nor are they attempting to help Oracle sell their stack. It’s important that Mr. Lewis goes out of his way to promise no sales speeches without being prompted to do so. IT-oLogy is working for everybody. As much as possible, the student is on equal footing with the corporate CEO. Likewise, All Things Open will be all about the educational process.

Raleigh would seem to be a good fit for ATO. Research Triangle Park, Duke University, NC State (the technical school where Red Hat got it’s start), UNC-Chapel Hill (the oldest public university in the country)–the area is infused with IT on every level imaginable and is well suited to supply the conference with the patrons it seeks:

“We want technology professionals in the areas of development (programmers, developers, designers, etc.) and operations (system admins, database administrators, data scientists, etc.). We would also like to have decision makers (CIOs, CTOs, IT managers) and those in education (professors, students) attend.”

IT-oLogy, meet Raleigh. Raleigh meet IT-oLogy, which will be holding quite the educational event on the 23rd and 24th in your city. Anybody who wants to get their knuckles dirty learning to work with different apps, scripting languages, databases and the like will find that in abundance. Likewise, those who earn their money, one way or another, plying IT as a business are certain to, at the very least, glean new insight into trends and the latest thinking on open source business models. Even those who are merely curious, like me, will find plenty to keep them entertained.

“Financially speaking, the goal of the conference is to break even/cover costs and deliver as much education as possible. You will notice the cost to attend is much lower than most comparable events. That’s by design. We certainly want to cover costs, but education is and always has been extremely important to us.”

I’m looking forward to this. I’m convinced these people are going to put on a good show and that I’ll learn something in spite of myself.

One Comment

  1. alex alex October 9, 2013

    I’ve been to several of the POSSCONs – I did learn a lot. Although there were one or two presentations that did come off more as marketing than education, on the whole, the organizers do a very good job at making sure there’s something for everyone. I left every conference with something I could use in my day to day work, even if I ultimately couldn’t use it because of the corporate culture I worked in. It’s given me some ideas on new directions to explore in my career. I hope this conference is as good as the ones I attended.

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