Why Should You Care About NERDs?

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Brianna Doxzen
Marketing and Research


I was writing my reflections of this past weekend’s NERD Summit when news of 14 year old Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest for bringing a homemade clock to school reached me. Ahmed loves to tinker, and invent which lead him to build his own digital clock to learn and explore. This incident is the extreme tip of an iceberg of discouragement from science, technology, engineering and mathematics that too many kids and used-to-be kids, like yours truly, have experienced. Thankfully there has been overwhelming support for Ahmed including from Mark Zuckerberg, MIT and the White House. As Zuckerberg stated “The future belongs to people like Ahmed.” These issues are the forefront of New England Regional Developers, INC (NERD), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization we are proud to sponsor whose mission is to encourage innovations like Ahmed’s “to organize, educate and advance the skills of web designers and developers in the New England Region” as well as identifying “areas of the population that have a harder time making it into IT careers and works to remove those challenges or barriers.” I saw all of that and more in practice this weekend at the organization’s annual conference, NERD Summit.

organize, educate, advance

I’ve met most of the organizers of NERDs around the office as Last Call Media frequently hosts meetings, but this was my first Summit. I started this NERD experience in the third row of Dr. Becky Wai-Ling Packard’s Keynote entitled “If the Clubhouse is Unlocked….Where is Everybody?” This was a powerful introduction to NERD Summit as part of a larger critical movement. Dr. Packard is a professor of Psychology and Education at Mount Holyoke College and is the Director of the Weissman Center for Leadership. Her research and work specializes in the experience of first generation college students, students of color and women, particularly in STEM. She outlined 5 Need-To-Knows when clearing the way to our own clubhouse be it a large tech company, a college in a large university, or small business.

The difference between this talk and what we’ve heard before or even the cheerleading message from youth telling us “You can do ANYTHING” is that it’s all actionable. It’s not simply fluffy words to pat ourselves on the back for attending a session on inclusion…that’s being inclusive, right? As Dr. Packard pointed out “Mentoring is more than cheerleading” and more than that is needed to bridge the gaps. If you’ve ever wanted to make your organization more inclusive and have struggled to know how, even if you think everything’s perfect watch this keynote. Click it! It’s here!

Raising the Next Generation of Technologists

Following the keynote was a career panel of local IT professionals and educators. This panel informed and inspired me thanks to the well rounded expertise of the speakers and the two rows of young students sitting behind me. The message to these students was that there are many opportunities that exist in the world of STEM, and there are local resources available to them. I can’t help but think where I would be if I had sat in on such a panel when I was their age. Having that thought made me realize how important and desperately needed organizations and events like NERD Summit are. Thank you to Dr. Packard, Sara Taheri of MassMutual, Renee Fall of Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education, Jackie Fallon of FIT Staffing Solutions and moderator, Larry Martin of Employer Services and Engagement at Hampden County for sharing your expertise and talking through how your specialties intersect in the vast array of STEM careers.

There were sessions and workshops about everything from initial workings of HTML and CSS to building robots with legos. Our COO Sean Eddings headed an Agile Workshop tackling the Agile vs. Waterfall deliberation. Rob Bayliss gave some insight into his CTO ways by teaching Building Mobile Apps with Cordova & Ionic. Check that one out if you want a giggle, his fictional app example is adorable. Cheryl Kiras keyed us in on Mindful Project Management that she practices at Last Call Media. Sessions were open to anyone regardless of skill level. If you wanted to be there, that’s all that was required to attend. Most of the sessions were livestreamed and are now available free of charge on youtube.

Workshops are Streaming Now

The sessions on Saturday and Sunday were jampacked and well attended by local youth! They were building, discovering and exploring themselves and their world in a safe and encouraging environment. They built robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 kits provided by the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, and created Rube Goldberg-style chain reactions utilizing Scratch code. NERD Summit aims to change the world for these young people, those who’ve long been in the tech community, and those trying to climb into the clubhouse. If you didn’t make it to NERD Summit this year, put it in your calendar for next year and join the community to stay up to date on events.

Start a Chain Recation

NERD, Inc offers workshops and consultations, partners with other organizations like Holyoke Codes and participates in Drupal Global Training Day. Tickets to NERD Summit are “free because this industry wants you”. There are other ticket levels for those able to give a little more. They are a non-profit of volunteers and depend on community support. Check them out and be proud of being a NERD!



Want to read more about NERD Summit? Check out our blogs from NERD Summit 2014 and its planning.


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