Training-To-Succeed at ITKAN

 |   Kevin Wei, MSFT Chicago Civic Tech Fellow

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There’s a lot of things that we can take for granted, such as safe paths to traverse the city with, having access to common facilities, or even the simple expectation that a workplace will provide accommodations for who we are. On the 2nd Thursday of every month, there’s an amazing community that tackles these common assumptions; the Microsoft Civic Tech team has been proud to support, participate, and grow with ITKAN.

ITKAN, a development organization geared toward technology professionals with disabilities, convenes monthly at the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago to discuss the latest happenings in the technology with an emphasis on furthering knowledge and diversity within the workforce. The entire team at Microsoft Chicago has been staunch supporters of ITKAN, hosting the group and providing experts for many of the meetings.

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Launched in 2008 by Pat Maher of SPR Consulting, a professional IT services company, ITKAN has grown to a membership of 190+ members. Since then, ITKAN has been heavily invested in promoting a sense of leadership and pride as passionate technology users who also happen to have a disability. One particular member of ITKAN, Chris Ludwig, has a story that serves as a defining example of ITKAN’s recent success and its efforts to create a direct talent pipeline for their technology professionals. For the past year, I’ve been able to follow Chris’ amazing story – progressing from active ITKAN member to intern, and then finally to full-time IT staff member at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

During his membership in ITKAN, Chris co-presented on the value of communication in career development and continues to actively participate in promoting the development of passionate technology leaders with disabilities. As a result of ITKAN’s continuing commitment to establishing strategic partnerships for promoting diversity in the workforce, Chris entered his internship in the IT Service Delivery team in the ELCA. During this time, Chris exceeded expectations by taking a leadership role, acting as an advocate and representative of the disability community within the ELCA itself.

It’s no surprise that thanks to his ITKAN background and leadership within the team, Chris was offered to transition from an internship into a full-time position to reinforce his confirmed success with the ELCA, where he continues to work. The full success story of Chris Ludwig and the growth of ITKAN’s training-to-hire initiatives has been transformed into an in-depth case-study.

We hope that this case study provides inspiration to individuals and organizations in recognizing and supporting the critical impact of ITKAN’s initiatives. The achievements of ITKAN members such as Chris and many others serve as proof of the invaluable contributions that individuals with disabilities bring to the technology field. The development and placement of these professionals is crucial to creating a more inclusive and successful workforce. With the dedicated membership and strategic partnerships that help ITKAN grow, the organization welcomes all opportunities to collaborate and achieve. Together, we can ensure that society continues to advance the productive value of diversity.

If you’re interested in reading the full case study and/or want to get involved with ITKAN’s amazing efforts, visit their website here for more information.

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