Civic Tech in Chicago — February’s Top Events

Love may be in the air this February, but around Microsoft Chicago, civic tech is in the air every day. Join us at these events around the metro area this month to stay engaged:

February 2, 9, 16, 23, 30

Chicago Women Developers Weekly Hack Night
1871 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, 12th Floor, Chicago

This weekly event gives ladies a space to code together. Whether you’re just getting started, or are a veteran in the tech world, there’s a seat for you at the table. BYOL: Bring your own laptop!

February 5

1919 Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship Demo Day IV & Spring Informational
Blue 1647 Tech Innovation Center 1647 South Blue Island Avenue, Chicago

Our 4th round of cohorts have graduated and are excited to present their final projects! The ladies of 1919 will display the skills they have learned to family, friends and all who attend. It will be a celebration of skill development for the 75 women who have completed their 12 weeks of learning.

February 8

Chicago SQL Server User Group – February 2017 Meeting
Aon Center | Microsoft Technology Center 200 East Randolph Drive, Suite 200, Chicago

Azure SQL Database is a relational database service in the Microsoft cloud-based Microsoft SQL Server engine and capable of handling mission-critical workloads. SQL Database delivers predictable performance at multiple service levels, dynamic scalability with no downtime, built-in business continuity, and data protection with near-zero administration. SQL Database is based on the SQL Server engine, SQL Database supports existing SQL Server tools, libraries, and APIs, making SQL Server to Azure SQL migrations easy. Learn what it takes to manage, administer, monitor, develop with Azure SQL Database. Also how you can migrate your SQL Server to Azure SQL Database.

February 9

Cleantech University Prize 2017 – Midwest Showcase
Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation 1452 East 53rd Street, Chicago

Clean Energy Trust will showcase eight of the most innovative and promising university-based cleantech companies in the Midwest for a chance to win the Department of Energy’s Cleantech University Prize.

February 16

Dashboard in a Day – Power BI Workshop
Aon Center | Microsoft Technology Center 200 East Randolph Drive, Suite 200, Chicago

Dashboard in a Day (DIAD) is a training event that Softweb Solutions is hosting in collaboration with Microsoft to educate professionals on how they can use Power BI in their businesses.

The workshop is meant for beginners as well as users with intermediate level skills and the goal is to give all the attendees a solid foundational knowledge of Power BI and a working dashboard of their data.

February 22

Design for Sustainability
Mightybytes 4001 N. Ravenswood, Suite 404, Chicago

The internet is becoming the world’s largest source of CO2 emissions. 560,000 agencies around the world make daily design decisions on behalf of their clients, directly impacting internet sustainability. By applying sustainability principles to the process of designing digital products and services, we can make better decisions on behalf of people and planet. Come hear Tim Frick – author of Designing for Sustainability – as he outlines strategies to make sustainability an integral part of your product design and development. He’ll also discuss a design framework for sustainability and tactics to implement in day to day digital work to keep sustainability in the forefront of the process.

February 22-25

Adler Planetarium Mardi Gras Celebration
Adler Planetarium 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Dust off your spacesuit. It’s time to celebrate Mars-di Gras!

While the commonly-known Earthly festivities of Mardi Gras bring street festivals, masquerades, merriment, and lots of colorful beads to cities around the world, the Adler takes the festivities one giant step forward—TO SPACE!

We’re saying goodbye to Earth and heading to Mars for an out-of-this-world event. Following the success of last year’s inaugural event, the Adler super krewe is organizing another Mars-di Gras extravaganza.

Once again, we will bring the beads, band, and the science to this carnival of fun. You’ll be transported to the Red Planet, masquerade as the first Martians and experience first-hand what it would be like to live, work, and play on Mars.

February 24

Science Is Cool Conference
Malcolm X College 1900 West Jackson Boulevard Conference Center, Chicago

The Science is Cool Conference is an initiative of the Pipeline to Careers in Healthcare, Predominantly Black Institution Grant, at Malcolm X College. It is a bi-annual conference that specifically targets 5th through 8th grade African American students from Chicago area schools. As a premier student based conference, Science is Cool is a unique opportunity because it promotes, demystifies, and raises students exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

February 28

What the Heck are Bots?
Northwestern Knight Lab Fisk Hall, 1845 Sheridan Rd, Evanston

Instead of R2D2 and BB-8, most of the bots people talk about these days don’t have a body. Come “talk” to some “intelligent agents” and discuss what their value might be.

In the Knight Lab’s “What the Heck is …?” series, you’ll get a chance to try new technologies and be part of a conversation about the cultural implications they may have.

Civic Tech in Chicago — January’s Top Events


2017 is here and we’re ready to dive head-first back into civic tech. Join us as we work toward another incredible year, starting with these top picks for events in January:

January 4

Chicago City Data User Group: Data and the Environmental Defense Fund
Microsoft Technology Center Chicago | Aon Center 200 E. Randolph Ste 200, Chicago

The mission of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is quite simple: We work to preserve the natural systems on which all life depends.  Climate, energy, oceans, human health, and the policy that impacts it all – all within the scope of the research and advocacy of the EDF.  EDF has a special take on environmental issues – they are interested in creating solutions that also carry economic benefits.

Of course, all of this requires data.  And ideally, it contributes new data and insights.  Come hear Ellen Bell discuss the work of the EDF.  Ellen manages the Redefining Energy Efficiency Project.

January 10

DePaul’s Employer Workshop Series: Leveraging Alumni for Recruitment

The Employer Workshop Series is brought to you by DePaul’s Employer and Internship Development Team. This free series of events offers our employer partners the opportunity to think strategically about their recruiting and hiring processes, learn new ways to enhance their recruiting efforts and network and exchange ideas with other organizations.

Chi Hack Night
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.
Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

January 12

ThoughtWorks Chicago: Build Your Own Radar
ThoughtWorks 200 East Randolph St. 25th Floor, Chicago

Chef or Ansible? Learn React Native or jump into Swift? Which techniques are hot and which are not?

Join ThoughtWorks for a night of food, drink, and mingling as we explore how technologists can grapple with these questions and make smart choices about the tools, techniques, frameworks, and languages they use in their projects.

Our speakers will talk about the themes behind the ThoughtWorks Technology Radar, which compiles years of experience across different domains to provide well thought-out opinions on many of the trends that are coming and going today. You’ll finish off the night by learning how to build your own radar and how to use it as a tool to help you and your projects.

January 17

Blue 1647 1647 S. Blue Island, Chicago

Are you a veteran or college student? Maybe a high school junior or senior with an interest in a future in computer technology? Compete in a day-long hackathon to win prizes – no experience necessary. Also, learn about cybersecurity jobs in the Chicago area and new cyber programs at City Colleges of Chicago.

Chi Hack Night
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.
Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

January 24

Illinois Campaign Contributions: Is the Sky the Limit?
The Flats at East-West University 829 South Wabash Avenue 4th Floor Auditorium, Chicago

Please join ICPR for an open discussion with experts on 2016 campaign spending in Illinois and how it compares to other states.

Chi Hack Night
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.
Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

Adler Planetarium: Behind the scenes
Adler Planetarium 1300 S Lake Shore Dr Chicago

Curators and educators at Adler Planetarium take us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the cosmology museum and the Webster Institute for the History of Astronomy.
Head Curator Pedro Raposo and staff will present some of the rare artifacts that are kept in museum’s collections and discuss the history and care of artifacts. The remainder of the session will develop as a conversation between science writers and curators about the stories that may be told.

January 31

Chi Hack Night
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.
Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

Year in Review: 2016 in Civic Tech


What a year 2016 was! From implementing computer science as a graduation requirement in Chicago’s schools to the Cubs winning a world series, we’ve stayed on our toes as new, exciting things continue to transform our community.

A look back at an amazing year on the Microsoft Chicago Blog:


Big Shoulders: Billy Banks, Associate Director of The Garage at Northwestern University

Academic accelerators are the next big thing and Northwestern University is jumping on the band wagon with the creation of The Garage. Billy Banks, Associate Director of The Garage at Northwestern University, discussed with Microsoft Chicago’s Adam J. Hecktman this venture in inspiring students and professors to explore entrepreneurship.

Kevin Wei_FellowFellow Profile: Kevin Wei

Every year, we gain an incredible cohort of civic technology fellows who inspire us through their hard work and dedication to utilize technology in local government and community applications. With each step forward our fellows make, we help make Chicago more interconnected through technology. Meet one of them, Kevin Wei.


10Voices Of Change — #LookUp! Space is Freaking Awesome
Michelle B. Larson, President and CEO, Adler Planetarium 

Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we were honored to celebrate women in our community who are carrying out the mission of civic engagement, leadership and empowering other women. One of those women is Michelle B. Larson, President and CEO at Adler Planetarium.


Opti_UChicago_Illustration1Opti RTC: Managing Sustainability at UChicago

Our Azure partner Opti uses new technology approaches to managing stormwater and sewage runoff. Through smart green infrastructure monitoring, Opti has built a new monitoring system at UChicago that gathers data on water and helps manage runoff for better infrastructure.

How the Internet of Things can Prevent Bullying
Shelley Stern Grach

As part of our ongoing partnership with Lake View High School, an Early College STEM School in Chicago, Microsoft supports the Illinois Science & Technology Institute’s STEM Challenge, where students at 19 Illinois high schools address real-world problems in partnership with 10 industry and academic partners. While at one of their brainstorming mentoring sessions, Shelley Stern Grach met with students using IoT to combat bullying.


ITKAN teams up with Microsoft and Directions to deliver SQL Server/Business Intelligence training!
Adam Hecktman and Pat Maher

ITKAN, a professional organization affiliated with the Illinois Technology Foundation, whose mission is to develop passionate IT professionals with disabilities, partnered with Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Engagement team in Chicago, as well as Directions – a nationwide leader in IT, business and enterprise training solutions and one of only 12 Microsoft Gold Managed Learning partners – to train and secure professional positions for a class of (6) ITKAN members.

Mayor's Office for People With DisabilitiesMaking Chicago The Most Accessible City in the Nation
Karen Tamley, Commissioner, Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD)

“Making Chicago The Most Accessible City in the Nation” is the tag line and mission of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) where Karen Tamley serves as Commissioner. She highlighted MOPD’s work and took time reflect on how far our city, our nation and her life experience has changed for the better.


CaptureIntroducing the DigiSeniors Program
Kevin Wei, MSFT Chicago Civic Tech Fellow

The Microsoft Chicago Civic Engagement and Retail Store teams were hard at work with the leading individuals and agencies of the City of Chicago to develop a curriculum to help senior citizens get the basic digital skills, access and safety knowledge that they need to keep up with the ever-evolving technology world. After nearly a year’s worth of development, feedback, pilot sessions, Microsoft Chicago was happy to announce the launch of the DigiSeniors curriculum.

PowerBI Visualization: Community takes Commitment
Ivoire Morrell, MSFT Chicago Civic Tech Fellow

In the first of a three-part series on Detroit Crime statistics, causes and potential solutions, Microsoft’s Civic Tech Fellow Ivoire Morrell shared a powerful story of the history, economic impact and future narratives of Detroit’s most economically depressed communities. It is our hope that by shining a spotlight on the raw data, and illustrating the impact on Detroiters, that we can together build a stronger future.


ew_incubatorUncovering Advanced Science, Technology, and Startups at the University of Illinois Research Park
Adam J. Hecktman

Microsoft Chicago’s Adam J. Hecktman toured University of Illinois Research Park, where both enterprise companies and startups bask in the glow of advanced science and research. Laura Freichs, the Director of Research Park, guided him on a tour and meeting with researchers.


2016-11-11The Character of the American Veteran: My Project RELO Experience
Adam J. Hecktman

Project RELO is a non-profit that brings business leaders together with veterans on a multi-day series of “missions” on a military base. For a short three days, business leaders live what can only be described as a glimpse of the military experience. Microsoft Chicago’s Adam J. Hecktman attended and witnessed the kind of deep professional education, personal development, character building and intellectual challenges that have defined their military careers.

Civic Chat — Networking Our Neighborhoods: PJ Karafiol, Interim Principal at Lake View High School

As part of our commitment to STEM and technology, we’re thankful to partner with local schools in Chicago that are embracing technology in their curricula and day-to-day processes. One of these schools is Lake View High School (LVHS), one of Chicago’s Early College STEM Schools, which enables students to earn both a high school diploma and college credits. Microsoft Chicago’s Shelley Stern Grach sat down with PJ Karafiol, Lake View High School’s newest interim principal.


python-sh-600x600Learning Python to Celebrate #CSEdWeek
Adam J. Hecktman

The goal of the annual Computer Science Education Week is primarily to inspire students to take the time to learn about computer science, specifically coding. Microsoft Chicago’s Adam J. Hecktman celebrated Computer Science Education Week this year by diving in deep himself and took on the challenge to learn to code with Python.

Thank you to all who joined us in sharing the important stories that shape our community. Let’s work together for an incredible 2017.

Cold Temps, Warm Hearts in Detroit!

Oh, the weather outside was frightful last week, traveling from sub-zero Chicago to sub-zero Detroit. I felt like I was in a “Frozen” version of Groundhog Day, repeating Chicago’s coldest weather in how many years as it arrived in Detroit. Lucky me. I had my flannel-lined jeans, my Omni-Heat Pillsbury Dough-girl coat and, of course, my Uggs. I can do this!

First stop was Tech Town for a full morning with our great friends DataDrivenDetroit@D3. Met with the whole team and got to play Mrs. Claus as Microsoft donated a sleigh full of Surface Pro 4’s to the D3 team to use for CUT Groups, community work and analysis. We even got red type pads to mark the holiday season.

Group with Surface Devices

In addition to playing with our new toys, we discussed plans for 2017, including expansion of CUT Groups and looking into a regional data collaborative. D3 is doing amazing work to accelerate the civic tech ecosystem.

My next meeting was with Mark Crosswell, of Points of Light. Mark and his wonderful colleague Megan Christenson, run the Civic Accelerator, a Points of Light program. Our Civic Tech Fellow, Ivoire Morrell and I wanted to learn more about this program, which is focused on Youth Education and Workforce Development. “CivicX” is the first national accelerator program and investment fund in the country focused on “civic ventures”—for profit and early stage ventures that solve social problems by including people as part of the solution to critical social programs. The 10 week, boot camp-style program convenes 10-15 teams in person and online with the goal of equipping each venture to seek investments and scale their social innovation. You can learn more about the Civic Accelerator at @civicaccleratr#CivicX, and

Microsoft has been a big fan of CivicX and Ivoire, my Chicago colleague Adam Hecktman, and I have attended mentoring workshops through the 2016 program, which focuses on my two favorite (and freezing!) towns of Chicago and Detroit. We discussed the overall program goals with Mark, then Ivoire and I headed off to Ford Motor Company’s corporate headquarters in Dearborn, where Ford graciously hosted CivicX Demo Day 2016, which was organized and run by Megan…

At the gorgeous auditorium at Ford, we saw the various teams presenting their concepts in a Ted-talk format. The entrepreneurs each had 3 minutes to pitch their solution. The audience voted for Most Innovative Solution, Greatest Social Impact and Most Compelling Story. I absolutely LOVE these categories! Having worked 1:1 with some of the teams as they were developing their plans, it was awesome to see the progress and inspiring to see the focus on social impact.

Here are some photos of some of the Pitches:

As I bundled off to return to 8 inches of snow over the weekend in New Buffalo, I reflected on the incredible momentum and positivity in Detroit. Truly a great revival story, that has a broad spectrum of organizations and very committed people. If Chicago is the city of Big Shoulders, Detroit is the city of Warm Hearts.

Oh, yes, it could have been worse. Ask the Chicago Bears. Happy Holidays!!!!!

SWC Technology Partners, Microsoft and Alain Locke Charter School Partner to Spread Good Cheer this Holiday Season


SWC Technology Partners, a Midwest business-technology consultancy and IT solution provider, has partnered with Microsoft and Alain Locke Charter School to spread cheer this season to local professionals and holiday shoppers alike in Oak Brook, IL. Fifty students from Alain Locke Charter School’s All-Star Choir and Band travelled from their campus in Chicago’s East Garfield Park to Oak Brook for a performance of holiday songs at SWC Technology Partners headquarters followed by an encore at the Microsoft Store at Oakbrook Center for staff and customers to enjoy.

“It was a very warm, and cheerful event — especially with a surprise visit from Santa himself,” said Megan Wright, Community Development Specialist at Microsoft. “The students all enjoyed a technology scavenger hunt and received goodie bags. Special thanks to our friends at SWC and the talented students at Alain Locke. We hope to do this again next year!”

SWC has partnered with Alain Locke Charter School since 2011 on initiatives to enhance the lives of the students, providing hardware and IT expertise to progress the school’s educational technology and infrastructure, ensuring Alain Locke stays competitive with today’s scholastic demands. SWC has also become part of the school community by participating in various fundraising and volunteering activities throughout year.

Celebrating the Hour of Code with Detroit Middle School Students


In recognition of Microsoft reaching over 300 Detroit Middle School students for Hour of Code on Friday December 9th, 2016, Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, awarded Microsoft Technology Center the prestigious Spirit of Detroit award.  In addition, the Technology Center was also recognized by Congresswomen, Brenda Lawrence, with a Proclamation declaring December 9th Microsoft Technology Center Day.

dsc_0173The Microsoft Southfield MTC hosted Hour of Code with students from Hamilton Academy Middle School in Detroit. The Hamilton students won an essay competition for the privilege to attend Hour of Code at the MTC.  The 13 middle schools who participated in the competition were able to experience Hour of Code via Skype. Charles Stacy Harris and Kevin H. Smith broadcast from the MTC while the Hamilton students were treated to a tour.

We are honored and humbled with the award and proclamation.

dsc_0163 Thank you to the Drew Costakis and the entire MTC Staff and a special thank you to our partner, Sandra Ware, Director of Community Engagement, MTA Elementary School, for creating a great day for the students!

Looking Back at Computer Science Education Week 2016


Last week, we joined a revolution as Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) launched worldwide, inspiring students to incorporate CS education into their daily lives. We celebrated by sharing stories from Lake View High School and Corliss Early College STEM High School, schools around the Chicago area that are focusing on computer science as a priority, and by participating in Hour of Code events throughout the Chicago Metro area.

Meanwhile, our community engaged on the same level, hosting Hour of Code events at Chicago Public Schools and beyond. We’re thrilled to see our neighbors committed to the future of education, honoring the importance of computer science for all.

A look at local celebrations of CSEdWeek:

Civic Tech in Chicago — December’s Top Events


We can’t believe how fast the year’s flown by. Welcome, December. Happy Holidays. We’re excited to wrap up 2016 at some excellent civic tech and STEM events in Chicago this month. We hope yule join us at these top events around the city (and excuse us for the pun…)

December 1

Chicago Women Developers Hack Night
1871‘s DeVry Room 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, 12th Floor, Chicago

Ladies code together. Tech veterans and those just getting started are both welcome, and you don’t have to be working on a project to join. It’s a great space to just hang out with other women who code. Can’t make it December 1? CWDevs meets Tuesdays every week.

Chicago Bot-Builders 1.2 – Twitter Bots
WeWork River North 111 W Illinois St., Chicago

Explore the wonderful (and sometimes disturbing) world of Twitter bots. Research shows that 25% of conversations surrounding the final presidential debate included Twitter bots. Chicago Bot-Builders is a monthly discussion for engineers, marketers, and entrepreneurs to discuss chatbots along with supporting technologies, platforms, and growth strategies.

Holiday Party with GOTO Chicago, Scala Days, and Chicago Polyglot Group
FTW 322 East Illinois St., Chicago

The GOTO Chicago and Scala Days teams, in conjunction with Chicago Polyglot Group (ChiPy, CJUG, and ChicagoRuby), are hosting a holiday party to say thank you to the Chicago tech community. The GOTO Chicago team will announce the program (including the speakers!) for their conference coming up on May 1-4, 2017. The Scala Days team also have some exciting news to share, and Chicago Polyglot will let you know how you can get more involved in our local tech scene. Enjoy good conversation, great food and drinks, arcade games, mini-golf, and raffles for GOTO Chicago and Scala Days conference passes.

Minecraft Modding for Kids Ages 7-12
Contact event coordinator for location

Minecraft has become very popular with kids today. Does your child want to learn how to program mods? Join programmer Michael Kappel for his class. If you have not been to past sessions, you should arrive 15 minutes early to make sure you are setup.

December 3

Django Girls!
Enova 175 W Jackson, 5th Floor, Chicago

PyLadies Chicago is bringing back Django Girls! Join them for a free day-long workshop for women interested in learning Django, a Python web framework.

December 6

Tech Talk: Navigating a Corporate Agile Transformation
SAVO 155 N Upper Wacker Dr #1000, Chicago

Many organizations are making the transition to agile, allowing them to operate in highly dynamic environments, innovate at a more rapid pace, and respond quickly to change. But in order to implement agile correctly, you need a corporate agile transformation that aligns the entire business for success. Our panel has experience at multiple successful agile companies and will share the themes they’ve learned.

Innovation for the Ages
Chicago History Museum 1601 North Clark St., Chicago

Chicago Innovation Awards is hosting an event to celebrate “ageless innovators” who have successfully launched a new product, service, business, or non-profit after the age of 60.  This focus on “un-retirement’ makes these speakers unique contributors to society. Speakers include Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, Hedy Ratner, founder of Women’s Business Development Center, and more. Seating is limited to the first 300 guests.

Women of Color in STEM Career Panel
Leap Innovations 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 1212, Chicago

The Chicago chapter of Black Girls CODE is hosting a STEM career panel with women of color. Girls ages 7 to 17 and their parents/guardians are invited, no cost, to hear from a panel of women working in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Mathematics.

Saluting Women Committed to Reform
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform 36 W Randolph St, Suite 405 Chicago

On Tuesday December 6th, ICPR will host the annual Dawn Clark Netsch “Straight Talk” Award Reception from 5:30 – 7pm at Petterino’s in Chicago. This year’s award ceremony is a “Salute to Women Committed to Reform,” honoring:

-Hon. Kim Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney-Elect
-Lori Lightfoot, Partner, Mayer Brown LLP
-Carol Marin, Political Editor for NBC 5 Chicago
-Hon. Karen McConnaughay, Illinois State Senator
-Hon. Elaine Nekritz, Illinois State Representative
-Hon. Heather Steans, Illinois State Senator

December 7 

ARA Chicago: Celebrating Innovation in 2016 and Looking Ahead to 2017
Uptake 600 West Chicago Ave., Chicago

Join ARA to hear inspiring stories of resiliency from well-known Chicago entrepreneurs. ARA aspires to Attract, Retain, and Advance women in technology. The evening will include results from the Harvey Nash Women in Tech Survey, along with a keynote from Jessica Malkin, CEO of Chicago Ideas Week, and engaging lightning-talks with time for Q&A and networking.

Unleashing Change: Technology as a Force For Good
WeWork Grant Park 332 S Michigan Ave., Chicago

Join us for this Northside Innovation Meetup, where Microsoft, Dell, and others will explore how technology is being used for positive changes both socially and environmentally. Lightning speakers include Raj Karmani from Zero Percent and Jim Alvarez of Gesture. Plus, complimentary dinner from Honey Butter Fried Chicken.

ITA Women in Tech Reception
River North

ITA is hosting a networking reception for female leaders in the local tech community. Our Women in Tech reception was created to provide an open environment for networking with peers and making new connections. Sound like you? Join us – it is the last one of 2016!

December 8

Tech in Motion’s Year End Celebration
WeWork Kinzie, 20 West Kinzie St., 17th floor, Chicago

Tech in Motion is celebrating the people and organizations driving innovation in Chicago and beyond. Network with more than 3,000 tech professionals and enthusiasts across their 11 North American chapters. Co-founder of Synap, Michael Boeke, and John Pletz, a Crain’s Chicago Business reporter, are the keynote speakers.

December 13

Chicago Suburbs Tech Security Conference
Venue TBA, Chicago

Data Connectors is hosting its annual Chicago Suburbs Tech Security Conference, a series of presentation and educational sessions. Since 1999, Data Connectors has been dedicated to producing high-quality executive symposiums that focus on driving the future of business in the new age of the digital economy. Meet with experts from the respective market discussing current issues such as email security, LAN security, wireless security, social media security, cloud security, compliance and more. Follow along on Twitter at #DCChicSubs.

#FoodTech Holiday Style: A Delicious Industry for Chicago Entrepreneurs
Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul University 1 East Jackson Blvd., Suite 7900, Chicago

Food tech — which includes things like self-service ordering kiosks and mobile ordering — is a booming industry. TechCrunch says food and grocery delivery has been one of the hottest VC sectors. In 2015, global investment reached $5.74 billion across 275 venture capital deals, according to Inc. Join ABI.Chicago for a conversation with some of the brightest and most innovative food tech business leaders from companies like Groupon To Go, Instacart, and Zero Percent.

Building Intelligence with Microsoft Cognitive Services
The Microsoft Technology Center Chicago 200 East Randolph St., Chicago

Intelligence in apps is the way to go in the current market scenario. Cognitive Services, provided by Microsoft, help to inject this intelligence. Join us with Softweb Solutions to learn how to easily and quickly add image recognition and analysis, facial recognition, speech recognition, text-to-speech capabilities, and much more to your applications. This event is free.

Chicago Holiday Happy Hour
222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, 12th Floor, 

Wrap up your year with General Assembly and 1871. Mix and mingle with Chicago’s tech, startup, design, business, and student communities to celebrate the holidays and meet new friends. Enjoy free drinks. All are welcome. Bonus points for holiday attire.
December 14 
Data & Social Good: Using Data To Improve a Social Impact Organization
The Microsoft Technology Center Chicago 200 East Randolph St., Chicago
Softweb Solutions is visiting with Chicago City Data Users Group at Microsoft to discuss its “micro-project” of using the open data of the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) to improve their social media engagements. Since a massive volume of both structured and unstructured data is being generated every second, organizations may fail to use this data to its full potential. As a result, they cannot gain insights required to take smart decisions.  In this project, Softweb has analyzed the social media activities & engagements of NLEN and provided them insights on how to better their cause. We’ll use sentiment analysis and other data tools to identify pattern and trends in their social media traffic.

This event is a reschedule from last month because of the World Series. (Go Cubs!)
December 15
Founder Night Out
Capital One 77 West Wacker Drive, Chicago

An evening with Tech While Black to celebrate diversity in Chicago tech entrepreneurship. The event will feature brief lightening talks from founders of local startups, a selfie booth, and prize giveaways. Enjoy food and drink and a keynote from Amanda Spann, tech publicist and app entrepreneur, while connecting with local tech founders, teams, and other tech influencers.

December 16
Adler Planetarium End-of-Year Celebration
5:00pm-7:30pmAdler Planetarium 1300 S Lake Shore Dr., ChicagoJoin the Adler Planetarium for an End-of-Year Celebration full of game-making and game-playing. Teens and their families will be able to play games made by Adler’s Game-Making students, play giant games on the big screen of the Johnson Star Theater, and learn how to make their own games in Twine, and more.

Women in Tech Breakfast
Freehand Chicago19 E Ohio St., ChicagoGeneral Assembly Chicago invites women in technology to join them for a free interactive breakfast, where women in tech give their insight on how they’ve reached their level of success, advice on navigating the workplace, and how to help the next generation of women in tech. Senior Associate at MATH Venture Partners and Curiosity‘s Managing Editor  are just a couple of the speakers for the lightning talks.

Courage to Follow Your Passion

Female Founders at University of Chicago Polsky Center

Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to step back and reflect on what really matters to you. And then to make a radical change in your life to commit to being true to what you believe in.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with several female entrepreneurs at the University of Chicago Polsky Center, as part of their monthly Female Founders Series. Not only did I meet some amazing women who have taken the plunge into the challenging world of entrepreneurship, but I discovered living examples of leadership and passion.

University of Chicago Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The Polsky Center has a wide range of resources for entrepreneurs, both for university-affiliated people, as well as extending its reach into the surrounding neighborhoods. On this morning, I met with about 10 entrepreneurs—all in various stages of thinking through a new approach for their emerging businesses. Here are some of their stories…

  • One woman is from Englewood and she and her daughter are at the very, very early stages of defining their business model. She was looking for resources, and contacts and examples of how to network. She took notes, taking in the ideas for formulating her plan. She was especially interested in local neighborhood venues for training, such as Englewood Accelerator and the Polsky Center programs.
  • Another woman—highly energetic and already involved in “several businesses”—was looking for new ideas and ways to leverage her outreach. An avid social media user, she represented a different end of the spectrum. Already involved at conferences, and potentially expanding globally, you could see her literally evaluating ideas from the table and how she could take her business to the next level.
  • Next to me was a deep thinker, a University of Chicago alum, who was developing a business to assist people involved with sexual abuse. Clearly this was an entrepreneur who aligned her deep commitment to social justice with an important cause for women (and men). My sense was she knew where she wanted to focus and the impact she wanted to have to make the world a  better place, but she needed some ideas to develop a specific plan, refine her outreach and communications. I hope this was time well spent for her important mission.
  • Across from me was a recent departee from the corporate and consulting world, who has a clear vision on how to improve health delivery on a global level. Building her plan seemed to come naturally to her, and she is in the stages of refining her model. Extremely articulate, I have great confidence she will be a success.
  • Health care delivery was also the focus on another budding entrepreneur, who had lot of questions on how technology can help launch her business, especially how the Cloud and other “pay as you go” technical resources would be of value at the beginning of her business cycle.

All the women have great questions on mentoring: Where to go to meet mentors? What programs have various advantages? How do you ask a person to be your mentor (is it rude? How do you figure out who to ask?)? What can you expect from a mentor?

We also had a good dialog on social media and the room was somewhat split: some loved it and used it heavily. Others were new to social media beyond Facebook and LinkedIn. Some thought Twitter was amazing, others felt it was too random. Finally, we discussed the broad Chicagoland ecosystem for resources. We agreed that you need to prioritize your time, or you could “go to a meeting and eat cold pizza every night of the week.” We also agreed that the various services and organizations are complementary and an entrepreneur should be continually evaluating how each organization can help her reach her individual business goals.

Our host Kristin Barrett reviewed the various resources you get with membership at the Polsky Center and we also reviewed specific resources that Microsoft brings to Polsky for the entrepreneurs, including Office Hours with Dave Giard and access to Microsoft Azure and BizSpark, based on your business needs. I’d like to thank Kristin and her colleague Steph Avalos-Block for inviting me to meet with these inspiring women, who are taking a personal and professional risk to pursue their dream. Taking a risk like this is not easy and it takes a certain personality type and a specific skills to bring it all together. Through programs like the Female Founders Series at the University of Chicago Polsky Center, women entrepreneurs have a safe place to dialog, learn and be successful.

#ILGive – Stronger, Better and More Important Than Ever


One way in which we can tangibly demonstrate the compassion and the innate goodness that resides in all of us is to make a contribution to a cause that is near and dear to our hearts.

Here’s our chance!  Following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season of giving. On Tuesday, Nov. 29th, the #ILGive campaign will be launched – a 24-hour online giving event that allows all of us ‘who live here – to give here’.

#ILGive represents the largest and most successful fundraising drive in Illinois.  Its goal is to help hundreds of local charities raise money to support their work in our communities.  All donations made through #ILGIVE go DIRECTLY to the nonprofit of your choice.  

Now in its fourth year, #ILGive hopes to raise $9 million for local charities – ensuring our communities, our cities and our state stay strong and vital.

How to participate?  It’s EASY.  

  1. Pledge to Give to your cause on November 29th – and then share it on your social media channels.  
  2. If you don’t already have a favorite local charity, check our ILGive’s List of participating nonprofits to help you find a great cause.

ON November 29th, go to #ILGive and invest in your community.

eric-weinheimerEric Weinheimer is President and CEO of Forefront, Illinois’ statewide membership association for nonprofits, philanthropy, public agencies, advisors, and sector allies. Prior to his leadership at Forefront, Eric was President and CEO of The Cara Program, a nonprofit that provides comprehensive training, job placement, and support services to individuals who are homeless and struggling in poverty. Eric earned a BS from Boston College and an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for Public Service. Eric serves on the Advisory Board for the Social Enterprise Initiative at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and serves on the Board of Directors for the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation.