KCITP’s Mentorship Kickoff recap and interview with founder
(Left, attendees of the KCITP event network at McFadden's. Photo from kcitp.com.)
Over 200 people came out and held conversations keyed to software development, computer networking, system administration, project management, startups and social media. Each focus area had its own corner in McFadden’s Sports Saloon and conversations were tailored to connect young and experienced professionals in a given focus area. Unmistakably, woven into the dialogue was Google’s fiber announcement and its potential to shape the IT arena in Kansas City. Overall, it was great event.
KCITP, which stands for Kansas City Information Technology Professionals, is an IT focus group in Kansas City. The organization began in July 2008 as a LinkedIn membership group and has grown to more than 4,000 members (and counting).
I asked KCITP founder, Mike Gelphman, questions over email about the event and future plans for his organization.
Silicon Prairie News (SPN): Last week I enjoyed great conversations as I'm sure everyone did. What gave you the idea to have a mentor kick-off party?
Mike Gelphman: KCITP has a philanthropy program where we leverage the talent of our member pool to assist non-profits with IT projects. Part of the vision was to pair junior & senior level technologists to work on these volunteer opportunities together. The challenge was that not all of our incoming work encompassed the many skillsets involved in IT.
The notion of a mentor program all started by a single request from a developer named John Herrman about how to find a mentor. The response was great, including a request to plan an event around the subject. So, it just made sense to break it off from our philanthropy program as a separate initiative. This led to a meeting with several dedicated individuals in the IT community to discuss how we might implement something that would benefit people. We really wanted to focus on something that was organic and free flowing, where people could build relationships.
The event was about bringing awareness to the importance of having a mentor as well as making it easy to connect with peers in your particular discipline. We had seven topics and grouped people in the event space based on each: Software Development/Architecture, Security/Network, Infrastructure/Systems Administration/DBA, Project Management/Agile/Lean methodologies, Startups/Entrepreneurship, Social Media and Google Fiber (added a few days after the announcement that they were coming to KC).
SPN: Did you hear from anyone last week that that was successful in finding a mentor?
Gelphman: This was an initial icebreaker, but quite a few people told me that they made valuable connections on both sides. I know we'll hear more as things move forward and people begin to solidify relationships. That's what this whole thing is about…the more connected we are, the more we can accomplish together. It's certainly exciting to see the amount of dedication that people have helping make this community a success, and we're going to keep building on that momentum!
SPN: What were some of the responses you were getting from the people who came to the kick-off party?
Gelphman: The response was tremendous, people kept saying how great of a time they had and that it was so cool to be a part of something like this. It was immensely rewarding to see people excited about KCITP and the event…it gets me inspired to work on the next thing.
SPN: I'm sure you were busy coordinating the event, but did you find a mentor? Or did you have a mentor you were expecting to meet?
Gelphman: I wasn't really focused on myself, my goal was to execute the event successfully which sometimes included facilitating introductions of people I knew could benefit one another.
SPN: I noticed a large crowd when I showed up fashionably late. How many people came out? Did you have more show than expected?
Gelphman: At it's peak, there were 200+ people there and I expected that based on registrations in the lead up to the event. In the planning stages, I estimated for 125+, so it was great to surpass my own expectations!
SPN: So, what's next? Do you intend to have more events similar to the Mentor Kick-Off?
Gelphman: There will definitely be events similar to this in the future! We'll focus on philanthropy and mentorship initiatives. Other than that, just getting the message out there in terms of who we are and what we're trying to do for Kansas City's technology community.
KCITP is making a difference and I've gotten quite a few messages from people telling me about how much we've impacted their lives/careers. It's really amazing and I feel so, so lucky to be a part of something like that…which in turn fuels the drive to work even harder!
SPN: Anything else to share?
Gelphman: We're excited about google coming to Kansas City, and created a great video that talks about the community response to it.
Other than that, a huge thanks to Jeff, Dusty and the rest of the SPN team for highlighting startup success stories that are coming out of the midwest and helping to move the needle for entrepreneurs here.
To learn more about KCITP visit kcitp.com.