When Linda Lyding was invited to become a Board Member of the Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership(SWFRTP), it was the beginning of yet another chapter in IBM's considerable impact through volunteer efforts of both active and retired employees.
SWFRTP's mission is to encourage the development, growth and attraction of technology resources and technology companies in Southwest Florida. This is an area of the country, like many others, seeing huge challenges in attracting and retaining technology skills across many industries and market segments. In parallel, the five county area served by SWFRTP, a 501(c) 3, is also experiencing rapid growth in both K -12 and higher learning education populations.
Throughout 2017 and 2018, funded by an IBM discretionary grant determined by Beth F. Tracy, IBM Corporate Citizenship Manager, and SWFRTP has been able to:
*Increase our support of the local high school Robotics programs by 300% and extend that support to FIRST Robotics program
*Provide mentoring and support for the Aspirations in Computing program for over 100 young women attending several area high schools. This included the opportunity to showcase IBM's achievements and advancements focus on the many uses of technology in the workplace, from tracking zebras on a game preserve to the impact of Watson technology aiding farmers with crop management and doctors with improved analysis around the world. Lyding provided the Keynote to the 2018 regional Aspirations in Computing participants and SWFRTP, expanding grant monies to provide additional assistance benefitting the young women being recognized for their achievements in coding and using technology throughout the School year. Several of these students went on to compete in the Women in Technology National event.
*Enable first time offering, to over 40 participants, the opportunity to create a Home Media Server, using Raspberry Pi and learning the basics of coding. This unique effort was designed for both youth and those adults seeking to build new skills to improve employability in the current job market.
In addition to the financial support the IBM grant has had in extending the reach of SWFRTP into the community, IBM volunteer resources have also participated in several panel discussions as part of Tech Talk Thursday networking event held for free each month to connect the business and education communities together on key and relevant technology topics. Most recently at the start of Hurricane Season, IBM provided resources and the IBM Volunteers Disaster Kit information to our local businesses and members as part of a community discussion on how to prepare your business, employees and community for disasters. Post Hurricane Irma, Beth Tracy served as a panelist sharing about IBM's business continuity and disaster resiliency efforts and impact.
A special appreciation to Beth F. Tracy, IBM Corporate Citizenship Manager and strategic partner, and to the volunteer leadership and expertise of Linda Lyding, SWFRTP Board Member and retired IBM Vice President, Global Technology Services. The IBM discretionary partnership grant has made a significant difference to the SW Florida region and our communities.