When Marsha Reeves Jews thinks about the importance of her company's work, she remembers 1994, her first year on the job, when she met four boys in baggy pants who didn't seem to care about anything. One in headphones was a picture of insolence, while the others were just trying to be cool.
But then she introduced them to Vice Adm. Anthony Watson, a tall, authoritative black man who was raised in poverty in Chicago and grew up to head recruitment for the Navy. The metamorphosis was amazing, she said: their postures straightened and their eyes began to glow with admiration.
"The one boy nearly strangled himself trying to get those headphones off," Jews recalls, laughing.
Jews is president, chief operating officer and associate publisher with Career Communications Group Inc., the Baltimore company that publishes U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine. The organization's 14th Annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference begins today at the Baltimore Convention Center.
"We need our children to see how people who look like them are changing the way the world functions with technology," Jews said. "That's why we exist, to bring these people to light."
Nearly 10,000 grade-school children, university students, professionals and executives will participate in workshops and have the opportunity to meet black role models who have succeeded in technology and science. The conference is open to the public. The career fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday will allow participants to discuss job opportunities and network with representatives from major companies including Raytheon Co., Texas Instruments Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., DaimlerChrysler AG, America Online Inc. and International Business Machines Corp.
Black Family Technology Awareness Week, which began Sunday, is leading up to the convention for the second year.
Throughout this week, churches and community groups nationwide have been holding panel discussions, information sessions and town meetings aimed at helping black families cross the "digital divide."
The week's activities will culminate with the Black Family Technology Summit at the conference Saturday.
"There are a lot of people in the black community that technology is not a part of their lives," Jews said. "What we are trying to do is help people become aware of how important it is and how it can change your life and empower you."
The conference will end with an awards banquet Saturday evening honoring the "Black Engineer of the Year" and 17 other award winners.