Interface Web School graduation honors students for accomplishments, perseverance

OMAHA – Twenty-one Interface Web School students, surrounded by family and friends and showered with praise from their instructors, were honored at a celebration Thursday night for completing their Fall 2018 coding classes.

The graduation took place at the AIM Exchange Building at 19th and Harney streets in downtown Omaha.

The students got certificates of completion for their work in Foundations of Web Development and COBOL programming courses. Three students who are nearing completion in their Microsoft .NET class were also recognized.

Kathryn Russell was one of six students in her Foundations of Web Development course. She had previously taken some self-taught online classes, but said there were advantages to the classroom setting Interface provided.

“It was nice to get some formal training through the class and realize, ‘oh that’s what they actually meant by doing that,’ where I was kind of doing a ‘broken’ method that still kind of worked, but was technically garbage,” she laughed.

(Interface graduate Kathryn Russell, her partner Blaine Red Ear Horse, and their 6-month old daughter, Zintkala Cik’ala (Little Bird).)

Before each student received his or her certificate, Interface instructors Kent Smotherman, Karen Denholm, Christian Burk and Joel Rainear-Wills spoke of their hard work and accomplishments.

“They are awesome students and I am grateful for them,” said Rainear-Wills, Interface’s .NET instructor.

The instructors praised the students for their perseverance, artistic ability, learning a “developer mindset” and “outstanding” work.

“It’s like going from crawling to running a 5K,” Burk said of the 10-week Foundations course.

Russell said the one-on-one attention she received from Burk made a big difference in her learning experience.

“He was really exciting and really engaging,” said Russell. “It was really nice to have him be passionate and curious, and I mean, he was a teacher, but at the same time he was a student for us too, so it was a really cool relationship. And that was beyond what I expected.”

(The graduation celebration took place on the historic Trading Floor of the AIM Exchange Building. Interface Director Ellen Myer addressed the graduates, and their friends and families.)

Pam Kryss, a software development manager and Scrum master at CSG International, said she came to the ceremony to support Interface’s mission of helping non-traditional students break into tech professions.

“Me personally, I don’t look as closely at the education portion of a resume as I will review what their experience has been and what their skills are, because a lot of people are self-taught, and some people can’t afford a four-year university either. So it’s great I was made aware of this untapped talent pool for CSG,” she said.

Kryss described how her organization had a developer leave last October, and said it took until this past May to replace that person.

“It is actually really difficult. It is incredibly difficult to get tech talent,” she said. “I plan on continuing to promote the AIM Interface School. I’ve been a huge proponent of it ever since I found out about it. I’ve reached out to our HR, our recruiter and my entire organization to make them aware of it.”

Russell, whose partner is Lakota, says she hopes to eventually help bring tech training opportunities to the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“The tech world needs us. They need women, they need people of color, they need diversity,” says Russell. “And I think having Interface be a part of that, connecting businesses with different types of people who aren’t your traditional four-year students — they’re missing out on a lot of tech talent.”



For more information about Interface Web School, visit

AIM/AITP scholarship winners to be recognized at Tech Celebration awards

For more than five years, AIM and the Association of Information Professionals in Omaha have partnered to award $5,000 of scholarship funds to promising college students pursuing careers in tech.

The 2018 scholarship winners will be recognized this Thursday at the annual AIM Tech Celebration, with their names displayed at the gala.

The students are awarded amounts up to $1,000, depending on factors around the strength of their application.

Applications for next year’s scholarships are due in June, and winners are announced shortly after. For more information, please visit the AITP Omaha website.



The 2018 winners whose names will be displayed at the Tech Celebration are:

Project 18 releases preliminary survey results on women in the Omaha tech work force

(Photo: Project 18 organizers announce preliminary results at DoSpace.)


OMAHA — Preliminary results of the Project 18 workforce survey show that many women in Omaha tech and tech-adjacent jobs say that gender has been a factor in negative workplace experiences like missing out on raises and promotions, and in some cases, being taken less seriously in their careers.

The survey was distributed in May. Organizers said almost 800 people started the survey, with 226 people completing it. It asked men and women whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about workplace culture, advancement opportunities, benefits and work-life balance.

The full results of the survey are expected to be released in early 2019.

Survey organizers released the results of 10 statements that they categorized as “Strengths” and “Opportunities.” The five “Opportunities” statements showed areas where men and women’s workplace experiences differed widely.

For example, 27 percent of women said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “I believe my gender has played a role a role in my missing out on a raise, promotion or a chance to get ahead.” 90 percent of men disagreed.

The implication is that a significant majority of women surveyed believe gender has cost them advancement opportunities.

35 percent of women surveyed disagreed that “My gender will make it harder for me to get a raise, promotion, or get ahead at my company.” Again, 90 percent of men disagreed.

(Graphic courtesy Project 18.)

“There are a few statistics here that really show some very deep differences in how men and women perceive opportunity,” said Project 18 organizer Rebecca Stavick. “Especially in terms of how their gender may affect their opportunities for raises and promotions, or if their gender has played a role in possibly missing those opportunities. I think that that’s something we should really take a close look at, because the difference there is pretty large.”

Stavick said it will be important to do more research on the mobility of men and women in the Omaha tech workforce. She says existing research on women in the Omaha workforce shows gender does play a big role in whether or not one has the opportunity to be promoted — but there’s a need for more.

“Further research on this issue needs to be done at the local level in order to support a healthy workplace for everyone,” said Stavick.

The five “Strengths” statements showed areas that a majority of both men and women agreed on.

For example, 87.5 percent of women agreed with the statement “My co-workers were accommodating and supportive upon my return from maternity/paternity leave.” (85.7 percent of men agreed with the statement.)

(Graphic courtesy Project 18.)

“It’s clear that those things that we’re really good at don’t really run along gender lines,” said Stavick. “Those strengths, I think, need to be applauded, because the levels of engagement and support that our workers feel across the city in tech and tech-adjacent roles I think first off needs to be really recognized.”

Project 18 is a movement to make Omaha the most women-friendly tech community in the United States, and the survey was part of an effort to quantify its success.

While research exists more broadly about women’s experiences in the Omaha workforce, the Project 18 Survey was the first effort to document women’s experiences here in tech and tech-adjacent roles.

One of the next steps will be to compare Omaha to comparably-sized cities.

“Ideally, we will do a robust survey on this every single year. Over time, if we can get data from peer cities that will show us how we’re doing in comparison, that’s gonna be even more valuable than national survey data,” said Stavick.

The ultimate goal is to attract and retain tech talent.

“Because if you’re a woman in tech in Omaha, and your work environment is not great, and the culture sucks, and you’re not moving up, why wouldn’t you move to Denver or move to Kansas City? There wouldn’t be a reason to stay here,” said Stavick. “And so if we can find out more about those things, we can start to turn that around and just start really start to be more strategic about stopping brain drain.”

For more information on Project 18, click here.

HDC keynote speaker Audrey Crane to discuss digital transformations

Audrey Crane will be one of the keynote speakers at AIM’s Heartland Developers Conference on Friday, September 7 at 9 a.m.

Crane’s talk is titled “Engineers and Designers, in Harmony” and will focus on the complex relationship between the two disciplines.

“In the old days, the relationship wasn’t great, and it didn’t get better with the advent of Agile,” said Crane, who has more than 20 years of experience of software product design in and around Silicon Valley.  “I think developers stereotypically thought of designers as kind of unrealistic artists who didn’t understand software and were making unreasonable demands on them. And on the other hand, designers have felt at times like developers didn’t value their work or weren’t willing to think outside the box. But we’ve moved beyond that.”

Crane says she will talk about ways designers and developers can work together more successfully.

She says she has seen many examples of great software that lacks well-designed user interfaces. She says that a stronger focus good design can lead to a healthier bottom line.

“It’s not held up as something that someone besides an engineer should do. There’s an expertise that someone should have when they do it. It can be a differentiator that really moves the needle for a business. It can have a connection to the bottom line,” Crane said.

Crane will also take part in a breakout session Friday afternoon. In A Digital Transformation Case Study with TEAM Software, Crane and Michelle Shanholtz, vice president of product management at TEAM Software, will talk about how the company reworked its approach to software development.

“It’s really a digital transformation story in the way that they reconsidered what their software offering was and frankly, how they created that software, so they could be agile and learn from users through primary research and make change over time based on what they learned,” said Crane.

For more information about Crane and other HDC speakers, visit AIM’s Heartland Developers Conference website.

The new Careerlink member portal is here

AIM Institute is excited to announce a major evolution to our Careerlink platform.

The all-new member portal is here with redesigned features to make it easier than ever for employers to find and hire the right candidates.

Here are some of the enhanced features on the new system:

“You can easily switch between the current and new interface at any time,” explained Scott Rowe, AIM’s Vice President of Digital Innovation. “All of your data will appear in both interfaces, and your company’s Careerlink users can even use the different versions at the same time while still collaborating on your hiring efforts.”

To check out the new portal, just login to your Careerlink account and click to switch over to the new interface:

New Careerlink member portal