KANEKO Welcomes You to Infotec 2020

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Community, Tech Education

We’re not the only ones excited for Infotec 2020, the Silicon Prairie’s premier annual business tech community gathering. This year’s conference takes place April 17 from 8 am to 5 pm at KANEKO, an arts and culture nonprofit dedicated to exploring and celebrating creativity across all fields of human activity, including technology, the arts, business, philosophy, civic planning, and more.

Click the video above to watch a warm welcome from Christopher Halbkat and Samuel Bertino of KANEKO.

About Infotec 2020

Infotec will focus on four of the most relevant tracks to businesses and technology leaders. Discussion topics and breakout sessions include:

  • AI & Machine Learning
    • Spotting Fake News with Machine Learning
    • Demystifying Artificial Intelligence
  • Cloud Technology
    • Introduction to Docker with Live Coding
    • Microservices with Kubernetes in Azure
  • Data & Cybersecurity
    • Building a Data Team from Within
    • Live Hacking Demonstration
  • Leadership
    • Agile and Digital Transformation
    • From Operational Toil to SRE

More to come!

Featured Keynotes

Paul Jarrett – Co-Founder and CEO of Bulu

Pamela J. Boyers, PhD – Associate Vice Chancellor, Clinical Simulation, iEXCEL

Check out our Eventbrite page for more information and to snag your early bird ticket.

Hurry! Early registration ends next week on March 13.



What is the AIM Institute? The tl;dr version

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Community, Tech Education, Youth

The AIM Institute is a nonprofit that builds the tech community through education and career development. We improve the Silicon Prairie by removing barriers to technology education and strengthening the IT workforce. Check out the “too long, didn’t read” list below of what we do or watch this video to see the impact we make.


AIM Code School
AIM Youth in Tech
Brain Exchange
Set Your AIM
Silicon Prairie News

Career Development

Emerging Leaders Program
IT Leadership Academy
Heartland Developers Conference
Tech Celebration
Please join us in building the tech community we need for the future we want. We especially need help with our AIM Youth in Tech programs, which provide no-cost technology education to youth who might not otherwise have the chance to experience tech. It costs only $1.36 per day to provide an entire year’s worth of programming to an underserved student, including educational materials and snacks.
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UNO Scott Scholars Work with AIM to Design Cohesion, Tell Our Story

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Community, Tech Education, Youth

UNO first-year Computer Science major Zander Gibney’s favorite local nonprofit is—and we cannot stress this enough—the AIM Institute.

Zander plans to pursue a career in video game development and spends a lot of his time buckling down to study. In that respect, he’s not unusual. Many university students study hard too, especially in the 24-to-48 hour panic window before midterms.

But Zander stays intensely busy year-round, not just with his demanding coursework, but also with his YouTube channel Lettuce Rock, which features short films he has written, directed and starred in. He’s also a member of the most prestigious scholarship program extended by the University of Nebraska system: the Scott scholarship.

Named for local billionaire Walter Scott, Jr. (no relation to 19th century Scottish author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, as far as we know) the Scott Scholars program is open to the most talented and promising students in the UNL College of Engineering, UNO College of Information Science and Technology, and other STEM-related programs. The scholarship completely funds an undergrad’s university education, including tuition, room and board, and supplementary learning experiences.

A public service leadership component is required of the scholars. Teams of ten students collaborate with a local nonprofit to assess organizational issues. Each team then creates a strategic plan for their respective nonprofit. For the next four years of their university experience, the teams help guide and implement the approved plan.

Every year, multiple nonprofits benefit from the work of Scott Scholars. How are the nonprofits chosen? By the students themselves.

“Individually, we all ranked which nonprofits we wanted to work with,” Zander said. “My number one was AIM.”

We’re glad to hear that. And we’re glad to welcome them into our mission to grow, connect and inspire the tech community.

Using the principle of design thinking, Zander and his team spent weeks interviewing AIM leadership, employees and program participants, as well as community members at large. They diagnosed pain points and identified issues they saw in the organization overall. This approach allows the team to suspend egos and design an AIM-centric strategy.

In other words, as Zander put it, “You go in with the core issue people are having and not what you think the issue is.”

Students then reconvene to start imagining solutions, taking a cue from improv acting.

“You don’t want to shoot down ideas, because what if they’re amazing?” he said. “What they taught us to do is to use the improv technique of ‘Yes, and’ thinking.”

That’s good, because to engage in “No, but” thinking constitutes the technical faux pas of scene-blocking—the bane of any talented improviser’s existence (or any innovator’s, for that matter).

What did the Scott Scholars come up with?

Zander summed it up: “We saw an image problem. People didn’t really understand what AIM was about, whether they were donors or participants in the programs. It felt like a huge disconnect with everything that was going on.”

While we can’t tell you exactly the big idea the group devised, rest assured you will soon see evidence of the Scott Scholars’ design thinking in action, perhaps at your computer, perhaps in a quiet moment of distraction at work or school, perhaps anytime wherever you are.

New “Callers to Coders” Program Announced in Partnership with Physicians Mutual

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Community, Tech Education

We’re excited to announce the launch of Callers to Coders, an innovative new tech training pathway that helps career changers and veterans upskill themselves into IT careers. This yearlong program teaches call center employees the technical skills they need to get a higher paying tech job.

During the workday, participants undergo five AIM Code School modules that build on one another:

  • the fundamentals of hardware & software
  • Python data science
  • front-end web development
  • full-stack programming

Employees earn their normal wages while in class, and the sponsoring employer pays for the training.

Physicians Mutual is sending five students through the program beginning the last week of February.

This is great news. Not just for the local tech talent workforce, but for the employees and their families. In October, a CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey of 8,155 workers found that 90 percent of tech workers are very or at least somewhat satisfied with their job. That same survey found that tech workers report higher pay, better career advancement opportunities, and feel more valued in the workplace than workers in other fields.

We have room for more corporate partners to join us on Callers to Coders. Check out today’s article in Silicon Prairie News for more info, or contact Nate Decker at ndecker@nullaiminstitute.org.

AIM Code School Coming to Lincoln this February

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Press Releases, Tech Education

AIM Code School is expanding our web development training to Lincoln next month. Starting Feb. 25, we’re offering our Foundations of Web Development class at Turbine Flats, a mixed-use co-working space featuring a coffee shop, startup incubator, lending library, and a variety of formal and informal networking opportunities.

The class runs twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 9:30 pm for ten weeks (Feb. 25 to April 30). When students graduate, they will have everything they need to know to land a position as a junior developer. Along the way, AIM Code School tech navigators will work with partnering organizations to find students meaningful employment in technology.

Located in a beautifully repurposed manufacturing building built in 1907 at 2124 Y St, Turbine Flats has become a cornerstone of the Lincoln startup and tech communities. We are grateful to join this thriving ecosystem and offer tech education to those who want to pursue a rewarding career in programming.

“Expanding to Lincoln gives us the opportunity to train more members of the tech workforce and fill the IT talent gap facing the Midwest,” said Nate Decker, Student and Employer Engagement Coordinator for AIM Code School.

The expansion is great news for aspiring coders who live in the Lincoln metro and for whom Omaha is too lengthy a commute.

“We want to remove as many obstacles as we can for people considering a career in tech. Whether those barriers are financial or geographical, we are committed to helping anyone who wants to find a better job develop the tools to do so,” Decker added.

Grant funding and scholarships are available. For questions or additional info, contact Nate Decker at 402-345-5025 x 447 or ndecker@nullaiminstitute.org. You may also email hello@nullaimcodeschool.org or visit aimcodeschool.org.

Leadership Development for Smarties: from Source Code to the Boardroom

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Community, Tech Education

A first-rate developer is easy to spot. You can quantify how many languages a person knows, how effectively they work, how much value they offer. Evidence of their talent is tangible, well-documented, and often literally glowing.

Good managerial candidates are less noticeable. Someone might be a persuasive presenter of innovative ideas, but lack follow-through. Another might boost the morale of everyone around them, but have a hard time delivering bad news. One might seem like the greatest UX designer in the world, but is actually just three children in a trenchcoat.

Fortunately, companies can reliably transform tech talent into great leaders through specialized IT leadership development training, like the AIM Institute’s IT Emerging Leaders Program.

Designed for the unique challenges of the tech industry, the IT Emerging Leaders Program helps tech professionals develop leadership skills and transition from a tech path to a managerial track.

Attendees learn about personal growth, relationship building, effective communication skills, resource optimization and intelligent career development strategies. They enjoy access to presentations by high-performing IT managers, peer-to-peer discussion and problem-solving workshops that help them troubleshoot real-world scenarios technology leaders face every day.

“I Knew I Could Do Great Things”

Ryan Markus and Brian Cary of TEAM Software both attended the eight-week course at crucial junctures in their lives.

“We were both kind of at the same spot in our careers: the go-to guys,” said Markus, now a Senior Software Engineer at TEAM Software.

While neither he nor Cary carried any formal authority at the time, coworkers still tended to go to them for help, regardless of job titles.

TEAM Software took notice. With a culture that prizes investment in its employees’ growth, the company paid for Markus and Cary to enroll in the IT Emerging Leaders Program.

“I knew I could do great things, but I wasn’t sure how to get there,” Markus said.

Testing the Leadership Waters

The Emerging Leaders Program is especially suited toward tech professionals who wonder whether a move to management would suit them. Perhaps they’re curious about what it takes to lead, but aren’t sure they’d be good at it. The Emerging Leaders Program not only helps IT professionals develop leadership skills, it also gives them a low-risk chance to determine whether they even want to manage.

Ultimately, the Emerging Leaders Program whetted Markus’s appetite for more intensive leadership training. He enrolled in the nine-month AIM IT Leadership Academy, an in-depth leadership development course for current and upcoming IT managers.

Cary, on the other hand, had already minored in business leadership at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln during his undergraduate years. But he’d been working as a software developer for five years and wanted a refresher on the formal leadership training he’d already undergone before entering the workforce.

“A lot of the emerging leaders was, for me, more about the connections and the anecdotes that we heard from industry professionals that came in,” Cary said. “That was really good for me because I was able to ask a lot of questions about people who made the transition between technology and leadership.”

People like the Chief Technology Officer of Farm Credit Services, who started as a software developer and transitioned into the CTO role, deeply impressed Cary. “Those types of things were what I really wanted to hear about from people in the industry,” he said.

Like Markus, Cary enrolled in the more intensive AIM IT Leadership Academy as soon as he graduated from the Emerging Leaders Program.

Investing in Employee Growth Pays Off

Shortly after graduating from the Leadership Academy, Cary landed a major promotion. He now works as Software Development Manager for TEAM Software, and is the direct report for eight software & data engineers working across multiple Agile engineering teams.

Markus said the Emerging Leaders Program quickly instilled in him the confidence and skills to start exercising leadership more naturally—skills like relationship-building.

“Dealing with people is pretty challenging sometimes,” Markus said. “Sometimes, it makes software look easy.”

If you or someone in your company is wondering whether to transition from tech to management, direct them to the AIM IT Emerging Leaders Program. Classes start April 23 and are held every other Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. at various locations around Omaha. Early-bird registration is available until March 1.

This post originally published by Silicon Prairie News.

Putting the Work In: Jordi Becerril Is a Rising Star in Tech

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Community, Tech Education

Jordi Becerril didn’t see a lot of Latinx people working in technology when he was growing up. An avid gamer, the South Omaha native enjoyed taking apart XBoxes and Playstations to study how they worked⁠—and to see if he could put them back together again. 

But, because he never noticed any programmers he could really identify with, he assumed that an IT career path was simply off-limits.

It wasn’t until a representative from AIM Code School visited his class at Omaha South High School that a revelation hit him.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” he said. “Just put the work in. That’s one of the things that propels you forward.” 

He’s right. The 22-year-old now works as a technical specialist for Mutual of Omaha, providing production support on application development. He also does freelance front-end projects, such as this website he made for his former soccer team.

Becerril embarked on his tech journey during his senior year of high school. He took an introductory workshop at AIM Code School to learn the fundamentals of coding. After graduating high school, he enrolled in a ten-week AIM Code School Foundations of Web Development class and became well-versed in HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Although a natural autodidact, Becerril thought the structure and networking opportunities of a code school would accelerate his maturation.

“I knew I had the drive, but sometimes it’s good to ask for help,” he said.

The move paid off. Becerril used his newfound skills to teach computer programming classes for low-income high school kids in the summer of 2017. Then, in July, he landed a sweet gig as a front-end developer with Appsky, a local creative agency specializing in software, design, and consulting. He flexed his skills on e-commerce websites and mobile apps.

He loved the job. Unfortunately, agency life is famously topsy turvy. A year-and-a-half into the job he loved, Becerril had to leave Appsky last February. 

So he found himself back at AIM Code School, taking a Java course. He wanted to become a full-stack developer—someone professionally skilled in both front-end and back-end development. After finishing the 14-week class, he applied for a technical specialist job at Mutual of Omaha and got it.

Now, not only is he putting his full stack abilities to work, he enjoys support from experienced mentors, as well as great career resources and advancement opportunities.

“This is a huge deal for Jordi,” said AIM Code School Student and Employer Engagement Coordinator Nate Decker. “We’re all very proud of him.”

“I used to wash dishes for a living,” Becerril said. “And now I code.”

While he’s not knocking dishwashers—he respects anyone working the position—he knows that programming is a better fit for him. And, as a first generation American of Mexican descent, he wants underrepresented youth to know that programming might be a good fit for them, too, even if they’ve never imagined themselves building technology before.

“You don’t always get the same opportunities as other people. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try,” Becerrill said. “My parents both came here with nothing.” 

Aside from work, Becerril enjoys spending time with his girlfriend and continually learning and improving his development skills. His main goals are to become the best programmer he can possibly be, and to find a way to give back, preferably as a teacher educating the next generation of coders. He wants to help build a community that propels youth to achieve their dreams, no matter what situation they come from.

Check out Jordi Becerril’s portfolio here.


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and AIM get spooky with technology at SpookTechular

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Tech Education, Youth

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and the AIM Institute will host the Halloween-themed tech event SpookTechular this Saturday at the AIM Brain Exchange. Kids and families will get to experience a variety of fun, tech-related activities like playing with the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift and piloting drones. The event runs from 9 am to 1 pm and is free and open to the public.

Kenzie Pavlik of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska said the event aligns with BCBS-NE’s core values. 

“Blue Cross is always looking for opportunities to get involved with the community that we serve,” Pavlik said.

Dana Siek, Systems Analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, added that STEM skills are vital to the company. Blue Cross is therefore committed to promoting access to technology experiences for youth. The company has partnered with AIM in the past to ensure such access.

Events like SpookTechular help spark an early curiosity toward tech and STEM. AIM has found that if kids fail to develop an interest in technology by middle school, they probably will never develop that interest.  

Here is a list of activities youth will have the opportunity to enjoy at SpookTechular:

  • Experience Virtual Reality with Oculus Rift 
  • Program Dash the Robot to go trick-or-treating
  • Make your own LED pumpkin light
  • Build a pumpkin spice marshmallow structure
  • Create a flying Ghost Rocket (weather-permitting)
  • Create an animated pumpkin using Javascript
  • Fly a Drone Spider

AIM hopes to see you at SpookTechular tomorrow. Make sure to register now!



2019 AIM Tech Celebration Fosters Connections, Creativity’s Most Important Element

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Community

The source of every new idea is the same…a network of neurons in the brain, and then the network shifts. All of a sudden, electricity flows in an unfamiliar pattern…But sometimes a single network isn’t enough. Sometimes a creative problem is so difficult that it requires people to connect their imaginations together; the answer arrives only if we collaborate” (Lehrer 139).

Imagine, Jonah Lehrer’s 2012 book about creativity, explores the science of creativity as the confluence between talented individuals and prime social conditions. In our increasingly complex world, Lehrer argues, some problems can only be conquered through collective imagination–the singular mind is vital but not sufficient to breakthrough creativity. To stay ahead of the curve, companies need to foster group problem-solving that encourages the collision between diverse perspectives.

That’s why the AIM Institute seeks to grow, connect and inspire the local tech ecosystem through a variety of career development and education programs. AIM recognizes the importance of building connections between IT professionals, educators, students, community organizations, startups and larger enterprises. Every year, AIM Tech Celebration cultivates these connections.

Part awards ceremony, part networking event, Tech Celebration gives IT professionals the opportunity to meet new contacts, reconnect with old ones, share ideas and ideate collaboration, that inextricable element of creativity. Doug Durham, CEO of Don’t Panic Labs and co-founder of Nebraska Global, is on record with Silicon Prairie News lauding Tech Celebration for its ability to bring the community together.

Above all, Tech Celebration helps organize the local community around a shared vision of a thriving tech ecosystem, said Susan Courtney, Vice President of Operations, Business Process and Shared Services for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, in an interview Courtney conducted with AIM for a recent Strictly Business article.

“Tech Celebration helps to get folks that live in the tech world together to recognize accomplishments, get to know each other better, dialogue and harvest ideas,” Courtney said. 

In 2012, Courtney received the Tech Leader award for her work at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and for her leadership in the wider community. She has been a Women in IT Initiative task force member for UNO’s College of Information Science & Technology and was recently honored by the Women’s Center for Advancement at the 2019 Tribute to Women luncheon.

Sponsored by Cox Business, the 2019 AIM Tech Celebration will be held Nov. 14, 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology on the MCC Fort Omaha campus. Tickets are free and open to the public

Additional sponsors include Valmont, Kiewit, FNTS, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mutual of Omaha, Union Pacific, Wells Fargo, Team Software, Google, Predictive Technology, Buildertrend, Bellevue.edu and CRI.


M.U.D. Donates 15 iPads to Support Youth-in-Tech Programs

Posted on - AIM Newsroom, Community, Tech Education, Youth

Representatives from Omaha’s Metropolitan Utilities District visited the AIM Brain Exchange Thursday to donate 15 iPads in support of AIM’s youth-in-tech programs. The iPads will help AIM expand its free tech education outreach to a wider audience, particularly underserved students who might not get to experience technology otherwise. In this way, M.U.D. and AIM are helping build tomorrow’s tech workforce and closing the local IT talent gap.

These iPads allow students to gain early experience controlling technology. Early tech exposure helps demystify a field that might seem out-of-reach to underserved youth. Such youth often face structural barriers to developing the technical skills that would help them break out of the cycle of poverty.

“We want to get our kids excited about being content creators, not just content consumers,” said Jonathan Holland, Senior Director of Educational Programs for AIM.

To that end, the AIM Brain Exchange helps youth explore, learn and do technology. Students gain hands-on experiences with virtual reality, programmable robots, and Piper Computer kits. A mobile outreach unit also travels to area schools, providing free tech education to students aged 7 to 17.

Holland continued: “We’ve found that if you don’t get kids interested in technology before middle school, they might never be interested. That’s too bad. People who choose a technology career tend to make $1 million more over their lifetime than they would if they didn’t go into tech.”

How You Can Help Build a Stronger Tech Community

As an innovative not-for-profit that helps grow, connect and inspire the tech talent ecosystem through education and career development, AIM relies on the support of partner organizations and community donations to sustain the services we offer to the community. Please consider making a small donation to support our youth-in-tech programs.

Even a modest, tax-deductible donation of $5 will help us reach more youth.

Whether you choose to donate or not, we’d love to see you at the 2019 AIM Tech Celebration awards ceremony. Tech Celebration is an annual awards ceremony recognizing businesses, individuals, students and educators that help shape the future of technology. The event acts as a connective force in the IT ecosystem, providing valuable opportunities for networking and collaboration. This year’s ceremony takes place Nov. 14, 5:30 to 8:30pm at the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology on the MCC Fort Omaha campus. 

As always, Tech Celebration is free and open to the public. Come meet new people, reconnect with old colleagues, and celebrate technology in our community!