By Tom Liszka
Last month, we caught up with Creating IT Futures Board Member John Malonson. With 12+ years of Fortune 500 program and project portfolio management experience, Malonson is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and is currently the senior IT program engagement lead for one of the nation's largest Department of Defense contractors, Raytheon. He is responsible for IT execution for programs and projects of more than $150 million and is a strong leader, organizer and motivator of 1000+ people.
During his seven years at Raytheon, Malonson has transitioned from web application developer to project manager to portfolio manager to program engagement lead (strategic planner), all while serving as an IT adviser to business unit strategy and global export teams. Since 2009, he is also the Los Angeles chapter president for Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA). He serves as the lead curriculum developer and computer science instructor for a middle school and high school STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) program with sites in Pasadena, Inglewood and Carson, CA.
What kind of work with STEAM education are you doing in Los Angeles?
Within the greater Los Angeles area and the city of Pasadena, I serve as the director of curriculum for STEAMCoders.org.
STEAM:CODERS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring underrepresented and underserved students (middle and high-school) and families through the fundamentals of STEAM. Our mission is to unlock the potential of each participant through an innovative and enjoyable curriculum focused on critical thinking, access to opportunities, and attainable pathways to academic and career success.
STEAM:CODERS has introduced more than 2,400 K-12 students to the STEAM fields (i.e., computer science, engineering, robotics, art and design) since inception in July 2014.
As a BDPA officer, how do you work with that group? Could he industry be doing more work with them?
As a BDPA officer and former BDPA high school computer competition instructor, I've been able to leverage my experience to bring code instruction from a high-school level to a middle-school level. There is no shortage of opportunities to expose youth to the field of computer science. It all begins by showing students that computer science can be fun and that they shouldn't fear nor be intimidated by it.
We can always do more work, but the important thing is to do "something". I believe everyone has a talent they can share with the world. If your talent is within the field of information technology or computer science, contact your local middle or high school, or do a search for a local kid’s code-camp to lend your services.
How can we increase diversity in the tech workforce?
I believe it all begins at a young age with exposure to the field. We must engage students as early as middle school to introduce them to the field via classroom labs, company tours, fun special projects, etc. Sparking an interest in a young mind is the first step, then providing the student with continued learning resources and support will pave their way in a field that has no shortage of opportunities.
Do you notice a difference in the tech workforce between the east coast vs. west coast?
I believe the west coast, primarily Northern California, is viewed as the cradle of disruptive information technology. Silicon Valley is the Mecca; however, we are seeing Silicon "Beach" (Southern California), Silicon "Prairie" (Midwest), and other Silicon (insert name here) groups sprouting all over the globe. The cool thing about tech is that it is a great equalizer. Other than dealing with teams in different time-zones, I'm not aware of any west coast or east coast bias, nor global bias. If you can demonstrate that you can do the job, you can get the job.
What advice do you give other IT pros for giving back?
Don't wait for someone else to solve a problem; be the change you seek. For example, my involvement with STEAM:CODERS originated as a one-day mobile app development workshop for a group of young kids. Since then, I've become more involved, and as a result, our original plan for a one-day workshop has evolved into programs reaching more than 2,400 students and counting!