High School Computer Competition Testimonial

Kathryn Wiseman

Leadership can emerge in unlikely places – even a room full of computer geeks. And sometimes, leadership is about more than just winning.

I began learning this in ninth grade, when I joined a computer-training program run by the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), a predominantly minority group. I hesitated at first to join a group with “Black” in its name; outside of school, I hadn’t spent much time with anyone who looked different than I did. Fortunately, I went ahead and woke up at 8:30 every Saturday for BDPA class, which turned out to be a dream come true. Not only did I learn about computers; in addition, I learned a lot about African-American culture in my city and made a wonderful friend, Angi. She and I were among five students eventually chosen to swiss replica watches compete in a national BDPA event. That summer, while my other friends relaxed at the pool, Angi and I organized daily computer practice sessions for the team, working late into the night.

By the end of Competition Day 1, Angi and I had earned top marks on the written tests and were sure our team would win. The next day, each team was given seven hours to build a DVD-rental website, complete with photos, trailers, shopping cart, secure login, and a recommended list personalized for each customer.

Despite the rolex replica watches time crunch, I just knew we could do it. While Angi began programming the framework, I led everyone else in planning how our webpage would look and work. Later, Angi and I were copilots at the computer, programming while the others provided technical support. We lost that competition by a few points. Although thrilled with second place, we knew what we really wanted. We spent hours analyzing what went wrong and right, and what the winning team did to succeed. After realizing we needed to improve our presentation skills, we spent the next year practicing even harder.

The new task involved building a website for college students buying PCs and laptops. Our team started out strong but then, for some reason, part of our program wouldn’t work. I could feel my adrenaline pumping while our team spent twenty precious minutes discussing what could be wrong. Finally, one of our suggestions worked. But by then, we were way off schedule and knew we would be lucky just to complete the task. As it turned out, our team did manage to finish. I felt so proud of our recovery that winning no longer mattered. Then, the judges announced that we had won (although I didn’t actually hear it because Angi was screaming so loudly). Our community was so impressed that the school district and IBM asked us to build a website for a local project.

BDPA taught me a tremendous amount about leadership. I realized that placing second was the best thing that happened to our team. We learned from our mistakes and strived for greater success. I learned that practice and preparation are crucial. I learned never to give up, and that enormous satisfaction comes just from finishing a tough task. Best of all, BDPA taught me about diversity. Popular culture convinces us that we are all so different: black and white; gay and straight; Democrat and Republican. Maybe the real cultural divide is uk replica watches between technology geeks and everyone else. But I doubt it. We all share more than we know.