Our Blog

Our Blog

Executives from Grainger, TTX, and EC-United Join i.c.stars Board of Directors

Chicago—July 12, 2017 Technology workforce development nonprofit i.c.stars announced the addition of three directors to its board: Wheeler Coleman, chief executive officer and executive partner of EC

Banking CIO Says Community Service Key to Leadership

June 30, 2017 The PrivateBank’s chief information officer discusses his engagement with i.c.stars and its value for leaders, in an interview with The Enterprisers Project.
skastrul's picture

Leaders and Celebrities - There is a Difference

I attend Congress Woman Jan Schakowsky’s Power Luncheon every year as a guest of a dear friend and former board member Lynne Baker. The number of engaged leaders from across the state at the luncheon is notable. The first time I attended was years ago when Barack Obama was running for State Senator. I believe that pink is the color of friendship, I also believe that it is difficult not to be nice when wearing it. So I in the spirit of friendship am wearing my bright pink jacket.

Unfortunately I was running late for the event and they had already started the welcome. The luncheon is being held in this great big hall in the hotel, with great big doors. Just as I run in, the doors close, people turn to look and there I am, standing there in my pink jacket.

skastrul's picture

Leaders - Claim Your People Now!

What community do you claim?
Does it claim you?
When will we be able to claim each other?

Our current cycle recently lost a member, he was let go from the cohort. Resiliency is a key characteristic our interns and alumni share. Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. i.c.stars is tough. The American Psychological Association offers 10 ways to build resilience and the number one suggestion is to “Make Connections.”

Amanda Hogan's picture

Bruce Jones, WW VP at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Talks CxO Disrupt, Big Data and i.c.stars

i.c.stars is hosting its second annual CxO Disrupt: The Evolution of the C-Suite Wednesday evening, June 14th at Chicago’s new innovation lab mHub. This year’s event will focus on the convergence of data and marketing, and the unique challenges and opportunities CIOs and CMOs face in the shifting marketplace. We are excited about our speaker line-up this year. Bruce Jones, VP at HPE Vertica and keynote event speaker, sat for an interview to share a glimpse of his presentation on how technology is making big data more flexible.

skastrul's picture

i.c.stars Selected for Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Grant

Three-Year Program Will Advance Efforts to Support Diverse Entrepreneurs

Blue Sky Innovation writes that i.c.stars among Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship cohort

June 2, 2017

i.c.stars was selected by Blackstone Charitable Foundation to receive grant to support programming for minority entrepreneurs across Chicago.

thomgene89's picture

Chicago Ideas profiles i.c.stars recruiter and alumnus: Rico Bryant, like many formerly incarcerated people, isn't defined by

Rico Bryant is the Recruitment Manager of i.c.stars, a technology-based workforce development program assisting low-income adults.

skastrul's picture

To Capitalize is to Expand the Future

We just hosted our 16th annual Capitalize on Illinois event. Historically Capitalize has been focused on technology executives, what’s on their minds and how they see the future of their enterprises. We would discuss what they foresee coming down the pike, what they’re excited about, and what the challenges may be. This year, the theme for all of our events is Expand the Future and I think that’s a really powerful statement. Especially in the context of this event. When we say, “Capitalize on Illinois, Expand the Future,” it really is a call to action, and this year Capitalize was about immigration and how it impacts the way we conduct business.

So if you connect those three dots, capitalize on local - Illinois, expand the future opportunities, and immigration, we’ve got three pieces of a much larger puzzle that really pushes us into a global perspective.

skastrul's picture

Speaking about Women...

March was an incredible and remarkable women’s history month. Of all the things I could say about this past month, I would say there were two things that stood out the most.

The first thing that struck me is that I had a lot of speaking engagements that were focused on women. In fact, there were many events celebrating women, which is great; I hope that momentum continues throughout the year and not just a month.

i.c.stars Partners with Chicago Ideas for Roundtable on Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

February 22, 2017

i.c.stars partnered with Chicago Ideas on a roundtable discsussion on hiring formerly incarcerated individuals.

skastrul's picture

Women's History: 2017 The Year We Did Everything That They Said We Couldn't Do.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we have a special guest today with us, Toriana Williams, of Cycle 35. To start Tori, would you mind sharing a little about your cycle and why it was so great?

Sure Sandee. Speaking from my experience, what made Cycle 35 so great was really about the people. We had a diverse group of people coming from different walks of life. No matter their background you are all sharing the same space without really knowing what is about to transpire, but we were there. We were willing to put in work and learn something completely different that would become a force in both our professional and personal lives.

i.c.stars |* Alumni Launch Entrepreneurial Social and Technology Ventures

i.c.stars Alumni Launch Entrepreneurial Social and Technology Ventures
Entrepreneurs and tech founders are latest in a long line of i.c.stars graduates driving innovation in Chicago

The Chicago Community Trust Features i.c.stars and alumna

March 14, 2017

The Chicago Community Trust highlights i.c.stars and an alumna in: A Jobs Program Creating Tech Stars and Community Leaders.

eshots' Founder Hosts "High Tea" with Chicago Tech Interns from i.c. stars

March 8, 2017

eshots’ CEO Craig Steensma gives presentation and Q&A with i.c. stars interns.

skastrul's picture

Growth, Transformation and Realization

I recently visited our first expansion city, for the first day of Cycle 1 in Columbus Ohio. Cristhian Romero (Cycle 15), joined me and was an amazing asset to the whole experience. Since that trip I’ve been reflecting on what it means to grow up. When Leslie and I started i.c.stars I was 29 years old and she was a year or two younger than that. Fast forward two decades and I’ve grown up. I think that in your twenties you are always challenging yourself. it’s a constant process of starting, learning and doing new things. It’s always hard and it should be hard, because that means that you are growing.

i.c.stars president and alumni among 10 Chicago Black folks in tech to be proud of

February 28, 2017

i.c.stars president Sandee Kastrul and alumni Dominic Liddell and Tiffany Mikell among ‘10 Chicago Black folks in tech to be proud of’, according to Medium.com

skastrul's picture

Kumbaya My People

In a recent post I shared that i.c.stars was working on an effort to improve cultural competency within organizations. We recently held what we are calling “Cultural Competency 101,” with an organization’s leadership team.

Most folks within larger organizations have attended “diversity and sensitivity” trainings, And most people have some feelings about what the training is going to be like and it’s not usually one of excitement. As you can imagine the group may not have been thrilled to allocate more time to the subject. We knew this could be a challenge and we had come prepared.

Becoming an Agent of Change

Becoming an Agent of Change

skastrul's picture

The Hero's Journey - Portraits of Unity

Sometimes we feel like we’re trapped in the same narrative over and over again, as if things are happening to us and as if we are unable to break out of this “trapezoid.” Quite frankly being in this state is boring, and more importantly, it’s limiting. It doesn’t help us feel more empowered or help us lead. We all really just want to be empowered as managers and as leaders. We want to be empowered to recognize when we have choice and when we have the power manage our circumstances.

i.c.stars Receives PayPal Gives Grant for Its Technology, Business & Leadership Skills Training Program, Chicago

Chicago—December 20, 2016 Inner-City Computer Stars Foundation (i.c.stars), an organization that expands opportunities for underserved young adults, announced today that it has been awarded a $5,00

skastrul's picture

Learning to Stand as a Team

We opened our Columbus office over the summer, and they recently came to Chicago for the Train the Trainers program. And, the basic skeleton of our Train the Trainers is to use Team Week, the 40 hours of curriculum that i.c.stars has built around team building, trust, cross-cultural communications, learning and management styles and diversity inclusion. And, there was something profoundly humbling and exciting about sitting at the table with 20 people that all work for i.c.stars.

skastrul's picture

What Managers Could Learn From Teachers

In my previous post I shared my perspective on diversity, inclusion and cultural competency. Cultural competency is borrowed from the educational space, where school teachers have to have a level of cultural competency because their classrooms are constantly changing. What was once a pretty homogenous classroom, in this day and age, has become very diverse, and the teacher has to be able to adapt to reach all of the different learners and not expect the learner to adapt to one way of thinking.

skastrul's picture

Diversity: There are Levels

Early on in the i.c.stars’ journey, we found out that diversity in the workplace was mostly charitable. That meant that diversity in the workplace was a nice to have. As a society our thinking has come a long way since then. In part I give thanks to large tech organizations like Facebook and Google for really saying that challenges with acquiring and retaining diverse talent is pain point.

As Volunteer Tech Tutors, i.c.stars’ Interns Put Their Leadership Skills into Practice in North Lawndale

Chicago—November 7, 2016 For more than five years, the young adult participants of i.c.stars have served as volunteer technology tutors at New Age Services Corporation, a substance use and abuse re

Enterprise Next

Enterprise Next is a lean startup training program for aspiring entrepreneurs who are graduates of i.c.stars.

ChicagoInno highlights i.c.stars graduate at Thoughtworks, Named Top Company for Women in Tech

October 16, 2016

ChicagoInno highlights i.c.stars graduate at Thoughtworks, recently named a Top Company for Women in Tech.

'Diverse talent is crucial to a company’s success' – i.c.stars leader

October 5, 2016

New i.c.stars Columbus Executive Director featured by Columbus Business First

Crains op-ed, Closing the Opportunity Gap, cites i.c.stars

September 30, 2016

Crains op-ed, Closing the Opportunity Gap one Business at a Time and authored by Impact Engine CEO, cites i.c.stars as a way to ‘invest in building talent pool’.

A Measurable Impact

Initial placement rate:
Industry retention rate:
College attendance rate:
Alumni actively engaged in their communities:
Average 12-month earnings before program:
Average 12-month earnings after program: