Global CIO: Saving Lives And Changing The World Via NPower - InformationWeek

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3/11/2011
01:59 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Saving Lives And Changing The World Via NPower

About 30 world-class CIOs and some top IT companies are helping nonprofits unleash the power of technology in partnership with a marvelous organization called NPower.

Anyone who thinks that CIOs are one-dimensional specialists whose dreams and visions don't extend outside the data center could learn a very great deal about life, commitment, vision, business, and giving back to our communities by getting to know NPower and its superstar roster of CIO supporters.

Some of the world's most powerful CIOs are throwing their weight behind NPower, a national nonprofit that's connecting the disparate worlds of corporate IT prowess and untraditional tech trainees to deliver effective and affordable IT expertise to hundreds of nonprofits across the country.

Along the way, Brooklyn-based NPower has been the catalyst for transforming the lives of almost 500 disadvantaged young adults through 22-week IT training classes that yield not only certifications from Microsoft and Cisco but also deep and hard-earned senses of achievement, purpose, dignity, and opportunity.

Backed by primary support from Accenture, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, and other major corporations, NPower is now turning out about 100 graduates per year and says 87% of its graduates are now fully employed or attending college.

I wanted to share the story of NPower's remarkable success—and its vast potential—because in our frantic world of work and family and kids' activities and always-on gadgets that sometimes make us wonder just who's the slave and who's the master, it serves as a reminder that compensation and ROI can take many forms.

I also wanted to share the NPower story because as I drift into my dotage, I'm becoming more of a sentimental sap and, doggone it, this is just one of those feel-good stories about which lots of people need to learn because (a) it'll bring a smile to your face and (b) you just might decide you want to get involved in some way as well.

JPMorgan Chase CIO Guy Chiarello is a long-time supporter and member of NPower's board, and at a recent NPower event I had the chance to chat with him, UBS group CIO Michele Trogni (also an NPower board member), Accenture managing director Chris Wearing (a founder and chairman of NPower), and NPower CEO Stephanie Cuskley. (For a great overview of NPower, check out this video featuring CEO Cuskley.)

There was some talk of how public-cloud technology could be a driving force behind unleashing new productivity within nonprofits, and about the power of shared services and such, but most of the conversation centered not on technology transformation but on the transformation of young people who, were it not for the grace of God or NPower or both, might very well not be alive today.

"Have you ever met somebody who rides the subway at night to sleep because they don't have a home?" Chiarello asked. "And who then shows up in a Fortune 100 company and has a technology job and a growing career?"

With more than a touch of reverence in his voice as he spoke of his JPMC colleague who works in tech support, Chiarello added, "I've watched this woman since the day she came into the place—she can now compete with most of the new hires we bring in from a range of pretty impressive colleges.

"When you see Darlene [the NPower graduate who had to sleep on the subways] and speak with her, you would think that that story was from some life from a hundred years ago rather than what it really was: from just three years ago."

A few weeks after that conversation, I had the privilege to attend the graduation ceremony for NPower's most recent group of IT specialists, and I'd like to share with you a couple of their stories:

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