TechBirmingham Blog

Archive for February, 2016

Meet our Member Companies – Alabama Media Group

TechBirmingham thrives through its immensely talented and diverse group of member companies. Meet our Member Companies is an ongoing Q&A series highlighting this group of movers, shakers and makers in B’ham’s tech industry.

Meet Tom Bates, President of Alabama Media Group. Tom is originally from New York and has been in Birmingham for one year. Read on to learn more about Alabama Media Group and the great things they are doing in Birmingham and beyond.

Hi Tom! Let’s get started — Tell us more about Alabama Media Group.

Alabama Media Group is a digital media company that operates, one of the country’s largest local websites, produces television and video programming, and publishes Alabama’s three most prominent newspapers: The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Mobile’s Press-Register, as well as Birmingham magazine and The Mississippi Press. The company also offers digital marketing solutions – including audience targeting, search engine marketing and social media optimization; plus creative services, data analytics and experiential marketing.

Alabama Media Group is part of Advance Local, a leading media company comprised of 12 local affiliated news and information websites that rank #1 among local media in their respective markets and more than 30 affiliated newspapers known for their award-winning journalism. Advance Local is part of Advance Publications, along with Condé Nast and American City Business Journals. 

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your industry?

We hope that business owners and corporate decision-makers will recognize the power of digital media as a force for good to ensure we have an informed public and businesses with a desire to really connect with their customers wherever they are, right in the moment.

What exciting news or product/service announcements does your company have on the horizon?

We recently launched a new company website:

How do you feel about B’ham’s tech scene?

We are incredibly proud of the work taken place throughout the Birmingham region, especially at Innovation Depot and UAB. We believe our community is well-positioned to attract the type of talent required to keep people connected here.

Thanks so much for sharing, Tom! 

Follow Alabama Media Group and Tom online here:

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Q & A with MOMENTUM’s Cheryl Ross

In conjunction with the Birmingham Women in Technology’s new Speaker Series, we will be doing a follow up Q & A with the speaker after each event. Our first Q & A is with Cheryl Ross, Director of Programs for MOMENTUM. Cheryl spoke at our February 17th event.

Cheryl Ross picHi Cheryl! Let’s jump right in – Tell us about MOMENTUM and a typical work day for you.

MOMENTUM is a nonprofit agency focused on women’s leadership development. Every day is different! Right now we are in the home stretch for our MOMENTUM Awards & Conference on March 2 & 3 (, so days are filled with phone calls, emails, and work on program sessions, continuing education credits, and the conference bookstore.

Briefly tell us a little bit about your history. Any significant events that shaped your character/personality?

I have always loved learning. Reading, writing, and teaching are part of who I am. I was one of those nerdy college students who spent quite a lot of time in the library. At the same time, though, I was involved with a student organization that strongly emphasized the importance of mentoring others. It was in college that I first realized that no matter where I was in life, I always had something to offer someone who wasn’t as far along the road as I was. I have taken that philosophy with me throughout my career in nonprofit work, higher education, and faith based organizations and always try to invest in others.

Speaking of mentoring, what’s required for a successful mentoring relationship? Is there a certain level of commitment, time, etc.?

I think the main commitment required for mentoring is caring about people. Being a good question asker- and listener- are essential. Knowing how to give healthy feedback is crucial. Although time together is important, it is the quality of the time that is essential. And…don’t take things TOO seriously – take time to laugh and enjoy each other!

If you had to create a structured formal mentoring program what would the program be like?

The program would involve ongoing training for both mentors and mentees about how to be good communicators and build trust. It would address setting goals and boundaries. It would offer suggestions on resources and topics to discuss. It would provide ongoing support to both mentors and mentees about how to get the most out of the relationship. The program would encourage and support the mentoring pair as much as possible – but also give space for them to create a unique relationship.

If you had the chance to be mentored by anyone (formally or informally) who would it be and why?

One of my favorite author is Brene Brown. I know I could learn so much from her about research methods and writing, as well as the human spirit, if I had the opportunity to spend time with her.

In term of your own career development, what do you wish you had done differently and why?

This is an interesting question. While I love what I have been a part of in my career, I do wish I had gone back to school for my doctorate earlier. I loved every minute of the process and just wish I wouldn’t have put it off for so long!

What motivates you?

I am HIGHLY motivated by making a difference. This is probably number 1, 2, and 3 on my list! I want to know that what I do matters in terms of impacting both individuals and groups of people to think more deeply about their lives and their relationships. I want to be known for being a person of love, understanding, and grace – as well as a hard worker!

Tell us a little about yourself outside of your career. Family? Hobbies?

I met my husband, Nate, our freshman year of college in Calculus class! We have been married for 24 years. We love to travel, as well as to serve others together and have done so a number of times in East and West Africa.

Although I’ve always been athletic, I hated running until my early 30s. Now, I run all the time and have completed many marathons and half-marathons. In 2015, I set a personal goal of running everyday – and I did it! (One day involved running in place in a hotel room in Nairobi after almost 24 hours of travel!)

I also enjoy reading, good food, nerdy podcasts, and laughing until I cry with friends.

Anything else you’d like to share with us about your career?

I love to teach and train others about mentoring, public speaking, and interpersonal communication. I have found ways to incorporate these passions into almost every position I have had and always enjoy helping other groups and individuals with this.

Any final comments?

There is still time to register for the MOMENTUM Conference – but only a few days (Feb. 25th at midnight is the deadline). The conference will be a wonderful opportunity to hear fantastic keynote speakers, Judge Glenda Hatchett and Diana Nyad, as well as more than 40 outstanding women panelists from around the state. Check out the website for more information:

Thank you for sharing with us, Cheryl! Click HERE to see the slide presentation from this Speakers Series event. 

With one of my mentors

Cheryl with one of her mentors.


Cheryl in Kenya

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Cool Space: Zeekee

Zeekee is a full service Digital Agency and Internet Marketing company that specializes in helping companies strengthen their presence online and beyond. Since 2003, we have designed, developed and supported over 2,000 websites and countless marketing campaigns for clients in several different industries from local startups to Fortune 500 companies. Let the digital experts at Zeekee design, develop and market your next website or digital project.

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Cool Space: Telegraph

Telegraph Creative is a team of problem solvers who take pride in figuring out the best ways to make meaningful connections between creativity and technology.

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Cool Space: Daxko

Daxko provides mission-critical software and services to member-based organizations to help them do more with less, engage their members, drive involvement, and remain relevant in their community. Daxko is a multi-year award winner for Great Places to Work and employs over 200 team members across the Southeast.

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Super Code Sunday Coding Club for Kids Launches!

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On Sunday, February 7th, “Super Code Sunday” was launched by Tech Alabama in partnership with TechBirmingham and The McWane Science Center.  Super Code Sunday took place from 1 to 3 pm  and close to 50 kids from ages 9 to 17 participated.  Super Code Sunday is a newly formed monthly kids club aimed at teaching kids how to code while making it fun. Last year Tech Alabama was awarded an Elevate grant from the Alabama Power Foundation to start this program . See press release here.

Sunday’s program included two presentations from young coders and a short lesson on programming basics using Lighbot. One of the presenters was Ozair Patel, a senior at Spain Park High School, who started programming at just 8 years old. Ozair spoke about how he got started programming and a few of his projects including big data analytics and his experience presenting at a conference in Chicago.  Read more about it HERE.  The second presenter, McNair Shaw, a fourth grader at Highlands School  shared his love for coding and some tips on how to get started using Minecraft.  Both presentations were big hits with the kids.  Jamal Harris talked about the basic principles of programming and gaming using Lightbot.  The kids got to participate in a challenge to see who could code the steps to complete the puzzle the fastest.














At the end of the the meeting, the kids were asked a series of open-ended questions to gauge their specific interests going forward. They were asked questions like “what do you want to build?”, “what do you want to learn?” and “what do you want to do?”. The kids had a great time writing their responses on sticky notes and posting them under each question at the front of the classroom. Some of the most frequent responses to the questions were that the kids wanted to build robots, video games, apps, Minecraft mods, and websites. They said they wanted to learn how to code, construct drones and build robots that could do their homework and chores. They also said they wanted to be programmers, engineers and game creators.  But there were two things that all the kids had in common: they wanted to have FUN and learn more about coding.


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“This program is for kids who like technology, love to code or are interested in learning to program. We want to create an environment where kids can get together in a fun, collaborative environment to learn and share their love of technology with each other,” says Jennifer Skjellum, President of TechBirmingham and Director of Tech Alabama.






The next Super Code Sunday meeting is planned for March 6th from 1-3 p.m. at The McWane Science Center. Each month the program will include a lesson on programming but the ongoing content will be based on what the kids say they want to learn more about.



The club is open to kids ages 10-17, but if your child is interested in learning to code, we will welcome them no matter their age.  You can register your child HERE.



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Meet our Member Companies – Minis

TechBirmingham thrives through its immensely talented and diverse group of member companies. Meet our Member Companies is an ongoing Q&A series highlighting this group of movers, shakers and makers in B’ham’s tech industry.

Meet Joe Vest, Managing Partner of Minis. Joe grew up all over the country as a “military brat” and has lived in Birmingham since the late 1990’s. Read on to learn more about Minis and the great things they are doing in Birmingham and beyond.

Hi Joe! Let’s get started — Tell us more about Minis.

MINIS is an information security company. Unlike other infosec companies, we focus on threat replication and threat mitigation. When evaluating security, focus on the understanding of how threats really attack systems is key. Looking far beyond compliance and standard security assessments can help an organization focus resources and defenses where is it needed.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your field?

The information security industry is full of tools designed to be a one stop security solution. Tools such as antivirus, firewalls and intrusion detection are commonly misconfigured or over emphasized. These tools rarely slow down a dedicated attacker. Understanding technology and how an adversary will use it against you is key to building the best defense.

What exciting news or product/service announcements does your company have on the horizon?

MINIS is pushing hard to launch training programs. Education is key to better understanding security risks and how to build defenses that really work.

How do you feel about B’ham’s tech scene?

Birmingham has some of the most talented technical individuals I have worked with, but as a whole their skills are typically not reflected publicly and Birmingham can sometimes over look its local skill set.

Thanks so much for sharing, Joe! 

Follow Minis and Joe online here:


Twitter: @joevest

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TechBirmingham Welcomes New Board of Directors

TechBirmingham is excited to announce and welcome its 2016 Board of Directors!

“We are excited to introduce the 2016 TechBirmingham board members,” TechBirmingham President Jennifer Skjellum said, “This is a strong group of leaders in Birmingham with a focus on the continued growth of the tech ecosystem in this region”.


2016 Board of Directors

Chad Ballard                  BBVA Compass

April Benetollo              Daxko

Cecil Bostany               Warren Averett                     Vice Chair

Jay Brandrup                 Kinetic Communications

JG Carver                        ITAC Solutions

James Childs                  Bradley Arant

Lisa Crymes                  DST Health Solutions         Secretary

Bryan Davis                    Shipt

Judson Englett               Whiteboard IT

Steve Sebastian              UAB Health Systems

Tom Hubert                    Veristor

Denise Jeffries               Regions                                   Chair

Shannon Johnston         Mspark

Leigh Jordan                    IBM

Sri Karra                           City of Birmingham

Lisa Kianoff                      Warren Averett Tech. Group

Glenn Kinstler                 2B Solutions

Matthew Kohler               Protective

Devon Laney                   Innovation Depot            Treasurer

Scott McGlaun                 BCBS of AL

Bobby Middleton            Help Lightening

Phillip Miles                     CTS

Anthony Oni                    Alabama Power Company

Shegun Otulana              TheraNest

Tanveer Patel                   Concert Care

David Powell                    TekLinks

Doug Rigney                    Samford University

Jason Seeby                     Express Oil

Jennifer Skjellum          TechBirmingham             President

Tony Summerville           Fleetio

Stephen Tangerman        EBSCO

Stephen Thompson          McKesson

Veronica Tucker               Southern Research Institute

India Vincent                    Burr Forman

Heather White                  UAB

Gary York                           Emergency CallWorks

Waymond Jackson           BBA


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