Infotec 2021 virtual conference to feature keynote speaker Mike Smith, co-executive director of Rabble Mill

Life as a tech professional can be hard. Not at Infotec 2021, conference organizers say, previewing a robust virtual digital event experience aimed at helping attendees grow professionally while connecting with other IT and web professionals in the heartland.  After successfully hosting Infotec 2020 in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AIM…

Photo courtesy AIM Institute
Photo courtesy AIM Institute

Life as a tech professional can be hard.

Not at Infotec 2021, conference organizers say, previewing a robust virtual digital event experience aimed at helping attendees grow professionally while connecting with other IT and web professionals in the heartland. 

After successfully hosting Infotec 2020 in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AIM Institute has leaned into the online conference delivery, which includes video networking and a virtual expo fair. 

Indeed, four separate tracks covering emerging trends and key areas of interest for business leaders are available for attendees: Diversity, equity and inclusion; recruitment and retention, leadership and innovation; and self-optimization. (See the Infotec 2021 conference schedule here.)

“This year at Infotec, we’re really sharing the human side of technology with our attendees,” said Keegan Korf, Director of Community & Partnership Development at the AIM Institute. “However you work in the tech space or use tech within your industry, there will be something for you. At this year’s Infotec conference, we’re using tech for good!”

Tickets to this year’s Infotec conference, on Thursday, May 27th, are free. (You can register via Hopin here.

Mike Smith, co-executive director of Lincoln nonprofit Rabble Mill, will deliver one of Infotec’s keynote addresses, “Creating Significant Moments of Impact.” 

“Dude, I freaking love Nebraska,” Smith said in an interview with SPN. “I love Nebraska, I love having fun, and I love helping kids.”

Rabble Mill offers a variety of opportunities for youth, most notably The Bay, a self-described “home for misfits” which includes a skatepark, art and music programs, and a cafe dishing up treats from the local “women-powered bakery” Goldenrod Pastries.

The organization also operates Rabble Media—a for-youth-by-youth emerging media platform aimed at helping young people develop content creation skills—and Skate for Change, a network of skaters handing out hygiene kits, water and food to people experiencing homelessness.

With a dizzying array of programs targeted at making a positive difference in the lives of youth, Rabble Mill emerged as a kind of wish-fulfillment enterprise for Smith, who said he would have loved such an organization as a youth coming of age in small-town Imperial, Neb.

“Truly, I was a misfit kid who swept into college (and) never graduated,” Smith said. “I barely got in, and I left before I got a degree.”

Although Rabble Mill’s origins lie in the establishment of The Bay skatepark in 2011, Smith said he always had a more comprehensive vision, one going far beyond skating. 

“It wasn’t about skateboarding,” he said. “It was never about that. It was about creating a culture where kids could go to do the things that they were passionate about.”

Since then, the organization has expanded its services to create a massive impact on the community.

In 2019, for instance, Rabble Mill distributed 149 all-access passes throughout the Lincoln Public School system. These passes provide youth with free entry to the skatepark, as well as concerts, digital art space, a mentor through Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters and a meal from the Bay’s coffee bar.

Ultimately, Rabble Mill gives youth—especially the underserved and at-risk—a valuable outlet to channel the always-on energy that has historically given teens a bad rap

“These aren’t bad kids, they’re bored kids,” Smith said. “And I super-related to that, (having grown up) in a town with no stoplight.”

Smith’s address will give a rundown of Rabble Mill’s strategy to better communicate the tangible benefits the organization brings to the community. This strategy centers on the establishment of a database centralizing moments of positive impact that Rabble Mill staff have observed in their interactions with youth—stories not reflected in purely quantitative metrics. This helps Smith and crew offer funders, donors and the community at large a more accurate view of Rabble Mill’s impact.

The afternoon keynote, titled “Innovation doesn’t have to suck,” will be presented by Vonda Page, founder and CEO of Radical Change, LLC. Page was also featured at Infotec 2020, where she was on a panel about women in the tech workforce.  The rest of the conference’s schedule includes a mix of local and national speakers. See a full schedule on the Infotec website

Infotec 2021 will take place on Thursday, May 27th. Hosted virtually, general admission tickets are free — register on Hopin.  

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