Meet Derrick Johnson, Executive Director at Dream MKE, an organization that was created to address the lack of underrepresented tech entrepreneurs in a holistic way. Dream MKE has a deep commitment to fostering greater interest in technology via mentoring and training opportunities as well as practical tools like ideation and business planning workshops. IDerrick believes in the inclusion of technology in underserved communities is essential to creating positive systemic change.
Let’s hear more from Derrick and what he hopes to see in the future for technology and entrepreneurship…
Alright, Derrick, what’s your flying car?
My Flying Car is computer programming. In our immediate future we are witnessing the convergence of software and our tangible world. Computer Programing or ‘coding’ encompasses both the framework and tool set needed to craft the future we all want.
Considering products like the Raspberry Pi, inner city youth have the luxury to experiment with more computing power and functionality than it took to land a man on the moon. With the rise of crypto currencies like Bitcoin we can design resilient financial systems which provide solutions for the unbanked in underserved communities. Furthermore, imagine if ShotSpotter, which has become prevalent in underserved communities to proactively track crime, actively addressed the deterioration of those communities. What does an open-source version inclusive of community neighborhood watch suggestions and metrics resemble. What impact could it have?
What’s been your boldest/wildest/craziest move?
My wildest move is the creation of “Dream MKE”. I’m a doer and rarely do I consider the externalities against me in pursuing a goal. As we transition to an inclusive world where creative people of color are present in the founding stages of consumer and business techno-ecosystems, I wholeheartedly believe it is essential that a new vanguard rises with the resilience, vision, and ingenuity needed to create a future filled with the technology needed to solve our problems.
What does success look like for Milwaukee as a city/community?
A successful Milwaukee cannot exist without repairing the heart of Milwaukee, its inner city. The violence in Milwaukee’s inner city is one of the most important issues of this decade. As we work to import talent, attract businesses, and revitalize our communities; we most also address our canary in the coal mine. When I sit in meetings, I often reflect how when I was growing up when you went to the movies, grocery store, or restaurants teens had the jobs. As a result, many stayed out of trouble. Nationwide that phenomenon no longer exist and as Milwaukeeans it is essential that we proactively work to restore that balance.
What’s a recent “mess” you’ve made & what did it teach you?
I recently had my son Aiden and it has redefined what “mess” means to me. However it has taught me to be prescriptive with my outcomes but highly adaptable with the implementation. All plans fail during the first contact with reality.
What have you seen in other cities that you’d like to see in Milwaukee?
I recently visited San Francisco and Oakland and would love to see Milwaukee integrate technology into its infrastructure. Milwaukee is at a tipping point with the plethora of opportunities that have emerged in our market. However, it is essential that our city and civic leaders become adamant about the inclusion of technology and understand how its integration can positively reshape our city.