- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2001

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The sudden trade of the Washington Wizards´ Juwan Howard to the Dallas Mavericks left the proverbial ball in Women in Technology´s court Saturday night. The techie ladies´ "Hoops and NETworking" fund-raiser at the MCI Center had been centered around a halftime presentation of $500 to the star forward´s Athletes Against Drugs charity but had to be scrapped at the last minute.

The absence of another VIP guest, Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey, didn´t help matters much either. Luckily, Women in Technology is adaptable and guy-friendly.

About 200 members and guests paid $75 apiece to attend the event, which included a pre-game reception (refreshments were a sporty spread of hot dogs, hamburgers, pepperoni pizza slices, lemonade and root beer) and tickets to watch the languishing Wizards lose to the Toronto Raptors. Extra, added attractions (especially for younger male guests) included golf video games, an interactive ski machine and shooting hoops in a minibasketball court in the Gallery, which is decorated with such historic artifacts as Babe Ruth´s bat, Richard Nixon´s 2-wood and George Bush´s driver. Guests also flocked shyly around any football players who did show up, including Redskin Sam Shade and former Redskin Ricky Ervins.

First and foremost, it was a "networking" party, so there were plenty of business cards to be exchanged most with funky designs and indecipherable acronyms.

Ana Maria Boitel, a senior associate at OP.X, an architectural firm for technology companies, described the women-centric networking as invaluable. "I love men," she confided, "but men and women approach business differently."

WIT is adaptable when it comes to its membership, too. "We don´t restrict our membership to women," said Cynthia Kendall, the group´s president. The group doesn´t restrict it to the tech field, either, she added, since "Technology tends to touch every discipline." The group, which sponsors professional development sessions every month at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner next month they´ll discuss "Investing Your Human Capital" now has 700 members, 40 of them men.

Mark Foley, who works for ECI2 (in techspeak, that´s ECommerce) Industries Inc. in Vienna, the 2 stands for "squared") joined WIT last August for a good reason and didn´t mind explaining why. "It´s easier for me to get leads from a Women in Technology event than at more male-dominated networking sessions like First Tuesday," he said.

The young and handsome Mr. Foley added, "It might not be politically correct to say it, but women are excellent for following up on things."

He pointed to Mr. Ervins accepting a business card from a small blond woman. "See, he´s networking right now, too."

Mr. Foley´s boss, ECI2 President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Jagemann, started out 12 years ago as WorldCom executive John Sidgmore´s secretary. "It´s a secretary-to-CEO, rags-to-riches sort of thing," she said, with a wave of her hand. "The one thing that´s fantastic about the tech world is that the glass ceiling and barriers haven´t been built yet."

Mr. Ervins, still undecided about whether to join WIT, confided that he really came to mingle with the techies, "meeting people, greeting people, exchanging ideas and business cards" with such tech world movers and shakers as Jim Heigl (Champion Ventures), Mark Ein (Venturehouse Group), Jim Grube (Teamwork Company) and Jim Rutt (Verisign).

Mr. Ervins started his own company, F&G Consultants Inc. (for First and Goal), last year. He said his sports background can be both a bonus to and a drag on his new career: "Sometimes I´m trying to talk to a client and they want to know what it´s like playing in the NFL," he said with a sigh, though that didn´t seem to be a problem with this crowd. WIT members were more interested in his business venture than his football history.

Current Redskin Mr. Shade, in fact, was probably the only guest without fancy cards to hand out. And that was just fine with him. "A lot of people don´t recognize me here," Mr. Shade said, "and that´s cool."

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