NEWaukeean: Derrick Johnson
What is your job and its responsibilities?
I am the Executive Director at Dream MKE, which 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. I believe the inclusion of technology in underserved communities is essential to creating positive systemic change.
How long have you lived in Milwaukee & what brought you here?
I arrived in Milwaukee in 2002 to further my education and work in the local music industry. The “Monstarz” and I ran one of the preeminent music facilities in Milwaukee int he mid-2000’s called Alcatraz Recording. It was there where I began to love the culture of the Milwaukee, the camaraderie of its citizens and festivals it had to offer.
What is your favorite Milwaukee event?
My favorite Milwaukee event is definitely Summerfest, inherently because it brings Milwaukee together to collectively celebrate. It’s a beautiful thing to witness our Milwaukeeans have fun together.
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.
What is one thing you’d like to change about Milwaukee?
I would love to change the process for executing ideas in Milwaukee. Unfortunately the adoption of ideas can be a very slow process here. However, we have witnessed with organizations like NEWaukee and Heal the Hood that if you passionately seek to solve a problem, the infrastructure will align itself.
What is your favorite Milwaukee beer?
I don’t drink often, but when I do drink I prefer a Miller Lite.
Is there an issue you believe all Milwaukeeans should turn our attention to?
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 must 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 exists and as Milwaukeeans it is essential that we proactively work to restore that balance.
What is the most effective way to implement change in Milwaukee?
I’m a firm believer in the resilience of people to solve their own problems. The simplest way to implement change is to get out of the way and support those who have ideas. Help them succeed or fail rapidly, but most importantly let them enjoy a second chance.
Where do you see MKE in 5 years?
Milwaukee is on the cusp of an incredible transformation. In 5 years Milwaukee will be the epicenter for growth in the US, where we continue our history as the innovative product designer and manufacturer of the world.