Terrance Dillard, IT Evangelist Seeking Young Black Talent

Ever since Terrance Dillard was running his own TV repair shop in his parents’ basement on Detroit’s east side when he was 16 years old, he has a much clearer vision than most of what he wanted to do with his life. While the other kids were outside playing basketball, football, or just running around getting into the kind of mischief that defines childhood, Dillard was busy tearing apart any kind of machine he could get his hands on to try and figure out how it worked.

Today, decades later, Dillard is the CEO of his own IT company, Digital Countermeasures. He also teaches internet security to various organizations, including the FBI and Homeland Security, as well as college-level courses in IT. It’s safe to say Dillard knows a thing or two about computers and technology. He has literally spent his entire adult life in the field, as well as most of his childhood.

“At this point, I have been in Technology and Information Systems for over 30 years.  I teach Computer Science and Information Security for a number of local colleges and universities.  Some of the institutions where I teach are:  Lawrence Technological University, Walsh College, Davenport University, Baker College, Wayne County Community College District, and Oakland Community College.  Over the years, I have also taught a number of Information Security Bootcamps for major Fortune 500 corporations, as well as government agencies around the country.

“I am dismayed by the low number of African American students pursuing promising careers in I.T. and Cyber Security.  All of the literature confirms that we do not have enough talent to meet the demand – both now and in the foreseeable future.  Further studies demonstrate that not enough African Americans are participating in the high-opportunity, extremely lucrative arena of Information Science.’

“Since 2007, I have instructed approximately 7,000 students in the disciplines of computer science, information technology, information security, and project management.  Over an eight year period, I could almost count the number of African American students enrolling in such high demand courses on two hands.  Our participation in high technology professions have been nothing less than abysmal.”

But despite his level of accomplishment, not to mention the level of knowledge he has acquired after so many years, Dillard is far from satisfied. Because, as far as Dillard is concerned, there should be many more African Americans out there just like him. IT is a growing and important field offering significant opportunity and good salaries to qualified individuals – but there simply aren’t enough qualified individuals who look like Dillard.

This is something Dillard is determined to change.

“In our communities we don’t even see IT professionals. We see school teachers, we see ministers, we see athletes. And so, as the saying goes, you will be what you will see,” he said. “I think it’s kind of important for our community to encounter and interface with the folks who are doing certain kinds of work.”

Dillard later laid out more specifics in a written response:

“For the past three years, a fellow colleague and I have coordinated a program known as ‘Meet the Scientist.’  This event is orchestrated on the fourth Saturday of each month at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.  During this event, we showcase the many accomplishments of black pioneers or innovators in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  ‘Meet the Scientist’ is geared toward youth for the purpose of allowing them to learn, meet, and be mentored by scientist from within the African Diaspora who have achieved remarkable accomplishments within their respective disciplines.  Some of the guests we have had over the past three years include:

  • Yvonne M. Friday, M.D.  Chief of Pediatrics, Michigan Children’s Hospital
  • Tonya M. Matthews, Ph.D., President & CEO, Michigan Science Center
  • Michael Taylor, Ph.D., Nuclear Physicist, U.S. Dept. of Energy
  • Shree Taylor, Mathematician, CEO, Delta Decisions of D.C.
  • Benjamin Osowa, M.D., Internal Medicine
  • David Tarver, Entrepreneur, Inventor, Lecturer
  • Terence Willis, President & CEO, I.C. Datacom
  • Master Sergeant (MSgt) Maurice Graves Jr., USAF First Sergeant, Information Technologist
  • Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col.) Lawrence Milben, USAF Retired, Former Base Commander of Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Inventor
  • Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col.) Earl Robinson, USAF Retired, Fighter Pilot, Nano-Scientist
  • Chauncey Spencer II, Aerospace Pioneer Historian
  • Michael S. Hamilton Jr., High School Honor Student & Future Mechanical Engineer
  • Dominique Whitten, High School Honor Student and future medical doctor
  • Josiah Walker, High School Honor Student & Scientist
  • Spain Elementary – Middle School Championship Chess Team

How Dillard got to this point is a fascinating and inspiring story in itself.

“I used to be in my mom and dad’s house on the east side sort of tearing things apart. Eight track tape players, cassette players, record players, just dissecting things. I just wanted to know how they operated. And my dad, he took me to a local television repair shop here in Detroit on Jefferson Chalmers called TV Rebuilders. And he convinced the owner to kind of let me hang out and before long they taught me how to repair televisions. And so by the time I was 15 I had my own television repair shop in my parents basement. And so folks from my local church, family members aunties, cousins, neighbors, they were bringing their broken televisions to our home, and I would repair the stuff. So I had this full-fledged repair center in my basement. I had all the repair equipment. My equipment was actually provided to me by my electronics teachers at Denby High School. I studied electronics all the way through high school. By the time I made it to the 11th grade, not only was I just repairing things in our neighborhood and doing electronics in high school, I got offered a coop internship at General Motors at the Tech Center. …I think I was about 16.”

“So I was working there during my junior year of high school, and that was like a one-year internship.”

His senior year Dillard worked at Olsen Electronics.

“I was a service tech up until the point where I went off to college. Actually I even worked there my first year of college.”

Dillard entered Macomb College, and was poised to go to Michigan Tech through a program at Detroit Edison, but the program was eliminated after President Ronald Reagan came into office. So instead he entered the Air Force where he continued his pursuit of electronics.

“I started off doing basic telecommunications. I was a ground radio communications technician for about three years.”

But he got bored with that, so he applied to go to another school and the Air Force sent Dillard back to tech school and trained him in automatic flight control systems.

“Once I got into auto pilot, I started to learn more about computers,” he said.

Dillard came out of the Air Force in 1995 after a 13-year career. He soon began working for a company in Troy that manufactured circuit boards. He eventually left the company when he was provided an opportunity in IT consulting in 1996. That was the beginning of Dillard Systems LLC. Dillard has been doing IT consulting ever since.