CITY OF NEWBURGH — Dominick Piaquadio is looking for a way to earn a living through work in the tech world.
Piaquadio, of Beacon, graduated from Newburgh Free Academy in 2007 and earned a bachelor’s in information technology from Southern New Hampshire University.
He currently earns most of his money driving a cab during the day and then heads home to work on his personal tech projects.
Piaquadio’s dream is to open a tech cafe-dojo, like the Slash Root Technology Collective, which until 2010 was called New Paltz Cultural Collective.
He found the cultural collective when he was looking for venues to perform electronic music. He started volunteering there as a barista in 2009.
Once Slash Root came along, Piaquadio started developing tech skills in the areas of computer programming and technical work.
He said the cafe used a karate-style method of advancement, where techs started in the white belt category and worked toward earning a black belt, except they used wristbands to indicate their skill level. As they advanced, they taught their skills to other people at the cafe.
Piaquadio came to the inaugural Hudson Valley Tech Festival on Friday at SUNY Orange in Newburgh to see if he could come up with some new ideas for tech projects and network with professionals who could help steer him toward local work opportunities.
He said he sees opportunity for web developers in the City of Newburgh, where many young residents are passionate about creating music and different types of visual art.
“I mean, maybe, and this is a bit of a stretch for a hypothesis, but maybe even a networking platform for talent seekers and talented people,” Piaquadio said.
But really, Piaquadio said, technology plays a part in almost any type of business, from fashion, to health care, to retail. In fact, he’s working on building his own point-of-sale system online.
The two-day tech festival, hosted by OpenHub, is meant to show tech investors and businesses the advantages of opening tech companies in Newburgh and elsewhere in the region. Friday’s first day featured lectures and classes on different types of tech and their real-life applications. Saturday’s lineup consists of workshops and a competitive Hack-a-thon at Mount Saint Mary College.
Yulia Ovchinnikova, the festival’s founder and producer who also works with the teen-focused Girls Who Code club, said Orange County is ripe for tech investment, given its convenient proximity to New York City and access to major highways.
The rub is providing a ready workforce, which was the topic of Friday’s first panel discussion in Kaplan Hall at SUNY Orange.
Ovchinnikova wants to help find a way to bridge the area’s gap in its “leaking pipeline,” where she explained there are the Newburgh Armory Unity Center and Newburgh Free Academy to provide a bottom-up push to involve young people in technology education, but few resources to support diverse tech interests, outside cybersecurity, at a collegiate or adult education level.
“There are so many people flocking to this area from the city,” said Vanessa Quiroga, team and talent development manager for DocuWare, in reference to New York City. “And we have a chance to capitalize on this. I think it’s a really exciting time between Albany, Troy, Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Beacon.”