NAME: Elbert Dockery

NSIN AFFILIATION: NSIN Hacks 3x Finalist and Tech Squad Alum

AFFILIATION: Tree Bytes, Founder & Software Engineer

STATE: Illinois

Q: Who/what inspired you to get involved in an NSIN defense innovation program?

I've always wanted to be a large DoD supplier since I was a young kid. I'm a big Ironman and Batman fan so seeing Tony Starks and Bruce Wayne run their companies and mention selling their products to the military always interested me. I didn't know how or what to do to get started in doing business with the DoD. I was connected to Mr. Wade Watts at NSIN by Mr. Pierce Robinson. From there, he informed me about NSIN and its programs. We talked about my goals and the direction I'm headed in with my startup. Throughout the programs I have been in, I want to build up a long lasting rapport with the entire DoD. This will provide more jobs for the American people and give kids a clear picture of what may seem to be impossible. Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week.

Q: What advice would you offer to others about pathways to national service and working with the Department of Defense?

To understand how the DoD functions, to never give up, and always seek improvement. The DoD has a very complicated process to do business with them. The required certifications, compliances are among the many things that make a small company go under. This is one of the reasons the DoD wants their suppliers to have other sources of revenue and funding.

Q: In your experience, how has diversity, or the lack of diversity, affected a team's ability to generate creative ideas and solve problems?

Well, a diversity of thought is always needed. Especially in times like this, having a wide range of different thought processes and experiences to pull from can truly make a team thrive. If everyone thought the same there would be stagnation. Or, some people may feel as if they are being censored because they don't want to be the person to "rock the boat.” From my experience, accomplishing something tough brings a form of enjoyment and fulfillment.

Q: If you could go to dinner with any Black historical figure, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I would have to pick Thomas Sowell. His conversation would be filled with golden gems from his own experience and what he has learned. I know besides his books that he has written and the interviews he has online, I can take some immediate action that will further my actions of becoming a better man and better American. One of his quotes that can be applicable to anyone is, “Differences in habits and attitudes are differences in human capital, just as much as differences in knowledge and skills-and such differences create economic outcomes.”

Q: Why is it important to learn about Black history and what does it mean to you?

Interesting question. Where to start.......It is important to learn all history – Black history and world history, because they are all intertwined. I'm a product of the Chicago Public School system and for this reason I never truthfully connected with Black History Month. Growing up, the same people were mentioned constantly. The overall theme was oppression, despair, and the struggle. As I got older, I did my own research and realized how extensive our history is and how it's connected to many events in various time periods. Black History Month means continuing to build on the past and not constantly looking at the past as the means of an end. I think I am a part of the #BlackPresent or #BlackFuture. Hopefully my track record will be added to the historical books as I inspire other Black people, but also every other race and ethnicity as well. Let’s move the needle forward. To conclude the interview, some of my favorite quotes from Thomas Sowell are "Intellect is not wisdom" and "It doesn't matter how smart you are unless you stop and think.”