Does #dctech have a niche? Does it need one? - Technical.ly DC

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Nov. 17, 2016 12:33 pm

Does #dctech have a niche? Does it need one?

Key questions from the panel discussion at the final Gensler Ambassadors Program event of 2016.

At a Gensler panel in 2016.

(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

On Tuesday evening a group of young professionals, many in the architecture and design space, gathered in the lobby of Gensler’s K Street office to talk about, of all things, D.C.’s local tech scene.

“It’s so nice to get out and hear about something new,” Technical.ly overheard one participant mutter. “I’m so sick of talking about design.”

And indeed, a spirit of interdisciplinary exploration is precisely what Gensler tried to foster with its second annual Ambassadors Program (full disclosure: Technical.ly helped with event organization). The three-part panel event series took attendees through (broadly) discussions on tech, design and, finally, policy.

The policy panel, on Tuesday evening, brought together Raymond Rahbar, CEO of MakeOffices, Arthur Jordan, VP of information technology at 2U, and Joaquin McPeek, spokesman for Mayor Muriel Bowser. Gensler’s Robert Peck moderated.

And boy, the panel did some #dctech soul searching.

What is the D.C. tech scene? Peck asked the panelists, by way of an introductory question, before getting even deeper with questions like, What does #dctech need to be better? and, Do we need a niche, some kind of calling card, as a tech city?

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Over here at Technical.ly, we spend a lot of time thinking about these kinds of questions, discussing these kinds of questions with the #dctech community and then thinking about them some more. And judging by the kinds of answers the panelists gave, they do, too. D.C. is full of smart, civic-minded people who come here to save the world, the panelists said — that’s what defines us. And moving forward, McPeek argued, inclusive innovation could be our calling card as a tech city. Hmm, that sounds familiar…

But what would the “so sick of talking about design” attendee say, if asked how they perceive the tech scene in D.C., or what they think is needed for its evolution? A panel discussion isn’t really a format that encourages this kind of feedback loop, but we couldn’t help but be curious what those from other industries would have to say about #dctech’s budding identity.

Maybe that’ll be the focus of a future event series.

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