A New Year's resolution for the #dctech community - Technical.ly DC

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Dec. 22, 2017 12:58 pm

A New Year’s resolution for the #dctech community

At Technical.ly DC's recent stakeholder meeting, attendees discussed collaboration, inclusion and identity in the community.

At a #dctech event.

(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

New Year’s resolutions often build on what’s already happened. So it’s fitting that as they looked ahead to 2018, members of the #dctech community said they are looking to build on what happened in 2017.

A focus on diversity was quickly identified, with good reason. D.C. was named the number 1 city for women in tech over the summer by CBRE, and leaders have talked about a commitment to making the District the home of inclusive innovation.

For the people contributing everyday to the scene, there are signs of improvement. Developer and D.C. tech meetup leader Jessica Bell pointed out that meetups like DCJS saw more women involved in 2017, whether as leaders, speakers or attendees. But there’s more work to do across community groups. And as Tech Lady Hackathon co-organizer Jess Garson pointed out, the focus must also extend to the workplace.

“I think as a city, as a tech scene, we can challenge ourselves to be this bastion of diversity,” Bell said. She made the comments at Technical.ly DC’s most recent stakeholder meeting, held just before the Technical.ly DC awards at 1776.

General Assembly DC director Shanaz Chowdhery sees lots of partnerships across the community. She pointed to the annual Tech the Halls, which gathers members of several technical meetups for one big holiday gathering.

“How do we have more things like that, that combine all of our talents?” she said.

Both topics related for Janice Omadeke. She is founder of the Mentor Method, a platform designed to help companies design businesses with diversity and inclusion.

Heading into 2018, Omadeke is also thinking about more collaboration among startups in D.C. as they look to business with larger entities.

“If two or three startups come together and have this cohesive package, I think it builds a stronger case for all the companies to grow accordingly vs. having one trying target a big fish by themselves,” she said. “I’d love to see more startups looking left and right and not just up when it comes to growth.”

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As with such gatherings in the past, talk of what is needed also got the attendees thinking about what the tech community wants to be known for.

“What I’d like to see in the D.C. tech scene is a personality,” said Vincent Wanga, a partner and creative director at NoMA-based creative agency Spoke. He offered one idea.

“D.C. is the epicenter of advocacy and it’d be great to see more tech products geared toward what D.C. brings to the table,” he said.

Garson said many people from that community may be working on innovative project and even be involved in meetups, but don’t necessarily identify with the tech community.

It all suggests that tech isn’t limited to one industry. 1776 Chief Strategy Officer Penny Lee pointed out that the incubator sees many mission-oriented startups, and cybersecurity companies. She also pointed to media startup Axios, the year-old news venture founded by previous Politico leaders that recently raised $20 million, as an example of a community raising the area’s profile. As Bell pointed out, the Washington Post is also increasingly branding itself as a tech company. And there’s Capital One, the Tysons Corner, Va.–based financial giant making plenty of moves toward partnering with the community.

“Tech is more about, how does everybody utilize tech to solve their problems to achieve their business goals…Maybe our true definition of tech is really different in D.C.,” Bell said.

That suggests collaboration will be necessary going forward. There are plenty of signs that spirit already runs through the grassroots groups and people in the scene, as well.

Garson said it extends to helping people and the community orgs like Hear Me Code, DC Hack and Tell and DCFemTech which helped her grow.

“What makes D.C. unique is that you can learn how to code here, it can help you have leadership opportunities, it can help you find a job,” Garson said.

To Chowdhery, collaboration can be an identity. It also tied the threads of the conversation together into a single resolution.

“As we move into 2018, maybe the move is that we play up this idea of community and play up this theme that we are a community – and not just a tech scene where there are a ton independent actors who are competitive – and figuring out ways to make that community far more diverse and inclusive,” she said.

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