After two and a half years reporting on #dctech, here are some of my favorite moments - Technical.ly DC

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After two and a half years reporting on #dctech, here are some of my favorite moments

As Michelai Graham prepares to wrap up her reporting tenure at Technical.ly DC, she shares some things she learned from her first full-time reporting role and moments that will stay with her forever.

Michelai Graham.

(Photo by Erica Cervantez)

After two and a half years as the Technical.ly DC market editor, I’ve made the incredibly hard decision to explore another career path.

This was not at all an easy choice, but one that took me months to come to terms with.

When I first interviewed for this role at Technical.ly DC, I thought I was highly under-qualified. I was fresh out of my master’s program and I hadn’t had a reporting job at all in my career yet. But I was hungry and eager to land this one, so when I got it, I was over the moon. I mean, come on — when I met the newsroom folks for the first time, Managing Editor Julie Zeglen and I bonded over our love for Harry Potter (Ravenclaw for life). I knew this was exactly where I needed to be.

I wanted this job so badly, I asked for a starting date that was the day before my birthday. I got to spend my first three days on the job working from our headquarters in Philly, and for the last few years, I’ve been reporting remotely in D.C. Even miles apart and spread across four markets, this team has somehow mastered the art of remote work. Maybe it’s the many Slack channels dedicated to sharing parts of our families, pets and music, or the times in the past we were able to come together for retreats and special events.

The tech community here has embraced me. It’s truly something special. I’ll never forget following the Vinetta Project events, spending countless days with the DC Startup Week team each September, meeting new faces at the various meetup events and, oh yeah, remember that one time I met Taye Diggs? All in all, my time here has been nothing short of amazing. Of the 1,084 articles I’ve written, here are some of my favorite stories and moments while reporting on this tech community:

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#dctech is expansive. Amazon’s move to Northern Virginia taught me that.

There’s no secret that I’ve spent some days reporting on startups based in cities on the outskirts as opposed to D.C. proper, but when Amazon announced that its second HQ was coming to Northern Virginia, that became even more apparent. This was a special time of reporting for me since former Philly lead reporter Roberto Torres told me when I started this job that I would be the one to be writing these stories. As you see, his prediction came true, and I wrote many stories about Amazon’s moves in the region, what this could mean for the local tech workforce and how local universities are launching remote campuses because of the ecommerce giant.

And let’s not forget — the DMV region is the premiere place to be for women in tech.

I can be a reporter and a revolutionary, too.

Last summer’s civil unrest woke a dragon up in me that I didn’t know was there. I spent many days protesting and helping out the community on the frontlines. Years ago, I don’t think it would have been seen as appropriate to catch your local tech reporter out protesting, but we’re (finally) living in an evolving world where sometimes, we too get to choose the side of history we wish to be a part of. Technical.ly graciously gave me the space and support to work through such an emotional time, so I wrote about my experience in my first-ever op-ed.

Venture capital firms in the region need to diversify their investments.

During our Women in Tech Month in 2019, I wrote this eye-opening piece about the stark reality that women in the region aren’t getting those investments they need to support growth at their ventures. Women don’t land venture capital deals as often as their male counterparts, yes, but overall, minorities aren’t getting that VC support either. During a recent conversation with a local Black founder, he told me how firms in the region are just not investing in Black founders as much as white founders, and the statistics are there to support that. It makes me sad, because some of the most promising tech startups I’ve reported on in the region are led by Black founders. Local VCs, where is the support?

Despite steering clear of public speaking in the past, being a part of so many panels and pitch competitions have dispelled that fear.

When I was first asked to be a part of a press stack event at 1776 back in 2018, I was shaking in my boots. I was like, wow, me? You really want to hear my tips and tricks on how to properly communicate with the media? I was in awe. That experience was the first of many for me, and to be honest, I feel like a pro now. From moderating discussions at DC Startup Week and Philly Tech Week over the years to being a panelist at various pitch events, I am so grateful this job afforded me the opportunities to break out of my shell and be a part of such big events like this.

The people in this community are willing to connect. That’s important.

When I attempted to make a source list to take with me, I was in awe when I so quickly reached more than 100 contacts. I think that’s a true testament to the openness and willingness from this community to connect with me and tell their special stories. I’ll never forget the 30+ coffee dates I had in my first month at Technical.ly, especially those with the fearless women in this community. I remember Tara Silver letting me follow her around at my first Vinetta Project event, watching Selina McPherson lead DC Tech Meetup and chatting with Jessica Kaing about all the 1776 happenings. I will forever be grateful for how the #dctech community welcomed me with open arms and has held me tight over the years. These are connections I plan on keeping with me and I am excited to see how the tech community here expands for years to come.

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Don’t be afraid to keep in touch! I’m active on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. For other things, here’s my personal email address.

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