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Is #dctech too siloed? And at what cost?

We discussed with a dozen local tech leaders at Technical.ly's recent stakeholder meeting.

Is this what we're dealing with? (Photo by Flickr user Anthony Arrigo, used under a Creative Commons license)
Not long ago, I had a profound experience of just how siloed #dctech’s different communities can be.

One evening I found myself at a female founder-focused event, chatting about funding and diversity and pitch competitions with the very professional, driven women in the room. The next evening, just one mile away, I attended an event celebrating the work of local female developers.
There was zero cross-over between the two groups, save for myself, of course.
Now, on the one hand, you could argue that these are and should be distinctive communities. But on the other hand you might start to wonder — what are they missing by lack of collaboration?
This is one theme that rose to the top of Technical.ly’s recent stakeholder meeting — a roundtable discussion with around a dozen local tech leaders. “I personally don’t think there’s an ecosystem in D.C.,” Clearly Innovative CEO Aaron Saunders said, referring to the local tech ecosystem. Rather, there are many, and they’re very, very different. The female founders vs. female developers schism is just one example.

The #dctech newcomer's dilemma: Where do you start when there are so many competing options?

There’s also federal vs. local. Public sector vs. private sector. Suburbs vs. downtown. Startups vs. legacy tech companies.
The room was collectively able to identify several of these division points, but Jessica Bell, a web developer at Deloitte Digital and coleader of DCFemTech and DC Tech Meetup, wondered how many more are hidden beneath the surface.
Fosterly’s Adam Zuckerman was also concerned about the lack of communication between silos, and specifically what is lost because of it. “Are we as a community replicating instead of going and creating something new?” he mused.
So what’s the problem with silos?
One potential problem is what Zuckerman identified — a kind of inefficiency where groups or individuals create duplicate tools or services just because they don’t know about the other. For example, a government program supporting early stage entrepreneurs that’s built in addition to, instead of as a complement to, its private sector equivalent. But beyond that, several members of the meeting argued, the silos make it difficult for new individuals to join the community. Where do you start when there are so many competing options?
And it’s not as though no one has ever tried to define the silos. As Zuckerman pointed out, Fosterly tried it with a database; DMV Startup tried it with a wiki and Tara Chantal Silver’s PR firm SilverStrategy recently tried it with a list of #dctech resources.
But there are at least two realities that make this effort difficult. First, we lack data. This is something that Fosterly, again, may be able to help with in the coming months as the organization releases the data gathered via its recent census. The second reality is, if that’s possible, even more practical — it’s a lot of work to catalog and maintain an understanding of #dctech’s moving parts. Not to mention the effort required to encourage sharing between and among all these parts.
And this reality demands that we answer a key question about crossing the silos — to what end?
Our stakeholder conversation didn’t get there, yet. And so we throw it out to you, the broader #dctech community, regardless of silo — is #dctech really too siloed? Is it hurting our ability to be better? And if so, what should we do about it?

Companies: Clearly Innovative / DCFemTech / Fosterly

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