This time last year, the Technical.ly newsroom was planning an updated version of the longstanding Technical.ly Awards. We named new categories reflective of our beat and ramped up for a season of celebratory events toasting to the success of local tech businesses as well as the dedication of professional, technical and impact leaders.
This year is different. It must be.
First, the collective consciousness has been rightly attuned to national and global issues — the repeated killing of Black Americans by police, the pandemic still ripping through our country despite international lessons on mitigation. Yet there has been a place for local communities to respond. Our reporting has shifted to reflect this.
Second, while tech as an industry will likely be less affected overall by the pandemic-prompted recession, thousands of businesses across the U.S. have been forced to shutter, or at the very least, grapple with a seismic shift in an economy in which existing inequities are now exacerbated.
Given the catastrophe of a moment we find ourselves in, our newsroom has been earnestly discussing whether we should give out awards this year. In looking for outward examples, we find that some other industry-focused groups have canceled their annual awards programs because of current events, notably and recently in food, while some used their awards platform to pointedly honor victims of police violence.
A focus of ours from the beginning, and especially recently, has been on how more people can gain access to the benefits of tech careers, and on the scientists and inventors solving the hardest problems, and on the leadership required to make workplaces more equitable and welcoming, and on the companies that are making their cities and worlds better. Those are the issues that are paramount in 2020. It feels like that work deserves acknowledgement, this year especially.
So, we’re running with the Technical.ly Awards, but with a more intentional aim of reflecting this moment: More than celebrating success for success’ sake, we want to honor challenges overcome, as well as ongoing work to make local tech and entrepreneurship communities places that also challenge racism, the pandemic and the unjust status quo.
Nominations are open as of today. Most of our 2019 categories remain, but for 2020’s edition, each submission should note how the person, company or product being nominated has spent this year addressing current issues:
- Invention of the Year — What product, project or release this year is positioned to ease the effects of COVID-19, systemic racism or the recession?
- Impact Leader of the Year — Who has most made this community better through impact work, leadership, policymaking or other pathways?
- CTO of the Year — Who is incorporating community-minded action into their technical leadership?
- Startup of the Year (under 50 employees) — What promising young company is inspiring a brighter collective future?
- Growth Company of the Year (50 to 1,000 employees) — What growing company is using its success to support its larger community?
- Culture Builder of the Year — What empathetic leader or organizer is making their workplace or professional group more inclusive and resilient? (“Leader” doesn’t need to mean they hold a leadership title.)
Submit your noms by Monday, Sept. 7. Note that we might change up some of the categories depending on the type of responses we get; we want our readers to shape what these awards turn out to be. Nominations will be curated by the newsroom to five and released for a public vote.
As for the awards events themselves, they’ll look different this year, too. There’s no in-person gathering, obviously, nor physical take-home trophies. We’re still figuring out exactly what they will look like, but will aim to be as reflective of the moment as our nominees.
The ultimate goal here is to bring folks together and recognize the hard work that’s been happening, as well as what remains to be done. Join us by telling us who should get the spotlight.
P.S. We’re still planning to publish a 2020 RealLIST Engineers. Look for news on that in the coming weeks.
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