The year 2020 has without a doubt been exceptionally unusual, but at MassTLC we have been heartened to see how, in spite of the challenges, our community members have stepped up to support their employees, their customers, their partners, other companies, and the broader community. We have been so impressed that we just couldn’t let the year end without recognizing the companies, individuals, and transformations that have made a positive impact during these trying times.
For that reason, we are pleased to recognize the Tech Top 50. The Tech Top 50 celebrates those that have truly made an impact in 2020 across five categories: Business Accomplishment, Community Impact, Company Culture, COVID-19 Response, and Innovation.
Read on to be inspired!
In the words of their nominators, meet the 2020 “Community Impact” honorees.
This category recognizes the companies and individuals who have made a meaningful community impact in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. Examples include individual activism and organizational leadership in driving meaningful awareness, education and change in our community.
CodeSquad addresses three challenges: the need for good jobs, the need for good programmers, and the need for more diversity in tech. The team carries out this mission by offering a free, full-stack web development bootcamp in the computer lab at Lena Park Community Development in Dorchester. Through their program, participants gain valuable training as full-stack web developers and launch a new career. Due to COVID-19, CodeSquad has switched to remote classes and events. Thanks to the foresight of a board member, they were able to transition to remote learning without missing a single class session.
CodeSquad was born from the realization that Greater Boston’s booming tech economy was leaving behind our local communities of color. High-tech districts like the Boston Seaport, Kendall Square in Cambridge, and the Longwood Medical Area have high average salaries and excellent job security, and software employers, in particular, are desperate for talent: a 2017 survey by SkillWorks and the Boston Foundation found that for every 17 job openings in IT in Boston, there was only ONE qualified applicant. But just a few miles away, the picture is very different: in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, or Hyde Park, software jobs seem distant and inaccessible. Meanwhile, there are significant disparities in household wealth in Boston, particularly along racial and ethnic lines.
CodeSquad is funded by a grant from the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development through a partnership with the Neighborhood Jobs Trust, and through a grant from the Roy A. Hunt Foundation. The organization has also signed a memorandum of agreement with eXalt Solutions, an AI-powered sales platform provider for Fortune 500 firms, to interview and hire CodeSquad grads for software jobs. The team is also in talks with several larger software employers and hopes to announce new partnerships soon. Thanks to recent fundraising success, they have recently hired a full-time Employment Coordinator to spearhead and expand these partnerships, in order to build more onramps to software employment
Facing History and Ourselves is a nonprofit organization that uses lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate. Now with a learning community of more than 300,000 educators around the globe, who reach millions of students every year, Facing History was founded in 1976 in a single classroom in Brookline, MA. In partnership with these educators, the organization is creating the next generation of leaders who will build a world based on knowledge and compassion, the foundation for more democratic, equitable, and just societies. Facing History transforms history from static facts and stories into a foundation that students can use as a roadmap for ethics and civic engagement. From lesson plans to professional development to teaching strategies, the organization’s collection of free classroom resources span a range of topics, including global immigration, race in U.S. history, justice and human rights, genocide and mass violence, and more.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit this past spring, Facing History provided resources for teachers to help start conversations with students about the disproportional impact of the coronavirus on communities, specifically in the face of rising anti-Asian hate and bigotry. In the wake of the ongoing protests against police brutality following the murder of George Floyd, Facing History offered educators timely and critical content about civil rights in the 1960s, providing a lens on how today’s racists systems stemmed and evolved from many years ago. And, when lockdowns started to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the team worked quickly to support teachers and school systems. They wanted to ensure that these new virtual classrooms would be spaces that maintain safe and inclusive learning environments despite being remote. A new slate of materials were created to help navigate at-home learning all within a week of school closures. Facing History is continuing to grow our collection of resources for remote and hybrid learning, community connections, and engaging conversations about this unique time in our history.
Independent research studies show that experience in a Facing History virtual classroom motivates students to become upstanders in their communities, whether by challenging negative stereotypes at the dinner table, standing up to a bully in their neighborhood, or registering to vote when they are eligible. Facing History firmly believes that if we don’t confront the lessons of our history, we contribute to the continuation of systemic racism, antisemitism, and other forms of hate. Learning about our collective history and how it informs our attitudes and behaviors allows us to choose a world of both equity and justice.
Hack.Diversity is a workforce development non-profit advancing a more inclusive, innovative, and prosperous Boston. Four years ago, Hack was created to address one of the region’s most glaring workforce inefficiencies, bringing together underrepresented sources of talent with the region’s hottest, fastest growing companies in tech and healthcare. A unique internship-to-employment pipeline, the program provides diversity consulting and training for hiring companies and provides engineers of color with training, coaching, and mentoring – positioning both employer and employee for long-term success. In 2020, Hack served its largest Cohort yet, with 75 Fellows and celebrated placing 100% of interested and eligible Fellows into software engineering, IT, data analytics, and UX roles across 27 Boston area employers, including some that were new to the Hack Community. In addition, Hack partnered with mission-aligned partners for new initiatives, including its Summer Wellness Series with workshops featuring community partners InnerCity Weightlifting, Rosie Docanto/Boston Heals Holistically, The Courage Campaign, ARTRelief, and Turnstyle Cycle and Bootcamp. Now, Hack has an expanded alumni network of over 165 Fellows, who contribute to 30+ Boston-based companies representing a breadth of sectors and growth phases including Drift, Rapid7, Liberty Mutual, Lola, and Vertex.
When the onslaught of racial injustice and public outcry to police brutality took place in summer 2020, companies prioritized advancing their organizations’ DEI awareness and action. Hack has built a good reputation in the ecosystem over their years of operation in elevating Black and Latinx talent from sources employers would otherwise actively filter out, providing feedback on tactical management and mentorship with a DEI lens, and nurturing internship-to-retention relationships between Fellows and employers.
Salesforce empowers every one of its employees to become citizen philanthropists. Giving back isn’t just a perk of working at Salesforce; it’s core to company culture and corporate DNA. Salesforce employees located in Boston, Burlington, and Cambridge (BBC) are given 56 hours of paid leave to volunteer in any way they choose. This year, the BBC hub is celebrating its eighth anniversary of partnering with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Since our partnership began, the BBC hub has raised over $750,000 for LLS. Over the past three years, Salesforce has sponsored three research grants for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. These grants focus on finding therapeutic cures for adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is a blood cancer that has impacted one of our BBC colleagues. This colleague is a fighter, and the BBC team continues to support her fight in any way possible The coronavirus pandemic has created a heightened level of concern and need for patients and their families. The LLS COVID-19 Patient Financial Aid Program was developed to assist blood cancer patients who are facing increased financial burdens. The Salesforce BBC team is dedicated to re-imagining fundraising in the face of COVID-19 and have amplified our efforts with the goal of raising $100,000 by the end of this year.
Salesforce team members also volunteer with various education and workforce development partners that support youth programs within the community. BBC employees regularly contribute their time and expertise to assist with virtual, professional development workshops, such as mock interviews and career panel sessions, for young adults who are seeking meaningful employment opportunities. These engagements run in parallel to the grant investments we make within the Boston area. To date, Salesforce has invested over $500,000 in workforce development within the BBC hub. Employees also support the River Hawk Scholars Academy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell by volunteering through their mentoring program that focuses on assisting first generation college students.
This year, Salesforce BBC team members partnered with Habitat for Humanity to support affordable housing efforts in the local community too. Even with construction being shut down for several months due to COVID-19, BBC employees volunteered over 600 hours at Habitat for Humanity build sites in our local community, and more days are planned throughout the fall and winter. The company provided over $25,000 in grants to Habitat for Humanity, and this fall the team is breaking ground on the first ever Salesforce-sponsored, Habitat for Humanity two-family home in Concord, Massachusetts.
Verizon has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion and the advancement of civil rights with a strong track record of promoting policies that create a diverse workforce, support diverse businesses, and create opportunities for diverse professionals. This year, Verizon donated $10 million in grants to The National Urban League, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Action Network, Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Through these partnerships Verizon proudly supports criminal justice reform, police reform, voter engagement, digital equity, and economic empowerment.
The company recently lobbied Congress to pass the COVID-19 Safer Detention Act to allow early release of some elderly federal prisoners to reduce COVID-19-related deaths in prison. Verizon’s CEO wrote to Congressional leadership expressing the company’s support for police reform urging Congress to redouble efforts to pass police reform legislation. In addition, Verizon expanded its internal pro bono program to include litigating expungement cases and representing those who were subjected to extreme and often racially disparate sentencing as children to get an early release from prison.
In 2020, Verizon launched a “responsible business plan” called Citizen Verizon with the aim of achieving a range of social and environmental goals by 2030 and 2035. Citizen Verizon set some lofty goals by pledging to be completely carbon neutral by 2035. The company plans to reduce emissions, deploy renewable energy, and purchase carbon offsets. Verizon also will provide 10 million youth with digital skills training by 2030 and help train 500,000 young people on digital skills, and offer mentorship opportunities, to help them land emerging tech jobs. The company will also provide an online learning platform to help students and teachers in remote learning settings.
Verizon’s leadership comes from the top but it is executed by the entire Verizon team. Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg said regarding workplace diversity and inclusion, “We create the networks that move the world forward. By its very nature, the word network conveys unity, that we are stronger as a connected whole than as isolated actors. However, what gives us strength to deliver to our customers, shareholders, society and each other is that we are all different.”