The Journey Ahead in 2021

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People looking at map and holding compass

While I wouldn’t say that we were ready for what happened in 2020, we were about as prepared as any trade organization for both taking on a global pandemic and bringing our community together to focus on improving social justice.

The MassTLC team has been set up on laptops, cloud applications, and collaboration tools for years as we spend so much time out of the office working with our members. While diversity, equity and inclusion have always been important, we formalized our commitments in 2018, adding DEI to our mission, creating a board-level steering committee, and committing to a 50% diversity goal for our board which we achieved by 2020.

The year 2020 kicked off well with some great programs and activities that had evolved towards a digital framework but were still rooted firmly in the way we have always done things. It’s hard to fix the plane while you are flying it, and there is always another member call, program deadline, community initiative, etc. that compete for our time and attention. When COVID hit, it really cleared the decks of any distractions. No more in-person events meant that we could focus on our community and interacting more digitally.

“There is no playbook for leading a company through a global pandemic” became a mantra within our CEO and other CXO communities. We came together weekly at first, then biweekly as leaders compared notes, commiserated, contemplated hard decisions, innovated, and moved through some of the toughest days of their careers.

Since COVID took us virtual back in March, we’ve hosted over 70 virtual events with over 3,700 attendees across nine countries on six continents. We hosted over 725 video conferences, facilitated over 500 one-on-one video connections, and saw a 16% increase in C-level participation within our communities. We launched a podcast that has been downloaded over 1,000 times by people on every continent except Antarctica. We saw participation from our member executives from around the world.

On a lighter note, our team of just 12 people connected daily in over 166 watercooler meetings, consumed well over 4,000 cups of coffee, took over 1,000 mental health breaks and walks, and spent more time at home with over a dozen pets, some old, some new, including dogs, cats, and even a chicken.

With the leadership of our Executive Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, we put out a challenge to the community to double the percentage of black and Latinx workers in tech occupations by 2030, and we worked in our lane, the tech sector, to launch a Tech Compact for Social Justice which already has close to 100 companies making over 400 commitments to DEI in their organizations.

We worked closely with our members – some in sectors that took a major hit and other who soared as their solutions enabled the world to function through this time – and saw rapid innovation, new products, new markets, and a new way of looking at the value they provide. We continue to work with them today as they work through what 2021 will bring, how COVID will impact the recovery, and how our community is thinking about returning to the workplace.

While the end of the pandemic seems to be in sight in the year ahead, we know there will be an economic hangover as long-term trends in areas like healthcare combine with COVID related increases in unemployment insurance, to dampen recovery. We know that there is likely to be a real estate reset as companies shift more of their workforce to all or part remote.

On the plus side, leaders are more in tune with their workers’ needs as we’ve learned how to build culture, maintain productivity and innovate with a remote workforce. Untethered from the physical office, workers can live where they want, and companies can hire from anywhere. While this raises some concerns within the urban core, it presents opportunities for engaging talent outside of dense innovation hubs.

As I look at the year ahead, I am excited to reexamine and reimagine all that we do at MassTLC and as a community of innovators, yet I am also realistic that we are not going to be done with this disruption in 2021. I am also excited that this year we will be on a journey together with our community of amazing leaders and innovators. I wish you all a happy, healthy and innovative year!