Mass High Tech All-Stars and Education

Every year local tech business newspaper, Mass High Tech, runs an award program called the MHT All-Stars, recognizing the movers and shakers who make a difference in the local tech economy.  The celebration culminates with a party to recognize the winners and give them a chance to say a few words. “No panels, no presentations, just a party,” stated MHT publisher Doug Banks

“Few” is the operative word here as the winners are charged (for charity) $1 a character for any characters over 140 characters, the length of a tweet.  Last year I was uncharacteristically saddened (I like a good short speech) at most of the honorees’ strict adherence to the limits.  THIS was the time to go over, in spades.  I’m happy to report that 2011 saw a more verbose group, even nonprofit leader MITX’s Kiki Mills went over the limit (she claimed fellow honoree Shawn Broderick was fronting her still-not-too-lengthy speech.)  Tim Healy, CEO of EnerNOC Inc., should get a refund since he used his extra characters to talk about hiring between 50 and 100 new positions in the next few months.

Among the movers and shakers are usually a Distinguished Achievement Award Honoree (or, in the case of this year, two.)  These honorees had no limits on their speeches.  Founder of Analog Devices and Stata Venture Partners Ray Stata and Bernard Gordon, founder of Analogic and NeuroLogica each took a moment to recognize their wives in sweet and charming fashion, and then move on to a more serious topic — educating the next generation of engineers and leaders.

Needless to say, the two gentleman had obviously talked before they spoke, and in well-coordinated, back-to-back speeches, they laid it on the line in no uncertain terms.  Today’s schooling is not adequately preparing the next generation to take up where Gordon and Stata have not yet left off.  “Today’s engineering students do not come out of school capable of handling complex projects.”  “…concerned about the ability to replicate the success of the past.”  “We need to encourage our best and brightest to study engineering and science.”  (Apologies to both gentlemen if these quotes aren’t perfect, note-taking on an iPhone is challenging.)

Meanwhile, the party goes on around them.  Did anyone else notice the challenge being given? A few perhaps.

Instead of worrying about whether there is free beer and a band at the next meetup or whether we throw enough parties, perhaps we should be spending our time encouraging students to spend more time at their studies, or listening to and learning from guys like Stata and Gordon.

One Response to “Mass High Tech All-Stars and Education”

  1. Bobbie,

    You bring up a great point…education is a major issue at many levels.

    Having started out my career with an undergrad degree in Electrical Engineering, I can say that the education process can miss key elements of learning what you need to be a great STEM graduate. Fortunately, for me at least, I had the co-op program at Northeastern, which gave me hands-on experience with brilliant engineers already in the field.

    I also have to commend Bernard Gordon for practicing what he’s preaching. He has given money to at least 3 local schools (NU, Tufts, MIT) to create “Engineering Leadership” programs at these schools. I have friends who have gone through the NU one and they’ve quickly become leaders at major engineering companies like Analog Devices and Raytheon.

    Finally, though I have to warn against tunnel vision; we live in a complex world with many challenges and constant room for improvement. We should not ignore other opportunities to enhance our community; this, believe it or not, does include a more social atmosphere to break down some of the barriers that limit our connectedness in our otherwise vibrant community.

    Efforts should be made commensurate to the challenge, so I certainly hope more resources are put behind this education challenge than some of our smaller, yet not to be forgotten, other opportunities for improvement.

    Best Regards,

    Jason Evanish
    Co-Founder, Greenhorn Connect
    Customer Development Manager, oneforty