October 2020 Chairman Newsletter

In my last duties as Chairman, I want to thank the InfoTech Board, all subcommittees, members, sponsors, and the entire community of Buffalo for the support during a difficult and most challenging year. Most of us had ambitious goals for the start of 2020, but due to a year of unforeseen events we all had to adjust, pivot and lead our organizations into a year that none of us will ever forget.

As I reflect on the year, I too had lofty goals to start 2020.  We wanted to continue the momentum from 2019, continuing to help the community, pulling together the best BETAS Awards ever, and growing our membership. When I assumed the role of Chairman, I started with a fast and focused approach around leading a new strategy and mission for Infotech’s future. My goal was to help shape a more focused mission for Infotech around technology and to help provide our community compelling training and networking opportunities. I wanted to ensure Infotech continued to be sustainable and viable by giving back to the community of people that supported the technology sector in the WNY area. I took on the challenge in our 20th year with great pride and a sense of responsibility. I was not about to disappoint the Board, past chairmen, members, and community during my term.

We kicked off my term by creating partnerships with the Buffalo PMI local chapter to help broaden our base and we elected some amazing Board members. We added a committee to focus on community challenges and continued working on ways to create compelling learning events and shadow programs. We had just begun working on a refined mission and scope for InfoTech and our plan was for the year to be the most exciting yet. I was surrounded by Board members who were ready to take action and we were prepared to make the 20th anniversary year of Infotech and the BETAS Awards an epic one. We had grand plans, from networking to education events, all good things were in store for 2020.  All systems were GO!

Unfortunately, as COVID befell us and all plans were halted, we had to quickly adjust and adapt. Priorities quickly began to change and most of us were focused on our families and their wellbeing. The most important thing was keeping everyone safe and healthy. As any leader knows, we are expected to lead during the best and worst of times.  Once we all started to come out from under the rubble and began to understand the “new normal” and how to cope during this unprecedented time, we regrouped and spent a lot of time discussing the state of InfoTech and how we could continue our mission even under the stress we were all experiencing.

Armed with strength, courage, and creativity, InfoTech realized that as a collective group, our number one priority was to our community and executing on our mission even during the toughest times. Seeing the impact of forced school closings, we recognized an immediate need to help the community and along with BNMC and Mission Ignite, we started a campaign we called Tech for Kids, which distributed computers to K-12 students who needed them. As the months went on, we recognized a need to provide support for those in our community who lost their jobs due to COVID. We answered the call by creating a partnership with ECC, Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Development Consortium, GritSeed, and TechBuffalo  to build a training ecosystem and supporting a full-stack class with a total of eight people graduating in the Full stack program out of 13 people who enrolled.  The program was so successful that ECC received approval for another cohort in January 2021. We helped organize a virtual event with guest speaker Dan Cockerell along with others, leveraging new conferencing technology. Our leadership in tech helped other groups embrace virtual conferencing. For example, Dan Cockerell, former VP Disney Magic Kingdom, extended his message to his global network via the learnings gained from InfoTech's virtual conference initiatives. I thank Pete Cimino who gave us the courage and expertise that allowed us to embrace virtual conferences and I would like to thank all of those who joined our Zoom calls regardless of technical issues and some slightly questionable backgrounds (the toilet paper was a personal favorite).

The BETAS are Infotech’s showcase event of the year. It is where we celebrate individuals and organizations for their accomplishments and give them a chance to speak to the entire InfoTech community. As in every other aspect of our lives, we needed to be thoughtful and creative in our approach to the awards this year while still offering a vehicle to showcase our winners and nominees. Our BETAS committee chair, Nick Corcoran, led the charge and our BETAS committee started planning a combined concept to provide a virtual and physical event. Thanks to our BETAS committee: Nicholas Corcoran, committee chair; Jennifer Rittling, judging committee; Liz Sujka, marketing committee; Pete Cimino, tech support; and Jeanne Hellert, our administrative wizard, for all the “out of the box” thinking needed to deliver a hybrid event in 2020. We are looking forward to celebrating our nominees, winners, and judges at the combined virtual event on Oct 29th at 6:00 PM and the “winners only” reception on Nov 12th at Hotel Henry.

To all the Board members who served on our committees, you all persevered and stayed the course while the world around us was changing. With the level of stress caused by COVID, working from home, taking care of children and other family members, you all continued to make meaningful contributions to InfoTech. I truly thank all of you for your support. I may be stepping down as chair, but I am not stepping down from the community and this amazing organization.  My best to Nicholas Corcoran as incoming chairman and the best of luck during your term!

Finally, I need to acknowledge our amazing and generous sponsors. Without them we would not be able to carry out our mission to the local community. With all the challenges of 2020, we continue to receive support from you! Thank you again and we look forward to a healthy and brighter 2021!

Best regards,   

Sam Marrazzo 
Board Chairman InfotechWNY 




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