Tapping Into the Potential of Online Learning

Knowing what a client does is crucial for any PR professional. How can we effectively tell our client’s story without understanding their product, it’s value for customers and it’s impact on the overall industry?

In the tech sector, this can be a real challenge. Highwire works with clients that are deeply entrenched in their respective areas of tech (ex. IBM in data science, Zscaler in cloud security, IFTTT in IoT). Getting familiar with trends and technologies in these complex areas can take time and effort.

When I started working at Highwire almost two years ago, I was fresh out of college and far from tech-savvy. Terms like “developer” and “malware” were foreign to this communications major. To tackle a steep learning curve, I turned to an easily accessible educational resource: online courses.

Yound woman reading on her iPadEdtech is one of the fastest-growing segments in the education market. With sites like Lynda, Udemy, Coursera and Udacity, courses come in a variety of topics, time commitments (30 minutes to 3 weeks) and are often free. You also get access to professors from top universities like Stanford and Duke,minus the sky-high tuition.

I’ve made it a personal goal to complete an online course each quarter. So far I’ve learned t
he basics of data science, data governance and data analytics- all of which are key themes for my clients. While I can’t claim to be a data expert, I do feel more confident crafting stories for clients and having conversations with media. Who knew I would go from retaking high school pre-calculus to outlining the data lifecycle to my teammates!

I love when a concept “clicks” during an online course because I know the new knowledge will help me do my job better. The most successful people are usually lifelong learners, which is why curiosity is one of Highwire’s core values.

PR pros: Have you taken any online courses? Let us know what you’ve gained from them on Twitter @HighwirePR.

New England Growth Areas in Technology

Each year, The Mass Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC) assesses the technology market’s impact on the New England economy. Based on the findings and the group’s ongoing work in support of the region’s tech industry, MassTLC is uniquely qualified to speak to the vibrancy of the innovation economy.

We asked Tom Hopcroft, MassTLC’s president and CEO, about the Massachusetts tech economy, how it compares to Silicon Valley and the contributions the technology industry makes to the New England region.

 1) Highwire PR has been talking about the infamous west-coast vs. east-coast debate. What’s your assessment of the differences and similarities in the start-up environment when you look at New England and Silicon Valley?

The tech hubs in Silicon Valley and New England each have unique identities, but, as head of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, I can best speak to our local tech economy.

The first point I’d make is that Massachusetts is experiencing a tech renaissance. In the four years following the 2008-09 recession, we saw about 5,000 tech jobs added each year. Two years ago we added 8,000 and last year it was up to 9,000. Job growth is perhaps the most tangible indicator of a vibrant and growing economy but there are others.

Over this same period, for instance, a revitalized start-up ecosystem came together with the creation of the Boston Innovation District and others across the state; the creation of many start-up accelerators — most notably MassChallenge and Greentown Labs; and the growth of corporate research centers, university labs and public-private partnerships.

The makeup of our tech economy is another key attribute and differentiator for our region. We have a very healthy and diverse mix of consumer, industrial, digital and physical (e.g., IoT, robotics) technologies being developed for many verticals including health, finance, education, and government. Their close proximity to each other and to the academic and traditional industries creates a strong “bump factor” that leads to innovations at the boundaries between disciplines.

As such, Massachusetts has a unique strength and leadership opportunity in what is often called the Fourth Industrial Era, or Third Wave, depending on whom you ask. It is characterized by the instrumentation and automation of the physical world — bringing the offline world online, creating an Internet of Things and then overlaying digital information back into the physical world with augmented reality, 3-D printing and other new technologies.

Our leadership here is built upon our four decades of “data DNA” — from the structured mainframe and minicomputer days to the unstructured big data of recent years and today’s artificial intelligence and machine learning. Not to mention “things,” where our leadership is evidenced by the fact that the very terms “robot” and the “Internet of Things” were coined here.

In fact, companies like Amazon Robotics (formerly Kiva Systems), Venca Technologies, and GE moved to Massachusetts from California, D.C. and Connecticut, respectively, specifically for the innovation capacity and talent — a blend of software and hardware engineering — that our region has to offer.


2) In reading the recent reports MassTLC has issued, it seems as though the tech industries do not get as much credit as they deserve for their contributions to the New England economy. What are your thoughts on what the reports tell us?

The tech sector in Massachusetts directly employs 300,000 people and there are another 100,000 tech jobs outside the sector in healthcare, finance, retail, bio, etc. Add in the jobs servicing the companies (e.g., PR, accounting, legal, etc.) and those that service the employees (e.g., dry cleaners, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.) and you add close to 800,000 more jobs. In total, tech is responsible for about 34 percent of the job base in Massachusetts. And because they pay better than average, tech underpins about 44 percent of payroll in the state and 34 percent of gross state product.

While we are not as visible in the media, company leaders recognize the strength of what’s going on here. It’s why so many are moving or opening offices here. In fact, Eric Schmidt, speaking at MIT in the beginning of May 2017, remarked that “Silicon Valley needs a competitor” and that “the obvious competitor is the Boston-Cambridge area.” With GE’s recent relocation of their corporate headquarters, and many others, we see validation.


3) Having mapped the current New England technology markets for some time, what areas do you see as being the most promising? 

The big opportunity is around the digital-physical convergence I mentioned earlier.

Other areas of strength and opportunity that come to mind include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and consumer tech. People don’t think of us as a consumer-tech town, but we have quite the cluster with leading brands like TripAdvisor, Wayfair, Care.com, iRobot, Draft Kings, Rue La La and more. So, if you’re looking to work at or with a consumer tech company, there are some great opportunities to check out locally before you venture to other regions.


4) If you had advice for a young or growing technology company in New England, what would it be?

Get plugged into the local tech economy. Join groups like MassTLC and get involved. I like to say that membership is like a health club; you get out of it what you put in. And, it’s really true. By plugging into the tech ecosystem through us or otherwise, you will extend your ability to network and get wherever it is you are going a whole lot faster.

Meet the Furry Friends of Highwire

It’s no secret that Highwire is a pet-friendly place, and in honor of National Pet Week, we’re dedicating a blog to some of our favorite furry (and not so furry) friends.

If these cute faces have you itching for a companion of your own, you can use Shelter Pal to find the perfect shelter pet near you who is ready to be rescued. Just text ‘Shelter Me’ to 980-477-3728 — Artificial intelligence and image recognition powered by Twilio will help match your lifestyle with the perfect pet!

Meet a few of our best friends: 


Olive Besa-Kallens Wolfson

Instagram Handle: @oliveinmypocket

City: Albany, CA

Hobbies: Eating books and pretending to read them

Highwire Human: Ben Wolfson




Amaebi & Domino

City: Daly City, CA

Hobbies: Eating and maintaining my big-girl status (Amaebi); sneaking into the bed at night to cuddle with my humans (Domino)

Highwire Human: Amy Tsui



Gup & Farfalle Carrubba

Instagram Handle: @farfallethepup

City: San Francisco

Hobbies: Frog-dogging in the sun, snoring loudly, bringing joy to everyone I meet (Farf); Hanging out with my boy and figuring out how my crazy long legs and paws work (Gup)

Highwire Human: Carol Carrubba



Winston Wrinkles Hagenmedia-20170508-3

Instagram Handle: @winston_the_frenchton

City: Chicago

Hobbies: Procuring socks, enjoying fine cheeses,
going on
long walks and being carried home from them

Highwire Human: Natalie Pacini



Ella Farrellmedia-20170508-4

City: New York City

Hobbies: Playing fetch and eating tuna

Highwire Human: Margaret Farrell






Rosie Manganmedia-20170508-5

City: Danville, CA

Hobbies: Long walks in the suburbs and identifying new pillows to sleep on

Highwire Human: Natalie Mangan




Peppa GagliardiGG (1)

City: North Caldwell, NJ

Hobbies: Hide-and-seek on my own terms

Highwire Human: Gia Gagliardi







Maxx PlatiFullSizeRender

Instagram Hashtag: #maxxthehuman

City: Chicago

Hobbies: Eating acorns and chasing squirrels

Highwire Human: Nicole Plati




Hendrix Polar Torresmedia-20170508-1

City: El Sobrante, CA

Hobbies: Playing in water, helping with yard work (sticks involved), and steering clear of doorstops (scary)

Highwire Human: Andrea Torres






Baz Khya & RodeoScreen Shot 2017-05-08 at 12.34.04 PM

: New York City

Hobbies: Hoarding trash (Baz Khya); lying in the snow and wrestling (Rodeo)

Highwire Human
: Natalie Tijerina





Cotton media-20170508-11Davick-Latham

: Oakland

Hobbies: Perfecting the “Dog with the Pearl Earring” look

Highwire Human: Tanner Latham






Taco Harlanmedia-20170508-8

City: New York City

Hobbies: Sleeping on people (including my human baby sister Sloane), sleeping on books, finding new and interesting surfaces to sleep on

Highwire Human: Jennifer Harlan







Willie Gratehousemedia-20170508-12

City: San Francisco & Sonoma

Hobbies: Barking at leaf blowers, enjoying treats and going on walks

Highwire Human: Kathleen Gratehouse






Pepper Navaltamedia-20170508-13

City: San Francisco

Hobbies: Chasing shadows (not a metaphor)

Highwire Human: Chris Navalta







Theo Hillsmedia-20170508-16

City: Providence, RI

Hobbies: Chewing on walls, but my human is trying to get me to expand my horizon

Highwire Human: Chris Hills







media-20170508-15Ella Bean Fitzgerald & Mimi Giachetti

City: Oakland

Hobbies: Being active and trying to make friends with Mimi (Ella); sleeping, trying to avoid Ella (Mimi)

Highwire Human
: Gina Giachetti





Mickey Militanamedia-20170508-14

City: Chicago

Hobbies: Serving as the cutest ring-bearer you’ve ever seen

Highwire Human:  Marlena Militana







Benny Bubbico Ciullamedia-20170508-17

Instagram Handle: @thebennybubs

City: White Plains, NY

Hobbies: Chasing balls and bunnies in the backyard

Highwire Human: Lindsay Ciulla





Oliver (Ollie) Gauthiermedia-20170508-18

City: Oakland

Hobbies: Licking plastic bags, playing with my toy carrot and eating our house plants

Highwire Human: Mariah Gauthier







Maggie Sedin10411775_10205253064705191_4162205524789019084_n

City: Fremont, CA

Hobbies: Eating, sleeping and avoiding kisses from my human

Highwire Human: Marielle Sedin






Annie Smedleymedia-20170508-19

City: Santa Clara, CA

Hobbies: Throwing toys across the room and knocking things over

Highwire Human: Shane Smith







Indo ReedMendocinoSand

Facebook Page:

: Alameda, CA

Being the ultimate hunk and carrying around things like buckets and tools

Highwire Human: Jill Reed




Do you have any fur babies powering your agency? Let us know in the comments below (and share plenty of pictures please)!