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During the 38th annual STEM gala, various directors, vice presidents, senior vice presidents, and CEOs from different companies presented awards. These companies included Lockheed Martin, MITRE, Actalent, Corning, Booz Allen Hamilton, NOAA, Pratt & Whitney, Google, UL Research, and Medtronic.

The awards presented at the final event of the three-day weekend included Most Promising Engineer, Community Service, Pioneer, Professional Achievement, and the top Black Engineer of the Year Award, which was awarded to Dr. Ken Washington.

The Black Engineer of the Year award is BEYA’s most prestigious discretionary award.

Last summer, Medtronic announced Washington as Chief Technology and Innovation Officer. According to the CEO, Medtronic is a 75-year-old company with 100,000 employees, the world leader in medical technology, but it only had a chief technology officer last year.

Washington leads a team of over 13,000 engineers, scientists, and physicians who deliver products and therapies that advance their mission to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Washington and his team are helping take Medtronic and the whole industry to the next level.

He leads technology development and execution across sectors, including robotics, consumer products, automotive, and space, to accelerate innovation-driven growth in service of the company’s mission.

In his acceptance remarks, Washington thanked the organizers and expressed gratitude for the recognition. “My journey to this stage is deeply rooted in the inspiration of those who walked across this stage before me: the Black Engineers of the Year and the many awardees at this event paved the way. My first exposure to BEYA was almost twenty years ago. I remember walking into this BEYA gala ballroom in Baltimore, and my jaw dropped. Because I had never before seen so many STEM professionals who looked like me,” he said.

Washington acknowledged that his journey to success was inspired by the many Black Engineers of the Year who had walked across the same stage before him.

He recounted his first experience at the BEYA gala ballroom almost twenty years ago, where he was awestruck by the sight of so many STEM professionals who looked like him and shared his history. That experience, along with more than a dozen others, energized him like never before.

Washington’s appreciation for the BEYA event was rooted in the first time he was brought there by Joe Cleveland, the former CIO of Lockheed Martin.

He mentioned several trailblazers, such as Linda Gooden, Art Johnson, Alicia Boler Davis, Freeman Hrabowski, Stephanie Hill, and Colin Parris, who had all made significant contributions to their field and society, inspiring countless numbers of engineers and aspiring engineers.

Washington acknowledged that this award was not just about him but about all the people who inspired him and helped him get to where he is today. He encouraged aspiring engineers and those already in the STEM field to find someone they admire and learn from them.

He emphasized the importance of building a broad and diverse network of mentors, sponsors, allies, mentees, and colleagues. He urged young engineers in the audience to stay curious and committed to learning something new, especially in today’s artificial intelligence-powered, hyper-connected world.

Washington reflected on how this advice had helped him transform from a mainframe to a core computing expert, from internal combustion engines to battery electric vehicles, cars to smart mobility, and smart devices to smart home devices.

He is now part of the team that is working on technologies like artificial intelligence to surgical-assisted robots that can change the lives of more than two people every second.

Finally, Washington emphasized the importance of having the right people in your life, especially family, who can nurture and influence you in profound ways.

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