Nominations Are Being Accepted for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2014
Jeff Fialky called it “quality control.”
That’s how he chose to describe the third and final phase of his process for scoring the more than 100 nominees for BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty Class of 2013.
Fialky, a member of the Class of 2008 and one of five judges of last year’s candidates, said he started his assignment by simply reading each of the nominations in their entirety, without assigning any scores, to get what he called a “flavor, and basis of comparison.”
“I then flipped the stack back over and went through them again,” he went on, adding that he did so with some gauges, or barometers, that would help him assign a number — 1 through 10 — to each of those nominations. The so-called quality-control work came the following morning, after a good night’s sleep and with some fresh perspective, when he went through the pile one more time to assess the numbers he assigned to each candidate to make sure he was totally comfortable with each one.
“I think I probably changed a dozen scores — not significantly, maybe one number up or down, based upon comparisons with the other nominees,” he said, adding that he’s not sure how the other judges went about their work last February, but he’s quite sure that the subjectivity that is part and parcel to the judging process is one of the things that makes the 40 Under Forty competition unique and what he called a “perfectly imperfect” undertaking.
“This 40 Under Forty program is about distinguishing oneself in the community,” he noted. “Whether it’s personally or professionally, it is truly a comparative exercise, and the fact that judges come at it in different ways makes it more compelling. And while those approaches are different from each other, the end result is a great compilation of leadership in the Valley.”
Mark O’Connell agreed. The managing partner of Wolf & Co., with offices in Boston and Springfield, he also judged the Class of 2013, and took a decidedly different tack, what he called a more “analytic approach.”
Elaborating, he said he assigned hard numbers to certain aspects of candidates’ résumés — with a specific total of points awarded for such things as owning one’s business, getting involved with area nonprofits, and earning acclaim within one’s profession. The process, he said, took some of the subjectivity out of the equation.
“It became a mathematical process, essentially, and I was able to draw a line under the first 40,” he said, noting that, while his method may have been different from those used by others, he believed it worked, because only a handful of “his” top 40 were not eventually identified as winners.
By mid-February, another group of five judges (they’re profiled on page 18) will be developing their own strategies for assigning scores for what will likely be another 100 or so candidates in this, the eighth edition of the 40 Under Forty competition.
It all began in late 2006, said BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti, when the magazine decided to embrace a concept used by a number of business publications across the country to identify, profile, and celebrate rising young stars in a given community.
Over the years, individuals from nearly every sector of the economy — from healthcare to retailing; technology to law; banking to nonprofit management — have made the list and climbed to the podium in late June to accept their plaque and the applause of friends, family, colleagues, and fellow recipients past and present.
The Class of 2013 was especially diverse, with the list of winners including a charter school founder, a construction company owner, several lawyers, an environmental scientist, and the vice president of sales for a company making next-generation hand dryers.
It was a class that surprised Fialky in some respects, and in a positive way.
“What I really enjoyed about my experience judging was seeing all the talent potential in the valley,” he explained. “You know that there’s been so many honorees over the prior years, and you intuitively think that the talent pool has been exhausted. But then you look at all the nominations, and you realize that it’s only the tip of the iceberg that’s been tapped.
“Some years favor service providers, some years favor nonprofit managers, some favor entrepreneurs, and some favor strength of character,” he went on, referring to the general makeup of the previous six classes. “I think last year’s class had an element of all four of those things.”
O’Connell concurred. “I think this was a great class — I came away very impressed,” he said, “and also feeling very good about the future of this region.”
There are now 280 people in the unique fraternity that is 40 Under Forty, said Campiti, noting that many of them have moved on to different jobs and different challenges, and some of them now have a different area code on their cell phones, but their 40 Under Forty plaque usually goes with them wherever they go.
“It’s become a symbol of excellence, a symbol of leadership, if you will,” he said, adding that 40 Under Forty has become both a brand and something to aspire to.
The popularity — and importance — of the 40 Under Forty program has been driven home by the steady growth and evolution of the annual 40 Under Forty gala, this year to be staged on June 19 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. Last year, the event drew a sellout crowd of more than 650 people, who were treated to fine food, perfect weather, and an eclectic array of music, chosen by the winners to accompany their ascension to the stage.
“The gala has become a happening, a not-to-be missed gathering that is also the year’s best networking opportunity,” said Campiti, adding that those who wish to attend must act quickly, because the gala traditionally sells out weeks before the event.
Before anyone can move to the stage to get their plaque, however, they must be nominated. And both Campiti and Fialky, who has been on both sides of the equation — as both candidate and judge — stressed repeatedly that 40 Under Forty is a nomination-driven process, something that is still lost on many who wish to forward a name and résumé for consideration.
“That’s where it starts, with the nomination,” said Campiti. “It needs to be complete, it needs to be thorough, and it needs to essentially answer the question, ‘why is this individual worthy of a 40 Under Forty plaque?’”
The nomination form requests the basic information on an individual, said Campiti, and can be supported with other material, such as a résumé, testimonials, and even press clippings highlighting an individual’s achievements in their chosen profession or within their community.
Nominations must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Feb. 7. Judges will then score those nominations, and the winners will be notified by mail by the end of the month.
The chosen 40 will be profiled in the magazine’s April 21 edition, with gala tickets going on sale soon thereafter. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.
What: The 40 Under Forty nomination process
Deadline: Feb. 7 at 5 p.m.
How to Nominate: Use the form in BusinessWest (it will also appear in subsequent editions), or go here.
For More Information: Call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or visit www.businesswest.com.
The 40 under forty Gala: June 19
Where: The Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House
Tickets: They’ll go on sale in late April and will first be made available to winners and their families and employers.