By Shonali Burke, PR strategist and founder and president of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.,

I was blown away when, on May 15, AWC-DC bestowed its 2015 Matrix Award on me. What an absolute honor … and one that I never dreamed I’d receive. In fact, if you’d told me, 15 years ago (which is when I moved to the United States), that I’d be writing this post one day, I’d never have believed you. It’s a good thing the universe doesn’t go by what we think.

I was really touched by everyone who came out to celebrate the occasion, as well as those who couldn’t make it but sent me so many personal notes. Donna Vincent Roa‘s generous introduction was overwhelming (she posted them here); in fact, I had to keep a National Press Club napkin handy to keep dabbing at my eyes (I invariably forget where my tissues are). Fortunately my make-up didn’t run, and I got through my remarks – which I agonized over and which you can read here, if you like – without bawling like a baby.

Even though it’s been a few days since the program, I still feel a bit as if I’m dream-walking… and maybe I always will, to some degree. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to all my professional colleagues – everyone I’ve ever come into contact with, whether IRL or via social media – for helping me get to where I am today. But I have to say a very special “thank you” to the DC community, because this is really “home” now.

DC: you took me in when I was new to the community, and never made me feel like an outsider. You gave me opportunities to grow and serve. This is where I started getting involved in social media and, much to my surprise, became part of the tech crowd – also something I would never have imagined! There is just so much I may never have done, had it not been for you.

You’re amazing. Thank you.

(You can check out more about Shonali receiving the Matrix award here.)

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