To say I didn’t have much experience in tech before becoming the CEO of the Austin Technology Council is an understatement. To be quite frank, I had never worked in tech. Thankfully, however, I was qualified. My work experience ranged from banking, to business and marketing. But what I really believe made my work at the Austin Technology Council so transformative was something I learned growing up in Illinois: grit.
Unlike many of my peers in the technology sector, I spent my formative years working on my family’s farm in Central Illinois. The Midwest invented grit. It was an inherent part of the culture and everyday life to wake up at the crack of dawn, work your tail off, overcome setbacks (perhaps the greatest skill) and wake up to do it all over again. Midwesterners are natural-born optimists.
So when we lost our family farm during the 1980’s economic recession, I learned on a whole new level what it meant to persevere, to adapt, and to pick up the pieces and carry on. Midwesterners are born entrepreneurs — a topic we’ll be exploring in great depth in the months to come.
When I started at the ATC, our organization was going through a fairly significant shift. It was clear Austin’s economy had a growing strength in the tech industry, and it would only make sense that an organization like the ATC, designed to connect tech leaders and resources, would be part of that growth. That was not the case, however. It was my curiosity about the ATC’s struggle to gain a foothold in Austin’s tech scene that lead me to take the job as CEO. That curiosity, and my Midwestern work ethic and perseverance, lead to our success in turning around the organization. More importantly, we worked alongside other key influencers to create a real impact on Austin.
How does this relate to our current economic development across the country? Specifically, what can we learn from the tech landscape in Austin and the transformation of the ATC? These are questions that stick with me as I continue my work with tech leaders and innovators across America. Stay tuned here to learn more about what I believe will be the next American Renaissance—a resurgence of the Middle American entrepreneurial economy.