Women in leadership: Bobbie Kilberg

President and CEO of The Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC)

Bobbie can be described as the proverbial ‘epitome of success’ in the Northern Virginia’s technology sector. She has assumed the role of an attorney in private practice and also served four Presidents of the United States.

You have been a role model for many women. What is your message for today’s young women on facing different challenges?

 We are placing an emphasis, which is necessary, on technical knowledge. However, the requirement to be a leader in the technology industry lies in the ability to analyze, think and reason. These are some of the basic principles that govern our industry and the business aspects of the industry. Technology specifics will come and go, and most importantly they will evolve. You need to develop the ability to grab on to that evolution. And the best way to do that is not just by understanding the basic principles of analysis and thinking but also being able to convey what those new directions and focuses are to others. Too many young women and men are adept at the technical skills, but they aren’t effective communicators of their ideas. They don’t always know how to relay and express their thoughts in a team setting or an individual setting. It is imperative to have a strong analytical skill-set and the ability to communicate.

You are often addressed as the “Godmother of NoVA’s tech community”, one who has helped nurture a diverse technology community. What is your strategy to further reduce the gap between small companies and giants in the field?

Large companies have to be nimble and willing to take chances. Small companies need to ensure that they are not transfixed on their product to be the end-all, be-all. If they think that they created it and nothing can ever match it, the likelihood of failure is huge. They have to be willing to change and take chances. Both sides need to see that they come from very different perspectives and they need to come together and reach a mid-path.

While you remain a source of inspiration for many, who inspires you?

My parents! They continue to inspire me, although I lost them many years ago. They worked hard for everything they achieved. They dedicated their complete focus on providing me with the opportunities that enabled me to succeed through hard work. Despite being the only child, I didn’t get everything on a silver platter. During my childhood, I was taught that everyone, including kids, need to work hard to achieve their goals in life. They instilled values of giving back in me. I have always felt a strong urge to give back to the community, and I attribute that sense to my beloved mom and dad. Nothing that is worth doing is free in life, it all comes with a cost. But that cost, if it benefits others, is, well worth it.

NVTC is the leading technology council in the country. What are your goals for the company’s upcoming three years?

The first goal, for the next three years, is to continue growing our ecosystem that includes networking and education through our Titans and committee events as well as other initiatives. Secondly, we’d like to focus on the overarching sectors of our economic growth and that will be cybersecurity, big data analytics as exemplified by artificial intelligence. Third goal is working closely with universities and community colleges as with the industry to push forward our tech talent pipeline. Without it, we are nowhere. Today, there’s a big gap in the number of potential employees to do the jobs that are available in the market. We need to look seriously, and we are striving to do that through certificates, as well as undergraduate and graduate programs. We need to transition the large network of veterans that are leaving the military to come into the workforce. The most promising place to start is through the veteran’s employment initiative.

It’s important to highlight the newest sectors with the greatest growth potential, and right in the middle are data centers. Data centers are the fastest growing industry subset in Loudoun County. They are community-friendly and they bring in a substantial revenue for the county, making it crucial to support them. Lastly, our role comes in to tie it all together by recognizing and celebrating the achievements of various aspects of our industry. To continue our endeavour, we have a Tech 100 Celebration program, CFO Awards, and now Data Center Awards. Our veteran’s initiative, which is about six years old, has been accredited by the Commonwealth (state level). One of our proudest achievements—we have placed over 9,000 transitioning veterans from the military into technological jobs across Northern Virginia.

Are there any major announcements about NVTC that you would like to share with our readers?

I am going to retire at the end of June 2020. We are in the process of hiring a recruitment firm for a succession plan. Who that next leader should be, and what their skill-set should be, is up to the board to decide. I hope it would be someone who would be a good fit, someone who really cares about NVTC!

After countless noteworthy triumphs and victories under your credit, what does success mean to you?

Success to me means feeling good about making a difference in my community. And I hope I have made a difference in the technology industry. I also hope I have had a positive impact on my family, by raising the kind of people my children are today, what their future is, and what their responsibility is to others. Most importantly, being happy about it.

What personal passions enable you to maintain a work-life balance?

It’s my family, my husband, my children and now, my 12 grandchildren. They always have been first and foremost and always will be. There is nothing more important than that, so that is my passion. I love spending time with my grandchildren, they are an integral part of my life.