In order to highlight Austin Tech Alliance’s growing membership of individuals who support our mission to promote civic engagement in Austin’s tech sector, we’re kicking off a regular feature profiling members of ATA.
First up: Erin Defosse. In addition to being a member of ATA, Erin also serves on ATA’s Advisory Board.
Introduce yourself and where you work in Austin’s tech sector.
My name is Erin Defosse, I’ve been in Austin since 1988 when I came to study Aerospace Engineering at UT Austin. I’ve been in the tech sector in Austin since 1997 when I launched by first startup, Isochron.
Since then I’ve been a director at the Austin Technology Incubator, consulted and/or worked with a variety of tech startups, was at Bazaarvoice during its growth years and public offering and now I’m at Aceable as its Chief Operating Officer.
I’ve done numerous things in the community including starting an K-8 international school called Magellan, led a mobile industry consortium at the dawn of the mobile and wireless industry in Austin, and have been founder of an educationally focused foundation.
What do you love about Austin?
The people. Austin is unique in its can do entrepreneurial attitude that embraces diversity and attracts a talent pool of open minded, caring, and energetic people. The fact that we are an upcoming global city and are seeing talent pour in from every corner of the globe in every industry is inspiring and exciting.
What do you think are the community’s biggest challenges?
East-West equity and living affordability. The vast majority of kids in Austin ISD are on free or reduced lunch programs while, just across the street, we have wealth being generated at an ever increasing rate.
Second to that would be transportation. We are a world class city in many respects but on this we are very far behind. Coupled with the affordability problem, lack of effective transportation options is causing our community to split further.
Water is the third in my mind. It could go either way right now and we don’t know which way. Climate change could bless us with a more humid environment with more rainfall or it could do the opposite. We need to plan for the latter.
Why is it important for the tech community to become more civically engaged?
Austin’s tech community is already engaged globally, but it has historically lacked engagement locally. Particularly in the political and civic arenas. One result of that is the enactment of policies that can put a damper on high tech industry growth. When that happens that has a negative impact on all industries in the region. On the other hand, tech industry friendly policies and incentives can foster more growth and more talent attraction that in turn makes Austin more attractive for not only the tech space but also as a cultural and social hub. Creating jobs not just in tech but across the entire community.
A lot of the talent currently moving into the tech sector is characterized by young people, many of which are relocating from other parts of the country. However, young people tend to be less civically and politically active and, to compound that, many companies in the tech sector have historically maintained a culture that does not proactively encourage political and civic engagement by its employees.
Not promoting engagement by its employees does a disservice not only to the employees but also to the rest of the community. The lack of engagement robs all of us of the human capital that could be otherwise deployed to solve problems across our community and inform policy decisions at every level of government. Particularly because these young generations are highly empathetic, equity minded, and otherwise very interested in solving these types of problems. Just the type of people who we should have engaged.