Wednesday, May 29, 2024
EXECUTIVE Q&A

Meet Dr. Sue Kane, CEO of NCW Tech Alliance

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Meet Dr. Sue Kane, CEO of NCW Tech Alliance, a nonprofit in North Central Washington committed to bridging the digital divide. Kane stepped into the CEO role in October 2023.

Founded in 1999 as the Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Alliance, the organization focuses on technology, STEM education, and entrepreneurship. Dr. Kane's journey from biotech research to education leadership underscores her commitment to community empowerment. 

Now at NCW Tech Alliance, she aims to leverage technology for positive change, empowering businesses, youth, and community leaders to thrive in the digital age. 

Recently we caught up with Kane to learn more about her and her vision for NCW Tech Alliance.

Please tell our readers about NCW Tech Alliance.

NCW Tech Alliance is a regional nonprofit here in North Central Washington. Our organization was formed in 1999 as the Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Alliance (GWATA). It was originally formed by business and community leaders who wanted to work to bring broadband connections east of the Cascade Mountains to connect our communities. Now, nearly a quarter century later - NCW Tech Alliance is still about connecting people and technology. We work across three program areas: technology, STEM education, and entrepreneurship, with programs and services for youth, individuals, organizations, and businesses. We’re working to ensure that the people in our communities have access to the devices, connectivity, and skills they need to benefit from technologies that can improve how we live, work, and play in North Central Washington.   

How long have you been in this role?

I’ve been working alongside NCW Tech Alliance for the last eight years as a partner in the Apple STEM Network (co-led by NCW Tech Alliance and the North Central Educational Services District), but I stepped up to lead our organization last October. 

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

I’m a strategic builder and a people connector, but I’m also really curious, and I love to learn.  

What led you to this position?

I started my professional journey in biotech as a research scientist and earned my doctorate in infectious diseases. I was studying the development of the immune system and responses to infection and spent my days studying and measuring changes to systems of protein interactions. I loved being at the bench and planning a series of experiments, organizing the ideas, and analyzing the data. If someone had asked at the time, I'd have told them that I had my dream job and could not imagine how it could get any better! 

I moved to Wenatchee in 2011. I had the privilege of teaching in the sciences and mentoring research at Wenatchee Valley College for several years. As I worked alongside students and heard their stories, I started to see a new system. Students at WVC were coming from all walks of life and working on building new skills and earning degrees to improve their lives and life for their families and I was struck by how challenging some of those paths were to navigate. In 2015, I was given the incredible opportunity to lead the community planning for the launch of the Apple STEM Network, which united dozens of local leaders and aimed to increase credential attainment across the region. In 2017, I joined the North Central Educational Services District as their Director of STEM Initiatives and Strategic partnerships, and I got to spend the last seven years learning and leading alongside brilliant and innovative education experts and build out a network of community partnerships to support career connected learning, STEM education, and workforce development efforts. 

I moved from studying a protein system, to seeing an education system, to leading work to change the system to meet the needs of local youth and industry.  

It's pretty powerful to think about how a professional journey can build like that sometimes, but  I’ve had the great fortune to have had some time in industry and education before coming into the nonprofit space. Last fall when the NCW Tech Alliance was looking for a leader to build on the incredible momentum launched by Jenny Rojanasthien, I couldn't help but get excited by the possibilities to leverage technology for good across our communities.

I have loved every one of these roles and feel extremely blessed to have had these experiences alongside the incredible colleagues and mentors who invested in me along the way. I keep saying it, but this just might be the best part! 

What does a normal day look like as CEO at NCW Tech Alliance?

NCW Tech Alliance has been growing, and it’s probably a bit too soon to call any day normal, but I am immensely grateful for the variety right now. Every day is filled with potential and new challenges and opportunities.  

What is your favorite part of your job and why?

Hands down, my favorite part of this work is the people. We have incredible members and partners across the region who we get to learn from, invest in, and grow with, and that’s pretty special, but there is an incredible team behind the NCW Tech Alliance! They are quick to find joy, celebrate, and laugh together, but they also jump in and get things done together. They care about the communities we serve and the impact that we are making.  

What are some of your goals for NCW Tech Alliance?

I came into NCW Tech Alliance at an incredible moment in time, and we are seeing on full display around the world that the same technology tools have the potential to be used to help or harm people. I really want NCW Tech Alliance and the services we provide, and the ways we partner across the region to be a catalyst to add value and continue to create opportunities to connect, inspire, and engage around technology. 

This means that for our members and business community, we are working to provide training, resources, and learning about AI, cybersecurity, and an environment that better supports entrepreneurs and small to midsize businesses. 

For young people, we will continue to lean into STEM education and computer science to make sure that they have the skills, credentials, and resources to prepare for future careers and lives. 

And for the vibrant community leaders who make our communities special, I want the organization to be a great partner to help them build capacity to do what they are doing and to feel empowered to make the most impact in our region. 

Who or what inspires you?

I am so inspired when I think about the ways that we can leverage technology to make a positive impact in the world around us. I really believe that we can leverage technology to bridge divides, break down barriers, and provide access to opportunities for those who need them most. Whether it's through offering digital literacy programs to underserved groups, providing tech education and training to aspiring professionals, or developing innovative solutions to tackle pressing social issues, I see technology as a powerful tool for empowerment and inclusion.

Moreover, I'm inspired by the collaborative and innovative spirit that defines our communities. I thrive on building partnerships, fostering community engagement, and working alongside passionate individuals and organizations dedicated to making a real difference.

What do you like to do with your free time?

I love spending time with my husband, Travis, and two boys Collin and Wyatt, and our extended family and friends. We love to ski and camp and get outside together. This is one of the best parts of living in North Central Washington!

Quinn Propst: 509-731-3590 or quinn@ward.media.

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