Bobbie Kilberg was an at-home mom with her fifth child, contemplating reentering the workforce part-time, when she was approached about heading the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Kilberg, a lawyer, had worked for three Presidents, been an attorney in private practice, and worked in academia and think tanks. But she didn’t know much about technology. It turned out that what the tech council needed was what she knew best—how organizations and the political process work.
Kilberg has been CEO of the largest technology council in the country since 1998, representing the interests of about 1,000 companies and organizations with a total of 300,000 employees in the Washington area. As such, she has helped nurture a diverse technology community.
“In other places, it was mostly software,” she says. But in Washington, what began with high-tech defense contractors branched out when the FCC deregulated telecommunications and companies wanted to be near that agency.
Kilberg’s mission includes branding the region as a high-tech mecca, matchmaking among small companies and giants in the field, and giving start-ups access to funding channels. As sequestration cuts federal spending, she says technology-council members must “adapt and spend more resources to attract commercial business.”
There’s nobody better to inspire that adaptation than Kilberg. “I’ve been fortunate to have a great education,” she says, “and good luck had me in the right place at the right time.”