Five Questions For … Barbary Brunner, Austin Technology Council CEO
Austin—Barbary Brunner says Austin has always felt like home.
She has made career stops in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Denver, but says the Texas capital was a lodestar. “Every time I’d come visit, it felt like Austin was calling out to me,” Brunner says. “When I lived in Seattle, it’s the place I’d come to to get warm.”
Brunner became a full-time resident last year when she joined the Austin Technology Council as CEO. The thought of being based in Austin and being able to use her tech expertise to serve the community appealed to her, she says.
“I like challenging problems and I like transformation,” Brunner says. “The organization had been around since ’92; it had a great board but was in desperate need of transformation. What could be better than to serve this large and growing industry in Austin, which just happens to be my industry?”
Brunner says she “fell into tech” in the early ’90s when she worked at Microsoft as a program manager, and worked on an early CD-ROM project. Instead of having to go to multiple sources in libraries or renting VHS tapes to view video clips, all types of content could be put on one disc.
“Within a few months, I found myself as program manager because I had a great mentor who said, ‘You gotta get technical and learn to write code and let’s get you there,’” Brunner recalls.
From there, the universe aligned. “It was: this is what I’m meant to do,” she says. “It was a brilliant meeting of tech with journalism and editorial and visual arts.”
Brunner went on to stints at Vivendi Universal/Sierra Online, Yahoo, and PriceGrabber.com/Experian holding various marketing, strategy, and product development roles.
In this week’s “Five Questions For …,” Brunner talks about having high expectations, the zen found in home remodeling, and why it’s important for women in tech to be technical. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Xconomy: What’s your biggest fear?
Barbary Brunner: At this point in time, in this country, the biggest fear could be so many different things because it seems like we’re just in this really horrible place where everybody’s fears are heightened to the utmost and where nobody’s able to sort of dial it back and be rational. Everything is inflamed. I think I’m in the same position that so many other people are in, standing back, looking at this, and wondering how did we get to this place and how are we going to move through this and find our way to a place of rational discourse?
There’s that sort of holistic fear. When I look at my career and what I’m doing now, my greatest fear is always of disappointing the people who work for me, disappointing the people I work for, and disappointing myself by not living up to what is perhaps an unrealistic standard of perfection that I’ve set for myself.
I think that’s something that all really driven and successful people have. We set a high bar. It’s not a bar set because we’re comparing ourselves to others, it’s just that we have really big expectations for ourselves and we take on big tasks.
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