From her first job as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali in West Africa, Carla Askonas has thrived on working for community development and collaboration at a variety of nonprofit groups and local governments. In Chattanooga for the past two decades, she has worked in such diverse areas as land conservation and community parks, Superfund site cleanup, early childhood programs, and women's health at the Trust for Public Land, United Way, the city of Chattanooga and others prior to assuming the top job in October 2016 at the Chattanooga Technology Council.
Even though her previous work was not in the tech industry, Askonas has tended to be the office tech person in many of her previous roles and she was an early and frequent observer and participant in Chattanooga's GigTank competitions among tech startup companies.
"I'm not a techie, but I am interested and engaged in technology," she says. "I was so excited about the potential that I could see developing in Chattanooga with EPB's Gig (the fastest widespread internet in the Western Hemisphere) and all of the vibrant entrepreneurial energy here that I was eager to find ways to promote and collaborate those efforts."
The Chattanooga Technology Council, which rebranded itself as CHATech in 2015, is a nonprofit, membership organization for technology, technology-related and technology-enabled companies.
"In today's economy, that includes just about everybody," Askanos says. "Our mission is to connect the technology industry, to help build a better tech worforce development, and to promote Chattanooga as a tech hub to help the local economy grow."
CHATech provides monthly programs on timely topics for its members, forums for local IT executives, and college scholarships and other awards for budding students and growing businesses in technology. Chattanooga is one of only three cities in Tennessee with a local tech council — the others in the bigger cities, Nashville and Memphis — and includes nearly 100 employer members.
Askanos says she loves listening to the discussions at ChaTech's programs for the exposure to new ideas, to learn about the practical side of technology, and to understand current and future trends.
Carla and her husband, Chuck Jones, have two grown daughters, a dog and two cats. She has lived in Chattanooga for 26 years.