20 Under 40: Geoff Millener

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Geoff Millener

Geoff Millener, 31

Senior program and operations officer, The Enterprise Center; Inaugural member, Mozilla's Network50, "50 People Who Made the Internet a Better Place"; Chair, Thrive Regional Partnership Broadband Alliance; Board member, Signal CentersAssistive Technology Services; Board member, St. Paul's Outreach Grants Committee; Volunteer, Hospice of Chattanooga Pet Therapy; Graduate, Leadership Chattanooga, Class of '18-19; Left fielder, Lightfoot Club of Chattanooga vintage base ball team

Mantra: #stayconnected

Quarantine projects: A huge focus of our work is digital inclusion, ensuring everyone has access to the opportunities this era of technological change can offer. Quarantine showed everyone just how important connectivity is for life today, highlighting the inequities of the digital divide. One thing I hoped to accomplish was to rapidly expand access to this essential connectivity, and we've been hard at work with partners like EPB, the city, Thrive, Hamilton County Schools and a host of others to make sure that happens.

What motivates you? I love this place: Chattanooga, Southeast Tennessee, the South in general. But I think loving a place also means knowing that it can and must get better - and not just for some. I hope I've been and continue to be part of that change.

What have you been most grateful for during the pandemic? I honestly don't know what I would do without my wife, Martha. She's my partner and constantly reminds me that we are a team, that nothing needs to be faced alone. When I see her, I feel like everything will be OK.

What do you credit for where you are today? My mother once told me that there are plenty of smart people in this world, but there can never be enough kindness. I am certain I chose to ignore it as a sardonic teenager, but it's been the kindness of mentors, colleagues and this community - in forgiving a mistake, challenging a strongly held opinion, offering a helping hand, providing an opportunity or simply listening - which has marked my career to date. I hope to have earned it, and to pay it back.

What (else) did you want to be when you grew up? My dad, a native New Zealander, is a paleontologist and has been on expeditions in Antarctica and across the Southern Hemisphere, doing all manner of dangerous things in search of fossilized birds. There's a great Onion article headlined, "Nation's Shark Experts: 'You Could've Had This Job,'" and I try not to think about what I'd be doing had I taken a few more biology classes.

One thing you couldn't live without? Noise cancelling headphones have been a lifesaver for working from home, especially with the pets.