GW: Tell us about what you are doing now and why it matters to you?
TM: In my current role at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, I serve as Senior Vice President of Political and Industry Affairs. CTA is the leading industry association for technology companies, and my portfolio centers on policy advocacy. It is my sincere honor to represent some of our country’s most innovative companies at the White House and in the halls of Congress. As the leader of the association’s diversity initiatives, I also work to amplify and serve as a catalyst to bring more women and diverse voices into the tech and innovation sector.
At CTA, we believe that every company — from big, multinational companies to startups — should have a voice in shaping our economy and our policy. Engaging policymakers is important to ensure a strong U.S. innovation ecosystem, as well as policies that support entrepreneurship and reward those who have an innovative idea and the will to make it a reality. That’s especially true in the rapidly evolving and complex tech world.
CTA is also known as the owner and producer of CES®, the most influential tech event in the world. CES 2023 attracted more than 115,000 attendees and 3200 exhibitors, including 1000 startups! It was an incredible week of product launches, major company announcements and innovations that are solving some of the world’s biggest challenges — clean air and water, food, healthcare, civic participation and more — and making the world a better place for millions. At CES, I organize and lead our diversity initiatives program, as well as conversations on emerging and evolving policy issues.
Beyond CTA, I also have the privilege of chairing the Global Women’s Innovation Network, a professional network of women in the innovation policy space who understand the importance of dedicating time to focus on career development opportunities for women on and off of Capitol Hill.
GW: What drew you to GW and the Elliott School for your graduate studies? How did GW influence your professional choices and successes?
TM: Early in my career, I imagined myself joining the foreign service and traveling the world representing the United States. In undergraduate, I majored in Spanish and Japanese. I was well on my way. Plot twist! Shortly after coming to Washington, DC, I failed the Foreign Service Exam. Though disillusioned, I was working a great full-time job on Capitol Hill, and my office encouraged me to attend graduate school part-time to pursue international affairs and allowed me to begin working on international policy issues in the office.
The Elliott School had a spectacular reputation and was flexible for early-career professionals working full-time. As Congress was debating “Fast Track,” now known as trade promotion authority or permanent normal trade relations with China, I was advising the Congressman as well as taking incredible classes that gave me important historical context. Though I never made it to the Foreign Service, I did have the honor to serve as an Assistant U.S. Trade Representative working on behalf of the United States to advance better trade relations with other countries. Even in subsequent roles, I have always had an international lens that has benefited the organizations I have worked with over the last 20+ years.
GW: How has diversity and inclusion impacted or influenced your career? How can alumni promote DEI and DEI efforts?
TM: We are all born with “default settings,” or beliefs that we must be intentional in correcting. I got my first job as a Capitol Hill staffer because the Congressman I worked for did not believe in “default settings.” Instead of hiring a friend or donor’s kid, he took a chance on me — someone he did not know but saw promise in. This would be the unique catalyst for a 25+ year career in Washington. So, I would encourage my fellow alumni to push against their “default settings” and explore talent that is not right in front of them.
Diversity is the secret sauce of what makes the United States and our innovation ecosystem special and, dare I say, great. When there are more unique voices at the table, we build companies and foment ideas that are the envy of the world.
One of the initiatives I am most proud of at CTA is our $10 million commitment to invest in venture funds that invest in women and diverse founders. I do not need to recount the dearth of venture funding that goes to women or black and brown funders. It is abysmal. But I am fortunate to work for an organization that supports innovation no matter where — or who — it comes from. It is in our DNA to support innovation, and we don’t want the U.S. or the world to miss out on the next game-changing innovation because a women-led or diverse-led startup could not get funding. To date, we have invested in 10 women and diverse-led venture funds that are changing the face of entrepreneurship.
GW: What would you say to current GW students who want to make a positive difference in the world?
TM: Start where you are. Though in my early career I believed the Foreign Service was the only route to influence world affairs, my career trajectory has offered me a front seat to engage in world affairs and diplomacy. I did not let an early failure — failing the Foreign Service Exam — thwart my interest in world affairs.