TheBridge profile: Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks
Name: Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (IN-05)
Current city: Carmel, IN
Current job: Member of U.S. House of Representatives, Co-founder of Congress’ 5G Caucus, Co-chair of the Women’s High Tech Coalition
Past job: U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Indiana; Ivy Tech Community College Senior Vice President/General Counsel; Deputy Mayor of City of Indianapolis
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? When I’m home in Indiana, my favorite spot for a coffee is an amazing locally-owned restaurant called Café Patachou.
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. Never burn bridges. Treat all – even your adversaries – with respect. You never know when you will be on the same side.
Q. Job advice in 3 words? Integrity means everything.
Q. How are you bridging the gap between politics and tech? Proactive outreach and building relationships. As a policymaker, it’s hard to move at the speed of innovation. But it’s also not feasible for tech to slow down to the pace of government. Outreach and relationship building is key to understanding how we can pass timely laws that strike the right balance between consumer protection and ensuring innovation can flourish without burdensome regulations.
Q. What can innovators teach policymakers? Innovators must realize Members of Congress have tremendously different levels of understanding or expertise of tech issues. Knowing what innovators and tech companies are working on right in our backyards or our districts gives us context when we’re learning the issues and crafting policy.
Q. Best advice you’ve received? Return your messages and phone calls – you learn things.
Q. Favorite under the radar company? Aira. Aira is a cool new technology that helps blind or visually impaired people by connecting them to a trained professional agent who helps enhance everyday experiences. The blind person wears a pair of glasses and an ear piece. When needed, they turn the service on and the glasses allow a trained expert to see for them. This expert shares through the ear piece helpful cues about what they are seeing—whether it’s in a new airport, on their daily commute, or in their neighborhoods and schools. I’ve seen this technology in action and it’s truly amazing!
Q. Startups to watch? 120WaterAudit, a Zionsville-based company that provides water-testing services to help ensure drinking water is safe. Also, Telemetry Sports, a Noblesville, IN based company that specializes in sports data analytics. They provide player data to improve scouting efficiency and optimize coaching decisions. They offer services to NCAA and MLB baseball teams and are now expanding to the NFL.
Q. When people think of the tech sector and innovation, they are likely thinking of Silicon Valley, and may not realize that places like central Indiana have such a booming tech industry. What would you like people to know about the growth of tech in your state? Many people may not realize Indianapolis ranks 4th in the nation for tech job growth or that our state is #1 in the nation in growth of software jobs. We are seeing accelerated growth in the tech sector thanks to coding academies like Eleven Fifty Academy and organizations like TechPoint, which was created to bring together tech companies, government, talent, and other stakeholders to create opportunity. We are what some refer to as “Silicon Prairie.” Indiana is a great example of how important it is to not just include DC and Silicon Valley in conversations, but also everywhere in between.
Q. TheBridge and Women’s High Tech Coalition (WHTC), which you Co-Chair, host a series called “Women Talk Tech and Policy,” and we were thankful to have you at our kick-off event. Can you tell us more about your work with the coalition? It was great speaking at the kick-off event— thanks for having me! I really enjoy co-chairing the coalition with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. The coalition serves as a platform to shine a spotlight on women leaders doing amazing things in the tech industry and provide an opportunity for women to connect and learn from each other. Women and girls in STEM fields has naturally been a focus of the coalition, especially given our country’s growing skills gap problem. So from coding events with girls from DC schools to events promoting the female leaders in tech in the nation, it’s that and anything in between. I hear from tech companies in my district about how badly they need more software engineers. There are many lucrative and fulfilling jobs in the tech sector that remain vacant because we do not have the talent to fill them. It’s a real problem and whether its young girls or mid-career professionals looking for a career change we need to make sure people know these opportunities are out there.
Q. You co-founded the 5G Caucus with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI). Why do you believe 5G is vital to the future of innovation? 5G has the potential to unleash innovation like we’ve never seen before. We are living in the Internet of Things era and a high-speed internet connection is crucial to the daily functions of our lives. 5G will empower emerging technologies like precision agriculture, telemedicine, and self-driving cars.
Q. What are you most looking forward to this year and throughout the 116th Congress? Whether we’re focused on tackling issues like the opioid epidemic or immigration reform, technology has a role to play. Realizing we are on the brink of the 4th Industrial Revolution is exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how technology will shape our future.
Q. Proudest 2018 accomplishment in the tech policy space? I was honored to be selected by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) as their 2018 Digital Patriot, a coveted award in the tech space that celebrates the achievements of government leaders who champion innovation in consumer technology.
Q. Favorite app? Instagram – that’s what my 20-something year-old children use the most. My staff is trying to teach me how to do Instagram stories.
Q. Most underrated virtue in an employee? Empathy for others.
Q. Last time you were completely unplugged? Trailriding in Wyoming last summer.
Q. Morning routine? Try to workout, read and respond to emails, breakfast, then out the door.
Q. How often do you work from home? Every day in the early part of the morning.
Q. How do you unwind after work? Dinner or cocktails, or both, with friends.
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