The Churchill Club – Known As Ground Zero For Technology & Business Networking In Silicon Valley Since 1985
SVT: Name three inventions you’re most grateful for i.e. cell phone, ipad, computer, Kindle …
KT: My favorite inventions are probably language, paper, and the many objects that help people to communicate and be closer to one another. Smart phones are amazing; they have changed how and when we do so many things—clearly we’re only at the beginning, too. Probably the best part is they represent a needed opportunity for all parts of the world to participate in the information revolution. As for the future, teleportation is a game changer I’d love to see. We could pop over to Paris for dinner and make it back to the Bay Area for a 9 a.m. meeting the same day!
SVT: Who have been your role models and who and what has inspired you in your life?
KT: I admire many people and have been incredibly fortunate to learn from them. Some were in my life directly, such as my parents, Gordon Bell, and Carver Mead. Others I never met, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Frost, and Winston Churchill. The common theme that’s inspired me is to diligently apply my unique attributes and talents in effort to leave the world better than I found it. It’s actually a fun pursuit.
SVT: Did you think growing up you would be doing what you’re doing?
KT: I grew up watching Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Columbo, and was intrigued by the idea of becoming a detective. It seemed to me that detectives were curious, persistent, and they got to learn things and help people. That sounded pretty good. And it turns out that all of those attributes are helpful no matter what we take on professionally – so perhaps I wasn’t too far off!
SVT: What do you do in your spare time?
KT: In addition to exercising and reading, a favorite avocational activity is to experience art. I’ve collected contemporary visual art, mostly by Bay Area artists, for decades. I also love to experience performing arts of all types.
SVT: What are your favorite books, movies and songs?
KT: Fiction: Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin. Non-fiction (reference): Practical Cogitator, edited by Curtis & Greenslet. Poetry: Robert Frost’s Two Tramps in Mud Time and Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill.
Music: Massenet’s Meditation from Thais, Bach’s Double Concerto For Two Violins In D Minor, and Harburg & Arlen’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
SVT: What is the last book you read and what are you reading now?
KT: The last book I read was Mike Malone’s Learning Curve, a Novel of Silicon Valley. Wow, what a page turner! I’m now reading Sutton & Rao’s Scaling up Excellence and Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.
SVT: Do you like to exercise? And, if so, what?
KT: Exercise is so important! Walking (especially with friends and my dog!), aerobics, and Pilates are my favorites right now.
SVT: What’s the most enjoyable part of your job? Most challenging part of your job?
KT: I truly enjoy just about everything about my job. First, convening people and connecting them to new ideas and one another is incredibly rewarding. I’ve been privileged to watch people’s lives evolve, and sometimes even transform through the important professional connections and new insights that Churchill Club regularly makes possible. It’s a Silicon Valley tradition, to come here, be here, and be able to tap into this culture of possibilities.
Also, working with the Churchill team is an amazing experience—we’re a tight-knit, smart and hard-working group that functions extremely well together. There’s trust, and a supportive culture, but always the focus on excellence and what we’ve come together to do.
It’s always challenging to organize and marshal time to be on my side—to accomplish all I want to do. I feel extremely driven, like I’m in a race every single day.
SVT: What accomplishments are you most proud of as CEO?
KT: It’s hard for me to say, because I’m acutely aware that nothing happens in a vacuum. It takes a group of people to accomplish great things. I suppose that my positive attitude, continuous stream of ideas, and personal drive helps to inspire people to attain what we’re collectively reaching for.
SVT: How long have you been in your current position?
KT: Six years
SVT: What is the Churchill Club?
KT: Churchill Club is the Silicon Valley’s premier independent technology & business forum, dedicated to encouraging innovation and economic growth, and societal benefit since 1985. We’re constantly reminded that over the past 28 years it’s become an important Valley institution.
The group has 7,000 members and many thousands of guests, and puts on up to 40 events each year.
We have a reputation for presenting “big name” speakers, such as filmmaker James Cameron, and other leaders such as Elon Musk, Eric Schmidt, Bill Clinton, and Ursula Burns. But what we value isn’t just “big names” – it’s really big thoughts, that might positively move the needle around innovation, economic growth, and social good. We endeavor to inspire and advance the thinking of everyone who participates in our events, whether on stage or in the audience.
SVT: What have been some of your most memorable experiences?
KT: It’s been a memory-packed six years and it’s difficult to pick out only a few. There are lots of onstage moments: Larry Ellison’s entertaining rant about the term “cloud computing,” Steve Jobs’ former colleagues speaking about what they learned from him, the Mars Rover team describing how they collaborate, and Salman Khan relaying his experiences from building the Khan Academy. The first Great Silicon Valley Oxford Union Debate, which we created with Joe DiNucci and Mike Malone. The first Churchill Awards program, designed to inspire people by highlighting excellence in innovation, collaboration, leadership, and social good.
It’s possible the offstage moments will stick with me the longest: for instance, having students rush up to me after programs in a cloud of excitement and gratitude for having been included in a Churchill Club event. I believe Churchill Club is one of the best experiences they can have to help prepare them for the so-called “real world” as professionals.
SVT: What in your past prepared you for this?
KT: Everything in my past prepared me for this. Working in this environment I can bring to bear everything I’ve learned, everything I value, and all of the positive attributes I come with as a human being. It’s a great opportunity.
SVT: Where did you grow up, go to college and what did you study?
KT: I grew up in Appleton Wisconsin. I have an eclectic educational background, beginning with the private school I attended during my high school years, where students participated in creating their own learning tracks as well as teaching the younger students. The personal interaction with faculty and the experience of co-planning my own educational experiences motivated me greatly and created a strong trait of assiduously seeking knowledge as part of how I live my life every day. I then attended University of Wisconsin and studied business, psychology, journalism, and English literature. Professionally I have been a student of leadership, communication, and strategic partnerships in particular.
SVT: What advice would you give to aspiring students and entrepreneurs in business and technology today
KT: 1. Think of yourself as part of a community; work to build great connections and have meaningful exchanges with people.
2. Seek context on topics with currency, and develop a point of view. Continually feed that point of view with new knowledge and insights. Ask questions to challenge and advance collective thinking.
3. Be curious.
4. Be respectful.
5. Suspend pre-judgment and practice empathy.
6. Take care of your body: exercise, drink water, eat well, and get enough rest.
7. Be aware of what your body language is saying, as well as that of others.
8. Exercise humility and an attitude of service.
9. Get clear on your personal values and adhere to them in what you say and do.
10. Never give up!
SVT: What would be your dream event?
KT: How about Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Hilary Clinton, and Indra Nooyi in a candid, highly interactive conversation about their biggest dreams, hardest won triumphs, most profound life lessons, and sagest advice for young people who desire to have a positive impact on the world? We’ll get to work on that right away!