Tami Howie is the CEO of the Maryland Technology Council, an organization formed from the recent merger of the Technology Council of Maryland, Inc and the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council. As the largest association of its kind in the state, the MTC represents hundreds of regional companies active in the life sciences and technology sectors. Previously executive director of the CRTC, Tami transitioned to become head of the new organization following its establishment earlier this year. Prior to serving Maryland’s technology community in her current capacity, Tami practiced as an attorney.
EDWIN WARFIELD: How did you get your start at the Technology Council?
TAMI HOWIE:I spent many years in technology law at DLA Piper. I started there when I was at Piper & Marbury. We were about 400 lawyers, and I was in the DC office.
I hit it at the right time. It was an amazing time where technology was running faster than you could keep up with. I would start with the company that was two guys in a garage, and six months later we’d be talking to bankers when they were still in QuickBooks. I got very lucky. I worked with a guy named Ned Martin, who was my senior partner, and my very first client was Ray Ozzie, the inventor of Lotus Notes. He was absolutely amazing and he did a company called Groove Network. I worked with him and did a deal with Microsoft right out of the gate.
One of my other very first clients was a company that went public within six months and when we met with bankers they still had their QuickBooks and we had to quickly get them accountants.
It was a really interesting time for me. I fell in love with technology. I planned to be a litigator, and I got put in the technology section, business law, and I planned to shine and be able to move, and then I absolutely fell in love with technology and stayed with it. While I was at Piper, I probably did 150 M&A deals; probably did as many venture deals; and really did anything that touched money to growing companies.
I spent 15 years or so as a lawyer in the tech firms, and kept selling my companies and would get them investment and grow them and they would go public, or they would go for sale multiples of 10, 20, 30 times, which was unbelievably rewarding, but I always stopped representing them right when it got good, when the integration started.
In 2010, I found out that there was a company right in Virginia that was looking for general counsel. I went and interviewed with them, and the CEO and I instantly hit it off and realized that we could work great together. He also was a redhead, like I was, so that worked out well. He was crazy. He drove a Harley and was part Cherokee Indian. The two of us got along great because I like to run fast.
The company was planning to go public, planning to acquire a bunch of companies, so I was the perfect general counsel. Unfortunately, two weeks in, they lost a major contract, so I became a litigator after all and did a bunch of lawsuits with them, and figured out what was their next move. The CEO got throat cancer, so I became acting president while he was away, and ran the company for five years, and eventually sold them to an Indian tribe, where they became a Super 8a, which was really great. It was one of the tribes I had worked with as a lawyer, so it was perfect because we became a Super 8a—they got 25 years past performance, and it was a perfect marriage.
Then I was going to retire for a couple of months and not do much, and three weeks into it my family came to me and said, “You really need to do something else. You’re driving us crazy. Your type A personality isn’t working so well.”
So I started looking around at nonprofits and found that the executive director position at the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council was actually open. I went ahead and started talking to them. And the funny thing is while I was at the law firms I was the liaison to the tech councils around the world. I was in Women in Bio out at the Tech Council of Maryland, and I actually worked on the merger, the first time, as an outside counsel of the high-tech side and the bio side back in 2005. I had never really worked with the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council before. I had never done anything with them. I knew they existed, but I didn’t know anybody there. So, when I actually met with them and I realized that they were kind of the young, exciting startups that had come out of the fact that nobody was serving the younger guys and the people east of the beltway—and they rolled up their sleeves and were a grassroots kind of organization that dug in and help grow companies—they seemed like they were a right fit for me. That’s how I ended up here.
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