(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a three-part series describing a recent transition in ownership of one of the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region’s most successful female-launched and owned businesses.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“I want to chase ideas,” Bonnie Carroll, Founder of Information International Associates Inc. (IIa), says in describing her new role as the Chief Data Officer of the 300-employee company.
Noting that she’s always been in the world of science and technology and at the intersection of information and technology, Carroll says simply, “You finally realize what makes you happy.”
As she has said on previous occasions, it was the legendary Alvin Weinberg, former Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director, who inspired her to pursue what has been a long and successful career in the ever-advancing world of information technology. And what better base to start a company than in the Oak Ridge community.
“The output of the $150 billion (S&T) sector is knowledge and information,” Carroll explains. “Managing that output and reusing it has now been recognized as the fourth pillar of science. My love is effective use of content, with the best technology as a means, so they are inextricably interwoven.”
What’s at the intersection of content and technology? “It’s data analytics. Making data useful and actionable.”
“Analytics is the fertilizer of the information revolution,” Carroll explains as she becomes more animated and excited in discussing areas and opportunities that she can spend more time exploring in the new role.
She points to the ever-evolving movements in open government, open data, and open science, calling them an enormous and overpowering wave.
“Data are a public good, overlaid with open science,” Carroll says, citing the acronym FAIR which stands for findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. “Open data without these is not open data.”
She sees opportunities to leverage the region’s myriad of assets into a center for data analytics.
Looking back to 1988, we asked Carroll to share with us some lessons learned.
“They depend on where you start,” she explained. “I start with the love of knowledge in my DNA. I really worked hard for 30 years and ended-up in a good place.”
Carroll described one key factor for her success as what she called a “multi-faceted community effort” that is an important foundation for any new venture.
“You’re not successful because of yourself,” she says. “It requires good customers, a supportive community, great employees, and strong political relations.”
Those who know or have observed Carroll over the years will attest to the fact that she truly believes in these ingredients and has practiced them.
“What makes me happy is the integration of those things,” she says.
NEXT: Jeannette Lee’s thoughts about IIa and its future.