Recently, I spoke with Modesto Chamber of Commerce CEO Trish Christensen. Trish has been an active part of our Central Valley community for more than 30 years as a business owner and tireless volunteer/leader at many local non-profits. In her current role, she sets strategy and oversees efforts to improve the region’s business climate. Although the Chamber does focus on business people, Trish is a firm believer that the organization should serve all members of our community.

Trish Christensen CEO, Modesto CoC

Trish, we appreciate you taking time to discuss Tech Connect today. As our readers know, technology is now a key competitive advantage driving growth and increased profitability for many companies, including ones in traditionally non-tech industries. It is imperative that Central Valley businesses become technology literate and competent as soon as possible.

1. To begin, can you give our readers a little information about your background, key Chamber priorities and why you are involved with Tech Connect?

– Phillip, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to share about the monthly Tech Connect networking events. I believe my broad background and wide variety of experiences have been invaluable preparation for my current role as CEO of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce. Before moving to Modesto from Santa Clara 32 years ago, I worked in retail doing everything from customer service to accounts payables. In Modesto, I worked at a title company until our kids came along. Once our children started school, I took on board leadership and fundraising roles with parent-teacher groups, the Amgen Tour of CA, SuperKarts! and the Boys and Girls Clubs. I also launched a consulting business helping non-profits improve their marketing, events and fundraising. Two years ago, I started at the Chamber in a temporary position but have transitioned into a permanent role as the CEO.

Although the Modesto Chamber of Commerce is 107 years old, we are an innovative organization that sees phenomenal opportunities to positively impact our community. Supporting business, big or small, is in effect, supporting the community at large. Those who have their own small businesses live here. They are raising their families here. They give back, invest by shopping and spending, and have children being educated here. The larger corporations established in our county are hiring here, they are growing here and their employees then follow suit by residing here. The Chamber gets to play a role in every element of the community by supporting business. The team has enhanced the long-standing efforts and committees of the Chamber, such as the Economic Development Committee and Government Relations Council. We have brought back the Stanislaus Green Team, which focuses on networking for organizations focused on improving sustainability. The Modesto Chamber has become the program coordinators for the California Green Business Network – Stanislaus. In the last few months, we have launched three inaugural programs: our Women in Business Network, our Rising Professionals Network and finally, Tech Connect in November. Each of these programs is providing a platform for key groups of individuals across all sectors of business and industry to generate positive energy by connecting on common ground.

2. Can you describe what Tech Connect is and how it is benefiting local businesses?

– Tech Connect came to life while you (Phillip Lan) and I were idea sharing several months ago. The Chamber works to create networking opportunities for business in an array of arenas: local community needs and way of life; advocacy with government and elected officials; agriculture and water resources; support of business conducting business; education and our future workforce, etc. One area lacking direct networking opportunities was within the tech realm. We launched this forum so businesses of any size and type could come together and learn what resources are available to support their technology needs, share what challenges they may be having, refer local services and resources, and for technology service providers to identify new potential clients they can help. The goal of Tech Connect is to help local companies fully leverage digital marketing and modern technology tools to improve growth and profitability.

3. In addition to elevating the region’s digital IQ, will Tech Connect have the ability to refer businesses to local providers who can help implement their technology and digital marketing initiatives?

– Yes, a key goal of Tech Connect is to help businesses find more clients by expanding regional networking opportunities. This works both ways. We want to provide opportunities for tech-based service businesses to introduce themselves to the general business community. In turn, we want the business community to have direct contact opportunities with those technology and digital marketing service providers. The Chamber is about relationships, and by partnering with Bay Valley Tech and Valley Sierra Small Business Development Center (SBDC), we developed a platform to draw engagement and resources to all of our participants.

4. Tech Connect is currently a partnership among the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, Bay Valley Tech and Valley Sierra SBDC, but I know other organizations and cities are interested in participating as well. How can they support future Tech Connect events?

– We are excited to expand our Tech Connect resource base! Attendance is open to all and has no cost associated. If you or your organization are interested in joining us as a program partner or in co-branding a future Tech Connect event, we would be happy to

hear from you. There is a sponsorship structure for both Chamber members and non-members. Please email with “Tech Connect sponsor” in the subject line and so we can schedule a time to talk.

5. I know there are many amazing digital marketing and technology experts in the area. How can someone who is interested in being a speaker at Tech Connect events apply to do so?

– Please email with “Tech Connect speaker” in the subject line. We will promptly follow up with you to determine whether your proposed topic might be a fit for Tech Connect attendees.

6. Can you give us a preview of speakers and topics we should expect to see at upcoming Tech Connect events?

– Tiffany Phillips, an amazing social media strategist, will be speaking about supercharging your social media at the next Tech Connect on January 21, and ITSolutions|Currie will be highlighting strategies to increase your business’ efficiency and security shortly after that. We will be announcing more speakers and topics next month.

About Phillip Lan
As president of Bay Valley Tech, Phillip Lan oversees both the fast-growing code academy and ValleyWorx, Modesto’s premier tech co-working space. A strong believer in the power of technology education to lift families out of poverty, Lan also leads Bay Valley Tech’s efforts to support tech community initiatives in the Central Valley, including hackathons, software meetups, Women Techmakers, high school coding programs and the Valley AgTech Summit.
Prior to Bay Valley Tech, Lan led the digital marketing team at E&J Gallo Winery and held marketing, business development and leadership roles in technology companies such as IBM and Ask Jeeves. He holds a bachelor’s degree in managerial economics from U.C. Davis, and an MBA in computer information systems from California State University-East Bay.