Thursday, July 27, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Longtime leader of tech trade group plans to step down

Seattle Times technology reporter

After 12 years, the WSA is getting a new face.

Chief Executive Kathy Wilcox, who has become synonymous with the Washington technology trade organization, said Wednesday that after serving for more than a decade as president and chief executive, she will leave her post at the end of the year to pursue other interests.

"This is the best job I've ever had; it has been the most challenging job I've ever had," she said. "Now I want to leverage my skills in the broader community."

Wilcox, 61, said she has been discussing her departure with the organization's board for a while but never found a good time to move on until now.

"I feel so close to the WSA. I didn't want to leave it if there was something going on currently," she said. "If there was some initiative, I was afraid it would go sideways if I didn't see it through."

At this year's annual planning meeting, however, she brought it up and felt the timing was right. She will remain in her position until the end of the year and then stay on for an undetermined transition period.

A lot has changed since 1994, when Wilcox left her job as an attorney at Heller Ehrman to join the WSA, formerly the Washington Software Alliance. It was unable to make ends meet at the time, she said, and the technology industry was still very much in the shadow of Boeing.

Today, the 22-year-old WSA has doubled to about 1,000 members and has 21 employees. Its budget is six times larger than when she joined, and she frequently travels nationally and internationally to talk about Washington's tech industry.

"Oh my gosh, what a huge loss," said Mike Brochu, chief executive of Loudeye and former WSA board member. "The organization she built is well founded thanks to her, and will do extremely well, but she is basically the heart and soul of that organization and I think the world of her. ... She made a huge contribution and it's going to be a huge loss."

Michele Vivona, the WSA's co-chairwoman and senior vice president of Lexis-Nexis litigation services in Bellevue, said Wilcox will be missed.

"Kathy has been phenomenal and an outstanding leader," Vivona said. "It's hard to even describe her enthusiasm and. passion. She's the face of the WSA.... I also think that she's given so much to the organization, she's looking forward to doing something else."

Wilcox will continue to serve on a number of for-profit and nonprofit boards, and look for the next opportunity, which probably will include consulting.

"I'm so aware that you get smarter the older you get," she said. "I don't see myself retiring, but leveraging myself in to other areas."

The WSA is looking for a replacement and posted the job opening on its Web site.

Among the qualities the organization is looking for are strong entrepreneurial capabilities, creative thinking and diplomatic talents. Applications are due Aug. 25.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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