Prairie Portrait: Amanda Garner of Nebraska Global
Name: Amanda Garner
Bio: Do-Gooder, information gatherer, data nerd, pop culture observer, made in Nebraska
Title: Director of Community Outreach, Nebraska Global
City: Lincoln, Neb.
Intro music: "There's Always Someone Cooler Than You" by Ben Folds
Silicon Prairie News: As the person in charge of organizing Nebraska Global's philanthropic and service work, how have you seen building software companies and serving the community complement each other?
Amanda Garner: It's about problem solving. We volunteer time to help organizations solve problems to make our community a better place to live and work. We focus on making software that solves problems for the enterprise. In addition, our ability to continue hiring quality people depends on our community remaining an excellent place to live and work. Volunteering offers us many benefits for our employees — they have a lot of fun when volunteering and their eyes get a break from the computer screen.
SPN: To what would you attribute your interest in service work? Is there any person or experience that guided you in that direction?
AG: My mom is one of the most generous people anyone would have the benefit of knowing. If she knows someone needs help, you can’t stop her from helping. One of my early memories is having my mom send a check back to school for a field trip for more than what it was supposed to be. When I told her she wrote the check for too much she explained to me that it was to help other kids go on the field trip because their parents might not be able to afford it.
This led to an early start in the business of trying to change what I thought was wrong in the world. I testified in front of a legislative committee at the age of 16 regarding labor laws. I was inspired during my coming of age by President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton who both speak passionately about everyone's ability to make a difference through service. I started out as a computer science major in college and switched to education, then social work. After college, I tried politics for a bit but the "politics" of politics wasn't a good fit for me. There wasn't a job that rolled all my studies into one position until I began talking with Steve (Kiene) months before Nebraska Global started about a new form of corporate philanthropy. And, I have been challenged by our founders to keep things going and growing. I have found that sometimes the craziest idea that seems the least attainable ends up the one that is the most satisfying to pursue.
SPN: As a Nebraska native working at a company that's dedicated to building successful startups in the state, what are some of the biggest misconceptions about your home state you encounter from people unfamiliar with Nebraska?
AG: For those that think the state is flat I suggest the following road trip: Highway 92 west of St. Paul especially after a good rainfall. Read a Willa Cather book and the words will help you understand the beauty of the plains if you can’t make the trip.
The last time I went to California I felt like I was an alien and was missing some pretty blonde girl ingredient. I think the biggest misconception about Nebraska is actually from Nebraskans. I’m tired of hearing about how wonderful other places are – Nebraska is the only place I want to live. Nebraska is a great place to be because we don't draw judgment on the surface. You get respect from others by being a good person and hard work. It doesn't matter who your parents are, what kind of car you drive or how much you spend on clothes. Because of this, it is a great place for business. I have seen the amount of time other CEOs lend to new and growing companies in Nebraska, and I don't think that would happen in other places. I also like that my commute takes less than an hour round trip which means I have more time in my day. I can make my pretty things or, hypothetically speaking, I could go to the gym.
SPN: You make doilies in your free time. What sparked your interest in the craft?
AG: My Grandma Garner taught me to crochet when I was very young. She made all kinds of pretty things — quilting, tatting, knitting, crochet, embroidery. I spent a lot of time with her growing up. She lived to be 102 or 103 — there was a bit of a debate on her actual date of birth. I didn't start crocheting until after she died. Doilies are very intricate but they are fascinating patterns that are based in mathematics. They work only because there are very specific measures in the pattern that will make them work. I had many early experiments that only my mother thinks are wonderful. I don't actually sell many of them. People don't seem to want doilies anymore. But, I keep making them, and my mom and sister-in-law love them so I'll just keep giving them away.
SPN: You tweet frequently about fantasy football and even have a Tumblr dedicated to the subject. So tell us, beyond lots of Web 2.0 exposure, what's your strategy for building a good fantasy football team?
AG: My oldest brother played football through college at Wesleyan, and I went to all the games. He's a high school football coach now in Broken Bow, Nebraska so his kids are big fans of football as well. My youngest nephew, Yance is a data nerd just like me. At the age of 9 he was pouring over box scores. I want him to know about the good guys of the NFL — the ones who have kept their nose to the grindstone and stayed out of trouble. So, I started a list. The list is of players that I will not choose for my fantasy football team because of their actions: DUIs, assault charges or just general bad behaviors. For example, there are players who continue to get DUIs even though the NFL has a special hotline for them to call for a ride home. I think that if you aren't smart enough to call for a limo to drive you home because you're drunk you aren't smart enough to be a good football player. I think that if you do good then it will reflect positively on your game, so I also have a list of highlights on the good players. In my first year, my list didn't prove out well because I didn't know how to draft. Example: Derrick Mason was an early pick-up in my first season due to his charitable work. He was actually a solid performer last year while on the Ravens but not a stellar performer. This year I understood more about fantasy football and I ended the season with the 2nd most points in the league, but I placed 5th overall. My first round pick was Calvin Johnson. It worked out for me.
Image credit: Photo courtesy of Amanda Garner.
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