Profiles

A conversation with Alison Carl White
Executive Director, NPower Seattle

Q: What is your name?

Alison Carl White: I’m Alison Carl White. I’m the executive director of NPower Seattle.

Q: How often do you read The Seattle Times online?

ACW: Every day. I get the mobile update on my phone. Actually, with all honesty, at 3:30 this morning after my daughter woke me up and I couldn’t go back to sleep, I was reading the news headlines on my mobile phone as I lay in bed thinking, I really wish I could go to sleep.

Q: That’s endearing — and a little sad.

ACW: It is sad, but here I am ready for my interview with The Seattle Times. This is really how I use The Seattle Times.

Q: Why is online more attractive to you than the print product?

ACW: Because I can do it in short bursts. I think the physical layout of seattletimes.com is the most attractive of all the news sites I go to. I like that it flows in the way that my brain works; it’s just easy to read. I feel like it’s not cluttered too much, but I can deep dive into anything that catches my attention. I really like that the headline doesn’t get too much into the story. I feel it’s important that I have a knowledge of what’s going on in the world. I don’t have to have a real deep level of knowledge most of the time, but it’s nice to think that when I’m eating my cereal and drinking my coffee I can scan the news. I have to admit I do a deep dive into the Mariners, which does not always help me in my job, but occasionally …

Q: When you consume seattletimes.com, what is your process? If you have five minutes, where do you go?

ACW: I usually scan all the way down looking for the story that’s most relevant to wherever I’m at. My husband is into politics, so I often click on the political to see what’s happening there.

Now that I’m running NPower, the technology section, the business section has become critically important as I expand my knowledge of the tech community here. I really appreciate the tech blogs and the Microsoft blog and how helpful that is to help get me into this technology world.

And I, of course, love the editorials and the sports page.

Q: What writers do you read regularly?

ACW: I certainly enjoy reading Brier Dudley. I grew up in Federal Way, and my parents were subscribers, so I’ve read Steve Kelley since I was about nine years old.

The Business of Giving has been a great addition to the nonprofit community in terms of really raising the awareness within that field. I adore Joni Balter, so anytime she’s posted an editorial I always read her. I’ve gotten to know Ryan Blethen over the last few years and his ability to speak to generational issues is always of interest to me.

Q: What is your ideal situation for consuming The Seattle Times?

ACW: I’m really enjoying the ability of the daily e-mail updates to be able to inform me of what’s new. And I think cell phone technology has come so far that I can actually, if I have 15 minutes between meetings, do a deeper dive into the stories. That wasn’t always the case. I think the mobile piece of it is by far the most attractive part to me where I could see continued growth in my use of it.

Q: As a native of the Northwest, what’s the best part about living in this community?

ACW: I think overall it’s the quality of life. I’ve been so fortunate to get to work in the nonprofit community and seeing so much of the good work that happens, and when you pair that with a wonderful physical environment, and, of course, people who really care. I continue to be inspired by the fact that folks really want to make a difference here. There are so many opportunities for folks to do that. I used to say anywhere but the Northwest, but I can’t imagine living anywhere but Seattle.

Q: Do you subscribe to the Sunday newspaper?

ACW: We used to. I’ve got a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. My husband was talking about going away for a weekend, and he said, “We could get four Sunday newspapers and read them all.”

Q: What’s the difference for you in having a locally owned and independent newspaper?

ACW: There’s a little bit of civic pride for me. I’m learning what I need to learn from my own newspaper that’s here. There’s some sort of competitive feeling that when I think about other national or international publications that just doesn’t appeal to me.

Q: How is our transformation in terms of technology and innovation important to you?

ACW: We have access to so much more information than we did two years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, and needing that place to have synthesized information that is readily accessible is very much a real-time kind of thing. For me, as technology evolves and really changes how we’re all going to exist, the importance of a trusted source becomes even more important. I think it’s been maybe a little atypical for my generation — if you look at generational expectations — that I really do want somebody to help synthesize it in a way that feels fair. Sure, I could read some right-leaning or left-leaning blog, but I find myself not trusting what that actually means because I know there’s an agenda. When I look at The Seattle Times, I feel that there’s no agenda there. And the fact that I have this access point to it in a mobile way is wonderful. When I’m sitting at my desk drinking coffee in between phone calls — that accessibility is so important.

Q: As a person who is part of this younger generation and immersed in this transforming world, so fast-paced and wild, what is that like in terms of staying connected to the community? How do you stay connected to the community and feel that you’re really plugged in?

ACW: I think it’s a variety of different avenues. I think technology is a great tool, but I wouldn’t say that I am connecting to the community exclusively through technology. Certainly, I’m an avid Facebook user, and I’ve been known to do a little tweeting here and there. I’m not intimidated by the technology piece, but I feel it’s much more of a tool to deepen relationships. As a nonprofit leader, that’s one of my major tasks, getting the NPower name out to the community, and how you do that is through building relationships and being well-versed in what’s happening. So when I’m trying to build relationships with people, I’ve got deep enough knowledge of what’s happening to be able to connect what they care about with the work we’re trying to do.

Q: NPower is part of a national organization. How is the way you do things different than the way people do things across the nation?

ACW: I think there’s such a culture of technology in Seattle that’s probably different than Atlanta or D.C., which also have really thriving affiliates. I think it’s in our DNA. I find it’s not a really super difficult case to make that nonprofits need technology or that technology is actually changing how we’re going to exist. I think there’s a difference there. I also think that we’re so fortunate in Seattle and the Puget Sound to have companies that get the importance of good corporate citizenship, and I don’t think that exists in other places. The investment in nonprofits and community work is part of who we are as a community. I don’t think I see that around the country.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

ACW: I’m just glad that you are thriving. I think it was a really scary time a year and a half ago when the Seattle P-I was closing. It was scary on a lot of levels, to think about what, in my opinion, is an institution no longer existing. I’m delighted that you have weathered that storm and come out having learned that the world is different and adjusting to that.