Mission Critical is excited to introduce you to the 2024 Top 25 Women in Technology. Meet Ilissa Miller.

Title: Founder and CEO

Company: iMiller Public Relations

Age: 52

Education: Bachelor’s degree in English writing and literature

Organizational affiliations: Board Member, OIX, formerly the Open-IX Association; Advisor, Nomad Futurist; Ambassador, Nomad Futurist Foundation; President, NEDAS Live! Podcast; Member NANOG - the North American Network Operators’ Group; Member PTC - the Pacific Telecom Council; Member iMasons - Infrastructure Masons; Bronze Support - Women in Wireless Forum (WWLF) 

Achievements/awards: 2013 PR News Agency ‘A’ List Finalist: “Marketing Communications;” 2015 PR Agency Elite Finalist: “Reputation Management;” 2015 Platinum PR Awards Finalist: “Digital PR Firm of the Year;” 2015 PR News, PR People Awards Finalist: “Ilissa Miller, CEO, iMiller Public Relations;” 2015 PR Dailies Finalist: “Best Trade Media Relations (Telecommunications);” 2016 PR World Awards Winner: “Best PR Agency Of The Year Single Boutique Office;” 2016 The Golden Bridge Awards Winner: Ilissa Miller, CEO “PR Executive of the Year;” 2016 BullDog Award Gold Winner: Bulldog Stars of PR “Technology Agency of the Year;” 2017 BullDog Award Bronze Winner: Bulldog Stars of PR “Best Industry-Focused Agency;” 2018 SABRE North America Awards Finalist: “Telecommunications Category: Good Netizen Awards Initiative;” 2023 Titan Women in Business Awards Winner: “Public Relations Team of the Year”

What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in technology?

My first job in tech was 1995 as an IT Recruiter. When the Telecommunications Act of 1996 passed, I was recruited to support a small consultancy helping companies form, raise capital and construct competitive telecommunications services (CLECs), which included advising new subsea cable operators, emerging operators, financial institutions and more. The internet was just starting to emerge, and the awareness of the booming digital sector was literally at my fingertips. As a young, eager to prove herself business person, I jumped at the opportunity to build a career in a new and emerging industry. It was cutting-edge, exciting, new and offered the chance to create something that would change the world.

What inspires you to do what you do?

Digital infrastructure is the foundation of what is possible in the digital realm. Without it, we don’t have the ability to talk on our phones, email, stream, or use the cloud and all of the applications that rely on it. From subsea cables to terrestrial fiber optic network systems to data centers that house and store all of our collective information, it’s the unsung and oftentimes underappreciated assets that keep the world tethered physically and virtually. As a PR agency solely focused on global digital infrastructure, we literally impact everyone’s lives every day, and that to me is both exciting and inspiring.

What role does sustainability play in your life?

Personally, sustainability is at the forefront of my life. In my early college years, I worked for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a lobbying organization for the environment. This experience has seeded the foundation of my interest in the environment and the ongoing sustainability and renewable initiatives currently reshaping our world today. As an advisor to global data center operators, sustainability initiatives are top of mind and are key considerations in the type of companies we choose to work with.

What is the most fascinating thing you have learned while working in this industry?

Everything! I have been honored to have a front seat watching, impacting and shaping the global digital landscape and how it has inspired, enabled, and created entirely new industries, services and capabilities. How industries continue to innovate and use digital infrastructure is a constant, everyday evolution. I can’t just choose one thing, so I will share that liquid cooling technology fascinates me. The fact that you can immerse a server in a liquid and have it operate more efficiently is wonderous. The subsea industry is incredibly mind-blowing and complex, with subsea cable ships automating the process that was initially implemented manually over 150 years ago.

What’s something unique about you personally?

This is a challenging question because I truly think we are all unique. For me, the combination of curiosity, awareness, compassion and empathy combine in unique ways. Oftentimes making me both challenging and exhilarating to work with.

What’s something unique about you professionally?

As the founder and CEO of iMiller Public Relations, my path to get here was not at all by accident. In 1996, when I started in the telecommunications industry and realized I wanted to build my professional career in the sector, I worked with my mentor to outline a path for a positive career trajectory. While I didn’t know I would end up back into consulting, which is where I started, I knew I had to get hands-on experience to understand how the industry worked. As a result, my unique career path offered me positions where I helped launch new subsea cable systems, sold data center and colocation solutions, built an internet transit exchange where I ran sales and marketing for North America, managed products for a top-tier international carrier including international private lines services (which traverse subsea cables), and build a marketing communications strategy and partnership framework for an interconnection company. With the unique combination of subsea, data center, internet connectivity and international network services - my knowledge and experience cumulates in appreciating and understanding the true ecosystem nature of our industry.

What’s your most admirable quality?

I think my ability to listen and discernibly understand and interpret what people are trying to share is an admirable quality of mine. Being aware of the difference of what I would want to say versus what someone else would like to say, is a skill that I continue to hone in order to be sure my own wants and needs are recognized as I guide and advise our clients on what they are trying to achieve. And I really appreciate people for their unique gifts, and try to encourage everyone to tap into their personal passions in all that they do.

Why is diversity, equality, and inclusion important to you?

Diversity, equity and inclusion is the essence of who I am. As a female in tech for over 25 years, I have had to carve my own path - with the help of some formidable women - where we worked hard to be recognized as true leaders in this space. I am passionate about welcoming any one with unique viewpoints and perspectives and find that in doing so, it offers greater learning opportunities while challenging my own viewpoints - particularly in a world that continues to shift and evolve in nearly every way. Everyone, no matter their background or orientation is a unique individual with the capacity to be whatever they would like to be. I hope that anyone that I interact with is inspired to be the best version of themselves.

What aspect of the industry do you think has the most potential for growth, and, on the other hand, which aspect do you think needs the most improvement?

This industry is remarkable and touches nearly everyone on the planet. Anyone with a cell phone and/or smartphone relies on global digital infrastructure. Some of the challenges we have as an industry is the continued silos of development. Let’s consider that the computer infrastructure that powers the cloud is designed and developed by hardware manufacturers, chip makers and the like. These machines need to be housed in locations that offer temperature and humidity controlled environments with access to networks for connectivity that transport a plethora of data bits that go in and out of them. Data centers are purpose-built to be a safe, secure, reliable and connected home for this infrastructure. As home to ‘the cloud’ and nearly every bit of data we each use, they are a means to an end to enable all of us to do what we do in the ether-sphere. Hardware manufacturers cannot solve the sustainable and renewable energy issues - they are designing equipment that needs power. Data centers cannot solve the problems either, they are constructing facilities based on energy solutions and technologies that are available to them. Energy and power companies are scrambling to increase loads, generate more power, and identify alternative solutions such as wind, solar and nuclear to bring cleaner and more renewable solutions together. It’s a chain reaction where one challenge opens up challenges in another area without a holistic vision and approach to solve it. I think we are just starting to understand the accountability and circular economic factors that go into the responsibilities we have in creating a solution, however, we have not closed the loop to complete the process in any direction (nearly anywhere). The challenge is not just for the global digital infrastructure industry, it is for every one of us and every product that is developed and consumed in the world. If the responsibility to reduce, reuse, recycle, re-purpose, re-generate, etc. was the responsibility of the conceptualized product manufacturer to solve before it was brought to market rather than the responsibility of the consumer that buys it - the world would be a drastically different place to live.

When you imagine the future of the technology industry, what does it look like?

The future of the technology industry is unknown and continues to write itself. Before 2022, AI was a movie by Steven Spielberg, a visionary pipedream that consumers couldn’t get access to. Today, generative AI is the fastest growing application to use global digital infrastructure - and full adoption is still many years if not decades away. Industry murmurs allude to quantum computing, which is happening and growing from its infancy. With quantum computing on the horizon, I imagine the industry will need to re-imagine itself and the underlying infrastructure it currently operates, in order to be able to support the magnitude of capabilities that we have not yet seen. While the front row seat I have is getting crowded with many others, I am excited to see what the world creates next.

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