The question of whether to pursue work in business, technology, or public affairs is a non-issue for School of Public Affairs grad Natalie Madeira Cofield (MPA ’06). By combining her talents in all three sectors, the president and CEO of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce (and founding president of the Austin Black Technology Council) and founder of women’s business collective Walker’s Legacy has fashioned an impressively multifaceted and impactful career.
Originally from Rochester, N.Y., Cofield combined management and tech early on, majoring in computer-based information systems at Howard University. She completed a philanthropy internship at JPMorgan Chase in NYC and then gained valuable business skills through Chase’s Management Consulting Services program. Her desire to learn about the economic decline of her hometown led to involvement with the National Urban Fellows program and to Baruch. “That’s where I first learned the language of economic development: how through business you can advance a city’s economy,” she says.
Later, as director of business development for an economic partnership in Washington, D.C., which absorbed the D.C. Technology Council, “I started to realize the role that tech was playing in the broader economy,” Cofield says. After running her own consulting company for three years, she was tapped to helm the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce. (Austin is one of the fastest-growing tech markets in the country.)
In only three years, Cofield transformed a dying organization to one of the largest black chambers of commerce in Texas: Google, Facebook, IBM, and Dell are all members and part of the Black Tech Council. “We’re not a civil rights organization; we’re a business organization,” she points out. “There is a value proposition that we bring to the city, and I’m really happy that, across ethnicities, people see that.”
Cofield also founded Walker’s Legacy (named after pioneering entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker), a national platform for businesswomen to mentor and help each other. Says Cofield, “Right now we’re a network of 10,000, but we’d love to see this grow to more than a million.” Given her accomplishments, we have complete faith in her vision.