Joan Myers, chief executive officer at the North Carolina Technology Association for the past nine years, will soon take a new job at SAS, but she vows to not lose her passion for improving education across the state.

In a Q&A with Myers after she announced her resignation last week, WRAL Local Tech Wire asked her if North Carolina was making progress in become a “State of Minds” – a campaign researched and created by the NCTA and then embraced by the state’s Department of Commerce.

“Progress yes, but I’m always impatient for more,” Myers said.

NCTA has been a strong advocate of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, education. Efforts have ranged from the supporting programs that encourage more girls to enter STEM fields to securing technology grants for schools, the organization

“Governor [Mike] Easley and leaders in the legislature have done a great job in boosting our R&D environment, supporting biotech and keeping their focus on K-20 education,” Myers said. “We need to continue to get ahead of the curve and lead in STEM education and support school connectivity, 21st century learning and build off our strength in economic opportunities such as the defense, security and intelligence sectors.

“I think North Carolina could be the leader in intelligence technologies and all the applications they embrace and support of the [Defense and Security Technology Accelerator], opening up opportunities for more university research in these areas and encouraging existing companies in that are working on security solutions would create new jobs and be a win-win for North Carolina. None of this will happen though if we don’t integrate technology as a tool in k-20 education.

“The region, state, country that has the smartest people wins!”

The Q&A follows:

Why leave NCTA?

I’ve been privileged to work in an industry that embraces change, defines new horizons with its commitment to research and development and pushes on the innovation curve on a global basis. I leave NCTA embracing change as a positive and growing experience, and moving on to a company that has a deep commitment to research and development and global leadership.

What appeals to you most about the SAS position?

It’s a wonderful opportunity to work with visionary leaders and an unprecedented team.

Do you feel you accomplished your goals in taking NCTA job nine years ago?

My goals were really the goals laid out by the Board of Directors. We executed on our business plan successfully and hit some remarkable benchmarks along the way.

What is your proudest achievement?

That I got to work for 42 innovative thought leaders that help shape the economy, were committed to North Carolina and cared about our economic and national security.

What is the biggest goal or challenge not yet met by NCTA?

NCTA has shown leadership in so many ways… a respected and successful government affairs program at the state and federal level, a tremendous Knowledge Workforce committee, and top notch executive engagement efforts all fueled by an active membership and strong leadership from the Board. Significantly growing the membership would have been my next big challenge….

Will you remain involved with NCTA through your position at SAS?

SAS has tremendous leadership in NCTA with active engagement in all areas. Keith Collins is an NCTA Board member. I hope to remain in some fashion, if not NCTA’s greatest cheerleader!

Do you see bright future for NCTA? Please explain?

The heart and core of NCTA success to date has been the Board of Director’s thought leadership and willingness to speak out on critical issues such as improving the R&D environment and STEM education. I think their leadership will continue to grow as North Carolina continues to build the knowledge economy all across the state.