Clay Krauss is director of information technology for Tacoma Community College, following a number of years helping city government match tech tools to active problems.

“The challenges of IT are rarely technical in nature, but in form-fitting the technical solution to the business and customer needs,” he says. Indeed, he has sought out work opportunities that are “more complex and bigger picture problems, ones that involve people, not just technology.”

Krauss’ first foray into technology came as a web programmer before he could even finish his college degree. When the dot-com crash hit, he restarted his studies at University of Puget Sound and more recently added an M-B-A from UW-T.

His nominator calls Clay Krauss technologically savvy and a relational leader who effectively works with teams.  We can now call him a member of 2017 Class of “40 Under Forty.”

Amber Austin grew up in Spanaway and worked as a paralegal in Tacoma following graduation from Western Washington University before opting for law school. From those beginnings, she has grown into a very successful – and respected – solo practitioner focused on Family Law.

“My approach is to create ‘win-win’ situations for both parties involved and to become a trusted partner in the legal process,” Austin says.

A look at her accomplishments emphasize that it is working: Pro Bono Services award from the state bar association in 2008, member of the year by Pierce County Women Lawyers in 2013, Community Service award last year from the local bar association, and being named a Rising Star “Super Lawyer” by a national ranking process earlier this year, something awarded to just 2.5 percent of eligible barristers.

Austin admits her biggest challenge continues to be her fear of the unknown, where she spends time wondering, “What if …”  But then again, life is pretty darned good for Amber Austin, a recognized “40 Under Forty” honoree.

During the most recent downturn in construction after the Great Recession hit, Tessa Smith purchased an interest in an established, but stressed, local building company, then helped launch it as a nationwide leader in super energy-efficient homes.

That ambition to “forge new trails in a sometimes resistant-to-change industry” fits her passion for change and adventure. The accomplishments that have followed clearly marked her as a strong “40 Under Forty” honoree.

“Less than 11 percent of the licensed architects in the U.S. are women, and far less that that are general contractors who build houses for a living,” notes Smith. She worked toward professional licensure in a non-traditional way, but the national attention and accomplishments made it definitely worthwhile.

She designed and her Artisans Group firm in Olympia built the first certified Passive House in Washington, and they have gone on to construct more of these specially certified homes than any single firm in the nation.

“It's been a wild ride,” Tessa Smith says, “but this is just getting started. I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

You can meet Clay, Amber and Tessa, plus 37 other remarkable members of 2017’s 40 Under Forty cohort at the celebration of their honors on Wednesday, October 11, at Foss Waterway Seaport in downtown Tacoma. It begins with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. and the recognition program will conclude before 8 o’clock.  Tickets are available at this link.