Wolfgang Tolle, a Technology Import from Germany - Potomac Tech Journal - June 11, 2001
By David Hubler
June 11, 2001, is an auspicious day for Wolfgang Tolle, the chief technology officer and vice president of Cyveillance, an Internet monitoring company in Arlington, VA. It marks Tolle’s 11th anniversary in this country, having emigrated from Germany as a 29-year-old about to start his first job in the United States — president of the U.S. office of the German National Research Center for Computer Science.
"I moved to Washington on June 11, 1990, my first day in Washington and I didn’t know a single soul, really," he said.
Tolle had applied for the U.S. job after a couple years as a research assistant at the University of Dortmund and as software development director of a small German company. He’d done so more out of curiosity than as a serious candidate. But he was taken quite seriously by the center, which called him in for two interviews.
"When I got an invitation for a third interview [with the chairman], I thought, ‘Oh man, you’d better think about whether you really want to do that,’" Tolle recalled.
He worked for the center’s D.C. office for three years, during which time he perfected his facility with the English language. "I was exposed to English in school," he said. "I was used to listening to English [on the BBC] and, studying computer science, 90 percent of the literature is written in English, so I had to read it. But speaking was still an issue, that was the toughest part. I was not fluent."
Today, Tolle’s English is virtually accent free. "I have a knack for languages," he said.
He compares the German center to a large U.S. national science laboratory with the focus "not on the R in [research and development], but on the D, to work closely with industry to develop state-of-the-art products and services in information technology and telecommunications only."
One of Tolle’s first formal collaborations was with Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology in Herndon.
The unification of Germany led to national budget problems and the center’s foreign offices, including the one in D.C., were shut down in 1993. Tolle was engaged by then, and wanted to stay in the United States. Luckily for him, the CIT had an opening and knew Tolle. He was offered the position of director of information technology and communications.
His work for the CIT included helping companies in Virginia with technology and capital, and working with the technology infrastructure of the state.
Tolle became managing director of the CIT, and in 1999 he was named acting president and CEO for eight months. In January 2000, he was recruited to Cyveillance by Kevin Burns, now the board chairman, to become the company’s chief technology officer and vice president of client services.
Tolle said of his current position: "It’s an interesting combination of being responsible for the technology as well as for the customers, which actually helps me on both sides."