Anthy O’Brien’s grandfather, like many Greek immigrants, owned a diner. His was in Detroit, and he made friends with his customers, many of them workers from an auto parts factory next door.

When the workers staged a sit in for better wages and working conditions, their managers locked them inside the plant. They thought the workers would get hungry and give up.  No such luck. Anthy’s grandfather set up a pulley and kept a steady supply of burgers, fries and solidarity going over the wall.

It’s a family story Anthy loves, and there are plenty more where that came from. Most of them are about hard work, standing up for what’s right, telling the truth, and extending welcome to everyone. And when Anthy says “everyone,” she means everyone. “Their doors were always open. It didn’t matter who you were,” she remembers. “My mother would say, ‘We have to have food for when the paperboy comes to collect. He may be hungry.'”

No doubt Anthy’s kids and grandkids will tell their own stories about her. And they’ll be variations on the same themes.

Top among them will be the story of how Anthy struck out on her own, leaving a high-flying management job at Pacific Bell to co-found Top Speed Data. She was already a trailblazer for women, working in I.T. management for Pacific Bell. She’d been recruited into software programming for the giant company right after graduating from UC Davis. Anthy had planned on becoming a teacher or a nurse and had taken PacBell’s aptitude test almost on a whim because her sister was already working there. “I did pretty well on it and they made me an offer,” she says.  “I never looked back,” she says.

But the job at PacBell stopped feeling right to her. “I realized after the fact how much I was holding back there,” she says. “I remember being at meetings, making remarks and giving suggestions. And they wouldn’t be addressed or they’d be overlooked. Then a man would say the same thing in the same meeting and the suggestion would be accepted and applauded and implemented.”

For a long time, she second-guessed herself. “I would think, ‘Well, maybe I didn’t say it right.” When she did quit, she just knew she was doing it because she needed to “be true to herself.”

Before this, “I had always thought I wasn’t a risk taker,” Anthy says. “But there I was, just recently divorced, with three boys, supporting them on my own. And I quit. I think back on it now, and I think, ‘Well, maybe I am a risk taker.'”

Right away, she found lots of work in consulting. Eventually, she and Glenn Illian founded Top Speed Data together in Petaluma, creating a company that resonates with Anthy’s family values.  Anthy was taught and believes that everyone should operate on a level playing field in the business world and she  does a lot to ensure that.   So many of us feel at the mercy of technology providers. The fine print is so inscrutable. The packages that solution providers offer can be so expensive, cluttered and confusing. The effort to combine disparate systems while maintaining security can be frustrating and mind-boggling.

Top Speed Data demystifies technology for their customers.  No one is disadvantaged by a service providers’ size or information monopoly. Instead, clients get individualized, customized packages, brokered by Top Speed Data to be priced fairly by the provider.  Top Speed Data’s services are always free to their clients.

COVID-19 means more business for Top Speed as they help companies figure out how to have employees work from home.

“We are definitely seeing an uptick,” Anthy says. “Suddenly, people who weren’t ready to make changes before now need to get their systems in place. The future of work is changing.”

What won’t change is Top Speed Data’s and Anthy’s commitment to her community.  The company’s  employees have a say in which non-profits get company support. Giving is generally focused on local causes, often involving education, children or the disadvantaged. Promoting STEM education for girls is also a constant. Anthy remembers her early career experiences and wants to pave the way for more women in the field.

We at COTS are very grateful for the support the company has provided to us for many years. We can count on Top Speed Data for financial contributions and for advocacy. Anthy’s introduced many people to COTS. “I just ask myself, ‘How was I so fortunate?’” Anthy says. “COTS offers a hand-up, not a hand-out, and I like that.” COVID-19 put on hold her plans to volunteer in our children’s programs, but we are looking forward to her help there in a few months.

But if there were a Top Speed Data gratitude pageant, COTS would be competing for the tiara against most of the other nonprofits around.

For Petaluma People Services Executive Director Elece Hempel, Anthy and Top Speed Data “are what community is about.” She’s especially grateful for Anthy’s recent help for PPSC’s You Are Not Alone program.  Thanks to Anthy, the program’s database is easy to use and yields useful information to better help the homebound seniors the program serves.

Top Speed Data has been a steady supporter of Rebuilding Together Petaluma, with both financial support and with hard-working volunteers. Jane Hamilton, who leads the agency, says that she is heartened by Top Speed Data’s commitment to providing safe and healthy homes to those members of our community who are disabled or facing economic challenges.

Susan Gilmore, who heads the North Bay Children’s Center, has counted on Top Speed Data and Anthy for ten years.  “I truly appreciate Anthy’s energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to addressing issues that threaten the stability of children and families near and afar.  We could not do what we do without volunteers like Anthy O’Brien,” she says.

The list goes on and on. Top Speed Data supports dozens of causes and Anthy’s served on the board for Cinnabar Theater, the Petaluma Educational Foundation, the North Bay Children’s Center, Hospice of Petaluma and the Petaluma Boys and Girls Club. It was on the Boys and Girls board in 1993 that she met her husband, Don O’Brien. They’ve raised their blended family of six kids ever since and are now doting grandparents to 14.

Anthy just won the Citizen of the Year award in the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce’s Community Awards of Excellence. The awards ceremony was cancelled due to the pandemic, and Anthy hopes “they just let it go. I am not a public speaker.”

We are giving her and Top Speed Data a standing ovation.

Want to read more stories about our business sponsors? Visit our Business Gives Back homepage by clicking here!

Share this story with your friends and family: