Business & Real Estate

Los Altos' Silicon Valley Office of Protocol briefs visitors on culture and customs

Courtesy of Drew Altizer Photography
Deanna Tryon, back, welcomes international visitors such as the prime minister of Portugal, right.

There are no signs pointing to where the office is, but the Silicon Valley Office of Protocol does actually operate from Los Altos. Although it’s small and unassuming, the nonprofit organization collaborates with major political players from throughout the world – including the prime minister of Portugal and the president of Germany.

The office is responsible for assisting and scheduling meetings with foreign heads of states and governments, Silicon Valley corporations and local officials.

Founded four years ago, the office focuses on the Silicon Valley region, comprising 44 cities outside of San Francisco.

“A lot of times when there were high-level delegations ... going to visit Apple, sometimes Cupertino government officials wouldn’t be brought to the table,” said Chief Officer of Protocol Deanna Tryon. “We’re there to make sure during these meetings and ceremonies we sometimes arrange that everyone has a seat at the table and all the local municipalities are included.”

Because of the innovation and entrepreneurship that characterizes Silicon Valley, the area receives a significant number of international visitors. So current and former elected officials found a growing need for creating a nonprofit organization that would function like a government agency and assist each city in handling protocol.

Privately funded the first three years, all of the office’s services are free. The staff often briefs elected officials on culture and customs when they are receiving visitors or traveling abroad.

“We pull everything together, but it’s really important now to have people check and have dialogue, because the world is opening up so much and things are changing,” said Tryon, a 1989 Los Altos High School graduate. “A (protocol) paper from 20 years ago sometimes is different.”

Tryon and her staff also meet with State Departments to discuss topics concerning diplomacy. In a meeting with heads of international affairs from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, Tryon suggested what cities can do to forward diplomacy and international relations.

“Especially here in Silicon Valley that’s so important, because there’s no real difference between local and international here,” said Tryon, whose mother served as mayor of Los Altos Hills in the 1990s. “This is a very international place with a lot of … investment, international corporations (and) community.”


Because Silicon Valley is known as a diverse and cosmopolitan area, the office has become more involved in the business of connecting people, which Tryon calls “the most rewarding thing that our office can do.”

She cited the example of a meet-the-venture-capitalists event that attracted people from all over the world.

“(This person) had a medical startup and she had just met someone the week before who was funding just the kind of thing that she was doing,” Tryon said. “A few months before, we helped sponsor the Silicon Valley African Film Festival. One of their partners and I met a filmmaker who was interested in finding out about getting medical care to the most remote places on the planet, and she’s now connected with the filmmaker, who’s connected with the VC.”

The office is relatively small. There are three full-time employees – chief officer Tryon, a communication director and a special project director – and several volunteers. Despite the small staff, Tryon said she’s never had to turn down any requests. As chief officer of protocol, Tryon created a master list of goals for the office to complete.

Although Tryon often finds herself still working at 4 a.m., she loves what she’s doing.

“(This) was actually my dream job, and I was terrified,” Tryon said. “It’s big shoes to fill … I’m in my mid-40s now and I still feel like I needed another 10, 20 years before I could kind of assume that role. I grew up here, born in (San Francisco), raised in Los Altos Hills, very engaged with the community and the first version of the tech (boom) in the ’80s. I was right there playing in David Packard’s orchards.”

Tryon added that “every week is different,” and that “the most rewarding thing (about the job) is bringing everybody together.”


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