About

Ascent Stage is the personal weblog of me, John Tolva. I was born and now currently live in Chicago.

I do lots of things, mostly involving technology, complex systems, and the built world.

I lead the PositivEnergy Practice, a clean tech systems engineering firm for buildings and cities. It’s an incredible company, doing important work as our planet’s urbanization continues.

In March 2014 I was named to Chicago’s Design 50 by Newcity. With an obligatory reference to DJ’ing.

I’m a trustee at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, an organization dedicated to advancing public interest and education in architecture and design. Often this is done while floating down the Chicago River.

I served as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chief Technology Officer for the City of Chicago from 2011 to 2013. We accomplished a great deal. The White House honored me as a Champion of Change during my time with the City. For real.

From 1998 to 2011 I worked for IBM, mostly on applications of technology in cultural, social, and environmental domains. This post details a bit about what I did there.

In 2007 the small town of Barile, Italy — birthplace of my great-grandparents — recognized me as a distinguished “fellow citizen” for my work to promote the region and cultural heritage in general. I don’t expect you to believe that, because I barely did. But it really happened.

In 2006 I was honored as one of 40 Under 40 in the business community by Crain’s Chicago Business. Somehow.

My background is in English literature and multimedia design, bedfellows less strange than you might think. I’m interested in language, literature, music, design, architecture, urban planning, mass transit, spaceflight, genealogy, all forms of technology and travel. I have a family of two sons, a daughter, and alovelywife.

Unless otherwise attributed, the content on this site is by me, John Tolva. There are some restrictions on its use.

The epigram at the top of the site comes from The Invention of the Zero by Richard Kenney, one of the most original works of poetry I’ve ever encountered.

You can reach me via e-mail at john@ascentstage.com or by leaving a comment on this website.

Speaking inquiries are handled by Chartwell. If interested please email speaking@ascentstage.com.

Thanks a lot for reading!