Real Technologists

Trac Bannon

In our world today, technology plays an increasingly significant role in shaping our lives. The way we communicate, work, and even entertain ourselves is being revolutionized by tech. Behind every innovation, there's a person, a human being with unique experiences, perspectives and challenges. Understanding what shaped their perspective is a real goal. From The Sourced Network remote offices in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, welcome to Real Technologists. Each week we explore the genuine stories and true journeys of folks shaping our digital future. How did they navigate this complex world of ours? What challenges did they face? What are the innovative ideas that continue to propel them forward? Each episode is crafted to broaden your perspective, spark innovation, and help you make better decisions by showcasing the diversity of thought and experiences within the tech industry. That's what Real Technologist is all about. I delve into the lives of innovators to discover their journeys, their passions, and their motivations. This is Trac Bannon, the host and storyteller for the Real Technologist Podcast. I've been in the tech industry since the 1990s. Along the way, I've worked with scientists, researchers, consultants, educators, military and hardcore technologists driving digital innovation. I'm an active member in many technical communities ranging from digital transformation to software architecture, to DevSecOps. With a vibrant network of professionals who are constantly monitoring what's going on, I've developed a passion for uncovering unique stories and perspectives. I believe that behind every technological innovation, there's a unique individual with a captivating story to tell. Our goal, my goal, is to bring you face-to-face with the real technologists behind the latest tech trends, and to give you a glimpse into their lives, their passions, their motivations. Real technologists is more than a podcast about diversity. It's about amplifying the goodness that comes from our diverse spectrum of voices and experiences. It's about genuine stories, true journeys, our complex world. Whether you're a tech enthusiast, an entrepreneur, or just curious about the world of technology insights, the interviews are sure to inspire and educate. Consider joining me weekly at Real Technologists. Each episode will leave you with something to noodle on. read less
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Episode #20: End of Season One
Aug 24 2023
Episode #20: End of Season One
🎙️ Free access to “Real Technologists” on your favorite podcast platforms: bit.ly/realtech-on-all-podcast-platforms đź“ŚBob: Ok, Trac , let’s check your levelsTrac: Check 1-2, Check 1-2, Season 1 Episode 20, Check 1-2Bob: Ok, levels sound great; make sure you are set to record individual tracksTrac: Roger, got it.Bob: Ok, I’ll fade out and see you kids later, have fun Trac:  Thanks, Senior"You are listening to the Real Technologists Podcast. I'm your host, Trac Bannon." (Fade to silence.)That’s how most recording sessions for the Real Technologists Podcast start.  My recording engineer checks the audio levels for me and my guest.   I want to back you up just a few moments, though.  Senior usually opens up the zoom bridge; he knows that I am often scheduled back to back and will arrive just-in-time.With rare exception, Senior is always first on the line to greet the guest.  In fact,  I’ve had a few guests join early just to chat with him.  I suppose it is because like each and every guest on Real Technologists, Senior is authentic.  During Season one, a few characteristics have started to emerge with this wildly diverse set of alumni.  I’ve mentioned authenticity but how about lucky?  To be honest, I don’t believe in luck.  I believe in Senior’s definition:  Luck is when preparedness and opportunity meet.   Each of my guests had moments when a door opened and they walked through.  At times they didn’t feel prepared and still they said yes.  Perhaps that’s why so many have felt at times that they lacked what the role needed… that they were posers or imposters.  Amazing to think how many of these digital disruptors sometimes doubted themselves.  They don’t quit, though.  They have a certain stick-to-it-ness… a real grit…A few of the alumni shared the stress of working in tech… the coping mechanisms…when mixed with the prevalence of alcohol in the industry, it is amazing that at least two guests have shared their story and the need for us all to normalize sobriety.This first season has brought me tears and belly laughs, inspiration and awe.  It’s given me an opportunity to consider my own journey and what motivated me to start #Real Technologists.  What will Season 2 bring?  Well, we already started production and it keeps happening… guests showing up early to talk to Senior…Apologies to John Kaufhold for being one of those rare exceptions when Bob couldn’t join.  Without silent time queues from Senior, I kept this artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science expert on for over two hours.  OOPSIE! I had an awesome chat with  Julie Holdren from Wateringhole AI and dug deep with Jess SzmajdaBob:  Hey Trac,  its “schm-eye-da”Trac: “schm-eye-da”, okay, thanks SeniorJess Szmajda from AWS is also a part  of season 2.   Without giving you a spoiler, I can say without a doubt that season 2 of Real Technologists will give you, Something to noodle on.
Real Technologists: Jonathan Rivers
Aug 10 2023
Real Technologists: Jonathan Rivers
I'm noticing a few core traits in the many guests I've hosted for the Real Technologist podcast. Authenticity and a willingness to say yes. This rings true for guest Jonathan Rivers. He was recommended to me as somebody who absolutely is passionate about making opportunities for others. Talking with each guest is filled with surprises and challenges my own preconceived notions. Jonathan Rivers is the CTO of Fortune Media which includes Fortune Magazine. In doing some research, I came across Jonathan's headshot. Sometimes his photos show a mild smirk though often the photos have an intensity that you feel. This looks like the kind of person that you want on your side, especially when the chips are down.Interestingly, my expectations for the Zoom call were that I would see an opulent executive office in a high rise overlooking a spectacular view. Perhaps with some modern art chandelier. What I encountered was an average guy in what looked to be like an average cube spot or office touchdown spot. The lighting was less than average, though it doesn't really matter for audio. Over his shoulder was the only discernible decoration: a whiteboard with an architectural diagram scribbled in marker. He doesn't smile often, though when he does, you feel a sense of satisfaction that he is human. I would not say that he's a big old teddy bear like my close friend Bryan Finster. Instead, I would say that this is a super intense and intelligent human.As we discussed his origin story, and going from a kid in Texas to the CTO of Fortune Media, we touched on myriad topics including his philosophy on diversity. I was very curious what I was going to hear from this white, middle aged biker dude. Jonathan Rivers: It's incredibly near and dear to my heart. For so many reasons. One, I'm really proud of the team that I've built here at Fortune.I built it with that in mind. And I'll tell you why... One, 'cause it's the right fucking thing to do. But more importantly , you look at this from a tech industry perspective, the moment that you establish a bro culture in tech, if you hire a bunch of white nerds out of suburbia that all wanna talk about Fortnite, you are sunk, right?If I hire me, me number two is gonna have all the same blind spots that I have.And I want a team of really different people that see things from different backgrounds, that see problems from different angles, that want different things out of life. Frankly, they all behave better. Everybody behaves better when you're in mixed company than when you do when you're with your buddies.
Real Technologists: Rebecca Bilbro
Aug 3 2023
Real Technologists: Rebecca Bilbro
The incredible Jennifer Ives has become a champion for the Real Technologist podcast. She's been introducing me to an Uber broad set of deep technical experts of all different shapes and sizes. Given Jennifer's depth in AI and her new company, Watering Hole AI, it came as no surprise when she introduced me to Dr. Rebecca Bilbro. Dr. Bilbro is the founder and CTO of an AI firm called Rotational Labs. She's also a founder of the popular Open Source library called Yellow Brick that provides visual analysis and diagnostic tools to facilitate machine learning model selection. When Rebecca appeared in our Zoom room, I asked her how to pronounce her last name. I was smiling from ear to ear when she said "it's like the Hobbit, but with an R". Yep... she said that and my inner geek cosplay toes curled. It was 9:00 AM on the east coast and Rebecca had just finished a morning walk with her mom, a retired professor of computer science. I was about to ask her about the walk when she volunteered that they had been discussing data structures. The computer scientist and the data scientist had complementary points of view though Rebecca adds that she thinks of data from the vantage point of being a data consumer. Her origin story was starting to peak out... she grew up in North Carolina as the eldest daughter of two university professors. Rebecca Bilbro: My parents were both faculty at North Carolina State University, both in the engineering department, just like real technologists from the very beginning.
Real Technologists: Leyla Samiee
Jul 27 2023
Real Technologists: Leyla Samiee
Leyla Samiee is another amazing real technologist that I met through Shutterstock CTO, Sejal Amin. Lately, I've been pretty amazed watching how networks grow organically and even more excited at the incredible humans willing to share their true stories, their genuine journeys. Genuine is probably the most descriptive, single word I can use to describe Leyla. The first time we spoke, she had a gentle smile, and I introduced Bob and myself. When I started to explain the rules of the road Leyla looked directly at the camera and said "I'm not at my best and I want this story to be heard. Could we reschedule in a few weeks?" The tone of her voice and her gaze made it clear that this was a genuine request and not simply for convenience in balancing other meetings. As it turns out, Leyla had been listening to other episodes and wanted to share her story with a clear head. We calendared another invite for a few weeks out. We exchanged a few emails in the meantime to check in and send positive energy Leyla's way. When we met again, she had the same glow of authenticity and we began to navigate her origin story. Over her shoulder hung a beautiful picture of her little ones. When asked, she blushed a bit and shared that those cherubic faces were now 20 and 22. Having done some brief investigation, I saw references to Leyla being a Persian woman in tech. Sometimes I forget the present day Iran was historically known as Persia. To me, the first place to start learning more about meta's, senior engineering lead for AI and ML was simply to ask where she grew up.Leyla Samiee: I'm Iranian. I grew up in Tehran, the mega city of Iran for 20 something years I was there. My education finished in that city. I moved to Toronto after I finished my bachelor degree. And unfortunately for political reason, master degree was in a path in my country. So, I divorced that and came to Toronto.Trac Bannon: I am one of those typical Americans who is horribly monolingual even with nearly 8 years of German language studies. Learning a language has a shelf life without the opportunity to speak in practice. Leyla learned English as her second language and shared that she still thinks in Farsi and then translates to English.Leyla was born and grew up in Tehran, Iran until the late 1990s. Her early years in Iran were when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomein was the supreme leader of Iran. He was both the political and religious leader. He came to power in 1979 at the culmination of the Islamic Revolution and the overthrow of the prior dynasty. American University describes the transition as replacing an authoritarian regime with a religious authoritarian regime. When he died in 1989, Leyla was still a young teen. I asked if she would be comfortable sharing a bit about Iran. Leyla Samiee: Of course I can... I definitely can share. And honestly, these days, nothing is personal for a woman in Iran. Like everything is about everybody.
Real Technologists: Jennifer Ives
Jul 20 2023
Real Technologists: Jennifer Ives
I was introduced to Jennifer Ives through a mutual colleague, Sejal Amin. Sejal is one of the growing alumni of the Real Technologist podcast. Sagel and I were discussing how to move the needle from mentoring to refocusing on sponsoring others. What's the difference? Mentoring is often talking, teaching and strategizing. Sponsoring means taking steps to make opportunities. Sponsoring means investing in someone and truly advocating for them. In this context, Sejal talked about the value she personally gets from being part of an industry organization called Chief. Chief was founded to drive women forward into positions of power and to keep them there. Another Real Technologist alumni, Shannon Leitz also shared with me how important Chief was to her. Jennifer Ives is a founding member of Chief which now boasts over 20,000 experienced, diverse and influential executive women. I'm not a shy person, nor am I someone who is easily intimidated. That said, when Jennifer rapidly responded that she would love to be a guest, I started to wonder what sort of powerful or possibly intimidating presence I would encounter.I always do a light amount of research putting a time box around the effort bob or I put into our detective work. We scheduled the recording and sent the invite. I dialed in one minute before the meeting was set to start only to find that Bob and Jennifer were already online and deep in conversation. As it turns out, Jennifer had done her own detective work to find out more about me, and in the process, had learned about "the Ops to my Dev", that is Bob. I listened for a moment to a delightful conversation that I can only describe as Jennifer interviewing Bob. What I encountered embodied in this life force known as Jennifer Ives is something unique and insightful. She is simply lovely in every dimension. Visually, she was wearing gentle lace on a modest blouse and an absolutely glowing smile. She positions her camera so she's looking directly at you, and as we all know from our lockdown days, that can be pretty tough to do... you know, positioning a camera so it's pointed at you straight on as opposed to looking downward at it.I noticed Jennifer make constant eye contact, nothing distracted her. She didn't reach for a phone to turn off the ringer and no messages popped up on her screen taking her eyes away from me. Jennifer is instantly warming. When she speaks, you immediately sense how smart she is. There is a natural sense of trustworthiness.I can see why C-Suite executive women and those like me, who drive change want to engage with her. She's authentic. When I found out that she's a geospatial engineer who worked with super secret government agencies, I was hooked. Our 60 minute conversations stretched into nearly an hour and a half. We are both passionate about humans and about technologies. We both believe that the best solutions are those that have a wide range of diverse thinkers involved. We both seem to position ourselves between diverse positions, ever negotiating. It turns out we are both middle children. Middle children are considered the "stealth leaders" of the birth order pack, according to Katrin Schumann, author of The Secret Power of Middle Children. Jennifer has all the telltale signs: she's a negotiator, a consensus builder, a risk taker, and an innovator.
Real Technologists: Duena Blomstrom
Jul 13 2023
Real Technologists: Duena Blomstrom
Trac Bannon: To be honest, I don't remember when or how I was introduced to Duena Blomstrom. I do know that throughout the lockdowns, we began randomly hopping on calls together and chatting. It really helped us navigate the seeming melees that embrace the globe during the lockdowns. We are constantly finding strong deep topics that focus on humans. We've debated gender affirming care, child rearing, and the joys of having a partner. And if I can be totally honest, I'd consider her a friend and a crush. That's right, a crush. This is not a romantic crush. This is when you connect with someone's message and their ways of expressing themselves. Hang on and you'll understand why.One of the topics Duena and I come back to again and again is the idea of cognitive overload and human debt. Human debt is the kissing cousin of technical debt. Tech debt accrues Based on the decisions we make and possibly shortcuts we take that we will need to address or fix over time. As we make decisions, debt accumulates just like financial debt. The longer you wait to pay down the debt, generally, the bigger the debt grows and the greater the effort needed to fix it. Human debt follows the same pattern. Human debt accrues when people's issues are not addressed and needs not met. When you ignore people's needs, human debts accrue at the team level, and even at the enterprise. Teams can be empowered to reduce their human debt by learning to measure and improve their behaviors to become happier, to feel a sense of psychological safety and to experience high performing dynamics. I can talk to Duena about the human element of the technical world and she just gets it. She's also wildly independent and authentic. When we got together to record her episode of Real Technologists, she showed up in beautiful colors, perfectly applied vibrant makeup, nifty earrings, and vaping... all this to record audio. Duena Blomstrom: If I were to puff on this... Will you hear it and destroy your audio? Trac Bannon: There's raw authenticity for you. She was savvy enough to ask if the mics and recording equipment would pick up the sound of her vaping... Of course Bob, our recording engineer, popped on screen and told her to hit the vape and he would check the sound levels. Duena was cleared to vape and be her normal self. It was midday US and Duena dialed in from her office in the UK. Duena Blomstrom: I'm just tired, babe. I've been awake since 5:00 AM.
Real Technologists: Shannon Lietz
Jun 28 2023
Real Technologists: Shannon Lietz
My friend and mentor, Mark Miller, recently introduced me to Shannon Lietz. She joined our global journalist pool for a cybersecurity and open source podcast called "It's 5:05." Mark gushed about Shannon going as far as saying, Shannon coined the term DevSecOps. Okay. To be fair, everyone knows Patrick Debaux coined DevOps, but neither Google nor ChatGPT agreed on where the term DevSecOps originated. That being said, I did find out that Shannon has been wildly active on the DevSecOps scene going back to 2015. At the time. She took on responsibility for introducing DevSecOps to Intuit and helped establish DevSecOps.org. This is where you find the original DevSecOps manifesto with signatories from prominent folks from industry, including Shannon's colleagues from Intuit at the time: Robert Mesa, Ian Allison, Michelle Nicholson, and VP, Erik Naugle. There are many of us in the software industry who have always included security as a fundamental aspect of all software; that said, many of us also observed the rabid implementation of agile and DevOps techniques, which was often hyper-focused on Dev and Ops leaving the security pros high and dry.Shannon emphasized the importance of shifting security left, meaning integrating security measures early in the development process rather than treating it as an afterthought. Her work focuses on establishing a culture of security, awareness and collaboration among development, operations and security teams.One thing is fact, Shannon has been a thought leader in the DevSecOps movement and has a love of metrics... that's right, metrics. The vibe I got from Shannon Leitz is one of resilience and determination. When I got the opportunity to meet her face-to-face at the RSA conference, that cemented the vibe. She's a kickboxer with a home gym and so fearless that when we walked back to our hotels after dark, it took three of us to persuade Shannon to not walk alone. I couldn't quite put my finger on the source of her moxy... She grew up in LA though I swear her accent sounds like she's from Minnesota!Growing up in Los Angeles, Shannon was exposed to a diverse range of perspectives and experiences... her mother was an artist while her father worked as a banker. This resonated with me so much... my mother, Janet, was an artist and an art teacher and we spent summers presenting her work at shows around the East Coast.This unique blend sparks some pretty awesome left brain, right brain dynamics and sets the stage for a wide range of interests; Shannon also has natural intellectual curiosity.Her initial interest in computers and technology started when her father made a significant decision. With the passing of Shannon's grandmother, he bought a home computer.
Real Technologists: Nikki Robinson
Jun 14 2023
Real Technologists: Nikki Robinson
It's kind of funny, our first conversation was when I was a guest on Chris and Nikki's podcast called Resilient Cyber. How did they meet? Well, the same way that I met Chris Hughes, on LinkedIn. Yep. It is a real thing. We met on a professional social networking platform. For about two years, we've floated in and out of each other's networks and have an ever-growing set of real connections.In getting to know Nikki and her work, she was a natural pick as a guest for Real Technologists. On our first attempt to record, Nikki's sound quality was inconsistent and started breaking up. She said, "Hold on. Let me try something." She tinkered ,and I waited. "How's that now?" "Nope. You're still breaking up."She tinkered and I waited. Different laptop, different headset. I like this woman, I thought. Very determined to fix this tech issue. As it turns out, her podcasting machine serves double purpose as her gaming rig. We agreed to try again in a week to give time to figure out the problem or come up with some alternative solution.In doing a little pre-work before we spoke, Nikki gave me the same frustration as many other cybersecurity pros: not much about her life or journey aside from very focused cybersecurity insights. Dr. Nikki Robinson only posts on LinkedIn and does not use other social platforms. Essentially, the only way to learn about Nikki was to have the chat. "Game on"1 week later we reconnected. She had uninstalled a few games and applied a new driver or two. I found Nikki to be delightful, energetic, and accomplished.So much so that the average human like me has to intentionally and actively focus on not comparing myself to this duracell bunny. I did need to ask her the source of her superpowers. Chocolate covered espresso beans. Damn... I wonder if they make a keto friendly version? Nikki was born and bred on the East Coast, Maryland, to be specific and still professes a love of her state. Growing up, she showed all the classic signs of being a high achiever. She worked throughout high school and was in a band. Not the band, a band, the kind that practices in basements or garages.
The journey so far, the things we’ve learned
Jun 7 2023
The journey so far, the things we’ve learned
Trac Bannon: I've got to share with you that I did not expect the Real Technologist podcast to stretch me in so many dimensions. And if I'm being genuinely open and honest, there was no way to anticipate the impact on my husband, my sound engineer, my best friend, Bob. You see, Bob joins each recording session to check on our sound levels. He also runs a second audio capture stream in case our primary recording platform fails. Yes, he's my operations guy, the ops to my dev. He is very much the consummate pro who goes off camera but is listening in the wings. At first, I thought he was only monitoring the sound levels and quality. When we finish, he'll often pop back in to say thanks and "that's a wrap".As it turns out, he has been listening... I mean really listening... hearing firsthand the origin stories of my incredible guests and truly pondering their lives, situations, and stories. The first time I noticed, it was very subtle. Jennifer Leggio and I had been chatting for an hour or so and we were exploring her most recent focus: normalizing sobriety... her sobriety. This part of her journey is less than a year old though in our safe conversation, where the guest has the option to say "don't include that", Jennifer said keep that in. I need to open up, be honest and share my story. I want to help others. When Bob popped in to close out, he cleared his throat. This is a very, very subtle little noise that only a few folks on the planet would know. There are moments that truly "choke him up". That sounded great guys, that's a wrap, Jennifer. Thank you. You are truly incredible. Jennifer Leggio: It's a newish thing. And so I've been out there advocating, let's normalize this. Let's take the shame out of this. Hey, don't be ashamed to say that you choose not to drink and just go out and be your amazing sober self.It's a new part of my journey. I'm,just under 6 months into this journey, it's, I'm just getting to the point where I'm comfortable. I shouldn't say comfortable. I'm very comfortable in my sobriety, but getting to the point of being more open about it. I posted something on Twitter the other day with a t-shirt that said, normalize sobriety, and I put it like, felt cute, won't delete later.Because people die from these types of things. I wanna take the shame out of recovery. And I'm very fortunate. I just woke up one day and was like, I'm tired of hurting myself and others and not having the life I want because of alcohol. And so I made a change.Trac Bannon: That evening, Bob and I talked over dinner about how to knit the story together. Jennifer is strong, she's authentic, her sobriety is one small piece of a bigger story that makes her unique. Then Bob said, make sure you include my favorite quote. I took the bait. She was at CISCO, Trac, Cisco, and that wasn't enough. In the world of infrastructure, security, and operations, CISCO is a household name and working for them might seem like hitting the apex.Jennifer Leggio: He would push me and say, "I see more in you. I see more in you." And so because of that, Cisco wasn't enough for me anymore. And it wasn't Cisco, it was the role because it's such a huge org. My role was very finite there, focusing on security strategy and communications and messaging and such.I'm like, you know what? I'm gonna quit. Trac Bannon: In fact, this is another moment when you need to know a bigger story about Bob. Operations alone are no longer enough for him. He sees that role as finite and is all in on his next adventure: co-owning a furniture design studio with his son. He's still my Ops SME. Jennifer's own choices seem to validate his, who leaves a full-time job in technology as a senior ops...
Real Technologists: Alyssa Miller
May 24 2023
Real Technologists: Alyssa Miller
You would think that as a software architect that focuses on DevSecOps and being secure by design, that I would've attended an RSA conference before 2022. What is RSAC? It's the preeminent cybersecurity conference in the world. 2022 was my first, and I was hooked from the time I landed. This conference is known for its sense of community and inclusion and the willingness of industry cybersecurity experts to share their experienced stories.In looking over the schedule, a few talks caught my eye, and one in particular stood out: A talk by somebody named Alyssa Miller that included ideas on how to use threat modeling exercises as a way to build team culture. This is a technique that I had been using. Time to listen. As I snuck in the back a little late and trying to make my lemon yellow blazer slightly less visible, Alyssa Miller took the stage in what I can only describe as the most high powered thigh-high pink boots I have ever seen. Now, THIS was a woman I had to know. She dove into her content and I found myself nodding along and being that person that takes pictures of the slides. I gobbled up the content and more. Alyssa exudes an energy that is hard to describe and one that I was clearly benefiting from. This is a powerful voice for transparency and authenticity in cybersecurity who started out as that hacker kid and continues to be a lifelong hacker. Her "I'm just going to be who I am" mentality has made her a rising star in the cybersecurity world. Perhaps that stems from that no nonsense culture from being brought up in the Midwest. Alyssa was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her father was a Comptroller for a small HVAC company called Iron Fireman. It was founded in 1917. Applying that Midwest practical mindset for him meant utilizing the most accessible technology available. He seemed to love it and was up to the challenge of supporting his company's upgrade of their computer systems. It was the early 1980s, and as his colleagues took their winter holiday, Alyssa's father brought home that new computer system and a precocious four-year-old got her first taste of the world of tech.
Real Technologists: Robin Yeman
May 17 2023
Real Technologists: Robin Yeman
I consider Robin Yeman a friend, though our story starts out with me being awestruck after listening to Robin present at the DevOps Enterprise Summit in 2019. She was among an impressive list of speakers that year including Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Rosalind Radcliffe, and Jonathan Smart. In her role as a Senior Technical Fellow at Lockheed Martin, Robin partnered with Northrop Grumman Fellow, Suzette Johnson to present on a topic they called industrial DevOps. This is a hardcore mixing of software and systems engineering. What else would we expect from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grummond? They are two of the DoD's most prolific defense contractors. During the talk, they discussed ways to apply DevOps and continuous delivery to significant cyber-physical systems. Cyber-physical systems are things like robotics, warfighting, transportation, and complex medical devices. My mind was blown. After they finished, I scurried to the stage to introduce myself. I had just begun working with the US Air Force and with the F-35 joint program office. Their experience and their materials would prove invaluable.Robin and Suzette were approachable and gracious; after introductions, we compared notes and realized we were all, in one way or another, supporting a controversial figure named Nick Chaillan. He was the Air Force's First Chief software officer. Over the course of the next few months, I reached out to Robin for insights and to bounce ideas about challenges to accelerating work done by and for the DoD. It's been a few years since that first introduction. That is how I went from a fan, to part of a network, to being a friend. The more I've gotten to know Robin, the more incredible and inspiring her journey has been. Like me, this Real Technologist grew up in a small town, the type with small graduating classes, and where you seem to know everybody. Oneida is in upstate New York, about 30 minutes from Syracuse.
Real Technologists: Sejal Amin
May 3 2023
Real Technologists: Sejal Amin
It’s so interesting to me, how social media platforms and industry groups can facilitate new friendships and enhance networking.  We all hear that it is possible, though when you take a step back, how many relationships have you grown this way?  It takes deliberate effort and an openness to reach out to others.This is how I met Sejal Amin, the current CTO of Shutterstock.  By commenting and contributing to LinkedIn conversations on the importance of value streams for modern software delivery, we followed one another and eventually,  agreed to connect.  What I didn’t know at the time was that Sejal is an influential member of the value stream management consortium (VSMC).   What is a Value Stream?  A value stream is the sequence of activities necessary to deliver a product, service or experience to a customer, internal or external. Value streams cut across and connect siloed business capabilities.  For those in the software design and delivery realm, you may see a natural alignment to the concepts of DevSecOps and the ability to deliver value to the end user.  This is how I learned about applying value streams to software; as an umbrella to DevSecOps flow. In October of 2022, the Value Stream Management Consortium held their first conference in Las Vegas.  They chose the time and place carefully to dovetail with the yearly DevOps Enterprise Summit.  There were nearly 100 folks gathered to discuss the importance and advance the topic and I happened to walk in the door nearly last.  I had taken a wrong turn when I walked into Bally’s Hotel and Convention area.  As I walked into the main conference room, I was greeted by multiple folks I had been chatting with on social platforms and even through an occasional zoom call.A fireball of a woman walked up to me and said, “I finally get to meet you, Trac!  I’m a fan girl!”  I was surprised and warmed by the welcome.  Her name was Sejal.  We took our seats to kick start the day’s sessions.  As the morning unfolded, and the experts shared their topics, I was stunned and excited to find out that Sejal was Sejal Amin, the CTO of Shutterstock who is leading their adoption of generative artificial intelligence.  We share a love of technology and a love of building teams.  We also share one other attribute: we have lived our entire lives in the states where we were born.  I’m Pennsylvaina born and  bred.  Sejal Amin has lived her entire life in New Jersey.  Sejal is first generation US born.  Her family immigrated to the US from India during the early 1970s.