Professional Development
AI / Health tech / Jobs

Power Moves: Meet Steve Wray, the Block Center’s new executive director

Plus, new and old leadership at Innovation Works, a big partnership for Abridge AI and a new innovation center in the Strip District.

Steve Wray. (Courtesy Block Center)
Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us: pittsburgh@technical.ly.

From policy director for a Pennsylvania lieutenant governor back in the ’90s to SVP and principal of Philly business consulting agency Econsult Solutions, Steven Wray has worn a lot of different hats. As of this month, he has yet another title to add to his resume: executive director of the Block Center for Technology and Society at Carnegie Mellon University.

After over 20 years in Philadelphia, Wray is venturing back to his hometown to lead the center, which focuses on how emerging technologies, specifically artificial intelligence, will change the future of work and contribute to the social good.

Although he’ll miss Southeastern Pennsylvania for the scenery and the relationships he’s cultivated, Wray told Technical.ly he welcomes the opportunity to enter a space where so many new kinds of technology are being developed. And because Wray attended CMU while completing his master’s degree, he appreciates the opportunity to get back to his roots.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to be at a place like Carnegie Mellon, where they are on the cutting edge of new technologies,” Wray said; “also, the opportunity to work with some of the smartest people in the world on these issues, and help to translate them, for policymakers, for business leaders, for civic leaders in a way that we can really make an impact.”

He believes that his background in policy and his skills as both a strategist and convener put him in a good position to lead the center. From Wray’s perspective, much of his job will entail communicating information about complicated technologies with the public while creating opportunities for people to leverage them.

Looking back, Wray feels his years in Philly were time well spent. But he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make an impact not only locally, but on a national stage.

“We’re trying to take [things] national and international,” Wray said of the Block Center. “We’re trying to take the information that we’re building here, the knowledge that we’re building here and really applying it across the country. I think it’s a good launching pad for that.”

Innovation Works comings and goings

Innovation Works is gaining a new exec at the same time it’s bidding a longtime employee farewell.

At the end of February, Jim Jen, the former COO of Innovation Works and founder of its AlphaLabs accelerator, stepped down after 20 years at the early-stage investment firm to look for ways to better Pittsburgh outside of the city’s tech community.

“I have treasured my time at IW, having had the privilege of working with so many talented founders, colleagues, and community partners and [am] proud of the role we have played in the growth of the Pittsburgh startup community,” Jen wrote in a blog post. “I am looking forward to starting my next journey and exploring new ideas both personal and professional.”

Jen describes his departure as bittersweet, but as one chapter closes, another opens.

At the beginning of March, Innovation Works hired Kirk Botula as its new chief strategy operations officer. In this new position, Botula becomes responsible for overseeing how the Innovation Works’ accelerator and seed programs are executed. Additionally, he’ll be supporting entrepreneurial and platform programs that support startup countries within the region.

“We are excited to bring Kirk onto our team,” President and CEO of Innovation Works Ven Raju said in a statement. “As IW continues to support a rapidly evolving regional tech ecosystem with increased investment, expanded programs, and easily accessible support services — Kirk brings a wealth of experience and the requisite skill sets as a seasoned operator to effectively shepherd the range of new initiatives.”

Abridge AI partnership

Abridge CEO Dr. Shivdev Rao. (Courtesy photo)

Abridge AI is on a mission to streamline the healthcare process with its transcription app that optimizes communication between providers and patients.

As of last week, the Downtown Pittsburgh-based company has another 1,500 physicians to try its app: Through a partnership with the University of Kansas Health System, the company will roll out its application throughout the org’s 140 locations.

“With Abridge, we have found a powerful solution that addresses the biggest challenge facing our providers — excessive time spent on documentation including non-traditional hours,” said Dr. Gregory Ator, chief medical information officer at the University of Kansas Health System, in a release. “This cutting-edge technology will not only close the documentation cycle in real-time but also improve the overall quality and consistency of our clinical notes. Our partnership with Abridge represents a major step forward in reducing burnout, improving provider satisfaction, and ultimately enhancing the delivery of patient care.”

Financial details of the partnership were not disclosed.

Oshkosh Corp’s new Innovation Center

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times’ reporting, the Strip District will soon have a new business operating in the neighborhood: Oshkosh Corp. The Wisconsin-based fire truck manufacturing company is looking to establish a Pittsburgh presence and plans to do so by opening an Innovation Center. The company hopes to capitalize on the robotics and artificial intelligence happening in the area.

Currently, the building leased is slated to include 12 employees with plans to eventually have a staff of 30 people. In the meantime, the company’s leaders are excited about both the technology and talent that Pittsburgh has to offer.

“As an industrial technology company, we have really been focused on technology development, electrification and autonomy in particular,” Jill Hanegraaf, a senior marketing manager for Oshkosh, told the Times.”There’s been a lot of work in that in Pittsburgh and a lot of great talent there.”

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Innovation Works (Pittsburgh) / Abridge / Carnegie Mellon University
Series: Power Moves

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