Professional Development
Business development / Career development / Entrepreneurs / Hiring / Municipal government

Power Moves: A new InnovatePGH employee from the Peduto administration and a hardware director for Innovation Works

Plus, Pitts academics get honors and Duolingo beefed up its board: As we start the new year in Pittsburgh tech, here are the latest promotions and new hires to have on your radar.

Lindsay Powell. (Photo via LinkedIn)

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:

As former mayor Bill Peduto’s administration came to a close at the end of December, his office announced new roles for several of its officials outside of city government.

One of those was Lindsay Powell, Peduto’s deputy chief of staff, who will join InnovatePGH as the new workforce strategies director. During her tenure with the city, Powell led policy agendas across gender equity, housing policies, financial empowerment and more. She has also served as a board member for the Urban Redevelopment Authority and worked to boost the engagement of younger residents in the city’s workforce development programs.

“Lindsay has been one of my most trusted senior advisors over the past several years,” Peduto said in a press release. “Her leadership working with youth, food security, housing policy, equitable development and so much more has left a positive impact on Pittsburgh that will be felt for generations to come.”

InnovatePGH Executive Director Sean Luther said Powell will help to relaunch the organization’s University Talent Alliance, which partners with the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education and Jewish Family Community Services to provide job opportunities at local universities. Powell will also work with tech training and workforce development orgs in the area such as Partner4Work, Allegheny Conference, Pittsburgh Tech Council and Vibrant Pittsburgh to unify the services each provides in tech job training and opportunity.

“I am excited Lindsay chose to join InnovatePGH as the platform to continue expanding her high-impact work in Pittsburgh,” Luther said. “Lindsay’s experience and passion align perfectly with InnovatePGH’s mission to ensure that a growing tech sector in Pittsburgh opens up real opportunity for all Pittsburghers.”

He also shared that Powell’s position will be funded by a multi-year award to InnovatePGH from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

AlphaLab Gear gets a new director

In December, startup resource hub and seed stage investing org Innovation Works announced that Mike Formica would become the new managing director for hardware and AlphaLab Gear.

He takes on the position after being the president of autonomous robotics company Neya Systems. Prior to that executive role, Formica also worked as an entrepreneur in residence at the University of Pittsburgh and as the CEO and founder of 3D imaging and modeling company Three Rivers 3D. He also serves as a startup mentor to NuCo Tech, where he provides consulting to young tech companies, and as a an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he launched a course in growing hardware-centric startups.

“Mike has shown his commitment and passion for helping entrepreneurs as he has been one of the most active and giving mentors for AlphaLab Gear since its inception and has helped numerous companies in the region on critical technical, manufacturing and go-to-market issues,” said Innovation Works COO Jim Jen in a blog post on the news.

Though an official start date remained unclear for Formica at the time the news was released, Innovation Works shared that it expects him to be full-time by February as he wraps up his role at Neya.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my dream job and two of my biggest career passions — startups and building things,” Formica wrote in a LinkedIn post.

Pitt academics get honors

The latest induction to the National Academy of Inventors included two professors from the University of Pittsburgh. Mechanical and material science professor William (Buddy) Clark and bioengineering distinguished professor and department chair Steven Little — both from the university’s Swanson School of Engineering — were selected as members of the academy’s 2021 fellow class, which is considered one of the highest honors for academic inventors.

Both professors are founders of local startups in their respective fields, with Clark launching sports training tech company Diamond Kinetics and Little behind the immunotherapy university spinout Qrono. They’ve each also been issues several patents and led entrepreneurship within their departments at the university.

“We are thrilled to have two more outstanding Pitt innovators named as Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors,” said Evan Facher, the university’s vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the Innovation Institute, in a statement. “What stands out about both Buddy and Steve is their willingness to collaborate across disciplines to develop solutions to problems and their passion for nurturing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among their colleagues and students.”

Dr. Poornima Prasad. (Courtesy photo)

Accion Labs names a people chief

Bridgeville-based product engineering company Accion Labs announced that Poornima Prasad would join the company as the global chief people officer for global operations. Her 24-year career in human relations most recently included her role at Tech Mahindra, where she served as the global head HR for network services and region head for Americas.

“I am very excited to be part of this highly innovative and passionate organization,” Prasad said in a press release on the news. “I embrace the company’s commitment to improve lives through purpose driven technology innovation and will work towards aligning the overall talent strategy with the organizational strategic priorities.”

In her new role, Prasad will work to foster healthy workplace culture at a fast growing tech company that’s been in the Pittsburgh region since 2011, including management of people operations for the company’s over 4,000 engineers worldwide.

“We are pleased to welcome Poornima to our global leadership team. She brings a wealth of experience in scaling HR processes and practices — key to future success of a fast growing firm like Accion,” founder and CEO Kinesh Doshi said.

Duolingo beefed up its board

East Liberty-based education tech company Duolingo capped off 2021 with the appointment of former Mozilla CEO John Lilly to its board of directors. The announcement also added that Lilly would become a member of Duolingo’s compensation and leadership committee.

“Duolingo is firmly committed to providing universal access to the world’s best education,” said Luis von Ahn cofounder and CEO of Duolingo, in a press release. “John’s deep digital expertise, leadership roles, and proven track record of driving transformational initiatives for consumer technology companies will be a valuable addition to our Board of Directors.”

Lilly has vast experience in advising and investing in some of the world’s biggest internet and software companies, including Instagram, Dropbox, Tumblr and more. His expertise will likely prove valuable to the company as it looks to expand beyond language learning into other realms of accessible online education.

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 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: InnovatePGH / Duolingo / University of Pittsburgh
Series: Power Moves

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