This is the fifth year that Technical.ly is recognizing influential technologists in our community who show impressive technical aptitude, community leadership and collaborative practices, aka our RealLIST Engineers. These people are software engineers, IT directors, cybersecurity pros and more, but what they all have in common is a passion for tech and a desire to spread their knowledge through volunteering, public speaking, mentorship and the like.
Technical.ly spent the last few weeks gathering nominations from our community and reviewing the past year of reporting before narrowing it down to this list. Click to see the 2022, 2021, 2020 and 2019 editions. Spoiler alert: We were tasked with keeping this one to just 15 technologists, but you’ll spot two co-leaders of one org, so technically there are 16 on this list. More to love, right?
Without further ado, check out this year’s RealLIST Engineers.
Eric Belardo, business unit security officer, Dell
Belardo has been working in cybersecurity for 33 years. He was a member of the military before working in the civilian market at companies such as ProtectX Cyber Solutions.
Outside of his current day job at Dell, Belardo is the founder and executive director of Raíces Cyber, an organization that supports Hispanic, Latino, Latina and Latinx people in cybersecurity.
“People want to see themselves represented when they’re going into a field,” he previously told Technical.ly. “They want to be able to see somebody that looks like me, in that company, or in that conference, or something. It’s about representation [and] seeing yourself where you want to be.”
Jason Blanchard, engineering lead, Employee Cycle
Before his current role at the local HR tech firm, Blanchard was an engineering team lead at Instructure and a senior software engineer at Practice. He was also previously a course instructor at New York Code + Design Academy.
“In addition to his stellar work in a leadership role for our organization, he has also started spreading that philosophy and methodology through public speaking efforts,” Blanchard’s nominator wrote.
Last year, for instance, Blanchard spoke at the national conference LeadDev NYC with his talk titled “Everything is a Migration: Putting Evolutionary Architecture into Practice.”
Boutell is a bit of an early internet celebrity, having created early web analytics software and a popular shareware application. He is also one of the brains behind the PNG file format.
Other cool projects include biology visualizations at his first tech job as a programmer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and creating RealAudio when he was a software engineer at RealNetworks. At his current company, Boutell led the software effort to create ApostropheCMS.
Leslie Chapman, engineering fellow, Comcast
Chapman has 20 years of engineering experience, with one highlight of her career being a technical lead of Comcast’s X1 platform.
Her nominator said Chapman is also passionate about helping young women enter the technology field and makes herself available to support other engineers. She has written about addressing bias in tech, making tech terms more digestible and navigating organizational changes.
“Along with being a tremendous engineer, she prides herself on being someone that others would want to work with,” her nominator wrote. “She’s a thoughtful, impactful engineer who will continue to shape the future of tech for years to come.”
Amy Chen, staff partner engineer, dbt Labs
Chen has been at dbt Labs for almost five years. Before their current role, they were a partner engineering manager and senior partner engineer at the company. Chen has been expanding their expertise via public speaking, including earlier this year at the international Kafka Summit, dbt Labs’ own Coalesce conference, a data.world panel on data governance and other online forums.
Chen also counts previous experience in the chemical manufacturing industry, with degrees in chemistry and classics from Bryn Mawr College. They’re also involved with organizing the Radical Climbing Festival, called “a space for climbers of color, adaptive climbers, LGTBQIA climbers with a specific focus on trans and nonbinary folks.”
Jeremy Gatens, IT director, University of Pennsylvania
Gatens’ role is to support the technology behind the human resource department at Penn, and was recently involved in the launch of a new support model for HR. He is also a member of the university’s Accessibility User Group, which is dedicated to making tech more accessible for Penn employees.
“Jeremy’s life mission revolves around merging individual passions with technology, always beginning with the pivotal question, ‘How can he assist?’” his nominator said.
Gatens also incorporates AI into his everyday work, such as developing ChatGPT-integrated web applications.
Ashley Griffin, software engineering manager, HealthVerity
Before working at the Center City-based data company that serves the healthcare industry, Griffin was a development chapter lead and software developer at Vanguard. She’s been in her current role for about a year.
During her talk on imposter syndrome at Technical.ly’s 2023 Developers Conference. Griffin discussed her personal experiences with imposter syndrome and advised attendees to find a positive support network — and embrace failure.
“It’s a false belief that you’re not as intelligent and as capable as others see you, despite evidence supporting that you have those capabilities and intelligence,” she said during the talk.
Matthew Hawthorne, independent software consultant, Supreme Informatics
Hawthorne’s previous roles include staff software engineer at Twitter, senior principal engineer at Comcast and senior software engineer at Netflix.
His nominator said his extensive experience allows him to “zoom out” to see how the larger product will turn out when working on a project.
“He brings much more to the table beyond his technical prowess; he’s also a great leader who can communicate effectively, asking the right questions and making change happen even during the trickiest of organizational situations,” his nominator wrote.
Noah Lee, senior business data analyst, SEPTA
“Noah is the brains behind all SEPTA’s emerging internal data analytics capacity,” Lee’s nominator said.
Earlier this year, Lee shared SEPTA’s new Open Data Portal on his LinkedIn, saying that this tool will help make SEPTA’s data more accessible.
Before pursuing his interests in data analytics and visualization, Lee received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania.
Brandon Morton, VP of AI innovation, Lithero
Morton is in his first startup tech role at the University City company that uses artificial intelligence to review marketing materials for drug companies. He previously was a researcher and project director of civic technologies at Drexel University’s ExCITe Center. Morton has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Drexel.
At Lithero, Morton is in charge of developing the analytical backend of the company’s platform. He recently told Technical.ly that it was challenging to adjust from the expectations of academia to a startup, but he enjoys the problem-solving aspect of his role and the small team atmosphere: “Everything I touch the user eventually sees, so it’s very impactful, the work that I’m doing,” he said.
Khalil Saboor, software engineer II, American Express
Saboor and Ryan Small (see below) are two of the cofounders of Black Tech Philly, an organization focused on tech education and supporting new technologists who are entering the industry. (Their third cofounder, Ian Kimble, was featured on Technical.ly’s 2022 RealLIST Engineers.)
Saboor previously told Technical.ly his tech journey was not straightforward. He is an alumnus of bootcamp Zip Code Wilmington and worked as a freelancer for a while before he eventually landed a full-time position at GSK. In January of this year, he became a software engineer II at American Express. Through Black Tech Philly, he helps other aspiring technologists pursue tech careers.
Gary Sieling, senior principal software engineer, Certara
Prior to his role at Certara, which in 2021 acquired Blue Bell-based software company Pinnacle 21, Sieling has held senior roles at Wingspan Technology and Element 84. He is deeply involved in the Philly tech scene, his nominator told Technical.ly, having served on organizing committees for the Philly ETE conference, Northeast Scala Symposium and the Philadelphia local Scala meetup, PHASE.
“Gary has also been a frequent presenter, both in our local meeting scenes in the city and suburbs and also on some of the larger conference circuit, where he has presented on ML, Full Text Indexing, Databases, and advanced programming practices,” his nominator said.
Ryan Small, software engineer, enfuse.io
Small is also one of the cofounders of Black Tech Philly (see above). Small previously told Technical.ly he started seriously pursuing tech when he attended Zip Code Wilmington. He shared that he had some trouble landing his first full-time role after the bootcamp, but went on to freelance and eventually landed a job as a software engineer at JPMorgan Chase. He’s now a full-stack software engineer at enfuse.io.
Small’s nominator said he also spends time teaching programming to students at high schools in Philadelphia as part of Black Tech Philly’s mission.
Travis Southard, software engineer, Brooksource
Outside of his day job, Southard volunteers for the civic tech organization Code for Philly. Last year he was the team lead of a project that worked on an expungement petition generator for Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity.
More recently, Southard was a volunteer developer for Code for Philly’s Launchpad 2023 event, working on a geospatial web application to connect Philadelphians with third places.
Before his time at Brooksource, Southard was a junior software engineer for Element 84 and a software engineer at Azavea.
Rebecca Stark, principal software engineer, Crossbeam
Stark’s previous positions include senior software engineer at Comcast and senior associate of product innovation at ConnectEDU. Her nominator said her “superpower” is taking the client’s requests and turning them into clear, achievable projects.
Highlights from her time at Crossbeam include efforts to revamp the company’s reporting engine and data sharing system.
“She is the primary sounding board for engineers when it comes to solving our hardest technical problems,” her nominator said. “Rebecca has grown from a core contributor on an early team of 8 to a pillar of our … engineering organization. She excels both at delivering software and at mentoring those around her to an excellent standard.”
Martina Tejeda, director of engineering operations, Comcast
Tejeda worked her way up at the telecom giant over the course of 20 years after starting out as a technical support analyst. Now she leads 14 engineers on the national provisioning team, which works on server builds, deployments, software upgrades, security fixes, in-tool development and custom server monitoring.
She is also a member of TECHWomen and BENgineers at Comcast. Through those groups, she volunteers with young people in Camden and Trenton to teach them how to code.
“I want children to know, especially the brown girls, that they can have a future and it can be as bright as they want it to be,” she previously told Technical.ly.Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 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 Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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