The pandemic accelerated tech advances and adaption, but it’s also welcomed more people into the fold of the industry. And engineers are are the forefront of much of that innovation.
For the fourth year in a row, Technical.ly is highlighting influential, creative and impactful technologists who are shaping the Philadelphia tech scene via our RealLIST Engineers. We’re spotlighting engineers, developers, meetup organizers and other interesting technologists who shape the things being built here and beyond. These folks are great at their jobs, but they also care about spreading their knowledge and supporting the next generation.
The search began with a public call for nominations. Then, we consulted technologists — big shoutout to Ben Garvey and Anthony Putignano for their anonymous review of the noms — and looked back through our own coverage.
What we have now is a list of 20 impactful technologists, representing public and private sector work, nonprofits, corporations, startups and a little of everything in between. Learn all about them below.
Chirag Dadia, engineering manager, Meta
Dadia worked as an engineer at a variety of Philly institutions, including Nuuly, Perpay and Comcast, before joining Meta as an engineering manager earlier this year. Dadia is an admirable leader and a capable engineer, his nominator told us.
“His technical prowess and ability to architect large, complex systems from scratch is matched only by his unique talent for leadership and mentoring people with trust first, in a way that leads them to become the best version of themselves without ever being micromanaged,” they wrote.
Stanley Griggs, automation engineer, Wizehive
Griggs has worked for a wide range of companies in the Philadelphia region and beyond, including Frontline Education, Peloton, Tonic Design Co. and Uber, before joining Wizehive earlier this year as an automation engineer. Griggs comes to these roles from a bootcamp background, earning a full-stack web dev certification from freeCodeCamp.
Along with this software development experience, Griggs also teaches coding to others, including eight years volunteering with tech education nonprofit Coded by Kids and leading an intro to Python class at a past Philly Tech Week event. Plus, he invented It’s Lit, meant to be a more inclusive version of Heads Up.
Christian Heinzmann, senior director of data, Indigo
Heinzmann established an analytics engineering team that organizes data so the agriculture technology business can grow. He has also built “state-of-the-art data infrastructure,” according to his nominator.
“It is extremely tough to make a company truly be data driven, and Christian has ensured that the company has democratized their data, and proven that it has quality,” they wrote. “At Indigo AG, Christian has taken his deep knowledge of data and how to leverage the power of data into usable and actionable insights in order to make companies data driven.”
Previous to this role, Heinzmann held roles including VP of development at Ovation Travel Group, director of engineering for data warehousing for Grubhub (following his role as head of data engineering at Zoomer, the Philly company scooped by Grubhub in 2017) and tech lead at eMoney Advisor.
Kumba Janga, senior software engineer and agility lead, JPMorgan Chase
Janga started in the software industry more than 16 years ago, with a resume that includes area companies PHH Mortgage, Comcast and now JPMorgan Chase. She has worked on DEI efforts within her current role to increase visibility for Black women in tech.
Janga is also the chapter lead of new-to-Philly group Blacks in Tech. In 2021, when many events and in-person opportunities were still shut down because of the pandemic, Janga reached out to the org’s national executive director and began work on a local group focused on meetups, education and networking. The Philly chapter hosted its first few events this year.
“Take the time and look at diversity and layers of people’s careers and make sure we have true diversity,” Janga said of career building this summer. “That’ll affect whatever product your team supports.”
Ian Kimble, software engineer, Change Machine
Outside of his day job, Kimble is the executive director and cofounder of Black Tech Philly, an organization focused on helping people break into the tech industry. Kimble and his fellow cofounders host meetups where they help people on projects and give them advice for landing their first tech position.
“We wanted to be able to provide educational resources and tools so that people can have a place to start, but also, raising awareness and making people in Black and brown communities know that these types of roles exist and the benefits of working in tech,” he told Technical.ly in August.
Kimble was previously an instructor at Nucamp Coding Bootcamp and a volunteer developer at Code for Philly.
Afia Kyalo, software engineer, Benefits Data Trust
At the Center City nonprofit focused on helping people access public benefits, Kyalo works on PRISM, the org’s app that helps people find out which government benefits they qualify for. She’s also into civic hacking, software-for-good and open-source technology. Her nominator told us Ruby on Rails code “becomes a living, breathing thing,” in Kyalo’s hands.
“Afia is that rare software engineer who thinks about the people using the software and gaining from it as much as she thinks about how to fix/add features/improve the codebase,” her nominator wrote.
Dan Lopez, director, Login.gov
Until recently, Lopez was one of the City of Philadelphia’s highest-ranking technologists, serving as director of software engineering for three and a half years. He and Director of Digital Services Sara Hall launched the Office of Innovation and Technology Apprenticeship Program, bringing City workers from other departments into the tech field through education and training.
Last month, Lopez continued his career in government while becoming the director of Login.gov, a secure sign-in service the public can use to log in to participating government agencies. He also runs a blog with posts about building developer communities, why context matters in technology and hot takes on the take-home part of technical interviews.
“I’m a product focused engineer — I have strong opinions and love talking to users about ways to make products work better for them,” he self-described.
Evi Manioti, principal software engineer, Tendo
Manioti has been working in software for more than two decades, working on and leading teams in the healthcare space before joining Tendo, Technical.ly’s top-ranked RealLIST Startups honoree in 2022. Since joining the company a little more than a year ago, Manioti has influenced the preparation for Tendo’s Patient Care App, her nominator said, and she’s also a “thoughtful technical leader” who regularly offers guidance to more junior members of the software team.
“Evi is an overall fantastic person to work with, and she is an inspiration for what engineers can accomplish in their careers,” her nominator wrote. “It is especially impactful for female-identifying engineers to have a great role model for how a variety of people can pave the way in tech.”
Karolyn Maynard, director of technology audit, Comcast
Maynard is a co-lead of the BENgineers, a professional organization for Black engineers within the telecommunications giant. She also founded BENgineers(HER), a group for Black women engineers.
“It was not an easy task to fill the shoes of the previous leaders of the BENgineers,” wrote one of Maynard’s nominators. “But Karolyn has carved her own unique path as a leader of this Technology Resource Group.”
Maynard puts effort into mentoring and coaching people about their careers.
“Karolyn has taken every effort to reach out [to] individuals of all levels, including those who are trying to transition to tech, and establish workshops and talks to help provide the information they need to get to that next step,” another nominator said.
Brian McElaney, Ruby on Rails contractor
McElaney has had a hand in shaping some of Philly’s most notable tech companies, including WebLinc, RevZilla and Think Company, and most recently as the VP of software product for esports company Nerd Street Gamers. In 2021, McElaney struck out on his own, working with engineers, designers and investors to help a handful of companies find their product market fit. McElaney also has been working on a contract with OmbuLabs alongside the FastRuby team working on their API development and Ruby on Rails version upgrades.
McElaney is active in the tech community, notably speaking pre-pandemic on the concept of a “culture fit” in tech hiring. At the 100th meetup of GDG Philly, for instance, he spoke about how tech companies sometimes fail to realize how the roles and personalities of their employees must work together — and “it’s something that holds us back.”
Stephen Pettus, senior software engineer, McGraw Hill
Prior to his current position at the educational publishing company, Pettus was a software developer at Penn Mutual for three years. He also previously worked as lead software developer at Creative Tech Works Design Studio and was the CTO of the startup Myavana, a personalized hair product company.
Pettus has also worked at the coding bootcamp Zip Code Wilmington where he taught Java and the Spring Framework. The Temple University computer science grad also developed in-house systems for Zip Code and helped create computer science curriculum for Delaware schools.
Miriam Peskowitz, software engineer, Benefits Data Trust
Peskowitz has been involved in the tech space for more than a decade in a variety of roles — as a tech founder, a brand consultant and content strategist for LEGO, as a tech coach at the Flatiron School, and in her role as a software engineer for the nonprofit Benefits Data Trust.
“Philly’s been such an amazing community for women in tech. I think they’ve had more desire to become inclusive than other tech communities,” she told Technical.ly in 2019. “It’s been a really positive place to do this work.”
Dain Saint, interactive stories developer, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“If you consider my career to be in development, this is a good position. But as a creator and artist, this is one piece of the puzzle,” Saint told Technical.ly when he was featured in our How I Got Here series in 2021 for his art and tech journey.
With a background in interactive design, he cofounded video game design biz Cipher Prime in 2008. He joined the Inquirer in 2020, where he works on digital projects highlighting complicated issues in Philly.
Saint was on the Inquirer team that won a Mid-Atlantic Region Emmy this year in the news feature, multiple reports category. He was a producer and designer for the “Wildest Dreams” multimedia project.
Salas Saraiya, cofounder and CTO, Employee Cycle
Employee Cycle makes an analytics dashboard for HR reporting. Saraiya’s nominator told us that he is “the mastermind who prioritizes DE&I through the Employee Cycle supply chain with vendors, contractors, as well as their own workforce and team.”
He also is a mentor to two Coded by Kids alumni and is a member of the LIFT Labs Techstars class of 2021.
His past roles include being a programmer analyst for maternity retailer Destination Maternity and working in client relations at Shindig Mobile, an event app. He’s also previously served as the mentorship chair of the Philadelphia chapter of the New Leaders Council.
Martin Snyder, VP of engineering, Pinnacle 21
Snyder counts 20 years in the Philly tech meetup community, including leading the Philly Java Users Group and bring named “JUGmaster” to lead the group’s revival. He is also on the organizing committee of the annual Philly ETE conference and involved with the likes of Philly Lambda, Philly Area Scala Enthusiasts and the Northeast Scala Symposium. He’s an occasional conference speaker, too.
Prior to his current role, Snyder worked for 16 years at Wingspan Technology first as a principle technologist and product manager, and later as director of software development and CTO. He previously founded a computer game development company called Ethermoon Entertainment Inc.
Jonathan Tannen, senior data scientist, Blue Rose Research
Civic technologist Tannan’s career has taken him from high school STEM teacher to research engineering manager at Meta, now to senior data scientist at Blue Rose Research. His technical skills have been applied to a range of projects, as he’s studied public affairs and urban and population policy.
Along with his work for private companies, you might know him from his work on Sixty-Six Wards, a data-based analysis of Philadelphia elections. He’s used his background in statistics and quantitative social science to make political information more accessible to the masses in Philadelphia.
On Sept. 1, Tannen started work with Blue Rose Research, writing on Twitter that he’s blending his day job with election work, and was excited to “learn from the very best about polling, election forecasting, and helping good candidates win elections.”
Audrey Troutt, VP of engineering, Tomo
Trout has been involved in the Philly tech scene for more than a decade, working with orgs like Techgirlz, the Women in Tech Summit and Chariot Solutions’ Philly ETE. She is now the VP of engineering at Tomo, where she built the software engineering arm of the real estate tech startup from the ground up.
Troutt’s engineering experience has taken her to many different tech companies in Philadelphia, including former startup darling Artisan Mobile and SnipSnap, and most recently held the position of director of mobile engineering for Comcast. There, she spoke on panels and contributed to professional development training for her team and beyond.
Andrey Utis, VP of software engineering for payments and money movement, Capital One
Utis has been with financial institution giant Capital One for 11 years, leading some of its fintech efforts relating to money movement, payment platforms and web and mobile customer experience.
Over the summer, the company announced it would be opening a Center City innovation and collaboration space to draw in more than 100 new tech team members, and that Utis and VP of Product Management Amanda Cronin would lead the office. Utis is hiring for a slate of engineers — mobile, full stack and back end, he recently shared on LinkedIn.
Noel Victor, senior IT application developer, The Wharton School
Victor’s nominator gave him a shoutout for taking the lead on a project building a text analytics platform for financial researchers at over 500 universities around the world. His work made it possible for researchers to cross reference text analytics and traditional finance data. He also combined the use of ElasticSearch and PostgreSQL to create a text search system that can be used with traditional finance data, they wrote.
Victor holds a masters degree in biotechnology with a concentration in computational biology from the University of Pennsylvania. And beyond serving as a mentor, he also has a cool hobby: “Noel is incredibly friendly, always willing to help junior developers, and makes his own ice cream,” his nominator said.
Wolfe’s nominator called her “a rockstar up and coming engineer, a moral [conscience], keeper of culture and a delightful person to work with.”
After graduating from Drexel University in 2020 with a degree in Game Design and Production, Wolfe started her career at QuotaPath as an intern, then a software engineer, and was promoted to a team lead this year. Per her LinkedIn bio, her motto is “to create art through code.”
She was also named QuotaPath’s Navigator of the Year, a peer-nominated award based on the company’s values, this past January. Wolfe’s nominator said she led the team that built a forthcoming QuotaPath feature.
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.