The ReaLIST 2020: Meet the 20 most influential technologists in Baltimore

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2020 has presented many problems to solve.

On a wide scale, society is working to find a cure to a previously unknown virus that’s causing a pandemic. And inside local companies and communities, it has brought a big effort to adapt to the unexpected changes in the market and life, while continuing to deliver services and bringing people together.

It sounds like a time when we need engineers. So at Technical.ly, it’s fitting that we’re wrapping up our RealLIST series spotlighting the technologists who are solving problems every day.

Baltimore’s RealLIST Engineers returns for its second edition today. (See 2019’s honorees here.)

We’re recognizing software and IT pros for their problem-solving prowess to address technical challenges, and their work to spread skills and motivation throughout the community. This year’s honorees range from self-taught programmers to Ph.D.s, each making an impact on both systems and people. Increasingly, we find that this range is reflective of the tech community as a whole.

So, you might ask, how did we decide who’s real? It started with a public call for nominations. Then, we consulted technologists and looked back through our own coverage. We considered how the person in mind was influential within their organization or community, how they overcame a specific technical challenge and how this person contributed to educating others on technical issues.

So let’s take a look at the second edition of RealLIST Engineers Baltimore, in alphabetical order:

Craig Addison, instructor, Byte Back

Craig Addison (in orange) instructs a Byte Back class.

Craig Addison (in orange) instructs a Byte Back class. (Courtesy photo)

Coming up in East Baltimore, Addison learned tech skills the way many do: taking apart a computer and figuring out how it worked. Soon he was solving problems in the community, and at jobs where there was a need to fix tech issues. Along the way he taught himself, and the tech skills he gained provided opportunity. Now he’s an instructor with tech inclusion-focused nonprofit Byte Back, which expanded to Baltimore last year and has continued to grow a presence. After using his skills to help others for many years, now he is teaching them, as well.

Dr. Yair Amir, director of the Distributed Systems and Networks Lab, Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Yair Amir. (Courtesy photo.)

Dr. Amir is a computer science professor and director of a lab that specializes in performance and security of networked infrastructure. Among a number of inventions, he developed technology that used in the power grid, servers and routers. He is also chief scientific officer of Columbia-based LTN Global Communications, which has played an outsized role in the pandemic by facilitating remote performances on “American Idol” and the Democratic National Convention. Plus, JHU turned to the company to stage its commencement remotely in the spring.

The students and alums of his lab know he’s fond of the saying, “Me and you will change the world,” and is a ready promoter of the work of his students.

Jason Anton, full-stack engineer, Bellese Technologies and tech lead, Code for Baltimore

Bringing experience from Owings Mills-based civic tech company Bellese, Anton joined the brigade that works on local tools. During the pandemic, he was the primary developer on Code for Baltimore’s application that allowed the Baltimore City Health Department to contact “500-plus faculties in an instant” to assess needs during the pandemic, saving hundreds of hours of work.

Stephen Becker, engineering lead, Catalyte/Surge

Leading software engineering across multiple teams at the Baltimore software development workforce company, he was ID’d by his nominator as the “definition of a force multiplier,” as he spends time in code reviews and pair programming. For Becker, it’s about the team, and he’s focused around making them successful. At the same time, he is continuing his education at night, showing dedication that others admire.

Adam Bouhmad, founder, Project Waves

Ed Mullin and Adam Bouhmad light up Project Waves for Southwest Baltimore.

Ed Mullin and Adam Bouhmad light up Project Waves for Southwest Baltimore. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

A security engineer and familiar face at Digital Harbor Foundation, Bouhmad put a belief that internet connectivity is a human right to work by starting up an organization that sets up community internet for underserved communities in Baltimore. During the pandemic, Bouhmad jumped in set up community WiFi in areas like Southwest Baltimore, and set up mesh networks in neighborhoods where the city’s digital divide is most acute, such as Sandtown-Winchester and Cherry Hill. Since then the work has only expanded with institutional partnerships with the likes of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. It’s often been said this year that the pandemic exacerbated the divides in our society that were already there. It also elevated the work of the folks digging into these issues before we knew about coronavirus.

Aaron Brooks, DevOps Engineer and CEO, Mastermnd

Aaron Brooks. (Courtesy photo)

The former DevOps engineer at Fearless went full-time this year as CEO with Mastermnd, the technical talent pipeline company he founded. A company dedicated to fixing the gaps in the technical talent pipeline with close to 7,000 followers on Twitch.

“The goal is to make the process of becoming an engineer a very public one,” he told us earlier this year.

He specializes in “edutainment” as a pathway to bringing people into software development, and we saw this on display as he gave an intro to Python at Baltimore Data Week, and charmed Technical.ly’s Super Meetup with the memorable talk that included the line, “Pokemon was the original DevOps workflow.”

Shannon Burt, technical instructor, NPower Maryland

Shannon Burt. (Courtesy photo)

A graduate at the IT training program that has a local base in Southwest Baltimore, Burt is now an instructor helping others to launch tech careers. The desire to help others gain skills extended beyond course hours, as she continues to mentor former trainees. It also extends helping others in the office and seniors in the community, always bringing patience and empathy.

In the pandemic, she has also been instrumental in finding software that provides a real-world experience for trainees in the virtual environment that was implemented by NPower nationwide. And she was one of a few instructors on a committee that devised new strategies for internship opportunities for trainees at NPower.

A voice for breaking down barriers faced by women and people of color in tech, Burt has spoken to a group in Baltimore and helped to create a guide from the Chanel Foundation and INCO on authentically building diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Dan Edlow, director of engineering, VitusVet

Dan Edlow. (Courtesy photo)

Edlow leads the engineering team at one of the city’s intriguing tech stories of the past few years. The company, which makes software for veterinary practices to communicate with owners and manage health, grew its team after moving to Baltimore last year and bringing on well-known startup builders in the community. Edlow told us earlier this year that his focus is on the team’s approach to technology and vision for the future. Leaders, take note: His main focus, he said, is on empowering the engineering team.

Dr. Lauren Gardner, associate professor, Johns Hopkins University Department of Civil and Systems Engineering

Lauren Gardner. (Courtesy photo)

When a member of Time‘s 100 Most Influential People of 2020 list is nominated, we suppose we can make some room, as well. Dr. Gardner created the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard, which includes a map and data visualizations tracking the disease at the heart of the global pandemic. It launched in January of this year, before the coronavirus came to the U.S. It now gets one billion usage requests per day, according to the university.

Now, Dr. Gardner oversees the team of students and colleagues that keep the dashboard up and running. It started with two people, manually entering the data. Now, more than two dozen people are updating the map, and an analytics team from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory helped to streamline data entry. Going forward, the team is adding the ability to forecast hotspots.

Read more at Technically



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