Mon. Oct 14th, 2019

Overheard at the GeekWire Summit, day 2: Diversity, empathy, Alexa, food tech, football and more

7 min read
GeekWire Summit speakers, clockwise from top left, Jessie Woolley-Wilson, Tom Douglas, Doug Baldwin, Mark Okerstrom, Ana Marie Cauce, and Dave Limp. (GeekWire Photos / Dan DeLong)

Day two of the 2019 GeekWire Summit in Seattle felt like an endless string of inspiring quotes from leaders in education, the restaurant business, big tech, sports and more.

Wisdom around diversity and empathy bookended comments about the state of American politics, the future of smart devices, and whether a vegan hamburger can come with bacon and cheese.

Here’s a sampling of what we heard:

Panel: Leadership: How to Build Impactful Organizations

Leadership panelists, from left: Ana Mari Cauce, president, University of Washington; Jessie Woolley-Wilson, president & CEO, DreamBox Learning; Marilyn Strickland, president and CEO, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “In life most of us will have a lot of opportunities that come our way and you have to have the courage, because they’ll always work out, to say yes.”  — Ana Mari Cauce, University of Washington president.
  • “The difference between me and someone who doesn’t have as much who might look like me is great shepherding and parenting and access to great opportunity, educational opportunity or career opportunity and if we don’t fix the access to opportunity then I think our democracy is going to be negatively impacted.” — Jessie Woolley Wilson, president and CEO of DreamBox Learning.
  • “Until you have a shift in point of view from managing diversity to leveraging diversity you’re going to be in a deficit framework.” — Woolley-Wilson.
  • “I tell my staff, come at me hard. I want to know everything that’s wrong with this idea. It really is important to have those viewpoints. Benevolent friction. Be soft on people but hard on ideas. You can’t have a truly excellent environment when there is homogeneity.” — Cauce.
  • “It’s not the diverse candidate’s responsibility to enlighten the majority. We have to go out of our way to understand the other … if you look around your organizations and all you see is you, then you need to do more to get proximate to something that doesn’t look like you.” — Woolley-Wilson.
  • “We have to make sure that Seattle isn’t a place where only techies with a certain profit thrive.” — Woolley-Wilson.
  • “The world is big and public, not small and private.” — Cauce.
  • “We don’t know what industries are going to exist in the future, let alone what jobs. … What we do know is that they have to be life-long learners. … I look for nimble intelligence. We need to make sure that kids are prepared not to thrive in the global innovation economy, but to drive it.” — Woolley-Wilson.
  • “It’s not about preparing students for their first job… it’s preparing them for a place where they have a second, third, fourth job.” — Cauce.

Elevator Pitch Finals

GeekWire Elevator Pitch season two finalists, from left: Greg Newbloom of Membrion; Jinesh Varia of Industrility; Keith McCall of Pollen Systems; Maria Colacurcio of Syndio Solutions. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “Pitch to kids. They force you to keep it high and tight and they force you to use words that people understand.” — Maria Colacurcio, Syndio Solutions.
  • “Command, compelling, clear, concise. And one more C: customers.” — T.A. McCann, Elevator Pitch judge.

Power Talk: Charlene Li, author, ‘The Disruption Mindset: Why Some Organizations Transform While Others Fail’

Charlene Li. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “When you’re leading you’re actually creating change because if you’re not creating change, you’re no longer a leader. You’re just a manager.” — Charlene Li.

Fireside Chat: Dave Limp, senior vice president, Devices & Services, Amazon

Dave Limp of Amazon. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “When we can reduce friction from what is already available today, then customers generally like it. A good example is the smart home.” — David Limp.
  • “We do not punish failure. If everything was a success, they wouldn’t be experiments, they’d be proofs.” — Limp.
  • “Dave, I have to say, this is the first time I’ve ever talked to an Amazon executive for half an hour and they did not bring up the leadership principles.” — Todd Bishop, GeekWire editor.

Panel: Future of Food

The “Future of Food” panelists, from left: Chris Satchell, CTO, Zume; Tom Douglas, Seattle chef and founder of Tom Douglas Seattle Kitchen Restaurant Group, Christie Lagally, CEO, Rebellyous Foods; and Sarah Masoni, director, Product and Process Development, OSU Food Innovation Center. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “We’re in the future right now, and we’re looking at the past to determine what we should do in the future.” — Sarah Masoni, director, Product & Process Development, OSU Food Innovation Center.
  • “We’ve screwed it up down here across the board. Every salmon run down here is pretty much taxed out and gone but we still have some opportunity in Alaska. So one thing we’re doing as a restaurant group is celebrate that fishery and help our customers understand there’s a way you can be proactive about it.” — Tom Douglas, Seattle chef and founder of Seattle Kitchen Restaurant Group.
  • “We try to understand walking the talk of organic and sustainable and our cooks spend time planting, weeding, picking, and then preserving that crop.” — Douglas.
  • “Yes, I do have clothes. When it’s sunny in Seattle you have to wear shorts, that’s all there is to it.” — Douglas.
  • “Everyone is really cyclically starting to get an increased amount of home delivery food … it’s quite a wasteful process. With mobile client kitchen we said, ‘what about instead of having a fixed kitchen somewhere, what if you put it on wheels?’” — Chris Satchell, CTO, Zume.
  • “Have any of you had success with edible packaging?” — Masoni. “A Hamburger bun.” — Douglas.
  • “About 40 percent of our sales now for hamburgers is the Impossible Burger. Ten percent of that is the Impossible Burger with bacon and cheese.” — Douglas.
  • “If you want gluten free bun … ” — Masoni. … “You’re officially a pain in the ass.” — Douglas.
  • “First big tip: better to become a software engineer than work on a pig farm.” — Satchell.

Fireside Chat: Doug Baldwin Jr., retired NFL great

Doug Baldwin, ex-Seattle Seahawks wide receiver. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “I want to work outside of politics. I feel like I can be more effective working outside of the red tape.”
  • “This is a PG program, right? Typically, when someone says, ‘Well, you’re an athlete, stick to sports.’ … Well, f*** you.”
  • “As an entertainer it’s very easy to make that business, that arena, your identity. I was the Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, it comes with its perks, but at the same time there’s an emotional, mental, physical, and even more so spiritual consequence that comes from selling yourself to that industry.”
  • “My affirmation, my value in the world was based on my performance on the football field. It was instant gratification.”
  • “We’re not evolving in the sense of empathy. Technology has been so pervasive in making life easier for us and we’ve bought into it. In some ways technology is moving faster than human beings on are and the thing that’s lacking the most … is empathy.”

Fireside Chat: Jay Carney, senior vice president, Global Corporate Affairs, Amazon

Jay Carney
  • “There’s no question that Amazon is a large company with influence but it is not and no company is nearly as important relevant or powerful as the United States government or the US president so within the private sector sure.”
  • “One thing perhaps that I bring to this job … is a little bit of perspective on what a crisis really is. When I was in the White House, crises involved life or death decisions deploying troops, whether or not we’d have healthcare for millions of people. … issues of that magnitude. We deal with issues at Amazon that are incredibly relevant and important but I can bring perspective.”
  • “I would’ve stayed to the end [of Obama presidency] but my wife reminded me that I had said two years and it was five and a half and it was time to take on a really relaxing job like this.”
  • “I never lied. I sometimes said things that turned out to be wrong and we’d correct them but not knowingly … We thought that that would be terrible for the president, for the White House, for the country.”

Fireside Chat: Mark Okerstrom, CEO, Expedia

Expedia’s Mark Okerstrom. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)
  • “The promise of technology was that it was going to connect us. But in fact, it looks like it has polarized us. More and more people are looking for authentic experiences, as opposed to things. People are getting out there and traveling more and more than they ever have. I don’t think we’ve seen displacement by virtual reality at this point — I think it’s actually the opposite.” — on whether virtual reality will take away from real world travel.
  • “Recognizing that you can’t always be successful in everything. You’re always going to see failures. Some of the most vibrant successes in business involve a ton of failure. He was always good with me early on, saying, ‘Yeah you failed, what did you learn? Move on.’ That’s something he’s really helped me with: to make sure to accept failure, embrace it, you learn, move on, and don’t get caught up in your head with the fact you failed.” — on what he’s learned from Dara Khosrowshahi, former Expedia CEO.

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