Geek on the Street: Who inspires you? Summit attendees point to tech leaders, family and others

Mingling geeks at the GeekWire Summit on Tuesday in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

It was an inspiring first day at the 2019 GeekWire Summit. We heard Monday from leaders in technology, business, government, health care and more.

And we heard from some of you, when we asked, “Who most inspires you?”

Whether or not your answers might point to people who graced our stage, we wanted to take that question to the street — or, rather, the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Seattle — for a new installment of Geek on the Street.

Ben Slivka, angel investor and adviser

Ben Slivka. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“Jeff Wilke at Amazon. I worked with Jeff in my brief stint at Amazon back in ’99 – 2000. We did keep in touch after I moved on to other things and, I’ve been very impressed by how he recruits people, how he helps develop leaders and how, you know, he’s CEO of North America, so he has a big, big job. He had to do the [HQ2] stuff and he’s got all the distribution centers. So we catch up maybe a couple times a year and talk about stuff and he’s very low key. You don’t read about him in the news and he just goes about making Amazon and his teams very successful.”

Devin Lakovics, enterprise account executive, [24]7.AI

Devin Lakovics. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“I actually have a great answer. My mom was one of the first female executives — she’s 74 years old — in the United States, for a massive company called Bristol-Myers Squibb. Throughout my life understanding the struggles and triumphs that she’s been through, to be able to get to a position such as that, as the global sales leader for a company of that size, has been an inspiration in so many ways. Down to the fact that she chose my name because it would look good on the boardroom door — my name’s Devin — and I wouldn’t have to face a lot of the sexual discrimination which is so prevalent even today in 2019. So, I learned so much as a human and how to be successful in the business world from a woman who’s done that. She still has people reaching out to her to this day and so I find that to be the biggest inspiration in my life.”

Tyrone Cunningham, development officer, Technology Access Foundation

Tyrone Cunningham. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“I’m going with a sports figure. It would have to be Muhammad Ali. Because of his realness, to speak the truth in any situation. And his ability to overcome challenges on every level and to inspire people from all different backgrounds.”

Colleen Moffitt, co-founder, Communique PR

Colleen Moffitt. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“I think this last panel was really interesting, the VC panel, and those women in particular, how they evolved their careers from being operators or leading organizations to moving into the venture capital world and really influencing where money is being allocated. Because that does, I think to their point, that does help create wealth. And if there’s not diversity in the VC world, then there is not diversity in where the wealth is being created. So I found that panel actually very inspiring. I’ve known Amy Bohutinsky for years and I’ve watched her career and just how she has grown, it’s just been fun to watch. And then to see this panel, and hear from four women who have all done different things but have really expanded their careers in this way, it is inspiring.”

Assefaw Gebremedhin, professor, Washington State University

Assefaw Gebremedhin. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“The person who inspires me the most, I think, is Bill Gates from Microsoft. And this is because of the work he has done reaching out to people in terms of software in the beginning, but lately on more humanitarian things and the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation. There are causes that I think are well within reach if they put both their energy and their money on, and I find that very inspiring. It makes perfect sense, especially in the times we live in.”

Emma Shusterman, 12th grader, Lindbergh High School

Emma Shusterman with the FIRST Robotics creation she was operating with her team High Tekerz at the GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“I guess it’s weird … my big brother. He was the captain on my robotics team for a bit. He’s always wanted to be an engineer. Ever since I was little, I’ve looked up to him. I’ve always wanted to do exactly what he did, before he did it. I wanted to graduate high school when I was 16 — it didn’t happen, but that’s fine. … I did think about studying mechanical engineering, but another thing is I’m really into musical theater so I’m thinking of double majoring in musical theater and some sort of engineering.”

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