15 Geekiest Geeks at SXSW 2017

The Forrest Four-Cast: February 12, 2017

From Julia Louis-Dreyfus to John Cena, you’ll find plenty of big-name celebrities speaking at SXSW 2017. But, the bulk of those who lend their expertise to the event are non household names who are doing very creative work in the tech space — i.e., geeks. 15 of the most interesting of these speakers at this year’s event are as follows:

  1. Vint Cerf. Widely known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet, his current role at Google allows him to contribute to global policy development and continued spread of the Internet. Hear Cerf cover “An Internet For And By The People” on Saturday, March 12, then network with him at a special Meet Up later that day in the Trade Show.
  2. Stan Chudnovsky. Come to the “Inside Bots” session on Sunday, March 12 to learn more from Facebook’s VP & Head of Prod for Messaging
  3. Gabrielle Gianelli. She is a senior program manager at Etsy for the Data Engineering team, where she has been leading the feature roadmap for the company’s internally built A/B testing tool and has been working on data reliability across key company metrics. At SXSW, Gianelli will be part of the “A/B Testing Secrets Revealed: Uber, Etsy & Intuit” panel on Sunday, March 12.
  4. Merci Grace. At Slack, Grace leads the Growth Team. Previously, she was the Director of Product Management at Gigwalk, a mobile workforce platform. In 2007, Grace founded GameLayers, a venture-backed social game company. Hear her insights on the “Product Mavericks: Top Tips From Women Who Build” session on Friday, March 10.
  5. Brian Huang. An Education Engineer at SparkFun Electronics, Huang joined this company to help integrate “tinkering,” electronics, and computational thinking into the classroom. On Sunday, March 12, he will deliver a solo presentation titled “LEDs, Sensors & Code: Master Your World w/ Arduino.”
  6. George Hotz. His fiery presentation at SXSW 2016 drew a standing-room only crowd. at SXSW 2017, Hotz will cover the “Real Future of Self Driving Cars” on Friday, March 10.
  7. Mimi Ito. An anthropologist of digital culture and an advocate for connected learning, Ito is Professor in Residence and MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning at UC Irvine. She is one of the standout speakers on the “Creativity and Coding: Inspiring Future Innovators” panel on Monday, March 13.
  8. Shailesh Prakash. At the Washington Post, Prakash serves as Chief Product and Technology Officer. He is responsible for all aspects of Product Development and Technology, including web, mobile, video, print and advertising. At SXSW, he will talk about “Predicting the Future of News: A CTO Perspective” on Tuesday, March 14.
  9. Nonny de la Pena. She has been called “the Godmother of Virtual Reality” by Engadget. Additionally, Fast Company named her as “One of the People Who Made the World More Creative” for her pioneering work in immersive storytelling. Find de la Pena on the “Five Use-Cases Defining VR and Mixed Reality” panel on Tuesday, March 14.
  10. Marigo Raftopoulos. The founder and CEO of Strategic|Games|Lab and Strategic Innovation Lab, Raftopoulos is also an adviser on the European Commission’s Advanced Digital Gaming and Gamification Program. At SXSW, she is part of the all-female lineup on the “Rethink the Pink in Gamification Design” session on Tuesday, March 14.
  11. Ginni Rometty. The Chairman, President and CEO of IBM, Rometty will participate on the “Collaborative Innovation in the Digital Health Age” session on Monday, March 13. Also on this session is Dr Clay Johnston, the Dean of the Dell Medical School in Austin.
  12. Werner Vogels. The Chief Technology Officer at Amazon, Vogels will serve as one of the judges of the Monday, March 13 SXSW Super-Accelerator event.
  13. Whurley. His startup Honest Dollar won the SXSW Release It competition in 2015. In 2017, Whurley (pictured above) will tackle “Why Women in Tech Matter” on Saturday, March 11.
  14. Sophia Yeres. A Senior Researcher at Huge, Yeres helps clients anticipate and design for user needs across products and experiences. Prior to joining Huge, Sophia had a political background, working with tech companies, political candidates, and governments to design and execute qualitative and quantitative research campaigns. On Friday, March 10, hear her explore “The Risks of the Quantified Mind.”

Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.