Ada Lovelace Award winners (in no particular order) Kesha Williams, Sevetri Wilson, Mariana Williamson and Adele Tiblier.
NEW ORLEANS — LookFar’s Ada Lovelace Awards are presented yearly to celebrate the women who have made the biggest impact in their local tech community. At the 3rd annual Ada Lovelace Awards, held at Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans on Oct. 13, four winners and nearly 100 nominees were honored.
This year, LookFar expanded the awards to recognize the accomplishments of women from across the Gulf South region. Additionally, LookFar broadened the event to offer awards in four distinct categories: Computer Engineer, Tech Founder, STEM Educator, and Digital Marketer.
The winner of the Computer Engineer category was Kesha Williams, a software engineer at Chick-fil-A Corporate with over 20 years of experience who invented a predictive policing machine learning algorithm called S.A.M. (Suspicious Activity Monitor) that predicts the likelihood of crime. Compared to the “pre-crime” system from Minority Report, Kesha intentionally removed race as an attribute used by S.A.M. to predict crime, and she has spoken extensively, sharing findings on how machine learning can remove human biases from policing, thus making racial profiling a thing of the past.
The winner of the Tech Founder category was Sevetri Wilson, who in 2016 launched Exempt Me Now, a web-based subscription platform that has streamlined the filing process for people looking to start nonprofit organizations. In 2010, Sevetri’s work received the National Nobel Prize for Public Service, The Jefferson Award, and was further recognized by the U.S. Senate for her work on behalf of first generation college students. She is also the founder of Solid Ground Innovations, LLC, a full service strategic communications, management and consulting firm.
The winner of the STEM Educator category was Mariana Williamson, a mechanical engineer at Valero Energy Corporation who immigrated to the U.S. from Venezuela at age 18. Over the past three years, Mariana has started a STEM program for under-served children in St. Bernard Parish. Known as Invention Convention, the program provides hundreds of fifth grade students an annual opportunity to connect with STEM by allowing them to invent new or improve existing objects to expand their critical thinking skills.
The winner of the Digital Marketing category was Adele Tiblier, who has been working in the Internet industry since 1994. She currently serves as Director of Marketing at zlien, and has propelled the growth of many other local tech companies over the past two decades. Adele has played an active leadership role in the tech community, serving as moderator for the Online Ads Discussion Board (one of the first Internet boards regarding online advertising), a mentor at Startup Weekend, logistics coordinator for Collision Conference, and a featured speaker at national conferences.
While LookFar is the producer of the Ada Lovelace Awards, all nominations came from members of the community. Nearly 100 women were nominated, representing all six Gulf South states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Florida.
To ensure fairness in the judging process, we chose judges from outside of the qualifying region. We chose one judge per category who each possesses similar traits and accomplishments as the nominees. Judging the Computer Engineer category was Lauren Frazier, who recently left Google in order to pivot her career toward the video game industry. Patrick Lee, co-founder and former CEO of Rotten Tomatoes and current co-founder of Hobo Labs, was the judge of the Tech Founder category. Lea Whittie, a Computer Science professor at Bucknell University, judged the STEM Educator category. The Digital Marketer category was judged by Ayumi Bennett, founder of Startup Southerner, an inclusive media platform that explores the dynamics of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the South.
We created four pillars for the judges to score each nominee on: Impact, Innovation, Leadership, and Community. It was essential to us that the selection process was more than a mere popularity contest or a quick assessment of who has had the most financial success or who has worked at the most well-known company.
This year, the Ada Lovelace Awards also incorporated daytime workshops for the first time, including a workshop on negotiation tactics, led by Lelia Gowland, and an electronics workshop for adults led by Electric Girls, a New Orleans non-profit that is transforming girls into confident, innovative leaders in technology.
The expanded awards ceremony and these additional daytime events were made possible with help from sponsors, including 365 Connect, Carver Darden, Liberty Bank and Trust, New Orleans Women in Technology, Cotingasoft, TurboSquid, Smashing Boxes, Propeller, and zlien.
About the Ada Lovelace Awards
As the “Google Memo” has shown, being a woman in tech these days takes resiliency, and LookFar is committed to creating a more equitable tech community. While women comprise more than half of the U.S. workforce, only 26 percent of computing jobs were held by women in 2016, with just three percent of all computing jobs held by African-American women. (Source: https://www.ncwit.
LookFar’s President, Chris Reade, dreamed up the Ada Lovelace Award in 2015. The father of a young daughter, he was struck by how few prominent female role models he knew in science and technology. The awards are named after Ada Lovelace, the Victorian-era mathematician and writer widely regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.
LookFar is a New Orleans startup studio and the producer of the Ada Lovelace Award.