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Cindy Chin Interview

Cindy Chin: Interview

Cindy Chin is CEO and founder of CLC Advisors. Cindy is an advisor to several startups. She is a member of NASA’s 2016 Datanauts class, one of NASA’s Women in Data open innovation program initiatives. She is a former consultant for McKinsey & Company, Coopers & Lybrand, LLC (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) and Strategic Hotels & Resorts.

From when and where does your interest in technology stem?

My interest in technology actually began at home. Both my parents worked in semiconductors and telecommunications. As a child, I got to witness the birth of the Internet and navigate it at its introduction into the marketplace. I remember a time when there were very few web pages, and it’s been exciting to see how technology has grown and the various cycles it has undergone.

Who are your favorite science and science fiction writers, and why?

I used to love C.S. Lewis as a kid. Then I graduated to J.R.R. Tolkien, whose writings are still relevant today. I feel like every time you re-read his books in the context of life experience and different stages of your life, you learn something completely new. Or at least your understanding of life and its placement in time.

I am also a Dan Brown fan. He puts adventure into his fiction, which can sometimes be construed as science fiction because of his use of time in the stories. History, religion, and science are deeply intertwined, and he has a way of writing relevant big human challenges into his narratives.

Again, I want to revisit Douglas Adams, Stephen Hawking, some of Brian Cox‘s books, and a few other scientists. Also, non-scientists, including Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto on Industrial Society and Its Future. He was also known as the Unabomber but apparently he wrote this wild manifesto about the dangers and consequences of technology and mobile phones on the human race, relevant topic matters today. I am not condoning the hurt and actions of what he did to lead to the ending of human life, but understanding the psychology is of great interest. It’s only 33 pages.

Why your interest in space exploration?

Interest in space exploration began when I was a girl—and from the books I read. I used to sketch the schematics of the Space Shuttle, and my Dad and I would have conversations about astronomy, quantum physics and all things related to the universe.

As an adult, the interest and passion was reintroduced by an invitation from NASA during its transition and [the] end of the 35-year Space Shuttle program. I was invited to join NASA Social in the Mojave Desert in Southern California at NASA Armstrong Flight Space Center (known as NASA Dryden at the time) at Edwards Air Force Base on the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavor from Kennedy Space Center to California. It started with that, then the Space Shuttle Atlantis transition at Kennedy Space Center and several other NASA Social events.

Currently, I am a member of the NASA’s open data initiative called NASA Datanauts that operates out of the office of NASA’s CIO [Chief Information Officer.]. The initiative is to encourage the education and exploration of data science through the use of NASA’s 32,000+ open datasets.

How did you become involved in NASA Datanauts, and why do you remain involved?

I learned about the NASA Datanauts after hearing about them during the White House State of Women Summit that First Lady at the time Michelle Obama hosted. I had read about the panel of women in STEM, which included NASA’s Beth Beck, who works out of the NASA CIO’s Office. I thought about the need of women in tech, but in particular data science and coding. My daughter codes at school, and I thought that if I wanted to continue to keep up with her and her education, I should learn coding. She’s a huge inspiration for me.

I recently gave a presentation about the future of space travel with NASA Johnson’s Chief Knowledge Architect David Meza on board a Lufthansa 747 flight [Lufthansa Flying Lab video]. LH405 from JFK to Frankfurt while traveling to the dmexco Conference in Cologne. Giving a talk at 33,000 feet or 10,000 meters up in the air is an experience that I will never forget and even more exciting that it was about space and its digital transformation! [dmexco panel on digital transformation of the space industry  (video) Cindy organized and co-created with German astronaut Dr. Thomas Reiter and David Meza (NASA Johnson. dmexco TV interview (video).]

Which technologies around Big Data most excite you right now and why?

I’m just beginning to learn about all the technology and tools that are available right now. It can be overwhelming to decide where to start, but having an understanding of where your fundamental strengths are is very helpful. For instance, I am a visual person, and photography is one of my passions. So, it would be natural that data visualization or modeling is pretty cool. When you’re working with space data, it’s incredibly inspirational.

Currently, I am learning about repositories like GitHub, coding languages like Python and R, and also data taxonomies and tidy data. They’re all tools to help organize over 32,000 data sets that NASA has opened up, and I am excited to see what people around the world will do with that data. It’s only a subset in learning how to navigate the dataverse, not to mention that sometimes data will “lie” to you, as fellow Datanauts and guru Karen Lopez reminds us, but to really look at where the sources come from. Keywords, or in social media what we would call “hashtags,” are integral in sourcing the data. Now, let’s add Blockchain into the mix and AI—it becomes almost three-dimensional and that is just super cool to me.

Where do you stand on the Elon Musk vs. Mark Zuckerberg divide on the potential benefits and dangers of AI?

The conversations and debate on artificial intelligence are just beginning. We are on the surface of a deep exploration of the cause and effect of AI in technology, and it is a natural progression for there to be contrary or opposing views and debate. It only shows responsibility as leaders in technology.

Personally, I don’t have a position on AI yet, because I am still learning, researching, and acquiring information, but media tends to amplify or exaggerate hot topics to bring it into the news cycle. I have to commend both Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg for participating in the debate and adding to the engagement of others. AI will also be democratized like the Internet.

I do recommend watching this video of Dr. Anastassia Lauterbach in her interview about being a board director and her viewpoints on AI in her upcoming book that will be out later this Fall.

Why was it important to you to go to Juilliard to study piano as an adult student? How has it impacted you professionally as well?

Music has been in my life since a very young age. It’s something that I’ve carried with me coming to the United States as an immigrant and learning how to adapt to my new homeland and expression. I was classically and competitively-trained. I stopped playing when I was 17 years old, and I found that even after I stopped to pursue more scientific and academic pursuits, I missed it. I would listen to music all the time, especially studying for exams. I work best with classical music, and I have had some of the most productive moments and best ideas sitting in on a New York Philharmonic rehearsal.

Studying at Juilliard came to me in the most fascinating of stories. It pretty much involved Daniel Barenboim, The Metropolitan Opera House, High Society patron Mercedes Bass, and The New York Times. It’s a story that’s told much better in person, and I am looking for a venue to give it. At the end, there were placement auditions, I auditioned and got accepted in the intermediate-advanced piano masterclass where we studied Beethoven and Chopin with professor Lisa Kovalik, and it was the most creative, artistic, and rewarding thing I could have done of myself as a young mom. Again, music was there when I needed it.

Juilliard itself has not impacted me professionally in a direct way, but my involvement with music and the performing arts has. The study of music gave me a foundation, fundamental knowledge, and language to describe the importance of the arts to society. It’s simply from my own love of all types of music that has led me to opportunities to serve on steering committees or boards on both coasts and overseas, or the years of training helped to really understand it at the highest levels. That time of service and engagement has opened doors professionally and, more importantly, the ability to leave a legacy in the work and conversations over the years. My daughter’s generation and beyond will benefit from it.

Who are your favorite pianists and piano composers?

My favorite pianists are Vladimir Horowitz, Yefim Bronfman who is incredibly kind and lovely. (I envy his big fingers!), Manny Ax whose equally generous and kind, and Alfred Brendel. But of all, I would wish to see Martha Argerich play Schumann one day.

My favorite piano composers are Mozart, who is like visiting with a childhood friend of mine when I hear his music, the “3 B’”s: Beethoven and his depth, Bach and his structure, and Brahms in his romantic period expressions, Chopin, and Schubert. Rachmaninoff is a beast, but my hands are too small to ever perform his music. And who doesn’t love Tchaikovsky? So many choices, but I also love jazz and pop music too. It’s universal, and it’s in my nature to be curious.

Tell us about the technology entrepreneurs whom you admire most.

Honestly, there are few tech entrepreneurs whom I truly admire. I respect them and their abilities to create and grow a company, but I admire more the scientists who created the foundations in which we can operate our tech. The Internet pioneers, some of whom I know and are friends or colleagues. So I guess Bill and Melinda Gates fall under that category and they’ve moved beyond tech to really make a difference with humanity. They also have true character. Entrepreneurs are people like everyone else. They are not gods. And if the U.S. Air Force decides to take down global GPS, then our smartphones would stop functioning as it is. Let’s just say, I’m grateful that we live in another age of creation and innovation across several sectors, energy, technology and humanity.

Please tell us about CLC Advisors. What kind of companies do you target, and what services do you provide? What would be an ideal client or investment for you?

So what is strategy? It is choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in systems of activities that are more difficult to match in the economic basis of competitive advantage to the level of the specific activities that a company performs. At CLC Advisors, our advisory and strategy consulting practice operates in strategic partnerships and knowledge sharing, we produce case studies, white papers, create bespoke innovation workshops and private salons globally during conference events bringing business and thought leaders together, social media consulting services, and I am often asked to speak at conferences across the globe from Boston to Beijing to Bulgaria.

I look for private investors, VCs, LPs, investment banks or private equity firms who are interested in investing in the global startup ecosystem, and I strategically align them with established entrepreneurs and founding teams of startups who are doing things with frontier technologies with the ability and talent to start, grow and scale great companies, all with a social impact component for the betterment and benefit of humanity. The startup stages are usually pre-seed, who have already raised $500,000 in capital in a “Friends & Family” round to Series B, often who are missing business management experience and need the expertise to bring them to the next level. Many startups lack the longer-term view on strategic growth and the ability to execute on business plans. That’s where we step in, and we also hold a board position as well.

The verticals that I operate in are under the Smart Cities umbrella, which can touch upon sustainability, green tech, energy, IoT and Big Data, as well as aerospace and aviation. Imagine, what would it take to get to Mars and then to survive on it? Can any of those things be done here on our own planet? There are a lot of big problems to solve before we get there, and thanks to Elon Musk—he is really driving new markets and another wave of entrepreneurship on a completely different level.

Lastly, diversity is a key criteria that I also look for. If there are no women or minorities in the company, I will pass on the startup or investor unless they demonstrate an earnest desire to change that ratio.

An ideal client is a private investor, group of investors, or VC who is interested in this space and who does not yet have the sector expert knowledge on what to look for. Many corporate VCs have entered into the venture capital realm and have a long runway time to learn, observe and research in the markets. I’ve been in this for years now and have spent the time in researching which geographical locations are working on these frontier technologies and are ahead of the rest. I hope to release a case study or white paper for clients on this soon.

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How do you pack your bag for a seven-year, 22,000-mile international reporting assignment?

Paul Salopek is starting Out of Eden, a seven-year narrative trek “that anthropologists believe was the first path humans took out of Africa to populate the rest of the world,” says Nieman Lab.

But what will likely make the journey more immersive is the multimedia component. Using his video and audio equipment, Salopek said he wants to create a kind of continuous portrait of the world at this point in time. “I’m calling it a narrative transect: Every 100 miles, I’ll methodically take a series of narrative readings that do not vary along the path of the walk,” he said. The plan, as he envisions it, is to stop to take six samples: Ambient sound, photos of the earth and sky, a panorama of his current location, a minute or so of video, and an interview, all in the same method in each location. He sees it as almost a scientific approach, one that can show the changes and similarities in terrain, but also culture and people. And while these transects will make for good multimedia, Salopek said their real value will be as an archive of what the world looked like from 2013 to 2019.

“By the end of seven years, I’ll have created an enduring portrait of a storytelling transect around the world at the end of the millennium,” he said.

 

Through the Looking Glass: Photographer Interviews: Introduction

Traditional media continues to atrophy, but the need for content has not. If anything, there is a greater need for content than there has ever been. Columnists talk about the death of newspapers, but we are all reading more text, viewing more images and watching more video; we just happen to be doing more of it online. Talk to anyone under the age of 30, and chances are that they read few, if any, print publications.

It has become harder to make a living as a photographer, but easier to sell photographs. Online distribution has made media more easily available, but more media now sell at commodity prices. Photographers are no longer paid simply to make a technically competent photograph. Kodak roll cartridge film and Polaroid instant film popularized photography, but it is digital photography that has put the skills of making and developing properly-exposed photographs into many more amateur hands. That has caused deep concern among many aspiring professionals, who find themselves in an arms race with affluent consumers to buy more and more expensive equipment. The price of stock photographs has been driven down to the cellar; microstock photos sometimes sell for as little as a few dollars, or even a couple of dimes. Robert Lam got $30 for a Time magazine cover photo.

[MORE]

Simple Beauty, Living Simpler

Rick Jelliffe writes about how he lived “smaller” in 2008.

In Japan under the Shoguns, there were tight sumptuary laws that prevented ordinary people from such luxuries as chairs and tables. The result was a culture rich in fabric, ceramic, paper, paper, gardens, calligraphy and small objects that could be stored away. There is little stark about a simple traditional Japanese tatami room, which can be contrasted with the starkness of the ideological modesty of Shaker furniture, for example: indeed, the plainness of tatami room merely provides a frame which shows off the beauty of craftsmanship, design and display. So simplicity is not antagonistic to beauty.

Via Lifehacker.

Festival of the Photograph: Andrew Owen Interview

Andrew Owen is the operations manager for Look3: Festival of the Photograph, which will be hosted in Charlottesville, VA, from June 12 to 14. The photography festival will feature Mary Ellen Mark, Joel Peter-Witkin and James Nachtwey.

Wayne: You were the Festival’s first employee. How did you become involved with the Festival? How has your role evolved since last year?

Andrew: My involvement with the Festival began after I had been assisting for a few years with Will Kerner, a local photographer and one of the founding members of the Festival. When the Festival secured the partnerships and city support to make it a reality in the summer of 2006, Will passed me along to meet with Nick [Nichols] and Jessica [Nagle]. Jessica and my father had been long-time friends and had collaborated on many Charlottesville theater and art projects, so there was a connection there already that I could build off of. But Nick I had never met before. When we got together to chat for the first time, we talked about my studies at Georgetown and how I had written my thesis on the socio-economic impact to North Carolina of the American Chestnut blight. He saw me as someone who shared his values of conservation and had a strong education outside of photography. With our original group of five people, it was important that we all brought a unique perspective to the table but still shared some commonalities.

My original role at the Festival, as the first and only employee, was to keep an eye on everything: it all went through me at some stage. But as we became busier and busier, the amount of people to email and projects to build became more difficult to manage and keep track of with so small a staff. So we brought on a few more people including Gina Martin who works in the Image Collection at [The National Geographic Society ] in DC, and this has really laid the groundwork for how we operate this year. We have more people with specific project responsibilities, rather than having a small group involved in everything. My role in 2008 has changed slightly in that I’m launching our LOOK3 Workshops in addition to helping with marketing and other planning logistics. It’s been a very different year than the previous one because we don’t have to build everything from scratch. Although the workshops are new, at least I know what the other pieces of the puzzle are going to look like. That’s a big help.

Wayne: How have your interests in the environment intersected with your photographic interests? How has your photography evolved since your involvement with the Festival?

Andrew: As a photographer, the Festival has definitely pushed me creatively. For one thing, photography is always on my mind, and I’m continually surrounded by photographers. I spend much of the day thinking, seeing, or talking about pictures. I am continually interacting with images and that helps me think about the kinds of images I like to create. But working with the Festival has also led to shooting opportunities through new friendships. Whenever I have wanted to pursue a new project, I have great support with equipment and advice from the network of photographers around me.

Wayne: The Festival has its roots in Nick’s informal outdoor gatherings. What have you done to try and keep that vibe?

Andrew: With not even two years under our belt, it’s difficult to predict exactly what LOOK3 will become. But as you know, we have a strong precedent that not only guides us but also serves as our foundation. Nick’s one night a year “Hotshots” parties, historically hosted in his backyard in the sweltering summer heat, essentially outgrew itself. As a result, the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph was born and given inheritance to two decades of momentum. This 20-year legacy of gatherings is the LOOK3 wellspring. But at the core of Nick’s parties, and now the Festival, is the deeply human obsession for communicating and sharing ideas through images. What Nicked has gifted us is the means to harness this energy, to take it in, to process it, and then give it back as something beautiful and powerful.

Wayne: Nick has also talked about the influence of Perpignan on the Festival. What other photography or art festivals have influenced you, and what have you tried to draw from them?

Andrew: Visa Pour L’Image in Perpignan is certainly a festival we look to for inspiration, and Jean-Francois Leroy is a friend and mentor. We also share with Perpignan the wonderful features of a walkable town. It’s incredible how much cars and traffic can interfere with human connectivity. It was highly valuable for me to be in France this past September to see what an established photography festival looks like from a patron’s perspective. But I wouldn’t say at this point that we draw too many influences from other festivals.The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is one that I keep in mind when I’m thinking about how to build social networks or developing web content. I’m also interested to learn more about Sundance and the business model that has driven them to such impressive success. But more or less, we’re happy and quite busy pulling on our own bootstraps.

Wayne: What were your greatest successes and failures in the first year? You mentioned that you are pushing harder on the Look3 workshops. How so? Since last year was the inauguration of the formal festival, what handicaps did you have last year that you don’t this year?

Andrew: Pulling together the first year of LOOK3 was indeed a feat, and there are so many things to be proud of from last year’s inaugural festival. But from my perspective as the operations manager, the number of compliments we received on how well the Festival was run and the degree of professionalism executed in all the shows and events was immensely gratifying. No one was really quite sure what to expect in our first year. We generated a lot of buzz with our marketing and promotions, but I think few people, besides us, were ready for the quality of the entire production. Even with the little resources we had, we knew there were some things we couldn’t skimp on. We had to have the best artists and we had to have the best projectors. Along with the legacy artists, “the big three,” the projections are our lifeblood. When it got dark enough to flip on the projectors, it was clear that the money had been well spent.

What was also a great success were the INsight Conversations with our legacy artists. Being part of the audience that first night when Bill Allard took the stage and regaled us with two hours of his best pictures and stories was absolutely magical. And then to watch Sally Mann the following afternoon, and Eugene Richards on Saturday, I was blown away three separate times. There is no formula for these talks and the results are going to be different and revealing in new ways every time. And part of what I think we’re hoping to accomplish is to bridge the older generation with the younger generation. The three legacy artists are at the core of this agenda.

But we’re also moving in that direction by offering the LOOK3 Workshops. The demand for the masterclasses last year was super high, and we sold out the classes. But compressing full days classes with all the events of the Festival weekend proved too overwhelming. So this year we decided to launch shooting-specific workshops during the week capped with the three days of the Festival weekend. For workshop participants, the learning experience becomes much more comprehensive and rewarding when they are able to combine their own development over the five days with the Festival’s rich mix of gallery shows, nightly projections, book displays, master lectures, and interviews with our legacy artists. Add that the instructors are three legends—Harvey, Allard, Richards—and the result is a dynamic and awesome opportunity for photographers.

Wayne: Last year, Festival organizers found it important to have a venue in which a wide array of photographers could show their work. How are you trying to accomplish that this year? And what kind of publications might we see come out of the Festival?

Andrew: During an interview last year about LOOK3, Nick was discussing our program and got onto the subject of throwing projections onto the huge screen. He said, “the power is there, the luminescence of projected images… This is a tribal thing.” I love that Nick used the word “tribal.” It’s a word that begins to capture the spirit, the energy, the sense of kinship, and the devotion that characterized Nick’s backyard parties and now the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph. With Nick’s backyard shows, everyone was welcome. But “being welcome” meant much more than just anyone could attend. It meant that you were invited to show your own work and be part of the family, the “tribe”, the community of people who had come to one place to share in something special. As we’ve moved from Nick’s backyard into downtown Charlottesville that spirit of family, the feeling of kinship, and that absence of anonymity is still at the heart of our identity. Ours is not a faceless or voiceless festival. At Nick’s everyone could show work, and at LOOK3 we still believe in that tradition. The people’s exhibition space that we created at “YourSpace” fulfills that core value.

LOOK3 is also not a huge festival, nor is Charlottesville, one-tenth the size of a huge city like New York or Miami. We reach capacity at 1,000 passes, and all the events and shows are located along the ten leafy blocks of the historic Downtown Mall. So within this beautiful outdoor corridor, where the art spills out of buildings and actually becomes texture to the social experience, we still capture the intimacy of when Nick was showing images out in the woods behind his house to a few hundred people. That we are able to transition from the backyard setting of Sugar Hollow to the urban landscape of Charlottesville with so much intact is amazing. In fact, I think LOOK3 is a more full expression of Nick’s original intentions, and having moved into town,we are only just scratching at our potential.

September 11 Remembrance

One weekend my wife and I walked into a gallery to find photographs of September 11: survivors were coated in dust; firemen stood in the forefront of rubble, their gold safety stripes gleamed incongruously against the ruins.

The photos hung like laundry from wire strung across the gallery. Others had been framed and placed on the walls. A crowd sifted through the bins or piles that had been put directly on the tables. I told my wife that I needed to walk out. The event still seemed too immediate to me to see its characters embalmed in these photos.

My family and friends wrote to me frantically on and after that day the planes hit the towers, knowing only that my wife and I lived in New York and that we both worked in finance. Their emails filled our in-boxes. Our close friends and relatives rang us once the switchboards became clear. A lot of people outside our industry mistakenly assume that nearly everyone in the New York financial world worked in those towers.

I was in Rockefeller Center that day, when my wife called to tell me that a plane had hit the towers. Like everyone else I thought she meant a small propeller plane. Little did I suspect that I would later see television images of two 747s striking the World Trade Center, images so horrific and unreal. As we evacuated our buildings, the streets were filled with people milling around, more confused than alarmed, while smoke could be seen billowing from the southern part of the city. Our cell phones were useless. I remember the fighter jets screaming overhead later that day, when I was in a line that snaked around the New York Blood Center so long that they had to turn nearly all of us a way, even those of us with O-type blood, as helpless New Yorkers tried to think of gestures, no matter how small, that they could make to help.

The scenes seemed eerily familiar. I had seen them before in Hollywood blockbusters like Independence Day and Towering Inferno, so I could only walk around in disbelief as those movie scenes came to life. I tried to chide myself for making such outrageous comparisons, but I kept thinking of walking through the subways underneath the now buried World Trade Center, or the decimated hulk of the World Financial Center, just South of the towers, where I used to often grab coffee with friends of mine. My wife once worked with a man who visited the New York offices of their company in the World Trade Center once a year: 9/11 was that day that year. What more do you need to know to understand the concept of fate? Or that evil can befall the most innocent among us?

Until then, my generation has never really had an event that irrevocably changed our lives, though there have been shocking incidents that have happened along the way: the assasination attempt on Ronald Reagan, the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, the Iraq Gulf War. But never had there been an incident that changed our ideas about what it meant to be safe in our homes, to be safe in our hometowns, to be safe in the United States. War and terrorism had reached our shores.

I believe the attack is to our generation what Pearl Harbor was to the Great Generation: startling, naked shock and surprise that our distant shores could be attacked. Yet writers of that generation ultimately became caught up in the war. Many short stories and novels focused on the bloody battles fought and the service which a generation of Americans provided. Where that war affected most Americans directly because so many volunteered or were drafted, our war seems so different, one fought solely by professional soldiers, in skirmishes by highly trained professionals, distant from our everyday lives.

In the early days after September 11, I remember an evening when my wife and I walked down to Union Square. Most of Southern Manhattan had been closed off to people, so Union Square was the southernmost, still accessible public gathering place in the city. You could see the gleaming long-stemmed and votive candles gathered into small shrines that dotted the square, illuminating faces that were hovering over the many letters and poems that had been placed in tribute to the fallen and their families. We were blown away by what was heartfelt.

Flashes of the Other World

My friend Julie Ann Shapiro has come out with her short story collection Flashes of the Other World.