SOLTECH Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary as a Trusted National Technology Leader! Learn more
Home » Transcript » Season 3, Episode 3: Transcript

Season 3, Episode 3: Transcript

Season 3, Episode 3: Innovating with the Weather Man
An Interview with CITO Chris Hill of The Weather Company

Veanne Smith:  Hello, and welcome to Atlanta Business Impact Radio. We’re your hosts, Veanne Smith and Sarah Lodato. We’re so happy to have our listeners join us for another episode of Season Three where our theme is centered around innovation.

Sarah Lodato:   In today’s episode, we’re accompanied by Chris Hill, the chief Information and Technology Officer from The Weather Company. We’ll be discussing how The Weather Company provides the world’s leading technology platforms and services, leveraging weather and related data. Chris and his team are dedicated to matching innovation with passion for meteorology and delivering innovative weather solutions.

Veanne: Hey, Chris, thanks for joining us today on Atlanta Business Impact Radio.

Chris Hill: Thanks, Veanne, thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here with you guys today to do this podcast.

Veanne:  Yes, awesome. Well, we want to get rolling here and learn more about you today, so I understand that you’ve been with The Weather Company for more than 16 years. That’s a really long time. You started with The Weather Company as a software engineer, and you were recently promoted from the senior vice president of data, platform and services to chief information and technology officer. Congratulations.

Chris:  Thank you.

Veanne:  Can you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming CITO and share any advice that you might have for software engineers who might be looking to move into a similar leadership position?

Chris:  Sure, absolutely. Like you said, I’ve been at The Weather Company for, actually, a little over 17 years now, started as a software engineer, went to senior software engineer, director, V.P., SVP, and now, CITO, so it’s been quite a journey over the last 17 years. A really brilliant person a long time ago taught me the best thing to do to help you move your career along is to build your personal brand. For me, that’s been my big journey is to try to do things to build my personal brand so that I gain trust from people, learn from mentors who are great leaders so I can attain their leadership skills and duplicate that to help me grow and to be a better leader with my people. I found once you gain trust from folks, they’re more likely going to follow you, they’re more likely going to actually want you to do projects for them. Your leaders are going to trust you to do more and bigger things, and next thing you know, you’re in this job.

Veanne:  You’re a CITO.

Chris: It’s like, holy moly, I did not expect that, but it’s been a great journey. I’ve literally worked with hundreds of brilliant people over this time, and just so thankful to have that opportunity.

Veanne: I like the personal brand, for sure. By the time, then, you get to where you are, it’s just a natural thing. It’s almost like you didn’t know you were going to get there, but probably, it just naturally happened, right, it didn’t feel so foreign when you got there because it was a journey that just was happening all along the way, right?

Chris:  Yes, well, so much has gone on in my life in the last 17 years. I’ve got two daughters, and one’s 18 and one’s 16, and it’s hard to image that when my oldest daughter was one year old when I came to The Weather Company. Just watching them grow and having them be a part of The Weather Company-Weather Channel journey has been really special for me, and engaging my family in the stuff that’s going on at The Weather Company. They always want to wear the t-shirts, and they try to give the t-shirts to their friends, and their friends always want to keep them. It’s been a dream come true to be at this company and work with these people and experience what I have.

Veanne: That’s awesome. Very similar, my life journey’s been very similar for about the same amount of time, having started this firm and my children are about the same age, and it’s all just one big family. Work is all one thing, and they really can identify with what we do here. It’s great that your children get the benefit of working for a name that everybody knows and loves and relies on. That’s got to be exciting around the dinner table.

Chris: Absolutely.

Veanne: That’s great, great story.

Sarah:  I’m going to switch gears here a little bit and focus a bit more on the work that you do. What would you say makes The Weather Company different from other weather organizations? I also want to know how innovation comes into play within your team specifically within the company.

Chris:  A couple of questions there. Firstly, we always talked about The Weather Company, again, back to when it started as The Weather Channel, the difference between The Weather Company being a technology company versus a weather company. I feel like we’ve always been, though we’ve got, I think, 140 meteorologists on staff today in different disciplines throughout the organization, and a lot of them in engineering, I feel like The Weather Company is a very strong technical company that has amazing meteorologists that allow us to mold and adapt technology to the weather application, weather applications. We were the first in the game with weather. Back in the 80s when The Weather Channel went on air, they laughed at the company, like, “Oh, my gosh, what are these guys doing?”

Veanne: Talking about the weather all day.

Chris: Yes. There’s been parodies that have come out that we actually did of ourselves, a video that was called “The Time Channel,” where they sat around like, “Jim, what time is it?” “It’s 6:05,” “Hey, Bob, you out on the West Coast, what time is it?” “3:05,” “Thanks, Bob. Back to you, Frank, in the studio.” They made great fun of themselves but it all boiled down to the technology.

We were the first to do direct satellite communication for broadcast localization, and just the technology has grown and grown and grown as we’ve gone through the years and migrated more to a digital—obviously with the migration as we’ve been purchased by IBM. Previously, with NBC, when they purchased us, focusing more on the digital side of the business, web, and mobile and our strong B2B business. Having just lots of fun being early adopters to technology, and we call ourselves “weather Vikings” now.

Before we were “weather Vikings,” we were technology Vikings, and we didn’t care about whether there’s a million people using a piece of technology. We tried to take what we thought made sense for the problem that we were trying to solve, and we took that and used. If it didn’t work, we stopped and went onto something else. We really encourage innovation through — we try to get our people to go to conferences, we try to get them to speak at conferences, we hold hackathons, we do lots of different things to enable folks to really put themselves out there and to try to derive new ways of doing new things and new ways to do things that we’re already doing.

Sarah:  That’s awesome. Would you say that those innovative attempts to get folks out there, was that something that was started by the team? Was that a leadership decision? How did that come into play? I’m just thinking about companies that are trying to instill similar things in their teams.

Chris: I think it’s probably both. There’s no — anything that’s done in a purist way is usually not very good. The leaders encourage it, but we’ve got a lot of headstrong engineers and other technology workers and not even also to mention the meteorologists. Innovation comes from these folks, and they don’t — it’s not like where we’re working a project plan, “All right, I need Veanne and Sarah, you to come up with a new thing this week.” Things just happen, and things happen very organically, and we encourage that. We try to take ideas that people come up with and make them live products and give credit when that happens. It encourages people to do that, and it’s exciting now with IBM, we’re going to be getting more into patents and trying to push folks getting their names on the patents and really innovating, taking some of the spirit that IBM has brought to us for that kind of thing.

Veanne: That’s a good segue. Trends come and go. Similarly, technology also pivots and reinvents itself constantly, really, really rapidly these days. What do you do to make sure that you are in the know? How do you stay current, yourself, and if you will, relate it to ensuring — how does this relate to ensuring the reliable delivery of the data of the weather on an ongoing basis? If you could talk to that, that’d be great.

Chris:  Sure. Firstly, technology is not a spectator sport. You can’t sit back and just wait for technology to come to you. Some things naturally will come to you, but for the most part, you’ve got to go look for technology. You’ve got to go find the solution that is the best way to solve the problem. Sometimes that’s not easy to do. Sometimes it’s very hard because technology changes really fast and it’s hard to keep up.

We try to leverage our people, as I said earlier, encourage them to come up with ideas, come up with ways to do things, challenge them to come up with new ideas and approaches to problems. Again, not easy to do because everybody’s running a thousand miles a minute to try to meet objectives for the company, to make our goals for our revenue goals, but ultimately, we have to look to our people to help bring a lot of that stuff out. Management, leadership, we’re also on the hook for trying to make sure that the right decisions are being made, the right technologies are being chosen.

We do a lot of reading, we also go to conferences, we do a lot of talking at the executive level about things, trends in the industry and the digital media, web, and mobile industries, and in the different B2B verticals. Some of those things are new to me because I haven’t really been so involved in the B2B side of the business, super exciting for me to be involved now, but lots of really smart people that are constantly trying to reinvent how we do things. Tracking what is happening with our technology is really important. We spend a lot of time with metrics and looking after what are the outcomes that we’re trying to achieve with the technologies that we’re choosing and the solutions that we’re building.

There’s a lot of pressure on us to make sure that we actually deliver on what our outcomes are because if we don’t, the company’s not making its numbers, and we’re not successful. Sometimes you have to be aware that a solution, a technology, one size does not fit all for technologies. We’ll use a particular data ingestion tool for 80% of our problem set for ingesting data, then we find we’ve got geospatial data we’ve got to ingest. It doesn’t fit the paradigm for the other tools that we use, so we have to go find another one, and in some cases, you have to go invent one. We’ve invented many of those, and that’s what our team does. They’re very passionate about inventing and deriving new ways to solve old problems.

Veanne:    I love that you talk, that this really all comes from the employees, and so I guess it makes me wonder, is it something you all do to keep the employees motivated and mindful of how important innovating is? Is it more — I guess I don’t want it to be a yes-or-no answer — or is it more they just innately have this? Is there something you do to keep them motivated? Are there any tricks? How do you keep everybody motivated every day?

Sarah:  Are you hiring for it?

Veanne:  Yes, do you hire for it, or is it something that’s going on at your organization?

Chris:  We feed them snacks. They get lots of snacks.

Sarah:  There we go, there is a trick.

Veanne:  Oh, yes, it always comes down to the food.

Chris:  I did a chart at an all-hands meeting, I think it was probably two years ago, where I was proposing that we go from a corporate standpoint to provide snacks to the employees. I had been doing this grassroots thing where I’d go to Costco and buy a bunch of snacks, and I would put them all out in baskets. I did this chart that showed that as more snacks were available to employees, their productivity went up.

Sarah:  That’s awesome. You’re in the corner taking notes like, “How many people grabbed snacks today?”

Chris:  We now provide snacks to everybody. It’s not like Google or Facebook-like, but we have a nice snack bin that gets filled every Monday morning. It’s all usually gone by Tuesday afternoon. One of our admins, she has a note up that says, “Cameras are watching. Don’t hoard the snacks,” because people come and take them back to their desk. Not sure how we got off on that topic. Nonetheless, snacks are just one way we try to make it a better environment for people.

We try to make the environment better. We have Xboxes and ping-pong tables and foosball tables, and people actually play them a lot, and they get, I don’t know if it is a tension release or it’s the comradery, but it makes it a nice place to work. At the end of the day though, really strong, talented engineers, ultimately are motivated by solving complex problems. We’ve gone through, as we’ve moved a lot of our folks more into IBM, there’s been some transition for the past month where, trying to get gears realigned as we migrated some of our team over into some of the IBM Watson initiatives. It’s been kind of challenging for some folks because we’re not, everybody’s not, they’re going a thousand miles an hour, it’s like, okay, shift gears, you’re going to go over here.

People get really anxious when they’re not really doing something. They’re like, “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything,” and so, engineers want hard problems to solve, and if we can’t provide hard problems for them to solve and recognition when they solve them, they’re not going to be motivated, they’re not going to be happy, and they’re not going to provide us the outcomes that we want, and theyll go somewhere else. Veanne, you know this, the marketplace is super hot. Trying to attain and retain talent is the number-one job that we have as leaders, and you have to think outside the box in order to make them happy and to keep them motivated so that they keep doing the work, the great work they’re already doing.

Sarah:  I think the recognition piece, too, is what stands out the most to me because I feel like if you’re not in the right mindset to do that, you get lost at the production level, just shipping stuff and moving onto the next thing. Recognition is huge, something we’re always working on here at SOLTECH, too.

Veanne:  I like the notion, you remind me that in the field that we’re in in technology and software engineering, solving problems really is what leads to innovation. That’s where the good ideas come from, so just by means of doing daily work and solving problems is where the innovation really is coming from, it’s from the hard work. That’s good.

Sarah:  We all know and love our weather app and the ability to turn on the T.V. and watch The Weather Channel. It’s often on here in our office. I’m sure you guys are working on a bunch of projects that many of us aren’t even aware of, despite the fact that The Weather Company is always in front of us. Can you tell us about some innovative platforms, devices, or ventures in general where you are using weather data and technology in interesting ways?

Chris:  If I told you, I would probably have to kill you.

Sarah:  I know, I was hesitant to ask. I’m like, tell me the things that we don’t know.

Veanne: We were hoping we’d sneak something cool in here.

Chris: We’re working on so much stuff right now, it’s insane. IoT is really big for us right now. We’re taking data off of jet engines, off of airplanes. We’re taking turbulence data off of airplanes so that we can give information back to the airlines so that they can reroute planes because there’ve been studies that the flight attendants and the crew have leg problems from over-turbulence. It’s just the dimensions of this is, it’s not, you can’t even understand it, it’s crazy.

Sarah: That’s amazing. It’s funny that you say that because I’ve been flying my whole life. I just traveled a lot as a kid, and now, as an adult, too. I’m like, the skies are the same places, but you’re noticing that there’s much less turbulence on flights, I feel like. I’m like, “Wow, they can handle themselves so much better, even than they were five years ago,” or whatever it might be. I was curious, I know they’re same skies, is somebody paying attention to this, what are they doing differently. Even stuff like that, I don’t know, I do a lot of reading on things like NASA. One time, I was like, how is NASA still in — what are they doing? They haven’t sent anyone up in a while. It’s things like that that we don’t realize that are so crucial to our lives. That’s cool. I think that’s cool.

Chris:  Aviation is a really interesting industry. We’re fully saturated in pretty much all of the airlines domestically, and a lot of them internationally, providing all kinds of services and data to them to help them make decisions. It’s super important because if you take a minute off of a flight, a particular flight from Atlanta to San Francisco, if you’re able to figure out a way through turbulence, through air quality, through all the different aspects of the atmosphere that a plane flies through, a minute off of a flight saves them millions of dollars a year. It’s data, and it’s not all things that we do. Certainly airlines, and there are other companies that play in that space, but we are very prominent in that space and provide a lot of data that we take from the airlines, from the airplanes, and allow the airlines to make decisions.

It’s really interesting stuff. We’re also doing a lot of stuff with phones. There’s lots of information with our personal phone devices that we carry around. Because we have our app installed in, I don’t know, 150 million devices, we can leverage that to capture air pressure data that we can then use to take that back into our systems to help curate a better forecast, just taking data off of personal weather stations. I’m not sure how many, 100,000 or so personal weather stations that we have out in the field right now, 200,000, thank you, Melissa, 200,000 personal weather stations that folks, mostly private individuals have. We’re pulling data off of those personal weather stations and using that to help curate a better forecast.

Sarah:  What is that, like a homebrew kit? You order that online? How do I get one?

Chris: There are all different flavors. There’s the $100 version and then there’s a $3,000 version that’s solar-fed and Wi-fi-enabled so that you can put it in your backyard. It’s got anemometers, it’s got rain detectors. They’re very complicated now, and they’re very feature-rich.

Sarah:  Would someone get that because they’re interested in contributing data to the weather?

Chris: I guess people have different motivations, but Weather Underground, one of our brands, based out of San Francisco, they are the ones that, they’re the group that manages most of the personal weather station stuff, so that’s a big part of their culture. If you go to a location on their website or on their app, it’ll show you the ten personal weather stations that are close to you. You can see, “Oh, my gosh, that’s mine, that’s me, that’s my weather right there.”

There’s some excitement in the recognition that I’m a part of it, and it’s kind of a geeky thing. They’re kind of the geek brand. They’ve got very interesting and neat-and-keen kind of data that they expose that The Weather Channel app and website don’t expose, intentionally. People are excited about being a part of that community, and we’re looking at growing it more and more, especially internationally where weather data is not as prevalent from government agencies and things like that.

Sarah:  That’s awesome, very cool.

Veanne: I like your answer. You’ve kind of come back and tied some things together for me. You had alluded to you’re really excited about the B2B component of what you’re doing, so working with the airlines, I guess, is one of those examples, and you’ve kind of brought IoT into the discussion. You’ve brought that around, I appreciate that.

Chris:  I forgot to mention, we’re also doing some stuff with mesh networks, with peer-to-peer relay type mechanisms using smartphones, specifically in places around the world where Internet is not always there, it’s not just click on the Wi-Fi and you’re good to go. It’s important to us. The Weather Company’s goal is we want to make our objectives and we want to have the best weather forecast, but our purpose is to save lives, it’s to give information to people so they can make decisions for consumers to help save lives. We are 100% certain that that is the case.

Certainly, we’ve got our B2B side of the business, but around the rest of the world, the rest of the world doesn’t always have a national weather service, and they don’t have good communication from a central agency to help people. We’re trying to get to where we are extending our network of data, or collection devices so that we can use that to curate forecasts and better information so that we can send alerts and things like that, and stuff agricultural, we can send information to farmers in India to let them know when they should water, when they shouldn’t water so they don’t default on their loans for the common banks. It just goes on and on and on, the kind of stuff we’re doing, and mesh networks is one mechanism that we can use to communicate with people that are in more remote areas that don’t have access to some of the technology that we take for granted today.

Veanne: Very cool.

Sarah: That’s awesome. I’m going to have to corner you another time and ask you about all these things, totally geeking out on weather right now.

Veanne:  Did you secretly want to be a meteorologist, Sarah Lodato?

Sarah:  I’m not kidding, I kind of did.

Veanne:  I could tell. Maybe Chris has some connection. Maybe you can make a guest appearance one day.

Sarah:  I thought it was so cool how they were on the green screen, and when I learned that that wasn’t a screen when I was a child, I completely lost it. I was like, “That’s what I’m going to do. Those people are magicians.”

Chris:  I’ve had some green-screen time, it’s pretty fun.

Sarah:  That’s awesome.

Veanne: All right, so Chris, you have mentioned a few times being part of this other large household name called IBM, and I’d like to explore a little bit more with you about different philosophies or approaches that you’ve seen. I think you alluded to it in something you said a little bit ago about different ways of innovating now that you’re part of IBM. What are you seeing different? You’ve talked about, I think, getting people on research. Anyway, talk to us about what’s changed, or what have you gotten out of that that’s different than what you all were doing before?

Chris:               When IBM acquired us January 29th of 2016…

Veanne:           A year ago, right?

Chris:               Yes.

Veanne:           Doesn’t seem that long ago, but yes, a year ago.

Chris:  I had been working with IBM, a team of us had been working with IBM for most of 2015 because we had gone into a partnership with them. They were going to leverage our data platform to do IoT type stuff and just different types of things where they really hadn’t been able to pull it all together in a holistic platform approach. Then, when we got acquired last year, we weren’t really sure what that meant for us because we were like, “All right, we’re going to help these guys out, they’re going to help us, and we’re going to riff on some technology and create some neat things.” Then, they bought us, and we’re like, “Oh, crap, what are we going to do now?”  It’s like, what does it mean to be a part of IBM, and we were fairly anxious at first because there was just a big unknown.

There are 400,000+ employees within IBM, just a big monster company. Where are we going to fit? What’s going to be our thing? What’s going to be our part? Largely, they’ve left, with The Weather Company, they’ve not left us alone, I’m not saying that, but they’ve let us kind of do our thing and continue our journey, our digital journey, our B2B journey. Our goal is to leverage, and what IBM wants is for us to leverage them to help — I can’t say “them” because I am them now — to leverage them to help transform our different lines of business. The digital business has multiple avenues of transformation from the standpoint of taking IBM Watson and using cognitive capabilities to provide advertising that’s more relative to folks so you’re not just looking at ads like, “Oh, it’s the fat belly ads,” or the mortgage ads, just the horrible ads that we all don’t pay attention to, but maybe giving you something that’s relative to you in your life.

It’s always good if you engage with the ads, certainly, for us, but ultimately, it’s about providing content that’s relative to what folks really want and what they’re most likely to consume, and to make it relevant in their life or their lifestyle. IBM, with Watson, gives us the ability to do that. We’ve got several initiatives going on right now to do that and to extent that further. The B2B side of the business is transformational because we’ve largely been domestic in our B2B verticals, but there are international, global aspects to it. If you imagine the thousands and thousands of salespeople that IBM has all over Europe, and Asia-Pac, and Africa, and the Middle East, they can really be a game-changer and be able to see and promote our applications and our verticals, our B2B verticals into industries, insurance, aviation, media, retail, transportation, just all the different areas that we play in.

They give us great scale of how we can apply our applications and it gives us some great growth opportunities. Ultimately, from an engineering standpoint, IBM has a massive R&D, I don’t even know what you would call it. It’s just a culture of R&D, and they’ve got amazing research and development facilities all over the world. I’m going to visit one this month in Haifa, in Israel, which I’m super excited about. We have a team actually in Jerusalem that we acquired through IBM. It’s just like, it goes on and on and on. Back to the research, the research folks, these centers, they have teams of people that they have context and they have specialties in certain areas, and you can just give them problems, “Here, go solve this problem.” They’ll put 20 people on solving this problem. These people are brilliant. Having access to that kind of resource is a game-changer for us and for our technology and for the business, and allow us to do things that we couldn’t do before because it wasn’t financiallly feasible to go hire 100 people to go do R&D.

Now, at our fingertips, we’ve got thousands of research and development engineers who are just begging for problems to solve and just want to go solve problems. It’s amazing, it’s an amazing opportunity. Frankly, we have a hard time trying to find really good problems to give them, but we are trying. We’ve given them some, and they’ve come up with some really interesting things. Certainly, IBM is the largest patent holder of any company in the world, well, I don’t know in the world, definitely in the United States. If there are any fact checkers. The research I could give went all the way back to 1997, so I assume they were the largest one prior to that as well. That just screams of the innovation that goes on in the company. I’ve worked with two or three people that they classify as master inventors.

Sarah: That’s a title?

Chris: It’s not a title, it’s a badge of honor, basically. You’re a director of blah, but I’m a master inventor. When you’re a master inventor, you’re the shizzle.

Veanne: People are bowing down.

Chris:  People listen to the master inventors. They’ve gotten, I don’t even know what the requirements are to be a master inventor, but they’ve probably got dozens and dozens of patents under their belt. Things that you never even knew about, IBM has had the original patent on hard drives. I didn’t know that. Then, they sold it off, and everybody’s got hard drives, except now, we’re all using SSDs. They probably have the patent for that as well, I don’t know. It’s just amazing, just the research and capabilities that they have that they can lend to us to add scale to what we do, and we’re very excited about that.

Sarah:  That’s huge, and it’s only been a year, too, which is pretty incredible. I’m clearly jumping out of my seat over here, excited, but no, seriously eager to see how that continues to grow within The Weather Company and what you all do to leverage that, those resources, and vice versa. I’ve got a sort of final question for you here. As I watch the weather reports every day, there’s something I’ve always wanted to know.

Chris: Thank you for doing that.

Sarah: Thank you. I’m ashamed or proud to admit that I check the weather I step 20 feet out to the door.

Chris:  Why are you ashamed of that?

Sarah:  I feel lazy.

Veanne: It’s the first thing I do before I get out of bed. I’m deciding if I’m going outside or not to exercise or how cold it is.

Chris:  You have to know what to wear. You have to know do you need…

Sarah:  You’d think I would open the door. I live in a studio, it’s very easy. Anyway, so I want to know, is the technology — we’ve talked a lot about technological advances, you think about the meteorologists that we all, certainly I, love, and you grew up watching, and technology is changing. Everybody talks about the weather is sort of the same, or is it. Is technology allowing us to collect the same data just with greater precision and quantity, or is the data collection process evolving as well? Does that make sense? I want to know where the innovation is when we’re all living in the same world as we were 30 years ago or whatever it might be.

Chris: We’ve already covered some of this. Data collection is pretty significant for us, and we have lots of ways we collect data. We collect, like I said, off of phones. We collect data off personal weather stations, off of other sensor devices in just about any kind of industry you can think of, there are sensors and there’s data that we’re collecting. We process that data at super high scale. We ingest about, I think, a million data points per second get ingested into our system, and we’ve got about five petabytes of data that we’re capturing today in our data lake that we use for whatever, analytics, the primary purpose for putting stuff in our database is for analytics, historical type stuff, what happened then, and trying to translate that from what happened then with this condition. Then I can make a decision about where I’m at now with similar conditions.

Collection is very different depending on the device, and it’s back to the one side doesn’t fit all. One thing IBM has enabled us to do is to take advantage of some of the data collection tools that they’ve got or the ingest tools. The collection, most devices today have simple mechanisms for delivering data via HTTP, and in the IoT space, using MQTT type protocols. Ultimately, and that’s kind of the easy part. Ultimately, you just have to have some kind of thing that can take all of that data at one time and without losing the data, being able to ingest it reliably. Depending on the context of the data, the speed at which it comes, the perishable nature of that data, we use different tools, and we store that data, we process it, we do machine learning on that data through different tools.

Sometimes it’s real-time machine learning analytics, and sometimes we do post work for machine learning and analytics. That analytics can culminate into a million different things  such as visualizations, reporting, data getting pushed back into our forecast systems, capturing data just about the business with the metrics and how our products and services are being used, where they’re being used, by whom are they being used, third-party data mixing in with all of that. The data collection is almost table stakes for us. It’s like you have to be able to do it, and depending on what the device is or what the system is that’s providing that data, you have to provide a solution, a tool to be able to handle it, and that’s what we do.

Sarah:  It’s really at both ends.

Chris:  Yes. We spend a lot of time on data ingestion. I mentioned earlier that a lot of folks moved over to more traditional part of IBM over the past three months. IBM is doubling down on what we call the Watson Data Platform, which is the next evolution of taking data and putting it in the hands of data scientists, being able to ingest extremely incomprehensible scale of data from IoT all over the world, elevators, refrigerators, washing machines. We’re talking about connected washing machines and dryers, “Soap is low, soap is low, soap is low.”

Sarah: There’s a secret I was waiting for.

Chris:  IBM is investing a lot of time and money into putting a group of people together that can focus on processing data, ingesting data, storing data, transforming it, learning from it, doing analytics on it, and then serving that data back out via APIs if that is what somebody wants. Even serving out the analytics outcome in APIs so that businesses can leverage the platform to be able to bring their own data and make their own insights so they can run their business. It’s not just a Weather Company or IBM thing, it’s so Company X, Company Y, Company Z can leverage this platform. Watson Data Platform is kind of what the new mission is for a lot of folks within IBM, and that’s kind of how I got my job, so I’m very excited about that because my boss, Bryson Koehler, one of my mentors, has moved over to the IBM Watson Cloud team, and he’s the CTO of IBM Watson and Cloud.

The Weather Company falls into the IBM Watson and Cloud team. Another one of the pillars within that team is the Watson Data Platform. We’re working closely with those guys and Robbie Strickland, you know Robbie, Robbie is over on the Watson Data Platform team. I was on the Watson Data Platform team before I came back and took this job. We’re counting on them to help bring the best-in-breed capabilities for ingesting data and storing it, transforming it, analytics, all those things I mentioned, and we’re very excited about that. Some of the stuff that they’re going to be doing, governance to data on a large scale like nobody has ever done before, and only the capabilities and the abilities within IBM are going to enable that.

We’re super, super, super excited about that. I’ve gone off on a tangent there, but nonetheless, we’re really excited about Watson Data Platform and what it’s going to do for us. Ultimately, we’re collecting data from all different kinds of places and doing interesting and neat things to it, anywhere from running our business to providing insights to customers that are leveraging some of our platforms through our B2B side of the business. We’re always innovating, we’re always trying to bring in new tools. We’re leveraging IBM heavily for that, but we’re encouraging people to help us do that, internally, grassroots, bring up tools, ideas about using different tools, or if we need to build something from scratch, that’s great.

Veanne:           I think one of the things that is great about you being here, we have a lot of listeners that are technical, and so I’m going to do a shout-out. For anybody listening, what I’m getting from this is if you like data, and you like to innovate, and you like to solve tough challenges, it sounds like The Weather Company is a place they might want to check out. I’ll bet you’re hiring, aren’t you?

Chris:               We are. We’ve got more openings right now than we know what to do with.

Sarah:             I bet, especially just like…

Veanne:           Data, data, if you like data — always love data.

Sarah:             People want to have an impact on the entire world, that’s what I think is cool.

Veanne:           I know some of those…

Chris:               Yes, we are hiring in San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Madison, and Andover/Boston.

Veanne:           All good locations, too.

Sarah:             Yes, that’s great.

Veanne: Not too shabby. I know some of those great people you have working over there with you like Robbie and some others. There are also some really bright people that work over there. Anyway, all of our listeners, if you need to get to know Chris. How can you get to know Chris, Sarah? Take it away.

Sarah:  It’s been awesome having you here, and clearly, I’m very excited, so if our listeners would like to reach out to you, learn more about what you’re doing at The Weather Company, maybe try to join your team, where should they go, Chris?

Chris:   Well, you can always reach out to me via LinkedIn or feel free to e-mail me. My e-mail address is really easy,

Veanne:           Even sounds like the weather.

Chris:               Most people call me Chill at the office.

Veanne:           I didn’t know that.

Chris:               We’ve had a lineage of a lot of Chris’s and we had to delineate through some mechanism.

Veanne:           This has been great, really, really has been intriguing. You’ve been so generous with your time, Chris. Thanks for being with us on Atlanta Business Impact Radio today.

Chris:               Thank you for having me, appreciate it.

Tell Us About Your Need!