Geek of the Week

What’s one piece of tech you couldn’t reside with out? Right here’s what our 2018 Geeks of the Week needed to say

They work for companies as big as Amazon or as small as the startup they created by themselves this year. Some are still students, some are longtime technology veterans. But our Geeks of the Week all rely on tech in similar ways: to do their jobs, to be entertained and informed, to stay connected.

As 2018 draws to a close, GeekWire looks back at the 49 geeks profiled in our popular weekly feature. This year we’re focusing on their answers to the standing question, “What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why?”

Sure, lots of people rely on their smartphones. All you have to do is pick your head up from yours to notice how many people are staring down at theirs. But scroll through the answers below and see why some of our geeks need their phones — or learn which ones would rather have fire, or a baseball bat, a wooden pick-axe or an Xbox.

Click on the names to go back to the full profile of each individual. And fill out the Geek of the Week questionnaire if you know a notable or impressive geek who’d be good for us to consider in 2019.

Angela Lin, Seattle Prep student

Angela Lin. (Photo courtesy of Angela Lin)

“My iCloud account, or cloud technology in general. Unfortunately, I’ve been in so many situations where I’ve lost important pictures, videos, or documents because I just didn’t back things up. Definitely a lesson I’ve learned in a hard way.”

Christine Betts, UW student

Christine Betts. (Photo courtesy of Christine Betts)

“A free and open internet! I’m constantly trying to take in and better understand the perspectives and experiences of others, so the ability to read blogs that might not get a ton of traffic and to read news sources from all over the world is very important to me. I also regularly look up programming questions and seek out tutorials for different libraries and languages; it’s amazing how many people want to share their knowledge.”

Alex Legault, associate director of products at PitchBook

Alex Legault. (PitchBook Photo)

“Aside from my iPhone and Alexa, one non-traditional piece of ‘technology’ I couldn’t live without is a combustion engine. I get restless after a few hours in a car and on long plane rides, making me super fun to travel with — especially on my regular visits to PitchBook’s Ukraine office. If it took me a full day to get to Crystal Mountain in a buggy, I would NEVER ski.”

Jaime Teevan, technical advisor to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Jamie Teevan. (Dan DeLong Photo)

“A search engine. The petabytes of information available online is useless without a way to make sense of it. And our ability to intelligently sift through all of this information will become increasingly natural (via new interaction modalities like natural language, speech, and augmented reality) and actionable (via the ability to make intelligent inferences and integrate with the real world) as computing transforms around us.”

Robert Masse, UW graduate student

Robert Masse. (Photo courtesy of Robert Masse)

“Fire. Whoever figured fire out was really on to something.”

Anind Dey, dean of the Information School at the University of Washington

Anind Dey. (UW Photo)

“Can’t live without the internet. It’s my source of news, entertainment, connection to friends and family. I spend way too much time on it everyday, but it is my drug of choice.”

Alex Gounares, founder and CEO of Polyverse Corp.

Alex Gounares
Alex Gounares. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“My iPhone! For both good and bad, I should add. Being constantly connected lets me stay in touch with my colleagues and friends wherever I am, and that makes it much easier to balance work commitments with family and personal life. On the flip side, that constant connectivity can be addictive. I’ve made it a point to intentionally put the phone away during family time, at meals, and so forth.”

Rafael Reif, MIT president

Rafael Reif. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

“My smartphone! I use it all the time for everything. I mean, if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

Michael Ford, Microsoft general manager for global real estate and facilities

Michael Ford. (Microsoft Photo)

“Technology today helps people in many ways. From transportation to communication to entertainment and more. The cloud is one of the biggest things in technology today. Without cloud computing, my life would be very different. I am able to work anywhere and anytime from any device.”

Cami Williams, senior evangelist for Amazon Alexa

Cami Williams. (Photo courtesy of Cami Williams)

“Honestly, I practice what I preach. I have an Alexa-enabled device in every room of my home. I have become so dependent, I even bring an Echo on trips with me so I can have one in the hotel room!”

Jason Flick, Seattle Sounders FC eMLS gamer

Jason Flick. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

“I guess my Xbox One. I kind of need it to play ‘FIFA.’”

Evie Powell, Verge of Brilliance CEO and creative director

Evie Powell. (Shawn Whiting Photo)

“Wooden pick-axe. All of civilization starts with wooden pick-axe.”

Caroline King, Washington STEM CEO

Caroline King. (Photo courtesy of Caroline King)

“An apple. Yes, the fruit. There’s so many STEM skills needed before an apple reaches your lunch bag! Botanists breed the best tasting apples. Orchard technicians design orchards that bear the maximum quality and quantity of fruit and then they fly drones over the orchards to monitor the health of the apple crops. Engineers develop advanced manufacturing robots to sort and package apples. Food scientists determine food safety issues. All of that is happening right in eastern Washington!”

Raanah Amjadi, product manager for Microsoft Teams

Raanah Amjadi. (Microsoft Photo)

“I really couldn’t live without my smartphone. It’s essentially the control center for my life. Pretty much everything I interact with can be now texted, edited, scheduled, snapped, logged, and called from that little rectangle. If you want to get to know me, all you need to do is check out my Wunderlist to dos and OneNote quick notes. My entire life is there. But most importantly, my phone keeps me connected to my family and friends around the world in ways that make us feel like we’re still somewhat living our lives together.”

Zoe Sheill, computer science student

Zoe Sheill. (Photo courtesy of Zoe Sheill)

“My Ti-Nspire CX CAS calculator. This calculator has been awesome through countless tests and homework assignments.”

Phil Gordon, founder and CEO of Chatbox

Phil Gordon. (Chatbox Photo)

“My iPad. There is no better mechanism for quelling discord or motivating good behavior among my two young boys.”

Eva Snee, Google Clips UX researcher

Eva Snee. (Eva Snee Photo)

“Aside from Google Clips, you mean? It would have to be my phone. It’s the tool I use to communicate with friends and family far and wide, to get work done on the go, and access all of my pictures and memories.”

Shay Kivlen, 2018 Madden Bowl champion

Shay Kivlen. (EA Sports Photo)

“Probably my PS4 because that is the getaway for me. It’s where I can just sit, game and relax.”

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Dow Constantine. (Photo courtesy of Dow Constantine)

“I mean, like most people, my mobile phone keeps me connected everywhere I go, day or night (not always a good thing).”

Billie Sue Chafins, Hulu director of software development

Billie Sue Chafins. (Photo courtesy of Billie Sue Chafins)

My phone (like everybody else, I’m addicted) and my kindle (which is waterproof and I love).”

David Winokur, director of Medical Imaging and Interventional Cardiovascular Services at Overlake Medical Center

David Winokur. (Photo courtesy of David Winokur)

“Our PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) is fundamental to what we do across all of my departments. It basically consists of a VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive) and a zero-footprint viewer that customizes the display of the image based on the type of scan it is so a Cardiologist can see heart scans in a manner that is more suitable for them versus a Neurosurgeon. Our PACS setup allows all of our physicians to access to any image we take across the whole organization, whether it’s within the hospital or in the doctor’s office. We can import your imaging from other facilities, as well, so our physicians can compare these prior images to more recent ones.”

Amy Lynch, regional VP Comcast Washington

Amy Lynch, second from right. (Comcast Photo)

“I love our Xfinity TV and voice remote. … I also need my cell phone, an iPhone 7 Plus. It keeps me connected. I love apps that connect, simplify and entertain. In addition to Xfinity Stream TV, Xfinity xfi, I use Yelp, Waze, Flipboard and Myfitnesspal. I fire up Spotify too. I love music. I could probably play Name That Tune in three notes. I read a story recently that you can tell a person’s personality by their iTunes content. I keep meaning to take the quiz that went with it. My iTunes is filled with every type of music — pop, rock, classical. I have a lot of favorites — Van Morrison, Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder!), and Coldplay to name a few.”

Simon Chavez, visualization designer at Perkins+Will

Simon Chavez. (Photo courtesy of Simon Chavez)

“Undoubtedly my computer. I’m not particularly attached to my phone.”

Raghu Ramakrishnan, Microsoft CTO for Data

Raghu Ramakrishnan. (Photo courtesy of Raghu Ramakrishnan)

“The internet. It’s how I learn what’s going on in the world, it’s how I call people more often than not, it’s how my entertainment is delivered.”

Nate Martin, co-founder and CEO of Puzzle Break

Nate Martin. (Photo courtesy of Nate Martin)

“My treadmill desk! My lifestyle isn’t nearly as physically active as it should be, and spending a few hours every day working, watching TV, World of Warcraft (you name it!) on the treadmill desk has done wonders over the years.”

Brian Holers, arborist and founder of Root Cause

Brian Holers. (Photo courtesy of Brian Holers)

“A baseball bat. I spend a lot of free time playing baseball (not softball), and practicing in the offseason. You’re never too old for the greatest game on earth.”

Miguel Edwards, artist and creator of Special Olympics USA Games cauldron

Miguel Edwards. (Photo courtesy of Miguel Edwards)

“My camera! My camera completes a lot of my work. So few people get to see the finished product relative to the growing online audience. My camera also gives me angles and insights that my eyes miss. It is absolutely integral to my process. In addition, having good quality images separates the pros from the … not-yet pros.”

Erin Murphy, analytics manager at Marchex

Erin Murphy. (Photo courtesy of Erin Murphy)

“My phone is the piece of technology I use the most, because it can be used for everything; talking to people around the world in any way you choose, doing crosswords, ordering food, looking up things, reading blogs. I barely remember life before it.”

Jeremiah Dangler, practice area lead at Slalom

Jeremiah Dangler, foreground. (Slalom Photo)

“My phone, not because I like to talk on the phone, because I don’t. It allows me to record notes and to-do items quickly, check emails and respond to message instantly, and gives me access to the books and applications I love.”

Travis Gaertner, para-cyclist and pension actuary

Travis Gaertner. (Photo courtesy of Travis Gaertner)

“As an actuary — my calculator. Everything comes down to the numbers and I need to be able to respond to questions and new ideas on the fly! As a handcyclist — My SCIFIT upper body ergometer trainer. Prior to training for the Olympics I used it for general fitness almost every day. Now that I have made the jump to world class competition it serves me even better! I find it actually trains me better than my handcycle does and it holds me accountable with great data.”

Andy Lowery, co-founder and CEO of RealWear

Andy Lowery. (Photo courtesy of Andy Lowery)

“The internet. Now that we are connected, it would be hard to go back. The democratization of information and also unfettered access to that information (#netneutrality), and for that matter other infrastructure-related resources such as energy will, one day, improve our capacity to support balanced growth and advancement in harmony with our environment. Where we are as a people, I believe that we will trend towards a more balanced society as we grow past a goods-centric society. The internet is a step in that direction.”

Blair Fillingham, creator of MTRNL

Blair Fillingham. (Photo courtesy of Blair Fillingham)

“I absolutely ADORE the platform I am using for my membership site. It is called Kajabi. The Kajabi team is incredible. Customer support is phenomenal, and they really walk their talk which helps inform my marketing strategy, too. If I decided to work for another tech company, Kajabi would be at the top of my list. (PS — if you want to sign up you should use my referral link so that we both get a 15 percent kick-back!)”

Cynthia Brothers, creator of Vanishing Seattle

Cynthia Brothers. (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Brothers)

“My phone, since it’s what I use to take pictures and do the majority of my Vanishing Seattle posts (via Instagram). It’s a love/hate relationship — it’s also slow, the battery sucks, and I’m not a fan of Apple as a company. But I’d pretty much be screwed without my phone.”

Rebecca Gold, Adobe software engineer

Rebecca Gold. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Gold)

“I’m pretty glued to my phone — I kind of hope the coolness of having the entire internet in a rectangle in my pocket doesn’t fade.”

Jason Chu, DigiPen Institute of Technology COO

Jason Chu. (DigiPen Photo)

“The GPS. After many years of attempt, I finally came to realize that I am lacking a sense of direction. With the GPS, I could finally find a cure!”

Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, UW PhD candidate

Rajalakshmi Nandakumar. (University of Washington Photo / Sarah McQuate)

“I cannot live without my smartphone. I need it for both work and fun.”

Yi Yang, Google software engineer and author

Yi Yang. (Photo courtesy of Yi Yang)


Stephen Bury, director of digital marketing at Funko

Stephen Bury. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Bury)

“Easy, smartphone. Between the computing power, connectivity and the convenience, it would be hard to imagine not having a device that can help you communicate, keep you informed, allow you to shop, and entertain you wherever you are … as long as you have a signal. 😉 ”

Gail Frederick, vice president of developer ecosystem and general manager of eBay Portland

Gail Frederick. (eBay Photo)

“More and more, it’s my smart watch because it’s less invasive and disruptive than my phones. A quick glance at my watch and then I’m back focused on the topic at hand.”

Shivani Ludwig, innovation development manager at Xinova

Shivani Ludwig. (Xinova Photo)

“Google Calendar (or other online calendars) and its reminders. Not only does it help me keep track of things, it lets me clear my mind and let go of distant tasks until I get those reminders.”

Fred Clarke, Amazon Symphony Orchestra conductor

Fred Clarke. (Amazon Photo)

“Television. I love movies, and, much to my family’s dismay, I like to watch the same movies multiple times: ‘Godfather,’ almost every Star Wars/Star Trek movie, ‘Matrix,’ ‘Gladiator,’ ‘Braveheart,’ ‘Dark Knight,’ ‘300’ … ”

Raksha Balasubramanyam, VP of client engagement and services delivery at Skytap

Raksha Balasubramanyam. (Photo courtesy of Raksha Balasubramanyam)

“iPhone; I use apps for everyday things in life (I almost never step foot in grocery stores anymore!)”

Quinton Morris, founder and executive director of Key To Change

Quinton Morris. (Jennifer Richard Photo)

“iPhone. My whole world is connected to that thing. I know, crazy!”

Sheryl Cababa, executive creative director at Artefact

Sheryl Cababa. (Photo courtesy of Sheryl Cababa)

“Books. I love ideas, and books are the most influential and progress-inducing technology in human history.”

Liz Dunn, real estate developer

Liz Dunn. (Photo courtesy of Liz Dunn)

“Generally, I have kind of a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude toward technology as I believe that the truly creative part of business (and life) gets done face to face. But having said that, I completely nerd out on spreadsheets. Some people are really good at sports or can play the violin. I tell my friends that if they ever need a spreadsheet, it’s my super power.”

Gavriel Staloch, founder and CEO of CityKillerz Ventures

Gavriel Staloch. (Photo courtesy of Gavriel Staloch)

“My phone. On a daily basis, I am posting 10-20 photos to Instagram, emailing/texting dozens of people, engaging with my communities, and so much more. For these reasons, I couldn’t live without my phone or run my business effectively.”

William Canestaro, managing director of Washington Research Foundation

William Canestaro. (Photo courtesy of William Canestaro)

“It is astounding how quickly my family has become addicted to Amazon’s Alexa. We have one in the kitchen and use it play music and the news when cooking, and we cook a lot of food with four children! My wife and I are constantly setting reminders and alarms and we rarely burn food or forget library day with Alexa’s help. I also love not having to look at a screen for information like the weather for the day. My two year old has even figured out how to get Alexa to play the ‘Moana’ soundtrack, which as you can imagine, he finds endlessly amusing. It sounds silly but one day Alexa was experiencing connection issues and not working, it really felt eerily quiet and empty.”

Gerard Medioni, director of research for Amazon Go

Gerard Medioni. (Photo courtesy of Gerard Medioni)

“I have come to increasingly depend on my cell phone, as it has earned the ‘smart’ phone label. Besides being a telephone, it allows me to access information on demand, make travel reservations, purchase goods, guide me on the road, provide entertainment in the form of games, music and video as well as get me into the Amazon Go store! This vastly exceeded the expectations I had made 20 years ago about it.”

Kevin Lin, founder of Cloud.Thence

Kevin Lin. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Lin)

“Vim. Vim is a terminal based text editor from the 1990s and the reason why I can’t use Office or any other text editor that has been invented since. If you want to get into the details, Vim is shorthand for Vi IMproved, which is an upgrade of Vi, a programmer’s text editor that was released in the ’70s. Vim is a modal editor which means that you operate it using multiple modes. … On average, Vim makes me 1000x more productive and I can’t ever imagine using anything else (especially not emacs).”

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