ACM ByteCast is a podcast series from ACM’s Practitioners Board in which hosts Rashmi Mohan and Jessica Bell interview researchers, practitioners, and innovators who are at the intersection of computing research and practice. In each episode, guests will share their experiences, the lessons they’ve learned, and their own visions for the future of computing.
David Heinemeier Hansson - Episode 23
In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts David Heinemeier Hansson, cofounder and CTO of Basecamp. In addition to his work on this popular project management application, he is also the creator of the open-source web framework Ruby on Rails, used by some of the best-known technology companies, such as Twitter, Shopify, GitHub, Airbnb, and Square, and more than a million other web applications. He is also a prolific author of multiple bestselling books on building and running a successful business, as well as a Le Mans class-winning racecar driver.
David recounts discovering Ruby in the early 2000s and using it to create Basecamp, work which spawned Ruby on Rails. He dives into the process of creating Basecamp, whose aim was to solve the problem of communication with clients, as well as building a self-sustaining community with Ruby on Rails. He also explains his personal approach to open-source software, one of his passions. David also looks back on lessons he learned in business school—including the marketing aspect of technology—and how he applied these lessons to building his own business. He also reveals his experience with remote work and what he’s most excited about for the future.
Amanda Randles - Episode 22
In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts 2017 ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award recipient Amanda Randles, the Alfred Winborne and Victoria Stover Mordecai Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. She is also Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering and a member of the Duke Cancer Institute. She has received the National Science Foundation Career Award and was selected as one of the 10 researchers to work on the Aurora Exascale Supercomputer. Her visionary work in simulating blood flow through the human body in a system called HARVEY, led her to be featured in the MIT Tech Review Innovators Under 35 list.
Amanda talks about growing up in Michigan and being inspired early on by her high school computer science teacher. She talks about her passion, which lies in using the largest supercomputers in the world to answer questions otherwise left unanswered, and her Duke research group’s focus on building large scale personalized blood flow simulations. She also discusses her 3-year involvement with IBM’s Blue Gene Team, where she learned how to debug programs and identify and work through problems collaboratively, and her time at Harvard University, where she learned about fluid dynamics and started writing HARVEY from scratch. She also describes the fascinating contributions her team made to address ventilator shortages during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jelani Nelson - Episode 21
In this episode of ACM ByteCast, our special guest host Scott Hanselman (of The Hanselminutes Podcast) welcomes Jelani Nelson, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the Theory Group at the University of California, Berkeley and a Research Scientist at Google. His areas of interest include the theory of computation, as well as the design and analysis of algorithms, especially for massive datasets. Jelani is a member of ACM's Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT)’s Committee for the Advancement of Theoretical Computer Science (CATCS). Among his honors, he won the 2014 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He is the creator of AddisCoder, a computer science summer program for Ethiopian high school students in Addis Ababa.
Jelani and Scott discuss his journey from learning HTML when he was 12 to becoming a theoretical computer scientist. They talk about the spectrum between software engineering and theory and how even theoretical CS research can have an impact on industry practice; teaching his introduction to algorithms course of more than 700 students; running a highly successful algorithmic boot camp for students in Ethiopia to learn coding; and the times he feels most accomplished in his work.
People of ACM interview with Jelani Nelson
Luiz André Barroso - Episode 20
In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts 2020 ACM-IEEE CS Eckert-Mauchly Award recipient Luiz André Barroso of Google, where he drove transformation of hyperscale computing infrastructure and led engineering for key products like Google Maps. Luiz is a Google Fellow and Head of the Office of Cross-Google Engineering (XGE), responsible for company-wide technical coordination. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Engineering in Google Maps and led the Core team, the group primarily responsible for the technical foundation behind Google's flagship products. Prior to Google, Luiz was a member of the research staff at Digital Equipment Corporation and Compaq, where his group did some of the pioneering work on multi-core architectures. He co-authored The Datacenter as a Computer, the first textbook to describe the architecture of warehouse-scale computing systems. Luiz is a Fellow of ACM and AAAS.
In the interview, Luiz looks back on growing up in Brazil, and how family played a part in his early affinity for electrical engineering which progressed to computer engineering. He recalls his master’s advisor, who stimulated his fascination in Local Area Networks and queuing theory, and how this got him interested in computer science. Luiz also talks about his first job in computing at IBM Research in Rio de Janeiro, and his PhD days at USC in Los Angeles, which got him involved in computer architecture and gave him an early taste of both research and practice in memory systems. He shares of his unique experiences in moving from hardware to software engineering at Google and from areas of high professional expertise to “areas of ignorance,” and how an engineering education prepared him to scale new heights.
Ayanna Howard - Episode 19
In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts 2021-2022 ACM Athena Lecturer Ayanna Howard, Dean of the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University and founder and President of the Board of Directors of Zyrobotics. Previously she was chair of the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing, where she founded and led the Human-Automation Systems Lab (HumAnS). Before that, she worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). She is a Fellow of AAAI and IEEE. Among her many honors, Howard received the Computer Research Association’s A. Nico Habermann Award and the Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award. Forbes named her to its America's Top 50 Women in Tech list.
In the interview Ayanna looks back on her early love of robotics, inspired by science fiction, teaching herself how to program, and working a high school job at the California Institute of Technology. She shares some of her favorite research projects at JPL, where she designed expert systems, and describes the transition from government/industrial work to academia. She also talks about AI challenges relating to training models and large-scale deployment of lab-tested algorithms—offering warnings for technologists—as well as some potential solutions from her research. Rashmi and Ayanna also touch on her company, Zyrobotics, which develops mobile therapy and educational products for children with special needs, and her book, Sex, Race, and Robots: How to Be Human in the Age of AI.
Mounia Lalmas - Episode 18
In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts Mounia Lalmas, Director of Research and Head of Tech Research in Personalization at Spotify, leading a team of researchers in content personalization and discovery. Prior to that, she was Director of Research at Yahoo London. She also holds an Honorary Professorship at University College London. Mounia’s work focuses on studying user engagement in areas such as native advertising, digital media, social media, and search, and now audio (music and talk). She is a frequent conference speaker, author, and organizer whose research has appeared at many ACM (and other) conferences, including CIKM, RecSys, SIGIR, SIGKDD, UMAP, WSDM, WWW, and more.
Mounia relates her beginnings in computing as a young student growing up in Algeria, her love for mathematical abstraction, and passion for evaluation and user engagement. She also traces her interest in the field of information retrieval and highlights some of the challenges in building robust recommender systems for music lovers. Mounia and Rashmi also discuss the differences between academic and industrial research, the important role conferences and networking play in computing research, and what excites her most in the fields of personalization research and information retrieval.