The technologist I'd invite to Thanksgiving dinner

The technologist I'd invite to Thanksgiving dinner

If you could invite any technologist – past or present – to Thanksgiving dinner, who would you pick? IT leaders share who they'd add to their guest list

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One of the charms of Thanksgiving is the opportunity to invite guests who you may not normally host for dinner. Usually those guests come in the form of distant relatives or colleagues who may not have family nearby. But what if one of those guests could be a technologist from the past or present? 

We had fun asking IT leaders which technologist they'd want to talk with over turkey and Thanksgiving dinner fixings. Read on to see some of the famous names who have an open invite to their homes: 

An unsung hero to inspire confidence

Dorothy Vaughan is the historical figure I would invite to my Thanksgiving dinner. The woman who became NASA's first black supervisor in 1948, support to our space program that put astronauts on the moon, and voice for the women in the "West Computers" pool is an unsung hero I wish I had known about growing up. She would have been that North Star I could have used to gauge my professional aspirations. To have the chance to talk to her and gain insight into how she led a team of technologists and mathematicians during a time when it was not the norm or accepted would be so helpful and confidence building. – Monique Head, senior manager, Risk, Regulatory & Protection Services, PayPal

A proper conversation with a trailblazer

I would invite the late Ada Lovelace to our Thanksgiving dinner. As one of the first programmers, she was cutting-edge, taking on the role in an era where there were many obstacles to her success. Women could not vote at that time. Their opinions were not listened to. Yet here she was, changing the world and working on the first programming language. Her against-all-odds, entrepreneurial, forward-thinking, not seeing the immediate problem but aggregating it up a couple of levels and solving a much broader problem, I would argue, is exactly the type of thinking we need today. I’d be keenly interested in having a conversation with her. And besides, we would have British tea as part of Thanksgiving. It would be, I’m sure, cut sandwiches, if she had anything to say about the menu. So it would be a very proper conversation, but it’d be very thought-provoking. – Curt Carver, CIO, University of Alabama at Birmingham

A blast from America's past

Ben Franklin was an amazing inventor and the original G.T.D. (Getting Things Done) futurist maker. As a member of the cohort who created the foundation of the United States; Ben not only informed the formation of a nation but also much of how we think about freedom. Informing much of the core philosophies behind open source, freedom of speech, the influence of the press, and individual sovereignty. Ben was a constant learner, early blogger, inventor, and maker. (A consummate technologist.) He was also known as a humorist and diplomat, so inviting Ben Franklin through time to my Thanksgiving table would ensure a conversation beyond just technical geek talk. Ben also would probably be one of the few who could travel through time but not be so in awe of his surroundings that he would be speechless. In fact, I am sure he would have an opinion and perspective. (Ben would probably just understand that much of what he saw around him was just a scaling of what he understood in his day.) – Elwin Loomis, Head of Digital, Bremer Bank

Someone sure to bring the laughs

I'm sure there is some technologist who I'd enjoy hosting for Thanksgiving dinner. However, when I try to think of who, the person who stands out to me is Mike Judge. He is the creator of HBO's tech satire series "Silicon Valley," and other hit entertainment such as the beloved comedy "Office Space" (now 20 years old if you can believe that!) That movie did such an excellent and hilarious job satirizing work at a software company that many of us still quote it to this day. While Judge is not a technologist, based on his writing, he has certainly captured some of our lives in a funny and laugh-out-loud way. He cracks me up and I would love to trade stories with him. – Mike Kelly, CIO, Red Hat 

Blending cultures while geeking out with the fam

I would love to have Satya Nadella over. He could try our family's traditional Thanksgiving meal – we typically serve Jamaican food, which is just amazing if you've never tried it. And perhaps he could bring some of his favorite Indian dishes to add some flair to our meal. More importantly, my family loves tech, and we would all just be totally blown away to have him tell us about his journey to where he is now. Personally, I'd want to tell him thanks for all the great work he's doing at Microsoft, getting folks to believe in them again, and his bold mission “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” – Cedric Wells, Director Of IT Business Solutions, PCMS Datafit 

A legend with amazing advice on mentoring...

I’d love to host the mother of computing, the legendary Rear Admiral "Amazing" Grace Hopper. Most in our field know that her development of the first compiler and programming language helped revolutionize the world of computers. Grace had a career filled with groundbreaking achievements and she had to prove herself repeatedly in a male-dominated time and field of study. Her tenacity, knowledge, and commitment are well documented, but one (of many) things that sticks out to me was her commitment to mentoring and challenging the generations to come. "The most important thing I've accomplished, other than building the compiler," she said, "is training young people." They come to me, you know, and say, 'Do you think we can do this?' I say, 'Try it.' And I back 'em up. They need that. I keep track of them as they get older and I stir 'em up at intervals so they don't forget to take chances.” Fantastic advice for us and for our mentees! – Jay Ferro, CIO, Quikrete

...and a role model for all 

I’d like to extend a Thanksgiving dinner invitation to Grace Hopper. We send a lot of developers to the Grace Hopper conference every year, and it is an amazing experience for men and women. She has inspired technologists for decades. The pioneer of computer programming, a Yale PHD and a Navy Rear Admiral, there’s much to admire about her. She is a role model for all. – John Marcante, CIO, Vanguard

[ What’s next for the CIO role? Read CIO role: Everything you need to know about today’s Chief Information Officers. ]

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As community manager for The Enterprisers Project, Ginny Hamilton helps build the site's community of CIOs, IT leaders, and readers. She is responsible for helping tell the stories of leading IT executives – showcasing the projects, experiences, and challenges they're facing in their roles as IT leaders.

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