Tech Moves: Microsoft names Windows Insider leader; WA Lt. Gov. leaving to join Jesuits; Axon hires Amazon AI vet

Amanda Langowski (L) and Panos Panay (R) on a Microsoft Teams call, practicing social distancing.

Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay announced Amanda Langowski as the new lead for the Windows Insider program, an online community of 18 million people that allows users to test new features in exchange for providing detailed feedback to the company.

Langowski has spent more than 20 years at Microsoft, joining the company in 2000 as a program manager for Windows.

“Since then, she’s been an extraordinary and dedicated product maker for the company,” said Panay in a blog post. “In meeting Amanda, one thing that is immediately apparent is her passion for customer feedback and the positive impact it can have on our products.”

It’s part of a broader effort to unify Microsoft’s operating systems and devices teams. Panay now oversees both the Windows UX and Microsoft Surface teams after a reorganization earlier this year.

Tech innovations help Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib in the state’s second-highest elected office. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Washington State’s Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib announced he will not be running for re-election and will join the Jesuit priesthood.

Habib was a corporate associate at law firm Perkins Coie before being elected to the Washington State Legislature in 2012 and has served as lieutenant governor since 2017. Habib lost his sight to cancer as a child and has been an advocate for technology that helps people with disabilities participate in everyday life.

“Over the past couple of years, I have felt called to a different vocation, albeit one that is also oriented around service and social justice,” said Habib in a statement.

His announcement comes as local, state and federal government leaders work to address the coronavirus outbreak. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee praised Habib in a statement.

Former Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff will join Portland, Ore.-based Lytics in the newly created role of president responsible for go-to-market strategy for the marketing tech startup. Kaykas-Wolff also served as CMO for BitTorrent and MindJet, and was a group manager at Microsoft.

Lytics’ platform captures customer data from databases and marketing tools, using machine learning to help companies personalize their marketing to consumers. Last year, the company announced a $35 million Series C round.
Yasser Ibrahim. (Axon Photo)

Police body camera maker Axon named Yasser Ibrahim senior vice president of artificial intelligence. Ibrahim was most recently head of distributed machine learning for Alexa AI at Amazon. He spent almost six years at the tech giant and also worked on the computer vision systems behind Amazon Go’s cashierless technology which it’s now selling to other retailers.

“I am passionate about Axon’s mission to protect life, and the products we are inventing and delivering on behalf of customers are at an incredibly exciting intersection of public safety, responsible AI, and multimodal machine learning,” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim will lead Axon’s AI team based out of its Seattle office and work with an independent AI ethics board. The team is developing technologies to automatically read license plates, detect gunshots and create automatic transcripts of body camera videos.

Microsoft executive Marc Brown joined the board of compensation data site PayScale. Brown has spent more than 20 years at Microsoft and is currently a corporate vice president leading global M&A and strategic investments.

Former Amazon executive Diego Piacentini joined the board of London-based Apolitical, an online learning network for public servants. Piacentini spent 16 years at Amazon before leaving in 2016, originally taking a 2-year hiatus, to work for the Italian prime minister but did not return to the Seattle-based tech giant.

In addition to serving on several boards, Piancentini is currently a senior advisor at New York financial services firm KKR & Co. Inc. He is also an advisor to Seattle trucking startup Convoy.

Michael Harold, former director of public affairs for WeWork in the Pacific region, is now director of communications for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). Harold previously worked at Harvard Law and International Development Society and was a legislative director for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Remitly, a Seattle startup that lets people send money abroad, promoted John Scrofano to vice president of Passbook, the company’s new banking service designed specifically for immigrants. Scrofano joined the well-funded startup in 2018 as director of new initiatives and led the development of the company’s second product, expanding beyond remittances for the first time. He previously was CEO of Garmentory, an online fashion platform, and OneWed, a wedding planning platform.

John Pollard. (Lighthouse Photo)

Seattle startup veteran John Pollard is now a senior vice president and a member of the executive team at Lighthouse eDiscovery. Pollard will lead the Seattle-based company’s SaaS platform called Spectra. Lighthouse provides its clients advisory services and software to help lawyers and compliance teams sift through complex documentation.

Pollard most recently served as EVP and chief revenue officer for Bellevue, Wash.-based Donuts, a domain name registry. He is co-founder and former CEO of content sharing platform Elemental Foundry which was acquired by Porch in 2014, and co-founder of Jott, a mobile voice-to-text service acquired by Nuance Communications in 2009. After Jott’s acquisition, Pollard stayed on at Nuance as vice president and general manager of its voice-to-text division.

— Canadian commercial fusion energy company General Fusion appointed George (Chip) Hambro to its board. Hambro is an operating partner at Chicago, Ill.-based True North Venture Partners and was the COO of First Solar, a photovoltaic solar manufacturer, until his retirement in 2009. General Fusion counts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as a backer.

“I’ve been chasing the promise of renewable energy most of my career, and despite great success in this space with solar energy, most renewables cannot serve as effective grid baseload,” Hambro said. “General Fusion is the abundant, clean, and economic baseload of the future.”

Global real estate and investment management firm JLL hired Matt Skally as senior vice president of project and development services for the Pacific Northwest region. Skally was most recently vice president of the store environment team at Nordstrom Rack and previously led teams at other retailers including Ross and Best Buy. He will be based in Seattle.

Seattle-based digital design and development agency Substantial hired Sheryl Cababa as vice president of strategy and Michael Smith as director of design. They are both lecturers at the University of Washington and former designers at Frog, a global design firm.

Cababa was previously the executive creative director at tech consultancy Artefact and a GeekWire Geek of the Week. Smith previously served as director of the UW’s Master of Human-Computer Interaction and Design program.

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