Women’s History Month Feature – Lisa Gelobter

Jeff Thoele

Lisa Gelobter was born in 1971 and graduated from Brown University with a computer science degree with a concentration in artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

In the 1990s, Gelobter was working as an engineer and program manager for a company named Macromedia Shockwave which was the Internet’s first interactive media platform. Though it’s since been discontinued, Shockwave was critical in the building of interactive multimedia applications and video games.

Lisa Gelobter and Shockwave

In an article published by Forbes, Gelobter spoke with Jumoke K. Dada, founder of the Tech Women Network and HUE Tech Summit. In this interview, Dada asked a question about Gelobter’s experience with launching Hulu – because Gelobter also helped launch Hulu – to which Gelobter replied: 

“I usually talk about Shockwave first because, in my opinion, it was groundbreaking as it set the foundation for the modern web. It was the thing that made the web move and had the most significant impact in the U.S. from a technological perspective.

Hulu transformed the way people thought about digital media and consumed it. However, Shockwave laid the groundwork and the platform for building it. The Hulu development experience was interesting and amazing. When we first launched it, I was the only person at the company who had previously worked at a media and software company. As a result, I ended up being the translator between my software and media colleagues.”

Source – Meet The Computer Scientist Who Puts Equity In Diversity And Inclusion Work Culture
Image of Lisa Gelobter - the computer scientist striving for equity in diversity and inclusion

Lisa Gelobter and Graphics Interchange Format

Looking beyond Lisa Gelobter’s contributions with Shockwave, Lisa also played a major role in something that we are still using to this day.

If I were to ask you, “who invented the GIF?” – what would your answer be? 

If you mentioned Stephen Wilhite then you’d be correct! 

However, Wilhite was only able to create the GIF because of Gelobter’s innovation and contributions towards global Internet technologies. 

When asked about inventing the GIF, Gelobter told Dada,

“I want to clarify that I did not create GIFs although I get credited for it a lot. I think people conflated thinking about animation on the web as being animated GIFs but that was Shockwave. Again, what we did with Shockwave was transformative.”

Lisa Gelobter – Recent Ventures

In addition to the work listed above, Gelobter also recently worked at a start-up for the White House, in the US Digital Service, serving as the Chief Digital Service Officer for the Department of Education. 

During this time, one of the most socially impactful projects that Gelobter was working on was called College Scorecard. College Scorecard is an education ranking system focused on metrics of access, affordability, and outcomes instead of things like “newer buildings” and sports.

According to a recent blog post written by Gelobter’s Alma Mater, “In three years, College Scorecard was credited with improving college graduation rates in the nation, and the new criteria on ranking schools in U.S. News and World Report released in the past couple of months are grounding their new measures in some of the data that College Scorecard released.” 

Most recently, Gelobter has been working as the Founder and CEO of a company called tEQuitable which was created to be a confidential sounding board for employees to address issues of bias, discrimination and harassment, and for companies to make workplaces more inclusive.

“I am such a fundamental believer in tEQuitable, and this is why you found a company, because it’s something you’re passionate about and something you believe in, and we’re trying to help create a work culture that’s going to work for everyone,” Gelobter says.

Source – Diverse Career Paths: Brown CS Alum Lisa Gelobter Focuses Her Career On Technology For Equitable Workplaces And “Doing Good”
Image of Lisa Gelobter at a speaking arrangement

Additional Achievements of Lisa Gelobter:

  • In 2019, her and her business tEQuitable are recognized in Inc.’s 100 Women Building America’s Most Innovative and Ambitious Businesses.
  • In January 2016, she was recognized as one of the Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company.
  • In March 2014, she was honored by an article in The Roots called “17 Black Women in Science and Tech You Should Know”.
  • In November 2011 she was recognized in The Roots’ article “Blacks in Silicon Valley”.

I’ll Leave you With This

Much like the other two women that we’ve featured for Women’s History Month, Lisa Gelobter saw an opportunity in a male-dominated industry and became an absolute trailblazer.

The creations that Lisa has been a part of have been enjoyed by billions of people across the globe and over the last 25 years, all Gelobter has done is follow a diverse career path in order to lead a pioneering charge in becoming a leader in the tech industry. 

Jumoke K. Dada asked Gelobter, “What advice do you have for future computer scientists, who are currently in or recently graduated from college?”

To which Gelobter replied: 

“I’m inspired by the younger generation, too. I believe that I can learn a lot from them. I feel like they don’t adhere to our standards and norms. They are about making change and questioning the status quo. I really appreciate it and I want to encourage them to continue to do two things: be true to themselves and make a social impact.”

Additional Women’s History Month Features:

You can view the other women that we’ve featured here:

Katherine Johnson – NASA’s Hidden Figure

Dr. Marian Croak – Inventor of VoIP

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