Friday, September 23, 2016

Robotics Cluster Meeting Hosted at Natick Soldier Research and Development Center (NSRDEC)

The MassTLC Robotics Cluster Community held a member meeting on 21 September, hosted at the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center (NSRDEC).  We learned about the overall mission of NSRDEC and their dedication to soldier and squad performance and optimization.  We gained insight into some specific research areas including an automated shipboard cleaning system, biomechanics research, and human augmentation.  We were treated to a live demo of a Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) system with reconnaissance capability, called the PD-100 Black Hornet.

Figure 1. Michael Samuel flew this micro UAV and demonstrated its capabilities
Our group then received a tour of the Center’s Doriot Climatic chambers -  facilities that can reproduce environmental conditions occurring anywhere around the world and capable of simulating an extreme range of global weather conditions for the testing of both the physical properties of military equipment and the physiology and adaptations of human subjects.
 Figure 2.  The largest of the Doriot Climatic Chambers at NSRDEC
Figure 3.  Our Robotics Cluster members in one of the smaller Doriot Climatic chambers
Special thanks to Tom Merle and Josh Denton from the Outreach & Business Development office at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center for Organizing our event.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Comprehensive Security - a 360 degree view of your security program

On August 31 we were joined by 200 security executives for Comprehensive Security - a 3600 view of your security program at Microsoft NERD in Cambridge.

Dave Mahon, Vice President and Chief Security Officer of CenturyLink, kicked off the afternoon sharing his expertise in building global security programs. This was followed by a simulated cyber-data breach where expertise from security, legal, and law enforcement provided attendees with best practices on handling a breach at each step of escalation.  The remainder of the day was spent taking deeper dives into many of the facets included in both the keynote and simulation.

Dave’s keynote included:
  • How to work with your board, where decisions such as regulations, risk assessment, liability, and cyber insurance all lay.  He talked about the importance of communication, keeping it simple and in incremental steps -- what it takes to bring the risk down by x% and what that means to bottom line.
  • Understanding that adversaries are very smart and very motivated and that there are five primary source of threats: State funded (espionage), cyber criminals (typically well-funded), terrorists (zealots), hacktivists (protestors), and insider threats (employees).
  • Identifying the direct and indirect costs to a breach - loss of market share, cost of insurance, cost of rebuilding your system, government fines, etc.
  •   Litigation proof your security program, have a solid IR plan, and practice executing it.

Simulated Breach Take-Aways
  • Better than 60% of the time, law enforcement will notify a company it has been breached rather than the company discovering on its own.
  • Be prepared. Have an IR plan and practice it.  
  •  An organization that has been breached is the victim of a crime, but they must demonstrate they handled the situation correctly. Be iron-clad in your actions and communications, both internally and externally.
  • If you are dealing with the FBI or other law enforcement agencies, make sure you have: timeline, logs, and a key point person to communicate among law enforcement agency and company executives, legal team, and IT.

Following these sessions, we had several breakouts where speakers took audience into several of the steps in more detail including:
  •  Managing your 3rd parties;
  •  Building your incident response programs;
  • Developing strong application security programs;
  • Understanding and utilizing user behavior statistic reporting; and
  • Taking your security program to the next level through security operation and analytics reporting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Robotics Cluster Meeting hosted at Sea Machines: August 22, 2016

Robotics Cluster Meeting hosted at Sea Machines
August 22, 2016
Our Summer 2016 Robotics Cluster meeting and social was attended by about 50 MassTLC members at Sea Machines in the Boston Harbor Shipyard.  The focus of this meeting was Aquatic Robotics.
Sam Godin provided an overview and status of Riptide’s UUVs. Riptide Autonomous solutions made their first 3 production micro-UUVs delivery to SPAWAR System Center earlier this year and recently delivered 6 more to the US Navy this month.  More information on the company can be found on their web site at:
Alex Lorman described Sea Machines Robotics as a forward-looking autonomous technology company which develops control systems and unmanned surface vehicles that increase offshore operational efficiency, quality and safety.  Sea Machines can be applied across most maritime industries.
Recent articles on Sea Machines include:, Unmanned Systems Technology (UST), Marine Technology News and the most recent article in the Boston Globe.  More information can be found on their web site at:
David Kelly described the InnovaSea Systems mission:  to create innovative and integrated production systems that efficiently and effectively produce fish, while not harming the environment.  He showed how these SeaStations and Aquapods are deployed and sustained.  More information can be found at:
These indoor discussions were followed by an outdoor in-water demonstration of Sea Machine’s prototype.
Beer & Bots Casual Networking

Our summer social was enjoyed by all!
Special Thanks to Our Event Host


Monday, July 11, 2016

Open Source in the Enterprise - Part 2 of a 2-Part Series

By: Paul Marcinkiewicz, Solution Architect for Slalom Consulting

How Your Company Can Become An Open Source Organization

In Part 1, I talked about the history and the many advantages of utilizing open source. The advantages outlined are numerous and the more advanced companies are not only utilizing open source, but creating it as well. Part 2 will address how your company can not just leverage open source, but become an open source organization and an active user and contributor.   

Hurdles and Challenges

Overcoming the Legacy Wall

The foremost challenges surrounding a shift to open source are related to platform legacy and existing company culture. Most organizations are using or have built software applications and platforms that are tied up with licenses from big corporations like Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle. This is often a large annual cost burden. These applications and platforms cannot be torn down and replaced overnight. Software professionals are trained and often have lengthy backgrounds in legacy technologies, so introducing them to an entirely new stack and development approach can be challenging. Operations are also in place to monitor and deploy these older technology stacks. So, you may ask, then how do we get started?  

Enterprise Processes and Regulations

Netflix is a sterling example of a company that has not only grown into a large enterprise but has created and adopted a strategy to overcome enterprise processes and regulations. Netflix relies on a model that lowers process and regulation, which will increase innovation and speed of delivery. Rather than creating more process to prevent problems, Netflix relies on individual and team responsibility. This same philosophy holds true for open source adoption. Many enterprises are reluctant to use open source because of the lack of enterprise support. However, if each team is responsible for their development, testing, deployments and service level agreements (SLAs), they are free to explore and build as long as they deliver quality. 

Your Company’s Open Source Strategy

Think Like a Startup

Startups have traditionally been early adopters of open source for a number of reasons. Startups are often cash-strapped and do not have the resources to acquire software licenses, so using open source is often a decision made out of necessity. As a result, startups usually lead the way in terms of innovation and time-to-market. How do they do it? It’s done through constant experimentation and tremendously fast iteration cycles achieved by quickly leveraging and adopting these tools ad hoc. Unlike large companies that are often limited by vendor software, startups are able to choose the right tool for the job at the right time. This is especially important in the technology industry, where software release cycles are accelerating as quickly as ever. In an ecosystem where frameworks, tools, and technologies are falling in and out of favor virtually every day, the advantage of being a startup is not necessarily in the tools they choose, but in their ability to rapidly prototype, iterate, and swap technologies as they see fit. This is in stark contrast to many large companies, where adding layers of complexity to combat legacy software is the status quo.

While it’s unrealistic to advocate for the same level of flexibility often achieved at startups, it is imperative that companies approach open source in a similar spirit. We’ve seen numerous examples in recent years of large, seemingly invincible companies suffocating under the weight of a legacy tech stack. Organizations looking to join the open source movement must not expect to find a “golden hammer,” but rather build their systems to be as flexible and loosely-coupled as possible.

Find or Hire Your Own Open Source Mavericks

These open source mavericks are often hidden gems within your company. These are the developers who work nights and weekends at home and tinker. They often have their own GitHub pages showing what great work they’ve done.  A lot of them have an entrepreneurial spirit and many are working on their own side projects.  

Sometimes, these open source mavericks are professionals who have been working with the same technology for a while and want the opportunity to work on something new and challenging. Some people in your organization are happy with working on the legacy systems, while others want to be challenged. Recognizing these mavericks and giving them the opportunity to work on what’s new and shiny can change a stale culture into a fresh and exciting one and can transform your company into a destination that is desirable for the best and brightest.  

Offer Incentives

Companies such as Yahoo will offer incentives for developing technology that will either make or save the company money. In some cases, these will be in the form of offers that will give employees a direct percentage of revenue or savings generated from the initiative.  Innovating will take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Employees will often ask “what’s in it for me?”, other than building a good resume to allow them to move on to a better opportunity somewhere else.


Hackathons are another great method to market and find talent for a specific technology. Open source skills are some of the most sought after in the marketplace both from the employee and the employer perspective, so this is a great way of matching potential prospects with an opening. This is also a great way to market to the masses that your company is using these technologies.

Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

More often than not, teams and organizations are under constant pressure to deliver. This can cause enterprises to fall back to what we know and often take us to the path of least resistance. However, this approach will never spur innovation. If we keep patching the same legacy systems, we can never move forward and will only build the legacy wall even higher. Well-run organizations understand that consistent investment in their software is paramount to their success as opposed to constant band-aid solutions.  It’s OK to fail as long as you learn and iterate and do not spend an undue amount of time. This is what R&D is all about.  

Organize Into Small Autonomous Groups

It is often the case that not everyone will have the same opinion within an organization on how to best solve a problem. While many of your teams may be trying to solve similar problems, the backgrounds and skillsets may vary greatly. Many companies have found success with a Microservices architecture, providing their engineers with the autonomy to create the best solutions for themselves in the context of the support network that large companies benefit from. Yelp and Spotify are two examples of companies that have found success with and written about this approach.

Pick a Pilot Project

The best way to get started is to find a project that is either net-new without legacy dependencies or a project that can be retrofitted into your existing architecture. This will allow you to do "bake-offs" and "A/B performance tests" against different technologies.  To start, try something small to experiment with the new technology stack. Don't be afraid to try a number of competing technologies such as MongoDB vs Couchbase or NodeJS vs Tomcat.  Do this for every layer of your stack, from client tools through the database.  This will allow you to find the lines of demarcation within your organization.  

Create a Layer of Abstraction

Since each technology has its own tooling and modules, the last thing you want to do is be tied to a particular product because it's all wired together too tightly or has too many dependencies.  To account for this, design an API for each tier of your application to develop layers of abstraction. This approach is consistent with Microservices architecture patterns and best practices.

As an example, Node.js provides excellent asynchronous API orchestration. A NodeJS layer can stitch together compound requests into a single asynchronous request. These requests can be written in any blend of technologies and languages. For instance, high computational requests can be written in something like C++ or Java and be fronted by a Tomcat/Spring server.   

MVP (Get Your Win)

Projects often suffer from overdesign and extensive  timelines. Think long and hard about determining what your project's minimum viable product (MVP) is. The principles of Agile will support iterations before and after the initial MVP release. Getting your open source-based project released will allow your team to put a “stake in the ground” and begin to establish an open source culture within your organization. If you can eliminate the need to renew licenses or replace them with less expensive licensing deals, then that’s a big win.    

Cloud Agnostic Approach

Building an application or platform that will only run on a specific cloud provider’s infrastructure like AWS or Azure can lead to the same legacy wall issues. Your organization will become dependent on a provider’s proprietary tools.  Certainly leveraging these tools can provide benefit, but a design around a specific cloud provider’s tooling can also lock you into that specific vendor. Avoid this pitfall by leveraging tools that work on a number of cloud providers. Good examples of this are Docker for deployment containers and Node.js.  Some organizations will require certain assets to remain within their walls, so there is usually a need to think agnostically. Doing so will also allow you to burst out onto the public cloud in the future.

Use Licensing Where It Makes Sense for our Organization

There are situations where it may make sense to license certain software. If your company’s lifeline depends on a highly-available application, then buying an open source support contract may be the right decision. This license agreement can be temporary as your organization ramps up its internal skill set.  This is why it’s best to build software that does not have a strong dependency on versions that are only available in a licensed product.   

The Benefits to Contributing and the Power of Community

As you become proficient with open source, consider contributing back. This can be achieved in several ways. For one, you can submit pull requests directly to packages’ repositories on GitHub. NPM (Node Package Manager) is a great example of this. The NPM community has grown exponentially over the years and new modules are uploaded constantly.  Of course, this can also create a bit of a minefield, so proper QA and due diligence is a must.  Contributing back to open source can also provide a great way to attract talent and advertise your organization as a destination of open source innovation.

Get Bootstrapped By Getting Help

If you truly feel your company just doesn’t have enough experience with open source in-house to get started, then you can always scaffold the effort with a consulting firm.  This can provide the benefits of rapid building and allow your in-house talent to pair up with consultants to learn and sharpen their skills.  Again, this can be a transitional step once your company feels comfortable with your level of background, skill, and proficiency.

Final Thoughts

Open source provides many good options for your organization and should be seriously considered as an option to utilize. My suggestion is that you proceed in incremental steps and try to create a technological and cultural shift that will make your organization more innovative and adaptable in the fast changing marketplace. 

Paul Marcinkiewicz is a Solution Architect for Slalom Consulting - Boston and is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect. Paul has worked as an architect ranging from startups to Fortune 500 firms and has experience designing, building and migrating onto platforms utilizing open source technologies. Connect with Paul on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Talent Retriever Puppy Love – Supporting a Great Cause at Boston TechJam 2016

Woof! If you came down with a case of “Puppy Love” with Talent Retriever’s Pet My Puppy booth at TechJam, you’ll be happy to learn that the rescue group they partnered with, Sweet Paws Rescue of Essex, MA, raised over $800 (100% of that goes directly back into the costs of saving more dogs’ lives), gained 300+ Facebook followers and had several TechJam attendees personally reach out to Sweet Paws to volunteer! Sweet Paws Rescue only exists by donations; every dollar counts to help their rescue pooches! And to give you an idea of where donations go- take a look at this amazing video of Sweet Paws SuperStar Elinor last week taking her first steps! 

The attending pups, Austin, Margo, Willie the Wonder Doxie and the amazing Elinor, were a hit with TechJam attendees and we are happy to report Margo has found her adoptive “furever” home.

Elinor continues to thrive in her foster care and does hydro therapy daily and continues to inspire as all. She even has a very interested adopter that is hoping to one day take her home! If you would like to follow Elinor’s progress, like her page on Facebook: Saving Elinor

And get involved! Sweet Paws is always looking for volunteers, fosters, etc-

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Data Governance in the Cloud

We continued our data governance series on June 22 with the topic Data Governance in the Cloud. Our moderator, Rashesh Jethi of Amadeus North America, was joined by panel members: Michael Lemire of QuickBase, Samir Mehra of CloudHealth Technologies, and Shawne Robinson of Pegasystems.

While governance is substantially easier to manage on premise, the fact is most companies are migrating to the cloud. The panel began with identifying the drivers of data governance in the cloud:
  1.          Regulatory compliance
  2.          Contractual obligations with your customers
  3.        Risk assessment: what are the data types and classification

For CloudHealth, their main driver is about providing visibility for the user and setting up automated governance plans based upon need and usability. For many of their customers it is not only an accessibility issue - the right people with the right access - but also about optimizing their cloud use.

All panelists agreed that governing data in the cloud is complicated but there are general guidelines. Michael made mention of 10 generally accepted privacy principles that were released by the AICPA. And Rashesh spoke about technological advancements in machine learning that allow for better automation and detection to ensure that governance rules are being followed properly.

Shawne suggests for companies that are skittish about moving to the cloud to start small. Move those data sets that are not as critical and secure as a way to build and test your strategies.  

Inevitably more data is going to be stored, accessed, and processed in the cloud. Companies and service providers must work together to create policies that make it safe and cost effective. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

CXO Forum: Designing the Future in an Age of Disruption

Designing the Future in an Age of Disruption

Last Tuesday over 50 CXOs from the tech community joined together for Designing the Future in an Age of Disruption. MassTLC’s CEO, Tom Hopcroft began the discussion with some key findings from MassTLC’s State of the Tech Economy report, highlighting the large role of tech on the Massachusetts economy, the need for more talent, and the need to focus on women and minorities as critical components of the tech workforce.

Following Tom, economist and co-editor of MassBenchmarks, Michael Goodman presented his state of the state. Michael walked through a number of factors that, in spite of the State’s economic forecast being strong, will affect growth of the Massachusetts economy including global markets, global conflict, huge demographic shifts, and even climate change.

Michael’s presentation dovetailed into our panel where members shared their stories and their insights on how regulatory and public policy agencies must work faster to move the regulatory processes in line with tech and enable innovation. Panelists included Sarah Biller of State Street Global Exchange, Jim Noga of Partners Healthcare, Tom Ryden of MassRobotics, Brian Tilzer of CVS Health, and Cathy Zhou of Uber.

Sarah spoke of the huge opportunities that have continued to evolve due to the massive data - both structured and unstructured - that have allowed corporate and individual investors to make substantially smarter decisions.

Jim and Brian also spoke of using data to deliver more individualized healthcare in a much more efficient and effective manner. Examples from Jim included having the ability to see multiple specialists who all have access to your health record, allowing your care to become more tailored to you. While Brian spoke of providing care on demand coupled with pharmaceutical care.

Tom and Cathy focused most on transportation citing autonomous vehicles and ridesharing respectively. Yet both warned of the negative impact that the current regulatory framework could have on moving Massachusetts to the forefront, not only as an economic development opportunity but also the ability to combat our ever increasing infrastructure and mass transit issues.

This conversation has only just begun, we will be continuing the discussion and taking a deep dive into these topics on November 18 at MassTLC’s TRANSFORM, an initiative in which the tech industry, along with academia and policy makers come together to talk about how we embrace the new opportunities coming about through our technology oriented, data driven, and on-demand economy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Robotica 2016 – June 7-9 2016

Many MassTLC community members participated in the AUVSI 3 day Robotica event at Devens MA, 7-9 June.

The event featured several presentations, panels and discussions including technical, regulatory and policy on autonomous vehicles (land, air and sea).  There was a medical track featuring presentations and discussion on Surgical Robotics, Exoskeletons and Assistive and Rehabilitation Robotics, as well as robotic application discussions focusing on e-commerce/warehousing/logistics, collaborative robotics and Robotic/IoT in the future connected home.

Thanks to all of our MassTLC members who made the event a success!

E-commerce, Warehousing and Logistics Panel moderated by Vik Gopalakrishnan, Senior Supply Chain Manager at Staples Inc.  Panel members left to right: Mary Ellen Sparrow (NextShift), Gino Stone (Wynright), Rob Sullivan (Symbotic), Bruce Welty (Locus), Yaro Tenzer (Right Hand Robotics)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Talking Talent with Tech Execs in Cambridge

By: Mike Johnson, Director of Communities, MassTLC

As the Director of Communities at MassTLC, I hear about a lot of issues and trends happening within our tech ecosystem. The most common theme of late is tech talent in the region. Where is it, where is it going, and why is it so hard to fill seats. 

Our 2016 State of Tech Report scratches the surface of what’s happening in the region but we wanted to dig a little deeper and bring together leaders in our community that are either growing their organizations or have successfully grown in Massachusetts.  

Tuesday June 7th, MassTLC hosted a dinner at Catalyst in Cambridge that was graciously sponsored by Digital Realty. This event set the stage for 11 of the smartest tech executives ranging from startups to household names to share their experiences, strategies, and some hilarious stories with each other. 

Below are the common problems/excuses organizations have and how our attendees overcame some of these hurdles. 

Only 27% of students are staying in Massachusetts after graduation from college. 

Yes, this is true, but many of that 73% weren’t Massachusetts residents before school so we can’t expect them to be locked in. We have one of the highest concentrations of higher education institutions in the country so this high percentage is a standard that we can’t do much about. 

It’s really hard to compete against the big tech players with recognizable names for talent, even if you are an enterprise level company. 

We found funding labs or research projects was a good way to get students to become aware of who we are and build an affinity towards our organization. This helps with recruiting them at the end of their education. 

We have a hard time getting people to apply or accept offers. 

Sometimes you need to look at the top. If the right leadership isn’t in place your organization can become a no-go zone no matter how much you’re paying, and if people are accepting offers to work in a place that’s not great just because the money is good, they’re not going to work out in the long run. 

How do we get marketing to allow us to use our social channels as a recruiting platform? 

This needs to come from the top and from HR. It’s a little more difficult when you’re a B2C but you need to sell that supporters of the organization often make the best employees and that marketing works for everyone in the organization, not just sales. 

It takes so much longer to fill the mid and senior level roles but it feels like we spend all of our time reviewing or interviewing entry level candidates. 

Create higher hurdles for the entry level gigs. Homework before the application can even be submitted so you know the people submitting are really interested and have some of the skills right from the start. This way you’re not wasting time and can spend more time working on mid and senior level roles. 

There is a huge mid-level gap. 

Separate management from mentorship and have all mid and senior level engineers mentoring lower level engineers. Too often its just left to managers when it needs to be a company-wide collaborative effort. 

Why is everyone asking for titles that they’re not qualified for yet? 

The talent crunch has changed the balance of power for some engineering specific jobs where the demand is so high that applicants shoot for the moon, and often times get it. The market is unfortunately growing faster than the skillsets. You need to be a little weary of these people. Yes, it’s great that they’re vocal about what they want which is a good asset to have on your team, but they also might be over confident and take on things which they are grossly underqualified for. This could be disastrous for your products or organization.  

I need to scale my teams hype-growth style. 

It’s said that doubling your teams in a year can’t/shouldn’t be done. When you try to scale too quickly you often make poor hiring decisions which leads to you either cutting some of those new hires because they don’t work out, or losing some veterans because the team dynamic has changed. You had 10 to start, you hired 10 more, but you let 2 go and 3 left due to the mess that was created, so you’re really only +5. 

Where does culture fit into the importance level of applicants? 

Culture fit is the MOST important part of any hire. You can teach skills but if someone can’t acclimate to the culture, it’s impossible to work around that. Bad hires are almost always due to bad culture fit and the bad ones you make are always more costly than the good ones you miss.  

How big of a role does data play in your hiring? 

There are lots of data points to look at, such as testing scores, and quantitative feedback from interviewers. But at the end of the day, hiring is an emotional decision. Most people have panels that decide and some even involve an advocate for the minority opinion but numbers rarely, if ever, are a final decision maker. Although, earlier in the process, they could be. 

The take away from this dinner is that these leaders play a much larger role in their organization than their titles state. They are the #1 recruiters charged with thinking about how to fill the funnel and build the best team possible all while still being extremely productive in their day to day job functions. For them, their livelihoods are all about risk management, from the decisions they make on products and code to the people they hire to support them.