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The Culture That Big Tech Built: What Comes Next?

May 21, 2021 @ 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm

Big Tech


Janet A. Vertesi
Associate Professor of Sociology


  • Eric Schmidt ’76, Co-Founder, Schmidt Futures, Former Google CEO and Chairman
  • Brad Smith ’81, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft Corporation
  • Jennifer Rexford ’91, Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering and Chair of Computer Science, Princeton University
  • Tshaka Cunningham ’96, Chief Science Officer & Founder, TruGenomix Inc.
  • Jack Altman ’11, CEO, Lattice

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About the Moderator

Janet VertesiJanet A. Vertesi
Associate Professor of Sociology

Professor Vertesi specializes in the sociology of science, knowledge, and technology. Her primary research site is with NASA’s robotic spacecraft teams as an ethnographer. Her books, “Seeing like a Rover: Images and Interaction on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission” (Chicago, 2015) and “Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA’s Teams” (Chicago, 2020) draws on her ethnographic studies of missions to Mars, Saturn, and the outer planets to examine how organizations matter to scientific discovery. Vertesi is also a leader in digital sociology, whether studying computational systems in social life, shifting research methods online, or applying social insights to build technologies along different lines. She holds a Master’s degree from Cambridge and a PhD from Cornell, has received several grants from the National Science Foundation, and has been awarded top prizes for her work from the ASA’s Science, Knowledge and Technology Section and Communication, Information Technology and Media Section, and the Society for Social Studies of Science.


About the Panelists

Eric SchmidtEric Schmidt ’76
Co-Founder, Schmidt Futures, Former Google CEO and Chairman

Eric Schmidt ’76 is an accomplished technologist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He joined Google in 2001 and helped grow the company from a Silicon Valley startup to a global leader in technology alongside founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Eric served as Google’s Chief Executive Officer and Chairman from 2001-2011, as well as Executive Chairman and Technical Advisor. Under his leadership, Google dramatically scaled its infrastructure and diversified its product offerings while maintaining a strong culture of innovation. In 2017, he co-founded Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative that bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Eric is the host of “Reimagine with Eric Schmidt,” a podcast series of conversations with leaders to explore how society can build a brighter future after the global coronavirus pandemic.


Brad SmithBrad Smith ’81
President, Microsoft

As Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith leads a team of more than 1,500 business, legal and corporate affairs professionals located in 54 countries and operating in more than 120 nations. He plays a key role in spearheading the company’s work on critical issues involving the intersection of technology and society, including cybersecurity, privacy, artificial intelligence, environmental sustainability, human rights, immigration and philanthropy. In his recent bestselling book, coauthored with Microsoft’s Carol Ann Browne, “Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age,” Brad urges the tech sector to assume more responsibility and calls for governments to move faster to address the challenges that new technologies are creating.  The New York Times has called Smith “a de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large” and The Australian Financial Review has described him as “one of the technology industry’s most respected figures.” He has testified numerous times before the U.S. Congress and other governments on these key policy issues. Brad joined Microsoft in 1993, first spending three years in Paris leading the legal and corporate affairs team in Europe. In 2002, he was named Microsoft’s general counsel and spent the following decade leading work to resolve the company’s antitrust controversies with governments around the world and companies across the tech sector. Over the past decade, he has spearheaded the company’s work to advance privacy protection for Microsoft customers and the rights of DREAMers and other immigrants, including bringing multiple lawsuits against the U.S. government on these issues. Prior to joining Microsoft, Brad was an associate and then partner at the law firm of Covington and Burling, where he is still remembered as the first attorney in the long history of the firm to insist (in 1986) on having a personal computer on his desk as a condition for accepting a job offer. In addition to his work at Microsoft, Brad is active in several civic organizations and in the broader technology industry. He has served on the Netflix board of directors since 2015 and chairs the board of directors of both Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program. He grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Green Bay was the big city next door. He attended Princeton University, where he met his wife, Kathy. He earned his J.D. from Columbia University Law School and studied international law and economics at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland.



Jennifer RexfordJennifer Rexford ’91
Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering and Chair of Computer Science, Princeton University

Jen Rexford ’91 joined the computer science faculty at Princeton in 2005, and became the chair of the department in 2015. Her research focuses on computer networking and how to make the Internet worthy of the trust society increasingly places in it. Before joining Princeton, Jen worked for nine years at AT&T Labs—Research, after completing her PhD at the University of Michigan and her BSE in Electrical Engineering at Princeton. She is the co-author of the book “Web Protocols and Practice” and co-editor of the book “She’s an Engineer? Princeton Alumnae Reflect.” Jen is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. She lives in downtown Princeton with her partner Natasha and their daughter.


Tshaka CunninghamTshaka Cunningham ’96
Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Trugenomix Inc.

Tshaka Cunningham is co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of TruGenomix Inc., an emerging precision genomics biotechnology company that is harnessing the power of genomics to improve risk prediction and diagnosis of PTSD. He earned a B.A. degree in molecular biology from Princeton and his doctoral degree in the same discipline from Rockefeller University in New York. He completed postdoctoral training at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, and at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He served as the scientific program manager for the Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases Rehabilitation Research Program within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs/VHA’s Office of Research & Development. Tshaka also served as a subject matter expert for the VHA  Genomic Medicine Implementation Program (GMIP) and convened the MVP-Diversity Working Group, which presented recommendations to the VA on patient recruitment strategies to ensure that minority veteran participation in the VA’s Million Veteran Program (MVP) was maximized. He created the VA Historically Black College and University Research Scientist Training Program (VA HBCU-RSTP), a key diversity outreach initiative sponsored by the agency. In addition to his academic and professional accomplishments, Tshaka remains active in the faith-based community in Northern Virginia, where he serves as a Deacon at the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA. He is an active member of the Faith-Based Genetic Research Institute, where he serves as the executive director. He has academic affiliations at George Mason University where he is an affiliate faculty assistant professor in the School of Systems Biology and at Morehouse School of Medicine where he teaches in the Master’s in Biotechnology online program.


Jack AltmanJack Altman ’11
CEO of Lattice

Jack Altman ’11 is the founder and CEO of Lattice, an HR software company. Jack is based in San Francisco, with over 250 employees, 2,500 customers, and over $150M in funding. He is also an active venture investor and has invested in companies such as Opendoor, Flexport, Pinterest and Gusto. Outside of work, Jack is happily married to Julia Weigel Altman ’11, is the dad of a 1-year-old, and loves to read and play chess.


May 21, 2021
1:30 pm - 2:45 pm
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Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08540 United States
(609) 258 - 3000