The Software Agents - Episode 6: Keeping Apartments Safe and Kids Learning

Written by: Christina Noren

3 min read

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The Software Agents is a new podcast series sponsored by CloudBees. Each week, we bring you a leader reinventing a different field through software for the new world now being born. Listen to this week's podcast here.

Our guest this week is Karen Sun, an American technologist living in Medellin, Colombia. She is CTO of not one, but two companies - Dwelo, the largest apartment automation company in the U.S., and Selesy, a company that works with the Colombian government to bring K-12 education online. Both companies have found that what they do has gone from important to absolutely critical for those they serve, in light of the global pandemic. We explore both in this fast-moving episode.

Karen is an amazing polymath whose journey started with an intense early focus on the violin and classical music, which had her enrolling at The Juilliard School at age 10. Then, she went to MIT to study biology and life sciences, but found herself seduced by the power of coding and discovered her ability to apply her math proficiency to become a data scientist and coder. Like a lot of MIT grads that brought her to Wall Street and working for high- frequency trading firms. She then looked around her, seeing the best minds of our generation applied to purely making money, and decided to devote her considerable talents to areas more meaningful to her personally and to humanity.

Since then she’s led data science, software development and product teams at companies in books, art, learning and ed tech. She landed at Dwelo two and a half years ago, working remotely as she traveled the world. That’s how she found herself in Medellin, connecting with Selesy informally.

The global pandemic then made things, ahem,  interesting for both. Dwelo’s apartment automation allows tenants and property managers to control their light, heat, unit access and other automated systems. Now they suddenly faced customer demand to rush delivery of a major new feature– remote showings. At the same time, Selesy, working to digitize Colombia’s unique story-based K-12 curriculum as a complement to traditional classrooms, was mandated by the government to build a complete online learning platform for the country’s tens of millions of K-12 students. Selesy asked Karen to come on as CTO there as well, and Dwelo agreed to let her split her time. 

In this episode, Karen shares how each team works in regards to tech stack, process and people. There’s lots to learn from her for all of us in software. Dwelo does continuous delivery to hardware devices, not just cloud apps. Selesy has CI/CD on the horizon, so they can localize development on an open source English language platform.

It’s certainly a unique situation to be a CTO for two different companies in different fields on different continents. As Karen says in our interview, it could only happen because of the massive changes forced upon us by the current global pandemic. 

I would add that it’s also only possible because of one very unique software agent. It is an honor to have Karen on the show.

Karen Sun headshot

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