Meet Dr. Sarah Glova, RIoT’s Director of Growth & Communications. RIoT, located in HQ Raleigh, is a nonprofit focused on IoT economic development. Glova leads marketing and communication efforts and events, supports their 75+ sponsors, and supports RIoT’s mission of growing and highlighting IoT opportunities.
Before joining RIoT in November, Glova founded Reify Media, a self-funded e-learning digital media company, which she grew to over half a million in annual revenue within three years. Glova, who began coding websites when she was 10, was a technical writer for IBM, taught technical writing and engineering classes at NC State, is a published author, and speaks internationally about topics ranging from instructional technology, active learning, web and eLearning trends, and entrepreneurship, to women in business, and diversity and inclusion. She earned both her MS in Technical Communication and PhD in Instructional Technology from NC State University.
Glova feeds her entrepreneurial spirit and love for the Triangle by surrounding herself with innovators with the thirst for what is next, particularly in the NC community. “RIoT has always been a grassroots movement—a community-backed network sparking and growing IoT opportunities,” says Glova. Depending on the source, there are between 19 and 24 million connected devices deployed worldwide. “I’m learning more about how IoT can impact enterprise-level organizations, everything from integrated sensors and employee wearable technology to reduce errors and bolster safety in factories to self-driving tractors that are changing the landscape of agriculture… those are the kinds of paradigm-shifting innovations that got me interested in IoT.”
Today, RIoT continues their commitment to support high-potential startups by launching RIoT Underground, a podcast to showcase instigators and disruptors who are changing the world with innovative technology, which will feature IoT use cases, leaders and entrepreneurs, startup stories, and tech trends. The podcast vision is to amplify storytelling for the community—both the local community and the greater tech community—promoting the people, the tech, and the organizations within the Internet of Things space. Says Glova, “We’ll be speaking with corporate executive, government and organization leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers and more—all with a focus on amplifying stories of innovative, disruptive technology that’s driving economic development, business, and, frankly, life as we know it.”
You can also check out the disrupters and innovators January 22nd at The Riot XXX Smart and Connected Gigabit Cities event.
Glova is an also avid supporter of diversity and inclusion and supports women- and entrepreneur-focused organizations like the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), the Boys and Girls Club, and the Alliance of Women in Tech Leadership. Other accolades include being the youngest President in the 40-year history of the National Association of Women Business Owners Greater Raleigh Chapter. Reify Media was named a 2017 Leader in Diversity by The Triangle Business Journal for its focus on programs that help to sustain women working in the technology sector, and also received a No Small Thing Award at the 2017 National Association of Women Business Owners National Conference, through its video competition sponsored by Microsoft.
After meeting Dr. Glova at November’s Internet Summit I was intrigued by this self-proclaimed “nerd” and curator of entrepreneurs. Last week I sat down with Dr. Sarah Glova at their HQ Raleigh offices to learn more and to test out their new podcast equipment for today’s RIoT Underground launch.
Q. You have an amazing job at an amazing organization. Tell us how that came about?
I joined RIoT in November, and it is a great organization. Monday mornings, I wake up dying to get into the office… creating and capturing Internet of Things (IoT) opportunities is exciting work.
I first learned about RIoT by knowing the organizers personally—then later, RIoT became a client of mine. I ran a local digital media company, Reify Media, for the last 10 years, and my Reify team and I supported RIoT’s digital communications strategy.
Now that I’m full-time RIoT, I’ll do that work more directly, as well as support large-scale RIoT events and the new RIoT Studios.
Q. As Director of Communications and Growth, what do you hope to accomplish your first year and what do you feel is going to be your most valuable contribution going forward?
My goal is for the world to understand the limitless impact of IoT—for each person to see how IoT is impacting them today and to envision how IoT will change their future. Over the next year, I’ll be amplifying our region as a global center for IoT excellence and helping more individuals to see their place in that.
We hear, “IoT is the 4th industrial revolution” a lot, and I think that’s true. But I want to bring the message closer to people… not just their work, but their personal lives, too—their health, homes, cities, food, families… IoT impacts it all.
And what an exciting challenge: translating not only how IoT works, but also why it matters.
What will that work look like? I’ll be mining stories and use cases from our sponsors and partners—many are on the cutting edge of IoT applications. If I’m successful, I’ll help RIoT amplify the IoT movement in a way that (1) connects everyone to the reality of how IoT is changing the world around us, and (2) marks North Carolina as a global center for excellence in IoT.
Q. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m proud of all I’ve learned as a mom. Being able to admit when things are hard, to laugh with other office parents who have kids in tow on snow days… that means a lot to me. Starting out in my career, I didn’t hear many colleagues discussing the difficulties of balancing work and family. I think that’s changing, with people being more open and understanding, and I’m grateful to be a part of the conversation. Plus, my son is SO fun, but I can’t take all the credit for that. His Dad and our big family are pretty awesome.
Q. What do you think the greatest challenge(s) is/are for startups in the present Triangle startup environment?
I love the phrase, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” I think many startups are looking for mentors—for examples of entrepreneurs and executives in our area who have accomplished what they’re trying to accomplish. We need more of them. More models, more supporters…
We have some great examples. Red Hat, obviously, and PrecisionHawk, Pendo, RE-vibe, K4Connect, Reveal Mobile—and we’re growing more. Plus, there is impressive corporate support in our area from organizations like SAS, Citrix, IBM, and Cisco. And how we are seeing unexpected but strong leadership/mentoring from forward-thinking governments like Wilson and Cary.
But can our university students name startups that were founded and grown here? Can our early-stage entrepreneurs access an expansive local network of successful entrepreneurs, who have founded, developed, and exited, all in this area? Can our funded, revenue-chasing startups connect with experienced entrepreneurs and executives in our area who have made it to that next level? A huge part of this conversation is—can we easily name local founders who are women, who are people of color?
To some extent, yes, and that’s why we continue to be recognized as a great area for entrepreneurs. But our region talks a lot about attracting the next big HQ—attracting a company like Amazon or Apple to come to this area. I think if instead we could focus on growing that next company here, then the talent, the VC funding—and yes, the other big companies, the other big HQs—will come running.
That’s a challenge for each person in this community: what can we as individuals, as organizations, do to support local founders, local startups, and local businesses? I think the more we can do to champion startups in our area, especially underestimated* founders, the more we’ll see the next generation not only interested in entrepreneurship but also equipped to take it on successfully. And the more our area will attract the kinds of resources that an entrepreneurial community needs to succeed.
*I borrowed this term from Founder Arlan Hamilton, CEO of Backstage Capital, who spoke at the most recent Innovate Raleigh Summit.
Q. Share something we might not know about you—preferably personal.
I’m fairly open, so if you’ve met me on Twitter, you may already know that I’m a coffee-obsessed grammar nerd who’s sometimes jogging, constantly reading, and always up for Harry Potter trivia.
But something you might not know—in 2005, I was a captain of the Green Hope (Cary) High School Women’s Lacrosse team, and that year, we won the State Championship. It was an incredible season; seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney made a movie about it one day.
I wasn’t born here, but I grew up here, fell in love with this region, brought my husband here, and started a family. We’ve got our roots in this Oak City, and we plan to stay.
Q. If you weren’t doing your role now what would you be doing professionally?
I am still active with the company I founded, Reify Media, and I teach at NC State from time to time, so without the RIoT role, I’d likely be doing more of that work.
But I’d also be looking for a role like I have with RIoT. Unquestionably, IoT is the primary driver of the economy for the next decade. There’s no more exciting place to be at this stage of my career
Q. If you could change something/anything (pie in the sky) what would you change?
Anything? Public access to quality daycare, pre-K, public education, and technical college for all. It’s hard for me to understand why we don’t already make those investments into our society, especially if our goal is safer, more prosperous communities, since investing in education saves us tax dollars in the end, reduces crime, and grows the middle class.
Q. What gets you most excited about the future?
History! That sounds like a strange answer, but when I want to be inspired, I look at where we’ve been.
Here’s an example. Just 80 years ago, kindergarten teacher Helen Hulick was arrested for wearing pants in an L.A. court. Seriously! She arrived to provide witness testimony, but the judge ordered her to go home and change out of her slacks. When she didn’t, he had her arrested. I can’t believe that was only 80 years ago. I’m sorry that happened to Ms. Hulick, but our progress since that injustice is inspiring.
You don’t have to go back 80 years, either. In 1988, it was still legal for banks to require women business owners to have male relatives cosign on loans. That’s in my lifetime, when a female business owner who was 100% owner of her business, in good credit standing, needing a line of credit for a successful company, could have been told to have her husband, father, or even son sign on her loans. It’s amazing how recently that became illegal.
Those are just two examples related to gender discrimination; you could go back into history and find similar progress on almost every tenet of modern society. Whenever I feel concerned about the pace of progress, I remind myself how things have changed for the better. That gives me hope for where we’re headed, and courage to speak up for what I hope will be better tomorrow. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Q. Fast forward 10 years from now and where do we find Sarah?
I’ll have a 15-year-old by then, so I’ll probably be teaching him how to drive his automated car, on our way to his smart high school, where a virtual Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches Physics, and sensor-equipped pencils help him take notes on recycled-ocean-trash paper.
And I’ll probably be binge-watching the new Harry Potter miniseries on NetflixPrime, which they’ll have finally adapted into a 199-episode series (as if eight movies were ever enough; what were they thinking). We may have nicknamed Tom Snyder, RIoT’s Executive Director, “Dumbledore”—because he’s still growing his beard, yes, but also because by that time he’s helped found and grow some startups that are making IoT magic.
And since RIoT chapters will have grown to cities all over the world by then, I’ll be supporting RIoT’s international community as it scales to meet global demands and IoT challenges. Our RIoT team will be hosting RIoT events across the globe and leveraging RIoT Studios to continue to amplify the impact and possibility of IoT. By 2028, I’ll be speaking internationally about IoT—the movement that, by then, will be recognized as even more impactful than the Internet itself.