SXSW 2024 Days 1-3

by Jay Cuthrell
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See also: Notes Before SXSW 2024
See also: SXSW 2024 Days 1-3
See also: SXSW 2024 Days 4-9

I’m on Day 3 at SXSW 2024. My biggest failure so far is related to my quantified self: I intended to track the number of steps I’ve taken and map my routes via GPS/beacons but I missed a setting on my mobile device. Bother.

Disclosure, I work for IBM. At SXSW 2024, IBM is sponsoring the Artificial Intelligence track. So far, I’ve attended two IBMer sessions.

First, I attended Quantum Computing: Real, Revolutionary, Right Now! featuring Jay Boisseau of The Austin Forum on Technology & Society, Heather Higgins of IBM, Rima Alameddine of IonQ , and Bob Sorensen of Hyperion Research on an awesome panel [1].

Second, I attended Why We Should Be Talking About Quantum featuring Heather Higgins of IBM and Wade Davis of Moderna. Some of the practical examples shared highlighted convergence in mRNA research, protein folding research, classical computing, and quantum computing.

The lesson I’ve learned is that the next day SXXpress Passes available in the SXSW GO app need to be refreshed on your device at 9:00 AM CT with no exceptions. If you wait even 15 minutes, you will see the available passes dwindle rapidly.

Serendipity is real. I was able to get into the packed sessions for other IBMers (see above) only because I arrived 45 minutes ahead of time and formed the line/queue for general access. Of course, the benefit to being early is you realize how small the planet is — I ran into attendees from APAC region who also knew people that I know and now we’re fast SXSW buddies. 🤓

Tomorrow, I’ll be catching a few more IBMer sessions.


This year the lines for keynotes meant I needed to vote with my feet. Instead of standing in lines, I opted for discussions in hallways and grabbing coffee to catch up with industry attendees, alliance partners, clients/customers, and IBMers. Thankfully, there were helpful folks able to share things I missed! 🙏


So far, I have not been able to get into any films but I will probably use SXXpress Passes. I didn’t think to take a photo of it but the general access lines/queues for movies are wrapping around entire buildings.


I kept Obsidian open for a few sessions. I’m sharing a few of my notes in a summary format.

Privacy-in-Progress Redefining the Boundaries of Being Online featured Deonne Castaneda and Tracy Chou of Block Party.

  • As opposed to moderation, open APIs would permit greater choice to enable use cases and give back power to the user.
  • Shoutouts
    • Permission Slip
    • DeleteMe
    • Privacy Party
  • Privacy is a failing of UX
    • Example of changes to ToS included the Zoom debacle claiming ownership of all your meetings.
    • Product Engineering should begin with empathy (Aside: I agree!)
    • Examples of Facebook photo albums 6 clicks. “What a waste of precious human moments”
    • Shoutout to “Privacy by Design”

Life After Big Tech - Where Are Laid Off Workers Now featured Carmen Kiew of Codeword Agency, Joe Lazer of Jon Swartz of Dow Jones (MarketWatch), and Alex Whedon of Jenn AI.

  • Trends leading to where we are today
    • Over hiring
    • Bloated and overstuffed organizations
    • AI and automation rendering some amount of labor reductions
  • Debates
    • Layoffs as a mask for poor performance
    • Instead of 20 staff with a speciality, you’ll need 2 because of AI
    • If you can be Upwork’d you can be AI’d
    • There are freelancers doing top 1% work getting a 16% increase in their rates and 12% more revenue from AI as their toolchain
    • Corporate grinder mentality and lack of authenticity vs. corporate messaging around employee happiness as a priority
    • Freelance can mean going from 60+ hours of FAANG to 20+ hours of feeling of accomplishment for multiple clients
    • Does a FAANG or hot startup logo on the resume matter?
      • It depends because you still have to be able to market yourself
      • Maybe but any outpourings of help from your network you have built will be more valuable
      • Ex FAANG only matters to Enterprise because Startups will feel like you are overpaid
        • Find the right companies that are outside your prior sector and even non-tech especially can gain higher impact
        • Supply chain, industrial, etc are looking for the tech talent
        • Leapfrogging from missing the last tech wave is also common
        • Consider working with a consulting network company that “launders” work at logos that might be not as useful (Example: Big Company vs a startup)
  • Advice for planning before the layoff impacts you was varied:
    • Keep an open note for what you accomplish, something you need a brag list, compliments received aka “your personal hype file”
      • Be proud of what you have learned and done
      • Learn to tell people what you do and your value and impact
      • Keep up with the trends that are impacting industries you can apply your talents to
      • Know what you want for your job and your life as individual motivations
      • Never say never to embracing change because hybrid and remote work wasn’t a news story until it was
      • Markets and work requirements can and do change quickly and you should be ready to reinvent yourself
    • Take all offers to make connections — network, network, network
      • The laid off can become a hiring network
      • Amazing people who were laid off are the same people who are still amazing
    • Join or create private slack/discord channels and back channels that will be incredibly useful in mass layoffs
    • Don’t burn bridges because companies rise, fall, and are often acquired
    • Find the places in the company where you can make the most impact
      • Know when you are on the wrong team (if the problems do not excite you it is the wrong team)
      • Be selective of the problems and the teams you join
      • Ask yourself where you want to put in 10 hours of time to be a skills match and are excited by the problem or the problems to be solved
      • Realize your worth while you still have a job and work on what your story is and the narrative for your next job
      • Be ready to jump to other projects (or a new job)
    • Embace GenAI
      • Don’t confuse building tools with applying tools that make you more effective and efficient — using GenAI doesn’t require you to create the GenAI tool
      • Knowing the impact the GenAI tool can have and apply for business impact it is far more valuable than understanding the internals of a GenAI tool
      • Show you can work with AI so that you are accelerating and embracing vs being perceived as someone that will be replaced by AI
      • Learning the practical application of AI is important because people hiring for the future want to know they made an impact on the future of how work gets done
    • BigCo vs. FAANG vs. Startups vs. industry looking for your talents
      • Work on far more interesting problems for potential impact before you assume big tech is the place to start
      • Caring about opportunities for impact is understandable — but that is not just the realm of FAANG
      • Worker-owned tech companies and health insurance should be considered
      • Consulting networks are a decision on partnering and profiting as a balance of spending time selling, support, and the perceptions of loss of individual profits

Cyber Talent in the Era of Great Power Competition at Capital Factory House

  • 77% of US youth is ineligible to serve
  • Propensity to Serve is key
  • SCIF work is the new workplace
  • Enable a unique talent for no uniform roles as part of attractive benefits, work flexibility, competitive compensation, and retention bonuses
  • Total compensation package to go full uniform is differentiated through healthcare and savings plans for military
  • Constructive Service Credit expansion includes R&D (up to Colonel) to solve big challenges
  • Off ramp and on ramp paths are becoming more flexible
  • Cyber and intelligence will be drawn from industry
  • Find us and we will find a way for you to serve
  • Example: OTS to Major is 10 years and this approach does it in 6 months 🤯


I am linking to my disclosure.

p.s. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to appreciate getting snail mail. If you have time to drop me a postcard that would be amazing. ✉️

  1. Somehow, the only person I didn’t already know on the panel was my fellow IBMer — but now the world is a bit smaller than before. 🤣 awesome panel. While the published stories are just beginning to emerge on practical applications of quantum computing, a novel shipping logistics application of quantum computing from last year was mentioned during the panel. knapsack problem use cases are fascinating. ↩︎


✍️ 🤓 Edit on Github 🐙 ✍️

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