AANHPI difference makers

To honor Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month 2024, all this month thought leaders representing MIL’s business sectors and different parts of the AANHPI community, reflect on the achievements of a handful of AANHPI innovators that have advanced our collective understanding of the world around us and changed our lives for the better. The AANHPI community hails from 50 diverse ethnic groups speaking over 100 different languages, and this year MIL focuses on four AANHPI trailblazers that have entertained us, kept us safer, protected our digital assets, and helped girls and young women envision a future in STEM. Join us at MIL as we recognize and celebrate the contributions of AANHPI leaders in innovation.


Saying something with video

YouTube co-founder and AANHPI innovator Steven Chen famously said, “Every user has something to say,” and on February 14th, 2005, Chen and fellow AANHPI computer scientist Jawed Karim, along with third co-founder Chad Hurley, provided one of the most famous places for everyday users to make a statement. After first meeting in 2002 while working at PayPal, Taiwanese American Chen and Karim (of Bangladeshi and German descent) discovered they were both comp sci graduates from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and both possessed a distinctly American entrepreneurial spirit. Once teamed up, that combined drive to create led to the launch of YouTube, the first and most famous video-sharing platform.

YouTube’s first video posted by Karim (“Me at the Zoo”) has been viewed over 310 million times since its April 23, 2005, debut (and add one more if you clicked on the link). Although Chen, Karim, and Hurley no longer head YouTube—since they sold the platform to Google in 2006 for an astounding $1.65 billion—the company is currently under the leadership of yet another AANHPI innovator, Indian American electrical engineer and Google Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan.

By YouTube’s own estimates, 500+ hours of video content is uploaded every minute by users in 100+ countries worldwide using 80 different languages. The sheer volume of users invites the question, Why? What is it about the melding of audiovisual imageries with user imaginings that compels a worldwide audience of over a billion people to tune in every day? To gain some insight, we asked MIL’s own creative innovator Marketing & Design Coordinator Hao Nguyen to explain video’s widescale appeal.

Why is video so much more compelling than text or graphics alone?

Hao: Video combines visual and auditory elements which can be more captivating than static text or graphics. Using music, storytelling, and visual imagery, even the simplest instructional videos can create a deeper emotional connection with the audience, making the content more memorable. Also, certain concepts are easier to demonstrate or explain through video. Whether it’s showcasing a product in action, demonstrating a process, or providing a step-by-step tutorial, videos can effectively convey complex information in a clear and concise manner. I think videos are inherently more compelling because of how dynamic you can make them, combined with the ability to engage viewers, and convey information in a compelling way, it’s a powerful medium for communication and storytelling.

So, is that why it’s easier to “message” using video (as TV advertisers have known for years)?

Hao: Videos, even without audio, leverage the power of visual communication to inform and explain in a way that is engaging, accessible, and emotionally compelling. Viewers can process visuals faster than they can with text, so visuals allow for quick absorption of information and facilitate understanding. Through imagery, charts, graphs, and animations, complex concepts can be simplified and explained more effectively than with text alone. A well-constructed instructional video can transcend language barriers and can be understood by people from different cultural backgrounds. This universal appeal makes it an effective tool for communication and persuasion across diverse audiences.

What about retention? Are people remembering messages better or just being more entertained?

Hao: Videos tend to have higher retention rates because of all the reasons I’ve presented. By engaging the visual and auditory senses of the viewers, they are immediately more connected to the content. This connection enhances memory retention, as people are more likely to remember content that elicits an emotional response. Again, humans are inherently visual creatures, and we process moving visuals more quickly and effectively than text.

My favorite videos to make are the post-event videos we produce for our Award Ceremonies. These videos are a montage of images and footage captured during the event, set to uplifting music. By showcasing our employees enjoying themselves with their families, these videos create a vibrant and engaging narrative. The combination of visuals and music fosters a sense of excitement and celebration, making the content highly memorable and shareable. Ultimately, these videos are successful because they authentically capture the joy and camaraderie of our team members, resonating with viewers on a personal level.

About Hao

Hao’s been the storyteller of many of MIL’s corporate messaging efforts since 2021. Along with popping up at corporate events to capture memorable moments as they happen, Hao serves as MIL’s social media voice, capturing and communicating our corporate culture for wider audiences. Hao also uses his Fine/Studio Arts degree from University of Maryland and his years of graphic and digital arts experience to create eye-catching branding images and designs for MIL proposals, marketing material, and advertising projects. Before joining the company, Hao served in several other creative positions including as a Digital Marketing Coordinator for the Maryland Technology Development Corporation.


Improving US remote sensing capabilities

Tian Ma is a computer scientist, a principal member of the Sandia Labs technical staff, and the Chinese Institute of Engineers-USA (CIE) 2023 Asian American Engineer of the Year. In 2003, Ma joined a Sandia Labs university fellowship program that ultimately earned him both a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering and a doctorate in systems engineering. At Sandia, Ma focuses his R&D efforts on edgy technical areas such as data analytics and data fusion, decision science, computer vision (a branch of AI devoted to identifying and understanding objects and people), and remote sensing. Over his last dozen years at Sandia, Ma has developed numerous innovative detection and tracking algorithms for remote sensing systems under the Lab’s nuclear non-proliferation program and national security missions.

Some of Ma’s most ambitious work has focused on designing algorithms to better detect and track the movement of objects and has led to advancements in multiple hypothesis tracking (MHT) and jitter suppression. Ma’s innovative work has enabled U.S. government agencies to pursue entirely new remote sensing missions that have enhanced national security interests. Read on to learn a little bit about sensor jitter from MIL Senior Engineering Associate Chyau Shen—what is it, what causes it, and why is suppressing it so vital to our national interests?

What is sensor jitter and what causes it?

Chau: Sensor jitter is the distortion and loss of sensor data fidelity due to the sensor carrying platform motion dynamics or data communications system disturbances. At the platform level, sensor jitter is caused by platform dynamics such as sudden motion (e.g., going over road “bumps”), vibration due to engine or atmosphere turbulence. At the data communications system level, sensor jitter is caused by degradation of synchronization of data packets due to electromagnetic interference, cross talk, or equipment noise. This results in the data receiver processor’s inability to truly reconstruct the sensor imagery/data.

Why is jitter suppression important to sensor performance?

Chau: Sensor jitter reduces the resolution of optical sensors and sometimes renders the collected imagery useless. For radio frequency (RF) sensors, jitter results in the loss of vital signal and RF intelligence data. Thus, it is vital to suppress sensor jitter. For national security, the ability to collect vital intelligence imagery and signal data for intelligence analysis, operational actions, and protection of forces and citizens will be seriously hampered by sensor jitter.

Any personal experience with jitter suppression?

Chau: While at NAVAIR, I had to deal with a serious sensor jitter incident and find ways to quickly resolve it. During Operation Enduring Freedom, the Joint Staff initiated a Counter IED Blitz in Theater to find airborne means of finding and identifying IEDs [improvised explosive devices] along convey routes. To identify the IED, it had to be imaged with a stringent resolution requirement and the imagery data had to be sent via satellite to CONUS intelligence and command centers for analysis and action. In response, I developed and deployed a low flying UAV system that had an affordable stabilized video surveillance sensor. Since the UAV flies at low altitudes (about 2,000 ft above ground), the optical magnification required to solve the IED is factors smaller than manned aircraft and therefore did not require sophisticated platform jitter removal mechanism. However, during actual operational flights, the video imagery was seriously corrupted by jitter through the satellite communications channel. Due to urgency, a solution had to be found quickly. Through analysis of the mission scenario, I realized that, since the IED is fixed on the ground, conventional full motion video sensor requiring very tight data packet synchronization is not needed. A relatively simple innovation was initiated to resolve the jitter issue. I had the team modify, ruggedize, and integrate with UAV avionics a newly released inexpensive hobby digital camera with the UAV. The digital framing camera takes snapshots and “freeze frame” target imagery, which mitigates platform jitter and produced high resolution imagery such as the ability to identify the wristwatch on a USMC soldier riding in a convoy vehicle. And, by sending only digital frame imagery, there was no data packet synchronization and jitter issues and the full fidelity of the camera imagery was seen at CONUS command centers.

About Chyau

Chyau joined MIL after nearly 16 years as a high ranking official at NAVAIR, where he served as Deputy Director and then Director of Special Surveillance Programs. Using his electrical engineering training from UPenn and Columbia—where he earned MS and BS degrees respectively—Chyau also applied his affinity for R&D at Purdue Research Foundation where he worked as a Senior Research and Engineering Technologist exploring infrasound acoustic listening to monitor and track surface targets from the stratosphere.

Since joining MIL in 2018, Chyau has been working on the development of a flexible cross domain data communications solution. Cross Domain Solution (CDS) is a security processor and software system that allows data communications across different security domains.

To learn more about Chyau’s innovative work in CDS, make sure to check out our next issue of the MIL Connection.


Creating trust through containment

Turkish American electronics engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur Melih Abdulhayoğlu is an AANHPI innovator in the field of cybersecurity. His company, Comodo Group, has been a leader in internet security for over 25 years, introducing and refining a number of cyber technologies. One of those innovations, containment technology, pushed endpoint security forward by creating virtual isolation tools for digital and mobile devices and app management. Abdulhayoğlu is also credited with founding the Certification Authority (CA) Browser Forum—a consortium of 40 certificate authorities, operating system vendors, and internet browser developers—assembled to ensure secure communications by advancing industry best practices across CA organizations.

What exactly is “containment technology” and why is it an effective approach to vulnerability management? And do we really need digital certificates to be cyber secure? Let’s ask MIL Senior M365 and cyber expert Jurgens Vestil how containment and CA organizations help keep our digital assets safer.

What is containment technology and how does it work to protect digital assets?

Jurgens: Containment technology creates a safe space for any potentially harmful software to run in. Think of it as an “isolation area” on your device that you can use to run suspicious programs or open files without risking your entire system. This technology uses virtualization to keep these activities separate from your main operating system. Any security threat like malware stays confined to this virtual environment and can’t cause any harm.

One of the great things about containment technology is that it’s proactive rather than reactive. Rather than waiting for the threat to appear and then dealing with the aftermath, containment technology stops threats from causing damage in the first place. By reducing that risk window, this technology is a powerful tool for managing vulnerabilities!

What is application isolation and how does it differ from containment technology?

Jurgens: Although application isolation and containment technology share a similar goal of protecting the system from security threats, they differ in their approaches and scopes. Application isolation is more about controlling the execution of certain applications, ensuring that they only access resources and data necessary for their function. Each application runs in its own secure “room” where it can only interact with the outside world if it’s explicitly granted permission to do so. It implements access controls and permissions for apps. So in summary, while containment creates a safe space for potentially harmful activities (which may include malicious files or links), application isolation works by creating a space where applications operate in isolation.

What is a digital certificate and how does CA keep our digital world safer?

Jurgens: A digital certificate is like an “online passport” that proves the identities of websites and individuals online. When you visit a website with a digital certificate on a web browser, it’s like the website is saying, “You can trust me. I am who I say I am.”

Certification Authorities (CA) are like the passport office for the Internet. They issue digital certificates and verify the identities of those who request them. A digital certificate issued by a CA tells your browser that the website is legit and not some imposter trying to steal your information. A Certification Authority does three things: Verify identities, encrypt data, and enhance trust. In a nutshell, digital certificates issued by Certification Authorities are important in keeping the internet a safer place and protecting our digital interactions from eavesdroppers and impersonators.

Have you conducted any work in the area of isolation and containment?

Jurgens: Over the last year, we’ve taken significant strides in enhancing our cybersecurity posture, focusing on two critical areas: data protection and phishing defense. Using a combination of data loss prevention and app protection policies, we try to effectively minimize the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. Parallel to this, we’ve ramped up our efforts to combat phishing, an area where the sophistication of attacks has grown dramatically due to the rise of Artificial Intelligence. Through training programs, phishing simulations, and more recently enhanced Outlook security features, we’ve significantly reduced the vulnerability of MIL to such attacks. I believe this multipronged approach not only strengthens our defenses but also fosters a culture of cybersecurity awareness and resilience.

About Jurgens

For the past two years, Jurgens has been busy keeping MIL’s cyberspace safer for all its users. As the Senior M365 Administrator, he’s responsible for ensuring the company’s IT infrastructure and overseeing, coordinating, and tracking all IT and security-related requests. Jurgens also led the company’s deployment of Intune and Autopilot and has worked with leadership to develop short and long-term objectives for the company’s IT-related technologies in cloud computing and cybersecurity. Before joining MIL, Jurgens worked as a Systems Administrator at Virginia Tech while studying for and receiving his Master of Information Technology degree.


A woman’s touch in tech

Indian American tech trailblazer Reshma Saujani is a social justice activist and advocate, politician, and entrepreneur who sees a distinct disconnect between women, technology, and opportunity. Despite being a lawyer who studied political science and public policy and not computer science, Saujani has championed the underrepresentation of women in technology (among other social causes) and made a real difference to girls and young women with dreams of high tech careers. As founder of Girls Who Code (GWC), an international nonprofit dedicated to helping girls and young women pursue computer science and engineering careers, Saujani created a new and innovative way to help bridge the opportunity gap for GWC participants. Each year, her organization introduces high school girls to creative computer science fields like robotics and game design through clubs, at-home, and summer programs and young college-age students and early in their career professionals with assistance applying for internships, prepping for job interviews, and developing leadership skills.

According to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics’ publication Diversity and STEM: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities 2023 (Special Report NSF 23-315), women earn only 21% of comp sci undergraduate degrees.

Since its founding in 2012, GWC and Saujani’s efforts have impacted the lives of thousands of girls by inspiring them to aspire and then preparing them for a future in a STEM field. Saujani recognizes that men are still the key players in the computer science/technology industry, stating that women comprise only 22 percent of computer science professionals. However, according to Saujani, “It is so baked into our DNA to think that we are not adequate–when, in fact, we might even be more qualified than our male peers. Unlike men, we had to fight to be in the room.”

To get a first-hand account of what it means to be a female computer scientist, we asked MIL Program Manager and member of the AANHPI community Ashima Lall to share a little of her own personal journey as a woman in tech. What we discovered is that despite the statistical underrepresentation and the challenges girls and women may face in the still male-dominated industry, happily it’s not everyone’s experience.

Before entering this field, did you know the extent to which women were and are underrepresented in computer science?

Ashima: I did not. I graduated with a B.S. in Information Systems Management and got a job in a large IT company straight out of college. Several other students (male and female) were selected based on their GPA scores; I did not see any underrepresentation then. After working in this field for almost 23 years, I felt that IT is one of those fields where gender isn’t a qualifying criteria, it is the caliber and skillset of the person that determines their success. Therefore, I did not face any challenges based on gender.

Would a program like Girls Who Code have made a difference to you in the beginning / during your technical education and or early in your professional development?

Ashima: While any training programs are beneficial to students who are close to graduating and entering the corporate world, a training on software development would benefit anyone regardless of their gender.

Have you had the opportunity to create and innovate in your IT career thus far?

Ashima: Yes, the opportunities to create and innovate began in college when we were assigned project work, for example programming assignments. Those involved implementing what we learned in our own style thus using our creativity and innovation. Similarly, when I started working as an IT professional and most importantly as a manager, I used my creativity, based on IT and management principles, to develop standard operating procedures to operationalize processes on the team.

About Ashima

Ashima currently heads up MIL’s IT contracts at the Library of Congress, managing a portfolio of contracts and teams delivering networking, cabling, and service desk support to Library stakeholders and users. Part of Ashima’s remit is to help bring process improvements to the Library through proactive planning that follows ITSM standards. Along with over two decades of IT industry experience, Ashima earned her undergrad degree in Information Systems Management (referenced above) from UMBC. She also received an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and holds a PMP certificate from the Project Management Institute.