This is a co-authored piece by Robert Friedman, Executive Director, and Cecilia Krum, the new Director of Engineering at Permanent. She will be responsible for the technical requirements that ensure reliable data preservation and access for current and future users.
Robert Friedman: This Thanksgiving, the Permanent Legacy Foundation team is thankful to have identified our new Director of Engineering, Cecilia Krum. We couldn’t be more excited and honored to have her joining our team just in time for the holiday season. Cecilia’s past work on digital afterlife as an Aspen Tech Policy Hub fellow, and her past experience in government and social sector data makes her a perfect match to the Permanent mission. I’d like to tell you a little bit more about the responsibility Cecilia will be inheriting, and let her tell you what excites her about working with Permanent in her own words.
Assisting in Cecilia’s transition to Permanent will be Dan Schultz, who has been serving as our interim Director of Engineering since August. Leveraging his own impressive experience in open source and digital preservation, Dan has led our engineers through the partnership work we’ve been doing with Open Tech Strategies and will help hand the reins over smoothly to Cecilia. I wanted to also take this opportunity to thank Dan for his leadership, friendship and good humor.
The Director of Engineering serves a mission-critical role at the Permanent Legacy Foundation and is trusted with defining and achieving the technical requirements that ensure reliable data preservation and access for current and future users. In this role, Cecilia will get a unique opportunity to further her interests in digital legacy as an emerging leader in the field of digital preservation. She will provide the ultimate technical leadership for Permanent, assuming responsibility over the integrity of the Permanent.org application technical stack, system architecture, open source codebase, public API, development processes, data security, and engineering policy.
Cecilia will be taking leadership over of our most important software development projects, including strengthening our backend infrastructure, releasing our codebase under an open source license, developing our native mobile apps, and building new functionality like directives – a legacy feature that would enable users to curate how their digital materials persist beyond their lives. Her most exciting work will include our recently funded interledger web monetization experiment with Grant for the Web and our archival metadata interoperability project with the Family History Metadata Working Group.
We can’t overstate how lucky we are to have connected with Cecilia. The fit couldn’t be more ideal. As a small team trying to do big things, it’s so important to have team members that can balance multiple priorities and skill sets in a collaborative environment. During the selection process, we were looking for a servant leader who was ready to be both coach and colleague. Someone not afraid to get their hands dirty in the code with varied experience in the technology stack employed by Permanent.
Cecilia’s past experience working on large and small teams, large and small budgets, as well as greenfield and legacy code makes her uniquely positioned to meet our current needs and set us up for future growth. Most importantly, Cecilia’s work in government tech and her fellowship experience with the Aspen Tech Policy Hub brings much needed expertise in tech policy to our bench. In particular, Cecilia’s Digital Afterlife Project and specific research into digital directives dovetails with our own platform roadmap and recent proposals we’ve submitted for funding.
I could go on, but I want to give Cecilia an opportunity to tell her side of the story too. So without further ado, I’ll pass the microphone to her.
Cecilia Krum: I’m delighted to have found Permanent at this point in their work and mine. As Robert wrote, I have a strong interest in managing digital assets after death, for the sake of both those who pass away, and their survivors and descendants.
As a developer, I have always worked on projects related to social good. I started my career in Chicago at Chapin Hall, where I built applications to help small community organizations store, organize, and report on their data. Even then I was deeply interested in how to parse private versus public data about individuals and their communities. My projects there led me to Open Tech Strategies (OTS), where I worked with organizations like the American Red Cross, World Bank, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on their open source code and strategy.
My government work at OTS inspired me to seek out a position at the Minnesota Senate, to have a more direct impact on the lives of my fellow citizens. I led the development of an API to publish information about public hearings and other legislative data while gradually migrating their legacy site to a more modern framework. While at the MN Senate, I also had the opportunity to participate in the Aspen Tech Policy Hub, where I realized that my past training in pastoral care could be integrated with my technical experience to create our Digital Afterlife project.
I’m thrilled to be able to bring together my interests in open source development, system modernization, and digital legacy management at Permanent. Permanent’s approach to managing our most important digital assets is unique and essential. All people deserve a way to preserve their diaries, letters, and photos — we can’t count on leaving these precious artifacts in the attic for future genealogists and historians anymore. I am especially happy to be joining the team as we start to build Directives. To my mind, they are an indispensable part of Permanent’s offering, and I can’t wait to talk to users and the existing team about how to make them intuitive and quick to set up.
In my work on digital afterlife, I found that even when people intend to leave their personal data (in whatever form) to their loved ones, restrictive policies set by private corporations often prevent them from doing so. My project partners and I discovered that sections of an application intended to help people choose what happens to their data after death need to be safe, simple, and respectful. I am looking forward to bringing these values to my role at Permanent.