Diverse Career Paths: Brown CS Alum Lisa Gelobter Focuses Her Career On Technology For Equitable Workplaces And “Doing Good”

Click the links that follow for more news about recent accomplishments by our alums and their diverse career paths.

A member of Brown CS (entered class of 1991, graduated class of 2011), Lisa Gelobter is the CEO and the founder of a tech startup called tEQuitable that uses technology to make workplaces more equitable. tEQuitable’s mission is to help companies create a safe, inclusive and equitable workplace. They provide a confidential sounding board for employees to address and resolve interpersonal conflict, specializing in micro-aggressions and micro-inequities, and they provide data and insights to companies to identify and improve systemic workplace culture issues.

“So for us, it’s really important that we work on both sides of the equation. We want to empower and support employees,” Lisa says. “And we want to help companies identify and address issues before they escalate, trying to create this virtuous cycle, because we’re trying to make systemic change.”

tEQuitable provides a sounding board for employees where they can address issues of interpersonal conflict, get advice, explore their options, and figure out next steps. Simultaneously, tEQuitable gathers data that is anonymized and aggregated to identify systemic issues within an organization’s culture to create a report for the management team alongside actionable recommendations.

Quoting Austrian-American management leader Peter Drucker, Lisa says, “‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’, and this is the idea that if you can actually make change in work culture, and then additionally, make sure you’re supporting folks who are underrepresented, underestimated, and historically excluded, you can help all people be more successful in their careers and jobs.”

The journey to tEQuitable began many years ago on a very late night of work in a lab. Lisa remembers an important moment during her years at Brown, working with LEGOs for a robotics course and attempting to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to command a robot. While working on the project in the lab, she decided to look into whether or not someone had already solved her problem, and realized that it was something unique and her fix would be inventive.

“There was just this moment of knowing that I had the tools to actually make change and think of something new and that these were new frontiers,” Lisa says. “There’s all of this stuff that actually hasn't been solved yet.”

This motivation led Lisa further down her career. After graduation, she worked as a software engineer on the team inventing Shockwave (alongside fellow Brown CS Alum Sarah Lindsley Allen), which introduced animation, multimedia, and interactivity to the web, and has been at the intersection of media and technology since its inception. She later worked at NBC Universal and Hulu.

Lisa tells us that the idea of “breaking new ground” helped launch Hulu and guided her as the head of BET (Black Entertainment Television), then became more concrete when she was the Chief Digital Service Officer for the U.S. Department of Education at the White House under President Obama.

“It was this idea of harnessing technology to solve what had been previously thought of as intractable problems, making systemic level change, making societal level change,” Lisa says. “I think all of that stemmed from this moment at four o’clock in the morning, where I realized we can create something completely new and change behaviors in society, which is what I ended up applying all my career.”

When asked about her satisfaction with her career and her impact, Lisa states that she was incredibly happy with every job that she has had because there has always been something new to learn and something new to try.

One of the socially impactful projects Lisa worked on was called College Scorecard, an education ranking system that switched from focusing on new buildings or sports to metrics of access, affordability, and outcomes, as emphasized by President Obama at the time of her work with the White House. In three years, College Scorecard was credited with improving college graduation rates in the nation, and the new criteria on ranking schools in U.S. News and World Report released in the past couple of months are grounding their new measures in some of the data that College Scorecard released.

College Scorecard measured the median annual earnings of students four years after graduation using data only from students who received federal financial aid included; the data was updated most recently in October of 2023. Brown CS stands out as one of only two undergraduate computer science programs (the other being Stanford University) with median earnings for students above $200,000 and median debt below $12,000, ranking second in the country for median earnings and twelfth for median debt. 

“I am such a fundamental believer in tEQuitable, and this is why you found a company, because it’s something you’re passionate about and something you believe in, and we’re trying to help create a work culture that’s going to work for everyone,” Lisa says.

While the first two decades of Lisa’s career were centered around media and technology, she explains that she was reinventing herself in creating tEQuitable, and that the concept of socially responsible computing was critical for her perspective and for what she does now in her career. She feels that socially responsible industries and areas need more people in the CS field to have a concrete influence and bring new approaches and skills.

“I would say that the world has changed: whether you're interested in fashion, finance, or sports, you can apply computer science anywhere,” Lisa states. “So it’s that idea of figuring out the things that interest you and knowing that you now have an ability to influence it using your computer skills, and that includes doing good for the world.”

“I’ve had this conversation with every CS graduate I’ve talked to who was Black or Latinx, or a woman from 1987 to 1997, even though I don’t play video games, I don’t have the latest gadgets, I don’t code in my personal time, I don’t do any of that stuff,” Lisa says. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not actually a really fantastic engineer, and I’ve been really successful in my career.” 

According to Lisa, “there’s not just one mold about what being a good engineer is because every person brings their unique perspective, so don’t shy away because you’re different. Lean into it.”

Brown CS regularly publishes news articles about our pioneering and innovative alums. We have no financial involvement in any of the companies mentioned above and have not been compensated in any way for this story.

For more information, click the following link to contact Brown CS Communications Manager Jesse C. Polhemus.