RealLIST Engineers 2021: Meet 16 influential technologists leading DC into the future –

Project management

At a time of constant shifts, we like to celebrate the good here at, alongside highlighting some of the challenges. In some cases, that means applauding the very people solving the challenges of the world around us.

To that end, we’re here to announce our 2021 RealLIST Engineers in DC, the group of software developers and technologists who stood out among many for their innovation and achievement over the last year.

Now in its third year, this list spotlights DMV technologists who are building products and tools that shapes the world around them (you can find the 2020 honorees here and 2019 here).

With this list, we look to recognize the people behind the curtain, doing the hard work to create something new and make sure everything is running smoothly. They’re innovators, go-getters and you can often find them reaching back their hand to help out others in the #dctech community. Some are avid mentors and speakers. Others are shaping workplace culture, or creating projects actually causing social change.

You might ask, how do we decide someone is real?

To curate this list of luminaries, we asked the local tech community for nominations and consulted technologists on who they deemed worthy of a spot. We also took a peek back at our previous coverage from the past year to see who stood out among many.

Then, we made selections by considering how each person was a tech trailblazer, creating something new or solving old problems. We also looked at how they helped out their community and influenced those around them.

You’ll find a list that includes technologists from DC’s most established business and technology companies, while others are from startups and DC’s ever-present community that works with the federal government. Throughout, you’ll also find the names of some of the leading groups bringing the tech community together. So if you’re looking for a place to plug in, take notes.

Now let’s get to it. Here’s the third annual RealLIST Engineers DC, with honorees listed in alphabetical order:


Johnny Ray Austin, CTO, Till

Johnny Ray Austin. (Courtesy photo)

After starting as the VP of engineering at DC rental payment company Till, Austin moved up to the C-suite in 2020 (and locked in a sweet salary over $200,000). As CTO, Austin oversees the company’s cloud-based system, which has onboarded 150,000 homes and apartments into its system with 50,000 users — numbers Till expects to double by 2022.

Before he landed at Till, Austin held roles at plenty of well-known DMV tech firms, including iStrategyLabs, Lockheed Martin, Mapbox, EVERFI and Capital One. He’s also on the board of digital literacy nonprofit Byte Back.

Michaela Barnett. (Courtesy photo)

When she’s not busy moving up the ranks at govtech firm Accenture Federal Services, Barnett is also the founder and CEO of Blacks in Cybersecurity (BIC), an organization supporting diversity in the cybersecurity talent pipeline. Since its founding in 2019, the organization now hosts ambassadors in 30 cities worldwide, as well as conferences and mentorship programs. Thanks to Barnett’s work, earlier this year, BIC received a Black Badge award from hacker conference DEFCON — the highest award the event offers — for BIC’s cybersecurity event and training offerings.

Natalia Clementi, OSS engineer, Coiled

Natalia Clementi. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Having recently joined the company in April of this year after completing a PhD in mechanial engineering from George Washington University, Clementi is already a top team member at Coiled, a company that helps data scientists use Python.

According to Clementi’s nominator, she’s been critical in making sure key workflows run “consistently and correctly” through the company’s infrastructure and the Dask open-source library. Plus, they said she’s one of the company’s most crucial tutorial writers, and even holds office hours for users.

In the community, Clementi is also a member of local professional networks like PyLadies and Women Who Code, among others, and an active driver of Coiled’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Brandon Coates, senior cloud security engineer, Yahoo

Brandon Coates, director of Black Code Collective (photo via Linkedin).

Alongside his work at Yahoo to ensure cloud accounts are secure, Coates is also the executive director for Black Code Collective, the DC org that connects and supports Black technologists. A founding member and now executive director, Coates leads and oversees the 2,000-person strong community in technical assistance, job searching, salary transparency discussion and offering the general 411 about the software development scene in the DMV. Before he landed at Yahoo, Coates held roles at Scitor Corporation, Lockheed Martin, PatchAdvisor and Tenable.

Lonye Ford (left) is cofounder of Arlo Solutions. (Courtesy photo)

As cofounder and CEO, Ford has led the technology side of downtown DC cybersecurity firm Arlo Solutions since it started in 2014.

In over 20 years in government contracting, Ford coauthored the Air Force Fast Track Risk Management Framework (RMF) process, plus she assessed and developed the RMF for the US Department of Agriculture. Under her expertise, Arlo has grown 2,758% and added five government contracts in the past three years.

Melanie Frank, managing VP of cyber engineering, Capital One

Melanie Frank. (Courtesy photo)

In her 21-year stint at the McLean, Virginia-based banking conglomerate, Frank is in a key executive role shaping the technology used by thousands of Capital One employees and leads a resource group for women in tech at the company.

While she has been with the company for two decades, her career has been a story of being open to taking on new challenges and embracing new roles. She moved up from a software testing position to the director of quality services, a senior director role in enterprise customer management and leadership roles in retail bank technology, card technology and associate experience. She has also helped the company in its move to go all-in on the cloud as well as add machine learning and AI tools.

Andrew Hian-Cheong, principal architect of AI and machine learning, FiscalNote

Andrew Hian-Cheong (photo via Linkedin)

Hian-Cheong was  one of the first engineering hires at DC policy software company FiscalNote. As the company went on to become one of DC’s largest tech companies, he has held roles across data management, engineering and data science. He led architecting on many of FiscalNote’s data engineering pipelines, and is heading up the build of a low-code data ingestion platform. He also led integration of the company’s engineering and data management through multiple acquisitions, including developing a data lakehouse model.

According to his nominator, the Georgetown grad has set the standards for many of the company’s development teams. He is also a willing mentor to others on the data engineering, data science and technical services teams.

“He readily offers to jump into pair programming sessions and is extremely transparent about philosophies for technical architecture tradeoffs,” his nominator wrote, adding that he is also “successful at building consensus for broad architectural projects.”

Charlotte Lee Jackson, data science lead, Medicare Advantage investigations, Anthem

Charlotte Lee Jackson (Photo via LinkedIn)

Alongside her role at Anthem, Jackson is a DC leader in civic tech and building community. She is a director at Women Who Code DC and volunteer lead at Code for DC. In the latter, she has headed up one of the biggest projects from the organization this year: a data-driven project collecting car crash data from around the District. While leading the effort, which combined multiple data sources to create an easy-to-use database, her nominator said she onboarded developers onto the project and created actionable tasks that made it easy to jump in. The project, which found that about one-third of car crashes go unreported, was so noteworthy that the leadership team managed to land a meeting with the DC Department of Transportation.

Jocelyn Jeriah, implementation engineer, Sorcero

Jocelyn Jeriah (Courtesy photo)

After spending a few years in quality assurance, Jeriah moved into the engineering field after completing a program with the bootcamp Coding Dojo. Before landing an implementation engineering role at Adams Morgan-based AI company Sorcero earlier this year, she was a full-stack developer at…

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