Roll the Tape: Appian World 2021, Day 2 Recap

Roland Alston, Thought Leadership Program Leader
May 12, 2021

Day 2 of Appian World 2021 blasted off with a high-flying keynote featuring engineer, physician, author and former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison who became the first black woman to travel into space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

She talked about making mud pies as a kid because it was about exploring the world around her. She talked about space and interstellar travel. “The nearest star, said Jemison, "is 4.2 light years away. That’s 25 trillion miles. Think about that. The probe voyager left the earth in 1977 to study the outer reaches of our solar system, traveling at 35,000 miles per hour. And it’s just now getting to interstellar space. At that rate, it would take 50 years to get to the nearest star.” 

“Space helps us see ourselves as a species,” said Jemison. “We start to see ourselves as earthlings. We can see that we’re connected to the planet. We can’t survive without it. That's what I’ve learned from space. The earth doesn’t need us. We need the earth. And we need to figure out how to preserve it.” 

As an astronaut, Jemison said that she had a feeling about being connected with the earth. It wasn’t because of looking back, she said, it was about looking out. It made her feel like she was a part of the universe. She said that if she’s trying to hold on to something from her years as an astronaut, it’s that. As for a leadership style, Jameson said that she likes to bring in a wild card, somebody who’s not constrained by the “right answer”, somebody who will look at a problem in a different way. She said that she doesn’t have all the answers but isn’t afraid to bring in a wild card because they may have the solution.

When Jemison was a kid, there were no women, no people of color in space. But she  says that she never bought into the notion that she couldn’t do it. She believed she had something to contribute and a skill set that was important. She was strong on science and engineering and she loved exploring. So, she called the Johnson Space Center and asked for an application.

“I never thought of myself as a trailblazer.. I did it because it was something I was compelled to do. But you still have to own it. You have a platform to connect with other people."

- Mae Jemison

"There was a Mae Jemison before NASA and it’s a part of me and it doesn’t go away. But I’m more than one dimensional person. I love art, African dance, and I have a medical degree,” said Jemison. 

After Jameson’s keynote, Malcolm Ross, Appian VP, Product Strategy & Deputy CTO and a team of company product Leaders gave us a preview of the latest Appian release, packed with new user, designer, developer, and platform capabilities that enable even faster low-code automation application development.

There was also a Customer Fireside Chat in which Appian CEO Matt Calkins sat down with Adena Friedman, NASDAQ President and CEO, giving viewers the inside scoop on how Nasdaq has navigated the convergence of technology and helped its clients manage risk and grow and expand their businesses in the age of accelerating change.

It’s worth noting that Friedman has led the charge on one of the biggest tech projects on Wall Street—transitioning Nasdaq’s operations to the cloud. In her chat with Calkins, she said that Nasdaq is pivoting towards its technology and data analytics businesses because that's where tech trends were heading.

“In some of our businesses like our Index business,” said Friedman, “we’re actually seeing a confluence of enormous amounts of data. We have to get streaming information from every exchange in the world. We then also have to tie that back to corporate actions, information, reference data. It's an enormous, complex migration."

"You have to put processes and change management around the data. But you also have to be able to activate and manage the data appropriately. And that's where Appian has come in.” 

- Adena Friedman

Friedman also talked about the importance of agility to facilitate acquisitions in the digital age. She talked about operational resilience and reacting to change, noting that  resilience for Nasdaq is more about  processes and systems that facilitate processes. Having a low-code platform, she said, is what helps you be much more nimble.

“One of the things we decided to do when I first became CEO,” said Friedman, “is make a significant investment in our market infrastructure software. It’s nimble and it works really well to meet today's needs. But what are the needs going to be in 10 years? And are we ready? Because you know to move a market onto a new system, to move into a whole new technology around markets is not something that happens overnight.”

“So, we actually have made a significant investment to rewrite all of our trading software,” said Friedman. “All of it. So we can launch markets in the cloud. And we can facilitate that for 130 other clients around the world which gives them a lot more flexibility and agility going forward.”

The Nasdaq CEO wrapped up the chat with a quick retrospective on the digital evolution of Nasdaq over the last 50 years, and how it has pivote from computers to the internet to the cloud. Then, looking ahead, Friedman said that she envisioned future markets operating in the cloud and being managed in the cloud. She also said that she anticipated bringing more machine learning into the investment lifecycle to leverage massive amounts of data and protect markets.

“Machine learning, the cloud and leveraging data in new ways is what I think will drive the industry.”

Next, it was time to tune in to a stellar lineup of breakout sessions as day two of this year’s low-code palooza kicked into high gear. The challenge, as always, was choosing where to start. The program guide included everything from Changing Culture to Keep up with Innovation and Optimizing Customer Lifecycle Management, to Innovating Experiences for Connected Insurance, Unify your Data Silos and Apps Faster with Enhanced Appian Records, and more. 

Yes, there was a strong tech presence at Appian World 2021. But the agenda also showcased the inspiring humanitarian story of guest keynoter Chef and Restaurateur José Andrés, who is an innovator in his own right. No doubt about that. In fact, before the COVID-19 crisis, Andrés was awarded the National Humanities Medal in a White House ceremony for his work with World Central Kitchen.

I can’t write a recap of this year’s Appian World without giving you a taste of Andrés’s remarkable interview with Appian CTO Michael Beckley, which covered everything from Adapting to change and fighting food insecurity to molecular cooking and giving props to chicken nuggets.

“We don’t brag about what we do (at World Central Kitchen),” said Andrés. “We want you to know that we’re about taking care of people. “We need to simplify things because big problems have simple solutions,“ said Andrés. During the COVID-crisis, we transformed from restaurant to community kitchen. We have partnered with 3,000 restaurants across the country, and we feed 150,000 people per day.”

“Republicans and Democrats came together to support us,” said Andrés. “We’re breaking down walls and building bigger tables to feed people.  We’re fast, we’re quick, and we adapt."

"Adapting is the best way to prepare for the unexpected. At many companies, the walls are full of plans. But being able to adapt defeats even the best plan of the day.” 

- Jose Andrés

Yes, there were plenty of memorable moments packed into Day 2. But after a full day of feasting on mind-blowing keynotes, panels, breakouts and fireside chats, Appian World 2021 is finally in the books.