In 2014, tech entrepreneur Megan Smith was named the United States Chief Technology Officer, becoming only the third person to ever serve in this federal position. Smith held her CTO role until 2017, helping President Obama and his teams harness the power of data, innovation, and technology on behalf of the nation. Prior to serving in government, Smith was vice president of new business development at Google for eleven years. During her time at Google, she led acquisitions of companies that became Google Earth and Google Map. A pioneer in her field, Smith began her career in Tokyo, where she worked on early smartphone technologies at Apple Japan. Today, Smith is Chief Executive Officer and Founder of shift7, a company working collaboratively on systemic social, environmental, and economic problems. Over the years, Smith has contributed to a wide range of engineering projects, including an award-winning bicycle lock, a space station construction program, and solar cook stoves. In addition to her entrepreneurial duties, Smith is an active proponent of STEM education and innovation. In 2017, she was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
In 1982, Smith enrolled at MIT, which has always been a Mecca for a techie. At MIT, Smith's interest in engineering and technology was encouraged by the cutting-edge work that was being done around her. Among her classmates was Amy Smith, who went on to become a senior MIT lecturer and founder of the MIT D-Lab program. Meanwhile, Smith’s own university accomplishments include being a member of the MIT student team that designed, built, and raced a solar car 2000 miles across the Australian outback in the first cross-continental solar car race. Looking back, Smith also credits her professional success to the MIT faculty, as her advisors included such tech luminaries as Woodie Flowers and Alan Kay. Smith went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in 1986 and Master of Science in 1988, both in mechanical engineering.
As a member of the MIT community, Smith was selected in 2015 to deliver that year's commencement speech to graduating students. In her address, the then-U.S. CTO stressed the importance of the personal, caring side of the University. "My hope for you is that you bring your technical skills to the things you love." Then, after citing many of the contemporary issues facing the world, she optimistically added, "If you bring not only your ideas, but also your networks of the technical people that are out here, I think we’ll solve many of these challenges faster than 15 years.” Her visit on campus was not irregular, seeing as Smith was named to MIT’s board just two years after earning her undergraduate degree. On top of this, she has served on the board for MIT Media Lab and MIT Technology Review.