Seattle-area tech CEOs, from top left: Icertis CEO Samir Bodas; Syndio CEO Maria Colacurcio; Qumulo CEO Bill Richter; Remitly CEO Matt Oppenheimer; Outreach CEO Manny Medina; Convoy CEO Dan Lewis; Zenoti CEO Sudheer Koneru; and Skilljar CEO Sandi Lin.

As summer approaches, many high schoolers and college students are off to their first jobs and professional internships across the country. Whether it’s washing cars or making metal casts and everything in between, there are lifelong lessons to be learned from a very first gig.

GeekWire asked a handful of CEOs running some of the fastest-growing tech startups in Seattle about their first jobs out of college, or even before.

Some noted how first jobs taught technical skills which were later applied to their company’s products. Other simply said they learned the value of a hard day’s work.

The main takeaway: there’s something to learn from every job. Here’s what the CEOs had to say (answers edited for clarity):

Icertis CEO Samir Bodas. (Icertis Photo)

What was your first job?

“My first job was as a programmer at National Instruments in Austin, Texas.”

What were your responsibilities there?

“I wrote device drivers for the IBM PC, as well as Apple Mac IIs and SEs.”

What did you learn from it?

“This role grounded my understanding of how computers run. Device driver and E/PROM programmers are closest to the hardware, and that bottoms-up understanding how a computer operates — from booting to loading the OS, to launching apps and beyond — is still immensely valuable, even in the era of cloud and AI/machine learning!”

How have you applied that experience to what you do at your company today?

“I was employee No. 42 at National Instruments (NI). It was one of the first software startups in Austin and the U.S., and NI is now a multi-billion-dollar company! The startup bug bit me then, and incubated for 16 years, giving me a deep appreciation of why grit, hard work, smarts, timing, and finally serendipity are essential ingredients for startup success.”

Icertis background: The Seattle-area startup creates software for contract management. Bodas founded Icertis in 2009; the company is now valued at nearly $3 billion. Bodas was previously CEO of Aztecsoft and Disha Technologies.

Syndio CEO Maria Colacurcio (Syndio Photo)

What was your first job?

“My first office job was in high school, working the phones at a kids’ talent agency.”

What were your responsibilities there?

“I was responsible for calling the parents of the kids who did not get cast. I didn’t get to call the parents of the ones who did get cast, unfortunately. I got yelled at a lot.”

What did you learn from it?

“My biggest learning was how to stay true to a message in the face of adversity. It also taught me — at a pretty young age — resilience and goal setting.”

How have you applied that experience to what you do at your company today?

“Today, I am still pretty great at staying on

The chief executives of the UK and US airlines that offer passenger services between the two countries have joined forces to call for the reopening of transatlantic air travel.

Arguing during a press conference today that the move would be “essential to igniting economic recovery”, they called for a “data-driven and risk-based approach to reopening borders to travel”.

Airline chiefs

Their pleas to restart the UK-USA travel corridor – a lucrative one for many airlines before the pandemic – came ahead of the G7 meeting in the UK, which begins on 11 June and will see the leaders of the respective countries meet in person.

“We are asking prime minister [Boris] Johnson and president [Joe] Biden to lead the way and open up the skies, and we’re asking them to do so at the summit,” says Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss. “The numbers and the data support it… this is not a choice between health and travel.”

For transatlantic routes to meaningfully reopen, the UK would need to add the USA to its ‘green list’ of countries from which arrivals are not required to quarantine, while the latter would need to lift its ban on UK arrivals via the 212(f) presidential order.

Of that process, Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian states: “We are spending an enormous amount of time with our administration here in the US [discussing the repeal of 212(f) orders]…. This should be the prime example of restrictions being lifted… creating a US-UK travel corridor.

“The sooner we can start here, the sooner we can start in other countries.”

The chief executives cite “world-leading” vaccination programmes in both the UK and US, which they believe should enable the resumption of flights.

They further highlight the economic importance of travel between the two countries, while JetBlue Airways chief executive Robin Hayes adds of the current restrictions that “the human cost is devastating”, with families and friends unable to meet for more than a year.

Regarding the conditions under which the UK-USA corridor might reopen, American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker says that carriers are open to a range of documentation requirements, including “starting this up with [proof of] vaccination on both sides”.

Parker explains that this would represent a shift in the focus of travel restrictions from the Covid status of a country to the health status of individual travellers. 

Other speakers at the press briefing included Sean Doyle of British Airways, Scott Kirby of United Airlines, and John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow airport.

Holland-Kaye notes that pre-crisis, Heathrow handled flights serving 30 US cities per day.

“Let’s get back to business,” he states. “If not now, when?”


While the UK and the USA do indeed have relatively advanced Covid-19 vaccination programmes, the former in particular is currently assessing the impact on hospitalisations and deaths of the increasingly dominant Delta variant of the disease. Amid that uncertainty, the UK cut Portugal from its already short ‘green list’ of destinations on 3 June, prompting dismay

A United Airlines passenger aircraft arrives over the top of residential houses to land at Heathrow Airport in west London, Britain, March 13, 2020.

Matthew Childs | Reuters

The CEOs of several large U.S. and U.K. airlines on Tuesday ramped up pressure on their respective governments to revive air travel between the two countries, asking for a summit to discuss the issue.

“Public health must guide the reopening of international air travel and we are confident that the aviation industry possesses the right tools, based on data and science, to enable a safe and meaningful restart to transatlantic travel,” said the letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his U.K. counterpart Grant Shapps. “U.S. and UK citizens would benefit from the significant testing capability and the successful trials of digital applications to verify health credentials.”

The letter was signed by the CEOs of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and JetBlue Airways, which aims to launch U.S.-U.K. service this summer, and U.S. industry group Airlines for America.

The executives pointed to the rise in Covid vaccinations and the economic benefits of reopening travel. The U.S. currently bars the entry of most non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents traveling from Britain, while U.S. visitors face a 10-day quarantine upon entering the U.K.

“Just last week, Secretary Buttigieg and G7 Transport Ministers met to discuss the complexities around reopening international travel and how to do so safely.” the U.S. Transportation Department said in a statement. “These conversations are ongoing. The Department will be reviewing the letter with other agencies as part of the whole of government approach to COVID recovery.”

The U.K.’s Department for Transport didn’t immediately comment.

The chief executives of several US and UK passenger airlines have written to the heads of transportation in both governments proposing a summit to “explore a path” to the safe and speedy reopening of transatlantic travel.

The airlines said in the letter, dated May 11, that a summit jointly led by Pete Buttigieg and Grant Shapps, transport secretaries for the US and UK, respectively, before the upcoming G7 leaders meeting in early June “would allow for a robust discussion to ensure the timely return of air travel to the people and economies of our respective countries.”

Acknowledging the recent release by the UK government of a framework for resuming international air travel, the chief executives — hailing from American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Jet Blue Airways, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Airlines for America, an industry lobby group — said the airline industry would still need “adequate lead time” to establish a plan for rescheduling aircraft and crews, marketing and ticket sales.

The resumption of international air travel must be guided by public health, the airlines said, pointing out that the aviation industry now has “the right tools, based on data and science” that were not available last year when countries around the world introduced travel restrictions to curb coronavirus outbreaks.

In particular, the progress both countries have made with their vaccine rollouts can “serve as a foundation” and demonstrate to others how to reopen important air corridors, the carriers said in their letter. In the US, 42 per cent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated, while the UK is at 27 per cent for that same metric.

The carriers also said the citizens of both countries would “benefit from the significant testing capability and the successful trials of digital applications to verify health credentials.”

Demand for air travel in the US continues to increase as new coronavirus infections drop and more people get vaccinated. The Transportation Security Administration said on Monday it screened 1.71m passengers at airport checkpoints on May 9, the highest level since March 2020. That was 4,500 people more than Friday’s figure, which at the time marked a new record for the pandemic era.