ITA Spotlight: Jason Allen, CIO, Yello
Friday, May 10, 2019
Posted by: Kaylin Berg
Jason Allen, CIO, Yello
CIO Shores Up Yello Tech Firm with Army & Astrophysics Background
After serving in the U.S. Army and National Guard, Jason Allen entered into civilian life in the midst of the tech startup craze of the mid-1990s. While building static websites from scratch might sound easy-breezy to today’s web designers and software engineers, Jason was coding websites before WordPress was ever invented. In 1995, there were only about 23,000 websites in the world, and Jason was building them.
One of the first websites he built provided journalists the ability to post articles into a digital library. Outside of tape reels, microfiche and floppy discs that were actually floppy, Jason’s work gave journalists a new and illimitable tool to save their stories indefinitely. To provide context of how revolutionary this concept was, the network CNN had only launched their first website in the prior year.
Supercomputers, Linux Farms & Petabytes of Data
With a little network experience and the ability to build, learn and adapt, Jason received a call from a high energy physics lab just outside of Chicago to support its computer infrastructure.
Fermilab’s DØ collaboration was measuring anti-proton collisions and needed a better way to process the vast amounts of data being collected from their recently upgraded collision detector. The team was initially using SGI supercomputers to crunch the data, which were expensive to purchase and maintain. (If you’ve never purchased a supercomputer, the cheapo ones cost about $100 million bucks.) So, with Jason’s help, they migrated to a Linux “farm” of several thousand servers to process over eight petabytes of data.
Luckily for Yello, much of the high energy physics community moved to Switzerland to work at CERN. Jason stayed behind and went searching for a burger.
A Scientific Computing Technologist Walks into a Bar
…and ran into Jason Weingarten, co-founder of Yello. Weingarten was pursuing big plans to bring job seekers and employers together through technology. He envisioned paperless applications and a database of job seekers ready for employers to tap. Weingarten, and co-founder Dan Bartfield, were in college when they started reimagining the college career fair. From the crowds of students searching for jobs to the wide-eyed employers trying to pluck the right talent from the frenzy, the piles of resumes kept stacking up in the void of technology.
When Jason Allen walked into CrossRoads--of all places--he grabbed an open spot at the bar for a beer and a burger at the West Loop gastropub. Over a couple of beers, two patrons talked about business and backgrounds. The two strangers made short-order of paving the foundation to a firm that would soon help some the world’s largest companies meet their hiring needs.
Q+A with Jason Allen on His Yello Experience and How Military Experience Matters
Why did you transition from an acclaimed research center to a startup?
“To get back to building things that will not only leave an indelible mark in the world but will also make people’s lives easier today. Fermilab was great because it was pure science and theory. It was all about increasing the knowledge of mankind. The concept was noble, but the day-to-day application of the science was hard to pin down.”
What is your favorite part of working at Yello?
“The people. I am surrounded by people who I can learn from, trust and respect. My team of technologists challenge each other to do better and to try harder each day.”
What are you currently working on?
“Working in this rapidly growing company, every six months is like working in a new company.
While things aren’t as nuts as the early days, the focus is now scaling Yello’s enterprise-grade technology across market verticals.”
What were your biggest learnings from your time in the military?
“Loyalty. Hard work. Resourcefulness. An entrepreneurial spirit. The notion that nothing is impossible. If new developers and engineers only learn the technology, they will be outpaced time and time again. The military reinforces the adaptability and core values needed to resolve challenges and to make progress when there is no precedent.”
Given how important your military roots are to you, how do you share this with others?
“Veterans are fantastic hires because their military skills and values are highly transferable. At Yello, we recently launched the Veterans’ Brigade, an employee resource group with a mission to recruit and retain veterans. Employers are beginning to realize the tremendous value veterans bring to the workforce, and I’m proud Yello technology is currently used at veteran career fairs across the country.”
About Jason Allen:
Jason Allen served as a Fire Support Specialist in the U.S. Army and as a Drill Instructor in the U.S. Army Reserve before becoming a veteran of technology, big data and cloud computing. He has been at Yello since 2012 and served in numerous roles to transition the startup into one of Chicago’s fastest growing technology companies.
Connect with Jason Allen on LinkedIn.