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“Let’s make sure not to overpromise blockchain’s capabilities” with Fotis Georgiadis & Suzanne Livingston

My biggest concern is companies don’t act because they consider blockchain a “fad”. At the same time, I also worry about overpromising blockchain’s capabilities. Blockchain won’t eradicate e-coli in a field, but it does enable visibility once a contamination occurs. I also would like to see more cross-blockchain integration and interoperability as companies are looking […]

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My biggest concern is companies don’t act because they consider blockchain a “fad”. At the same time, I also worry about overpromising blockchain’s capabilities. Blockchain won’t eradicate e-coli in a field, but it does enable visibility once a contamination occurs. I also would like to see more cross-blockchain integration and interoperability as companies are looking for open platforms.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzanne Livingston, IBM Food Trust Offering Director. As the IBM Food Trust Offering Director, Suzanne brings transparency, accountability, and traceability to the food supply chain using blockchain. Prior to blockchain, Suzanne launched and scaled new offerings for IBM, including social software, cloud collaboration, and the fintech platform for developers. Suzanne leads product management organizations with a collaborative, inclusive approach having been on the front lines of product management, engineering, and user experience. Suzanne founded the MIT Product Management Club, was a Product Management 101 & 102 Teaching Fellow at Harvard Business School.


Thank you for joining us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

I’ve always been interested in technology, even as a kid. I wrote my first program in elementary school and so in a way that’s where I began my technical path. Even in college, I ran my own web development studio and then became an application developer. This experience taught me how difficult it can be for people to interact with technology effectively, and that’s ultimately what sparked my interest in user centered design.

After getting my MBA, I went to work for IBM Research in Cambridge, building social technologies for enterprise businesses. IBM invested in the platform to bring it to market as a product, and that was when I became a product manager and turned my attention to adoption and scale. Since then, I’ve launched several offering businesses, most recently blockchain.

What I love about my job is that it rests squarely in the middle of technology and strategy. I work alongside engineering teams to solve real business user challenges with the most innovative technology in the industry.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

IBM Food Trust is what I live and breathe, where the goal is to connect all the parties in the food ecosystem to improve food quality and safety and reduce food waste from the farmer who planted the seed to the grocer who checks you out at the supermarket. With this technology we can spot food fraud, increase food safety and improve the supply chain so that consumers can trust the food they buy.

We also bring visibility to the supply chain. In the food industry today, much of product’s journey is invisible. When everyone can share data, you start to see how long a given product has been on the journey. You can identify where, maybe, a certain part of that journey is taking too long. You can figure out what temperature the food was at each stage of the journey. Those insights were costly and nearly impossible to glean before blockchain and they can all help increase transparency to ultimately help all kinds of businesses make better choices.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Ramesh Gopinath who is the VP of Supply Chain at IBM, and who has been instrumental in my journey with blockchain technology. He has a research background and I have a product background, and he’s given me tremendous perspective on rapid innovation. I’m grateful for his coaching and his innovative thinking.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

There is a lot that gets me excited about the blockchain space. I’m excited about the transparency, to be able to shine a light on parts of the industry where there’s never been much of a light before. I’m excited about all the data there is to be unlocked when you can get participants in the supply chain sharing with one another. I’m excited about the collaboration that will be possible, and the potential to bring together entirely new ecosystems. Most of all I’m excited about accountability, that consumers are able to make better decisions with more visibility.

What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

My biggest concern is companies don’t act because they consider blockchain a “fad”. At the same time, I also worry about overpromising blockchain’s capabilities. Blockchain won’t eradicate e-coli in a field, but it does enable visibility once a contamination occurs. I also would like to see more cross-blockchain integration and interoperability as companies are looking for open platforms.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

I’m particularly excited about the Food Trust and its impact. The World Health Organization estimates that roughly 600 million people fall ill after eating contaminated food each year, and 420,000 die from eating contaminated food. By shining a light on food supply chains and helping to remove contaminated food quickly, I’m hopeful we can reduce the number of illnesses.

As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?

Working at IBM there are a lot of tremendous women leaders and role models. Marie Wieck, our blockchain GM, the SVP overseeing blockchain, Bridget van Kralingen, even our CEO are all amazing examples of leadership. What I learned from my role models is to keep a growth mindset, go deep, and share my expertise.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?

Promote women to leadership & technical roles so that they have real role models and career paths to look to.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

I’m not really much of a quote person. If I had to give an inspirational quote it would be to ‘stop reading inspirational quotes and go actually build something!’”

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Let’s start a movement where we demand to know where our food comes from. It’s not that far into the future.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/suzielivingston

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