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Q&A: Talking Blockchain with Jacobs Senior Manager Rob Perry

We caught up with Jacobs Senior Manager Rob Perry to talk about blockchain and distributed ledger technology, his work with the Government Blockchain Association, his bingeworthy Netflix recommendation and his 100,000 beloved, buzzing pets.

The growth of digital technology and connectivity introduced many benefits that have seemingly become part of modern culture, like our iPhones; hailing a rideshare like Uber or Lyft; or even businesses, families and friends around the world staying connected throughout a global pandemic with Zoom and Microsoft Teams video calls. 

But, with this rise in technology also came a first: security threats no longer have borders. Attackers both inside and outside of networks can cause significant damage, introducing a whole new set of security risks.

Recognizing this threat, Jacobs works with defense, intelligence and law enforcement communities, employing both offensive and defensive cyber operations and exploring the most secure communication and technologies, including band distributed ledger technology (DLT) like Blockchain, to keep people, property and information protected.

At Jacobs, Senior Manager Rob Perry has become a champion for Blockchain and DLT, bringing a passion for educating his teammates on the potential and impacts of this technology. By creating a space within Jacobs for leaders and enthusiasts to collaborate, Rob hopes to bring together and drive innovation across all lines of business by adding Blockchain and DLT solutions to the Jacobs toolkit.

Since 2017, Rob has been volunteering as the Government Blockchain Association’s PMO (Project Management Office) Director in the association’s core team where he collaborates with industry experts while providing leadership and coordination on events and to more than 40 working groups that are investigating and developing blockchain solutions for the public sector.

Ahead of the organization’s annual event, Blockchain and Liberty for All – where Rob will speak with industry and government leaders – we caught up with him to talk about blockchain and DLT, his work with the Government Blockchain Organization, his bingeworthy Netflix recommendation and his100,000 beloved, buzzing pets:

Rob, in your words, can you explain what Blockchain is, and why it’s beneficial for companies like ours?

Blockchain is an opportunity to reimagine industries and government services at a foundational level. What some people do not realize is that blockchain is actually a combination of technologies that have been around for a while. What makes it special is when these are combined it unlocks a whole range of benefits that put an emphasis on security, immutability, transparency, efficiency and traceability. These are some of the critical needs of our customers.

I believe blockchain is specifically beneficial to Jacobs because if you look at the use cases and the capabilities it aligns with our core values and who we are at Jacobs and will enable us to improve and protect the world around us more than ever before.

Describe your “typical” day at work – what types of projects do you work on? What teams do you work with?

On a typical day, I support my team and my customer (the Environmental Protection Agency) on a variety of management and direct engagement tasks. Primarily I analyze systems and/or requests and help the customer develop SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) requirements.

What’s your favorite part of your role?

Career development. I particularly enjoy the process of identifying what my team members are interested in and helping them go after their interests.

You currently volunteer as the PMO for the Government Blockchain Association (GBA). Tell us about that.

In 2017, I joined the leadership team of four as the Director of the PMO to oversee the working groups, strategic projects and events. At the time we had only a few meet up groups and a handful of working groups. Now we have 100 chapters delivering education and training programs around the world, dozens of communities of interest, and over 40 working groups and we have members working in over 500 different government offices at the local, state, national and international levels. The GBA is building a fabric of people and technology to connect, communicate, and collaborate on using blockchain technology to solve public sector problems.

It has been a wild ride and volunteering my time after working full-time for Jacobs can be draining but it is worth it. I am truly honored to be able to engage with and learn from the blockchain, government and industry experts that I met through the GBA.

The GBA has some exciting events coming up in the next several months, starting with the Blockchain and Liberty for All event this month. Can you share a bit more about GBA’s 2021 events?

Absolutely. The Blockchain and Liberty for All event will take place on June 18th and 19th. This event has two main goals: to highlight all that the GBA community has accomplished over the last year, and in honor of Juneteenth, we will discuss the significance of this holiday, and what we can do to advance blockchain and liberty for all. I will be speaking with industry and government leaders during this event and soliciting their feedback on what direction GBA should take in 2021-2022.

Later this year, Jacobs is sponsoring the GBA’s Government Blockchain Week (with a fantastic set of speakers from governments around the world on September 27th – October 2nd. This will be the largest and most prodigious Government Blockchain event in the world covering a variety of topics on all aspects of government. I will be coordinating the events and speakers all week, culminating with the main event, The Future of Money, Governance, and the Law, hosted on Thursday and Friday in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

Between Jacobs and GBA, I keep pretty busy but when I can unplug from work I like to get out and enjoy some time outside with friends. In recent times I’ve had to enjoy COVID-friendly activities like binge watching Netflix and streaming services and living vicariously through the Curse of Oak Island on their real-life treasure hunt. Unfortunately, I haven’t found an applicable blockchain solution that would get me on the show yet but seeing those grown men spending their summers digging around in the dirt on a quest for truth and then debating it with my friends was one of the highlights of 2020.

Most interesting career moment?

Since joining GBA and exploring blockchain and DLT with Jacobs it has been a series of interesting moments. The blockchain community is full of excited and collaborative individuals that enjoy coming together to explore the possibilities this technology has to offer. It has allowed me to meet and engage with impressive experts in a variety of fields I normally would not have had access to. I think my most interesting career moment will come during the Government Blockchain Week at the end of September as I bring Jacobs and GBA together during that conference and open up new possibilities for us to explore together.

People would be surprised to know that I….

…am a beekeeper. I have a small apiary in Virginia. How bees work together fulfilling the roles and needs of the hive is truly fascinating. I wanted a pet but I was traveling a lot at the time, so I needed something self-sufficient. At some point I decided bees are the cactus of the pet world. If everything is going well, they do not need a lot of attention so instead of getting one pet I got 100,000.

What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs family?

I have enjoyed taking advantage of the opportunities to collaborate with other leaders across Jacobs. I recognize that a lot of effort is being put into training and mentoring me within Jacobs and I definitely appreciate it.

Where do you see DLT heading in the next five years? 20?

I think within five years we will see several major implementations in finance, supply chain, healthcare, and government. These will be the kinds of changes that will surprise people and get them to say “Wow this is great! Why wasn’t it this easy before?”.

In 20 years, blockchain may be the foundation of most industries, technologies and governments around the world. The benefits it brings to current pain points around security, data, identity, trust and efficiency with be taken for granted with blockchain/DLT as the underlying technology.

Two major changes really interest me. One is the creation of an entirely new internet built on layers of trust, identity, and the transfer of value. The second change is the impact these technologies will have on the business mindset. I believe we will shift the focus from the “I” to the “we”. These technologies allow us to collaborate and share in ways we couldn’t before and this will open up new possibilities not just for individuals but for businesses as well.

Can’t make it to The Blockchain and Liberty for All event this month? Click here to read Rob’s primer on Private Blockchain for Insuring & Regulating Community Banks and how the technology will ease compliance and secure data while driving further innovation.


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