Headstorm is a digital product and engineering firm focusing on helping fast-growing startups to Fortune 500 companies develop clear product strategy, deliver data-driven web or mobile experiences, and engineer custom software solutions that are stable, secure, and scalable. Headstorm’s design led engineering approach includes building on top of legacy environments or creating greenfield, first of a kind products ranging from proof of concepts to hardened, enterprise applications. The Pittsburgh Technology Council sat down with Adam Paulisick who is leading up the Pittsburgh office to get more details.

Pittsburgh Technology Council: So tell us how you found Headstorm or how they found you to build a presence in Pittsburgh.

Adam Paulisick

Adam Paulisick: Lawrence King, the founder of Headstorm.com, and I met while I was the Chief Product Officer at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG Platinion || MAYA Design Studios) based in Pittsburgh. We both advocated that technology consulting firms could prioritize societal impact when rapidly delivering technology to market without compromising on value and quality. We decided to write the next chapter of Headstorm, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and focus on Healthcare, Agriculture (AgTech), Financial Services and lots of interesting industrial sectors (we still do a lot of data-transformation work in the retail space as well).  That means working on technology that creates better supply chains for farmers, access to healthcare in underserved markets, and using data inside of large organizations to serve their customers in a balanced and sustainable way. We both saw Pittsburgh as an incredible opportunity to work with existing teams offering deep product, engineering, and architecture talent in order to help market-leaders or climbers continue to disrupt or future-proof to avoid disruption.

PTC: Headstorm uses a design-led engineering approach. Tell us how that differentiates the company and how it works with clients.

AP: When building software, it’s still all too common for engineers to be left out of the customer discovery process let alone a detailed requirementsHeadstorm review, and instead are expected to execute, like robots, exactly what’s written without any real context. We know there is failure after failure with this approach, leading to long development cycles that create applications that are largely out-of-date by the time they release, and often misaligned with user-expectation and demand. At Headstorm, we ensure engineers are involved early and often in the Design (research) phase of engagements, start sketching side by side with classic UI designers, and challenge the prioritization of use cases iteratively to only build what’s necessary to test until the value and direction can be articulated for specific customers.  Headstorm engineers participate and help lead:  ideation, user testing, and sketching concepts which often allows us to start building draft experiences well before “final” specifications can be produced. In these cases, as the customer journey evolves we are able to leverage the reusable components quickly and effectively like Legos. What once was thought of “throw away” work can now be an enormous competitive advantage in moving even the largest, monolithic applications into new digital products and services for ever-evolving customers or systems.

PTC: Who is a typical client, and are there any commonalities in the problems that you solve for them?

AP: We work with Global 2000 companies in the Agriculture, Industrial, Financial and Healthcare sectors with 90%+ of our client base at over $1B in revenues. We specialize in B2B (or B2B2C) applications, data pipelines, and data transformations; with some exciting clients located in Pittsburgh (and Florida, Texas, California, among others). We can Advise (CTOaaS, Chief Product Officer as a Service, CISOaaS), Enable(work with your teams to help upskill and reskill product, engineering, or architecture) and accelerate key initiatives, and Do(hands on keyboard work) when capacity or skill constraints are present.

PTC: How do you see Headstorm shaking up Pittsburgh? What are your growth plans?

AP: Since our November opening, we have already grown our Pittsburgh employee count to double digits, and we moved into our new office space in early March in Lawrenceville. Our team here works with clients in Pittsburgh and instantly connects to our national clients throughout the country. We have been, and will continue to be heavily involved in our local community, education and technology. Our company is focused on giving back to our local communities and humanity. We view our work through the lens of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to transform the world; these are a collection of global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs were set in 2015 by the UN General Assembly are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. Headstorm expects to continue to add local staff, have an impact on the Pittsburgh technology scene, keep building our connection with CMU (where I teach) and try to make a difference in everything we do.

PTC: Biggest challenge facing Pittsburgh’s tech ecosystem and how are you/Headstorm playing a role to make a difference?

AP: We see diversity and inclusion as the #1 priority to help build on the rest of the Pittsburgh technology ecosystem.   We see an opportunity to take an early lead, even as a boutique firm, in sponsoring international students graduating from the 20+ higher education organizations in town and prevent some of the mass migration out of the city after a few years of attending classes. As we setup our office we plan to be able to host a wide range of events and activities that encourage people of all industries and backgrounds becoming more interested in technology and providing jobs (and internships) to a broad range of applicants.