Meet the woman who pioneered web animation through Shockwave technology

BY Preta Peace Namasaba December 1, 2023 9:12 AM EDT
Lisa Gelobter. Photo credit:

Lisa Gelobter, a trailblazing figure in the tech industry, is the inventive mind behind Shockwave technology, a groundbreaking innovation that pioneered animation on the web. Her contributions extend beyond this revolutionary creation, as she laid the foundation for web animation as we know it today, and played a pivotal role in the launch of Hulu.

Gelobter’s affinity for mathematics was apparent from an early age, and her father, who served as the campaign manager for Shirley Chisholm, played a pivotal role in encouraging her to pursue her dreams. Despite facing financial constraints, Gelobter enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Brown University in 1987. Her journey was marked by resilience, often having to take breaks due to financial challenges. However, her professors recognized her exceptional talent and provided support, offering a Teaching Assistant (TA) position even during semesters when she wasn’t formally enrolled. This support, combined with Gelobter’s determination, culminated in her graduation from Brown University in 2011.

Her foray into the professional world led her to Macromedia, where she served as the Director of Program Management and left an indelible mark by inventing Shockwave technology. This innovative creation marked the internet’s inaugural interactive media platform, empowering developers to build multimedia applications and video games. Gelobter’s role extended beyond Shockwave; she is credited with inventing animation on the web and contributing significantly to the development of GIFs, fundamentally transforming the internet and influencing subsequent technologies.

Beyond Macromedia, Gelobter played a pivotal role in the launch of Hulu, a streaming service that redefined how people consume media. Her insights into the technological landscape and consumer behavior highlight her multifaceted impact. In reflecting on her career, Gelobter acknowledges the far-reaching consequences of her technological innovations, citing Shockwave’s profound impact on technology and Hulu’s transformative influence from a consumer perspective.

Her career trajectory saw her in executive management roles at several esteemed companies, including The Feedroom, Comet Systems, Brightcove, Joost Technologies, and NBC Universal. Notably, Gelobter served as Interim Chief Digital Officer, leading Digital Product, Engineering, and Operations for Black Entertainment Television (BET). Additionally, she was appointed as Chief Digital Service Officer within the Department of Education during the Obama Administration.

Gelobter’s tenure at the White House bore fruit in the form of the College Scorecard, an online tool she developed to provide open and accessible data for consumers to compare the cost and value of higher education institutions in the United States. This initiative, within three years, contributed to a 1.5% increase in the country’s college graduation rates. Inspired by her White House experience, Gelobter harnessed technology to address social issues and bring about positive change.

In 2017, Gelobter embarked on a new venture, launching tEQuitable. This platform serves as a third-party, confidential resource aimed at addressing bias and discrimination in the workplace. It provides employees with a secure space for seeking neutral advice on workplace conflicts, while offering companies valuable cultural data. For Gelobter, tEQuitable represents more than a business venture; it’s a response to the challenges she faced as a Black woman in technology, addressing the need for a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

“Difference is actually an advantage,” Gelobter emphasizes, underscoring the value of diverse perspectives in fostering creativity. Despite her groundbreaking technological achievements, Gelobter considers tEQuitable her proudest accomplishment, signaling her dedication to creating not only technologically advanced solutions but also a workplace that is safe, inclusive, and equitable.