Angie Embree, Best Friends Animal Society | AWS Imagine Nonprofit 2019


>>Narrator: From Seattle, Washington it’s the CUBE covering
AWS Imagine non-profit. Brought to you by Amazon web services.>>Hey welcome back everybody, Jeff Frick here with the CUBE. We’re on the waterfront in Seattle, it’s an absolutely gorgeous couple of days here at the AWS Imagine
Nonprofit Conference. We went to the AWS Imagine
Education Conference, this is really all about nonprofits and we’re hearing all kinds
of interesting stories about how these people
are using AWS to help conquer really big problems. We’re going to shift
gears a little bit from the two footed problems to
the four footed problems and that’s animals and
everybody likes animals but nobody likes animal shelters and nobody likes the ultimate solution that many animal shelters used to use to take care of problems. But thank you to our next guest, that is not quite the
case so much anymore. So we’re really happy
to have Angie Embree on. She is the CIO of Best
Friends Animal Society, Angie great to see you.>>It’s great to see you as well and thank you for having me.>>Oh absolutely! So before we got on I just heard this crazy, crazy statistic that when your organization
started in 1984 approximately 17 million animals were killed in US shelters per year. That number is now down to 700 thousand, that is a giant, giant reduction. And yet you, with big audacious goals really are looking to get that to zero. So, that’s a giant goal,
give us a little bit of background on the organization and how you decided to
go after a goal like that and some of the ways you are
actually going to achieve it.>>Well, the organization started in 1984 and it started with a group
of friends in Southern Utah who decided that, you know the killing in America’s shelters just had to go. So really the Best Friends founders started the no-kill movement
along with a gentleman in San Francisco by the
name of Rich Avanzino. And as you said, they took
you know the killing down from 17 million in 1984 to approximately 733 thousand now. The organization started
as just the sanctuary, we have the largest no-kill companion animal sanctuary in the country where we hold about 17
hundred animals every day. And we also have, you know,
knowing that we needed to help out the rest of the country we have built life saving
centers in Houston, Texas. Or we’re working on Houston, Texas but Los Angels, California, New
York City, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Georgia, it seems like
I’ve left somebody out but,>>Probably, but that’s okay.>>We have life saving
centers all over the country. So it was really, you
know, when they realized what was going on in America’s shelters it was really the idea that we should not be killing
animals for space. So, just recently in
fact, I will say recently but in the last few years,
Julie Castle our CEO put kind of, did our
moon shot, put that stake in the ground and said we’re
going to take this country no-kill by the year 2025.>>Right.>>So it’s super exciting.>>So it’s really
interesting because you guys are trying to execute your vision, and it’s easy to execute your own vision, but it’s a whole different
thing when you’re trying to execute your vision through
this huge infrastructure of shelters that have been around forever. So, I wonder if you can explain kind of what’s your relationship with
shelters that you don’t own. I guess, I think you said
before we turned on the cameras there are affiliates, so how
does that relationship work? How do you help them achieve
your goal which is no-kill.>>Yeah, so we have over 27 hundred network partners around the country. And what we do is we
help to educate them on, you know we understand their problems, we have creative programs
to solve those problems. So we help to educate them
on, you know, how they can implement these programs
within their shelters. We provide them grant funding,
we have an annual conference every year where they can come and learn. But they’re really our
partners and you know we know we can’t do it alone. It’s going to take us,
it’s going to take them and it’s going to take
everybody in every community to really step up and
help solve the problem.>>Right, and what was the
biggest thing that changed in terms of kind of
attitude in terms of the way they operate the shelter
because I think you said before that a lot of the
killing was done to make room.>>Right, killing is
done usually for space.>>So what do they do know? Clearly the space demands
probably haven’t changed so what are they doing
alternatively where before they would put the animal down?>>Well alternatively we’re
doing transport programs. So there are areas in the country that actually have a demand for animals. So instead of killing the
animals, we put them on some sort of transport
vehicle and we take them to the areas that are in demand. We also do what’s called a
trap-neuter-return program. So one of the biggest
problems across the country are community cats so
those, a lot of people call them feral cats but
they’re community cats and usually have a caretaker. But what we do is we trap those cats, we take them into the shelter, we neuter them and vaccinate them and then return them to their home. That keeps them from making
a lot of other little cats.>>Making babies (laughs)>>So yeah, cat’s are one of
the biggest problems in shelters today because of the community
cats, they’re feral cats and they’re not adoptable. So if we can, we don’t have to kill them. We can, you know, we can
keep them from reproducing as I said and then we can put
them back in their habitat where they live a long
healthy life, happy life.>>Right, so you said you’ve
joined the organization 5 years ago, 5 and 1/2 years
ago and you’re the CIO, first ever CIO.>>I am (laughs)>>What brought you here and
then now that you’re here with kind of a CIO hat, what
are some of the new perspective that you can bring to the organization that didn’t necessarily,
that they had had before from kind of a technical perspective?>>Well, what brought me here was, I never expected to be here,
if you would have told me I would be the CIO at Best
Friends Animal Society you know 10 years ago I would
have said you’re kidding because I didn’t really
realize that there were professional positions in
organizations like Best Friends. But I, you know, my
journey begins the same as, began the same as a lot of peoples did. I was that little kid
always bringing home animals and you know my mother hated it. You know it was always
something showing up at our doorstep with me, you know. And I just loved animals all my life and as I went through
college and got my degree and started my professional
career, then I thought well I’m going to of course have animals because I can have as many as
I want now, right! (laughs) So I started adopting,
and I didn’t even realize until I was in my 30s that
they were killing in shelters and I learned that in Houston,
Texas when I lived there. I was working for IBM at
the time, and one day a lady came on the television and she said they were doing a new segment and she said we’re a no-kill shelter
and I thought oh my god if there are no-kill shelters then there are kill shelters, right?>>There must be the other.>>Yeah so, to make a
long story short then I started not working in animal welfare but doing more to support
the movement and donating. Adopting from shelters
and fostering animals and then one day I had
been to Best Friends as a visitor vacationing in
this beautiful part of Utah. But I saw the CIO …>>Position.>>position open and I
said I’m going for it.>>Good for you.>>Yeah.>>Good for you, so now you’re
there so what are some of the things you’ve implemented
from kind of a techy, you know kind of data perspective that they didn’t have before?>>Well, they didn’t have a lot.>>They probably didn’t
have a lot, besides email and the obvious things.>>Being the first CIO
I don’t know that I knew what I was walking into at the time because I got to Kanab, and Kanab Utah where the sanctuary is,
is the headquarters. And Kanab is very
infrastructure challenged.>>(laughs) Infrastructure
challenged, I like that.>>There is one ISP in Kanab
and there is no redundancy in networks so we really
don’t have, you know, you come from the city and you think, you take these things for
granted and you find out oh my god, what am I going to do? And Kanab is you know
the hub of our network, so if Kanab goes down, you
know the whole organization is down so one of the
first decisions I made was that we were going to the cloud.>>Right, right.>>Because we had to get
Kanab out of that position and that was one of our,
one of the first major decisions I made and we
chose AWS as our partner to do that so that was very very exciting. We knew that they had infrastructure we couldn’t dream of providing.>>Right, right.>>And, you know we could really make our whole network more
robust, our applications would be available and we could
really do some great things.>>You’re not worried
about the one ISP provider in Kanab because of an accident that knocks a phone pole down.>>Yeah, yeah.>>All right but then you’re talking about some new things that you’re working on and a new thing you talked about before we turned the cameras on community lifesaving dashboards,
what is that all about?>>Okay, so a couple of years ago the community lifesaving dashboard is the culmination of two years of work. From all across the Best
Friends organization not just the IT department,
in fact it was the brainchild of our Chief Mission
Officer Holly Sizemore. But it’s really, in animal welfare there’s never been a national picture of what the problem really is regarding killing animals in shelters. So we did this big.>>Because they’re all regional right? They’re all regional shelters, very local.>>They’re all local
community shelters, yes. And transparency isn’t forced, so you know some states force transparency, they reinforce in the report numbers but a lot of states don’t.>>At the state level.>>Yeah, a lot of states don’t, so. You know when you’re
killing animals in shelters you really don’t want people to know that.>>Yeah, yeah it’s not
something you want to advertise.>>Because the American
public doesn’t believe in it. So anyway we worked really hard to collect all this data from across the country and we put it all into this dashboard and it is now a tool where
anybody in the public, it’s on our website, can look at it and they can see that where
we’re at from a national level. They can see where they’re
at from a state level, they can drill down into their community and they can drill down
to an individual shelter.>>Wow.>>And the idea behind the
dashboard is to really, is to get communities behind
helping their shelters. Because as I said earlier,
it’s going to take us all.>>Right.>>And not only Best
Friends and our partners but the public plays a big part of this.>>Right, and so when did that roll out? Do you have any kind of
feedback, how’s it working?>>It’s working wonderfully,
we rolled it out at our conference in July.>>So recently, so it’s
a pretty new initiative.>>Yeah it’s just a few weeks old.>>Okay.>>We rolled it out at
our national conference and we were all a bit
nervous about it, you know especially from a technology perspective.>>Right, right.>>We knew that being the
first of it’s kind ever in animal welfare that you
know it was going to get a lot of publicity both inside
and outside the movement.>>(laughs) How you want
to say both pro and con.>>Yeah, and it’s sitting on our website, well really pro and con.>>Right, right.>>But it’s sitting on our
website and we’re like okay, we don’t know what kind of
traffic we’re going to get, you know what are we
going to do about this? So we spent a lot of time with Amazon prior to the launch, you
know having them look at our environment and getting advice, discussing it with them.>>Not going to bring
down that ISP in Utah.>>No, thank god! (laughs)>>(laughs)>>No it wasn’t, thank
god we were in the cloud. So Amazon really helped
us prepare and then the day of the launch, we
knew the time of the launch. So we actually had a war room
set up, a virtual war room and we had Amazon employees
participating in our war room. We watched the traffic and we did get huge spikes in traffic at all times through the day when certain things were happening. And I’m happy to say from
a technology perspective it was a non-event
because we did not crash we stayed up, we handled all the traffic, we scaled when we needed
to, and we did it you know, virtually at the press of a button.>>Awesome.>>Or the flick of a switch,
whatever you want to say.>>That’s what you want right?>>Yeah, exactly.>>You just don’t want anyone to know, I was like give a good ref,
nobody’s talking about you you probably did a good job.>>Yeah, exactly yeah.>>Good, so before I let you go so what are some of your
initiatives now looking forward. You’ve got this great partner in AWS, you have basically as much
horsepower as you need to get done what you need to get done. What are some of the things that you see, you know kind of next for your roadmap?>>Well, we have a lot.>>Don’t give me the whole list (laughs)>>No I’m just going to
hit on a few key points. I think, you know we used Amazon initially as our cloud infrastructure but I think the biggest thing we’re looking at is platform as a service. There is so much capability out there with predictive analytics,
machine learning, artificial intelligence, ARVR, you name it facial recognitions, so
we’re really investigating those technologies
because we think they have you know they could have a
huge impact on our movement and really help us achieve life saving.>>Right, right.>>And, I think that,
you know we’re starting we have our fledgling
data science program. We’re using the Amazon
data lake technology, Athena, Glue, they were
just telling me about data lake formation which
I just a few minutes ago emailed my data guy and said start looking at data lake formation.>>Right, right.>>So, I mean we’re really investing in the platform as a service. The other thing I see is that we’re, animal welfare is sort of broken from a technology perspective
and a data perspective. In that we have no interoperability and you know we don’t
have the data available. So lets say you want to
adopt a 5-year old animal. Well, you go to a shelter you can’t get 5 years of history on a 5 year old animal. So it’s really starting
to fix the foundation for the movement as a whole,
not just Best Friends. So, making sure that you know
the veterinary data is there, all the data from the
pet ecosystem is there. So we’re investigating with AWS they’re actually coming to our sanctuary in a couple of months,
we’re going to do a workshop to figure out how we do
this, how we really fix it so that we have interoperability
between every shelter when an animal moves from
shelter to rescue or whatever so that their data follows
them wherever they go. So adopters are fully informed
when adopting an animal.>>Because you’re in a
pretty interesting position, because you’re not with
any one particular shelter you kind of cross many many boundaries. So you’re in a good position to be that aggregator of that data.>>Yeah, I don’t know that
we want to be the aggregator but we want to lead the
movement towards doing that. Just getting the technology players, the shelter management systems, the other people who
play a role in technology for animal welfare, getting
them in a room and talking and figuring out this problem is huge.>>Right.>>And with a partner like
Amazon we feel it can be solved.>>Right. Well Angie thank
you for taking a few minutes and sharing your story, really
really enjoyed hearing it.>>All right thank you so much.>>All right, she’s Angie, I’m
Jeff you’re watching the CUBE we’re at AWS Imagine in
Seattle, thanks for watching we’ll see you next time. (upbeat music)

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