Volunteer Spotlight: Mark Pollmann
by Madelyn Barzee
Mark Pollmann, one of our most dedicated volunteers, started as our CTO but quickly stepped forward to serve as interim President. He spent countless volunteer hours mentoring our Leadership Team, advising our Editorial Team, launching our “Decoding a Prophet” project, and helping us transition from spreadsheet-based organization to a database system. With the recent hiring of our full-time president, we are extremely grateful that Mark will continue to accelerate our progress by persevering as our CTO.
Mark graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Statistics and Math, and from the University of Minnesota with a Masters of Business Administration. These degrees and experiences were key to bringing together the human resources necessary to begin the “Decoding a Prophet” project in partnership with BYU’s ACME (Applied and Computational Math Emphasis) Program. This effort involves using artificial intelligence to accelerate the process of transcribing Wilford Woodruff’s documents. Because Wilford wrote in seven different “languages” (longhand and print English, Pitman and Taylor shorthand, Desert Alphabet, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew) and incorporated more than 3,000 unique symbols in his journals, transcription is extremely difficult. Mark is optimistic that the work being done by the ACME students will help make it possible to accomplish the mission of the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation, accurately transcribing the thousands of documents Wilford painstakingly recorded, by 2030.
Mark has partnered with organizations including Microsoft, Apple, Dexcom, Fitbit, and Qualcomm, in addition to healthcare companies, to bring together technology and an understanding of human behavior in order to achieve better health outcomes. He recently retired as CTO of Optum Labs, the research and development arm of UnitedHealth Group. We are blessed to have someone like Mark, with such an extensive education and background, who is willing to devote his time and talents to the Wilford Woodruff Papers Project.
Our Senior Software Engineer Jon Fackrell, who works closely with Mark, says, “I am always impressed with his vision and understanding of the technical aspects of the Project. Mark has led our weekly leadership meeting, which brings together individuals from different areas of the Project, and it has really helped me gain a better understanding of how to prioritize our goals, address the challenges we face as a team, and discuss solutions together.”
Mark was first drawn to the Project because of his interest in learning, his passion about data and technology, and his willingness to solve complicated issues, including how to accurately and efficiently locate, digitize, organize, transcribe, verify, stylize, and publish tens of thousands of pages of Wilford Woodruff’s inspiring documents in record time with a team of volunteers and college students. He is very excited about making the rich content of Wilford Woodruff’s writings accessible to all who are interested in strengthening their faith in the Savior and gaining insights into the historical context of the Restoration.
For more information about the “Decoding a Prophet” project, please view this article. If you are interested in sharing your time and talents as a volunteer, please click here to learn about current opportunities.