Catalyst: Shanna McIntyre


New Modality Catalyst:
Shanna McIntyre, Insurance Data Superhero


Profile edited by Michael J. Seidlinger

Photo courtesy of Shanna McIntyre
Last update: May 11th, 2020


Shanna McIntyre is founder and chief data officer at Delos Insurance, an insurance technology startup that's using satellite data, AI, and climate modeling to bring cutting edge accuracy to natural disaster predictions. She contributed an article to the very first print issue of The New Modality called "Climate Change Heroism In The Insurance Industry: How Insurance Can Help Us All Build Climate Resilience."

Before founding Delos, Shanna spent more than a decade performing probabilistic analysis of spacecraft system design and performance. Astrophysics was her gateway drug.

What are some of your favorite past projects?  Why do you feel great about them?
I treasured my time working on the GOES-16 satellite spacecraft design [Editor's Note: the GOES-16 is an advanced weather-monitoring satellite system, created in collaboration by the governmental scientific agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)]. I was on the team that designed the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, an instrument on the satellite that provides crucial real-time severe storm data, which NASA and NOAA expect to have life-saving impact. We were able to push the technology's design and performance well past the cutting edge, and the instrument is currently operating fantastically on orbit.
What also really makes me feel great about this project is that the team's social cohesion and leadership played a huge role in how we were able to accomplish what we did. Humans use intelligence to create technology, but we also very much rely on our social connection to innovate, too. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper team consisted of not just talent, but trust, kindness, communication, and purpose. I'll spend the rest of my life aiming to facilitate exactly those kinds of relationships in my projects. 


“My dream for a better world is to allow maximum flexibility in our systems, with freedom to play at the edges, so we can discover these unknown paths to exciting futures we never even imagined.”

What’s your biggest, most out-there dream of a better world?
Here's the thing about the path I've taken in my life... I've ended up in some wonderful places, in some amazing communities, on fantastic adventures, doing thrilling work. And not only did I plan precisely none of this, I didn't even imagine a lot of it existed until it was in front of me. All I did was say "yes," a lot.
There's been some work in Chaos Theory showing that complex systems change more easily from perturbations out on the edges, rather than from deep within the central structures. My gut sense is that taking action to allow more of these edge cases to catch onto new changes can unlock many new and unknown pathways of probability. So instead of having a specific picture of my dream future world, my dream for a better world is to allow maximum flexibility in our systems, with freedom to play at the edges, so we can discover these unknown paths to exciting futures we never even imagined. In other words, I want the Universe to be able to say "yes," a lot.

New Modality Catalysts

The New Modality is about experiments in culture — and the people who do those experiments. NewMo Catalysts are people who do things we admire and want to celebrate. They also help us stay accountable to our values.

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This profile was edited by Michael J. Seidlinger, print and digital producer of The New Modality, and Lydia Laurenson, the NewMo editor in chief.