Discover taps Keith Nielsen as its next Distinguished Engineer

Keith Nielsen was recently recognized as a Discover Distinguished Engineer. Hear how his storied career earned him this distinction.
Discover Technology Staff
November 13, 2023

When Keith Nielsen joined Discover® Financial Services more than two decades ago, he thought he was simply coming in to help the company transition to a new application development platform. Little did he know at that time that his career would allow him to have such a profound impact with stops at nearly every layer of the tech stack — all while allowing him to continuously improve, evolve and grow his career.

The breadth and depth of his experience ultimately paid off, as Nielsen was named the next Discover Distinguished Engineer. At Discover, a Distinguished Engineer is a director-level technical leadership position appointed to an individual who has shown outstanding technical contributions and leadership. Nielsen joins an exclusive group of four current Discover employees who share the designation.

Nielsen has influenced many of the company’s most critical technological decisions of the past 22 years. He has helped the company improve in several technical areas, including application development and architecture, where his current focus lies.

Nielsen earned the Distinguished Engineer designation after a rigorous evaluation process, taking into account his far-reaching technical experience, the breadth of his contributions, and the impact they made for Discover customers.

Upon receiving the news that he’d become the next Discover Distinguished Engineer, “I thought it was awesome” Nielsen said. “But it doesn't really change who I am or my day-to-day. I just kind of go about my business the same.”

When Nielsen, who holds degrees in computer science and biology/geology from University of Manitoba, attacks a problem, his colleagues say he’s relentless.

“Keith embodies our Discover behaviors in every way,” Ed Calusinski, Vice President, Enterprise Architecture and Technology Strategy, said. Calusinski serves as Nielsen’s manager and endorsed his Distinguished Engineer application.

“If you look at the major technological advancements that Discover has made in the last 20 years — modernizing our core platform, transitioning to Platform as a Service, leading our public cloud efforts — Keith has been at the center of it,” Calusinski said. “And the great news is, he’ll continue to be at the center of it in this new capacity.”

He pioneered the company’s hybrid and multi-cloud capabilities, advancing the pace and breadth of innovation at Discover. He was instrumental in advancing mainframe modernization, significantly improving the technology organization’s agility, and modernizing the Core Bank Platform, among his many accomplishments.

“We are living in a world where the pace of technology and business innovation has been fueled by open-source communities,” Angel Diaz, VP, Technology Capabilities and Innovation, said. “Throughout his career Keith has been at the forefront of leveraging those technologies and communities to accelerate Discover’s ability to delight out customers – the result has been an outstanding career of innovation and value delivered.”

A Toronto native who has been based in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the duration of his Discover tenure, Nielsen believes in paying forward the professional knowledge he’s gained.

“You always have to be pushing yourself,” he said. “You're always going to be hit with a vast array of technologies and you're always going to be uncomfortable. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That's really the only way that you're going to grow as an individual is to constantly force yourself out of your comfort zone. Be intentional about your career.”

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