Julia Mullaney


With a commitment to changing the world of software engineering, Julia Mullaney, a co-founder of Exceptional Difference, is an award-winning engineer, instructor, leader, and consultant who has worked with software companies in many industries across the globe.

While at IBM, Mullaney was instrumental in process improvement efforts and had a major role in defining and implementing defect prevention. At the Software Engineering Institute (SEI,) Mullaney was a key contributor to the Personal Software Process (PSP) and Team Software Process (TSP) through the development of training, certification, licensing, and applied research at leading software organizations. She is a Certified Smart Grid Maturity Model (SGMM) Navigator, PSP Developer and TSP Coach, and served as Chairperson of the IEEE/ SEI Watts Humphrey Software Process Achievement award from 2018 to 2020.

Her cybersecurity work at the SEI includes participation on the Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model V2 project, Team Lead of the Expert Guidance and Strategic Support to DHS, and the management, development, and release of the SGMM. Mullaney currently serves as the leader of the Software Excellence Alliance (SEA) Executive Team and is focused on growing the SEA into a sustainable network of professionals who are passionate about software excellence.

Mullaney is the recipient of many awards including: the IBM Quality Award; AJ “Amplify” Award Winner for SGMM; the Customer Service Award for TSP in Practice; the SEI Achievement Award for TSP coach training, certification, and licensing; and the Customer Satisfaction Award for Gunter SSC Support.

Additionally, she was nominated for the AJ “Dedication” Award and has contributed to numerous special reports and courses for the SEI.

Mullaney’s passion for her work was molded as a child. A Japanese American born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mullaney’s parents were both in the arts scene. Her father was in the music business but left it to pursue his love: philosophy. She learned to follow her heart and to do what she is passionate about from them.

When Mullaney began her career in engineering there were few women in technical fields—for many women with an interest in math, their best career option was to become a math teacher. However, she believes there is a place for all different kinds of people in the systems engineers and hopes to see more women gravitate to this field. Although early on Mullaney was in artificial intelligence and thought she wanted to program computers to accomplish what people do, she found her strength was in working with people and teaching people how to program computers.

In 1994, Mullaney had a life-changing experience that paved the way for her current mindset and approach to her work. Through a Personal Software Process course with Watts Humphrey (the “Father of Software Quality”), she learned how to apply engineering principles to knowledge work, primarily the development of complex systems. Humphrey gave his team the outrageous commitment to “change the world of software engineering,” and Mullaney has been pursuing that challenge ever since.

Mullaney earned her B.S. in Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. She is also an active leader in her East Tennessee community. She served in the Leadership Knoxville Class of 2014 and is the President of the Knoxville Opera Guild and sits on the Board of several other organizations. She cites her family as her greatest success and loves how participants can find work-life balance in their lives through Exceptional Difference.

Mullaney looks forward to making steady progress toward the commitment she made 25 years ago. As she mentors exceptional engineers, she hopes they will be forever changed just as she was. And, as they start to apply Exceptional Difference principles to all aspects of their lives, they will start to feel control and power in ways never imagined.