How did Rensselaer help?
The panelists were (of course) asked what they learned from their experiences at Rensselaer.
Lynch talked about how the technology he interacts with every day is very different from what he learned at school, and said what was most important was that education provided me with a vocabulary that enabled me to talk to other engineers.
Zander said that Rensselaer gave him an appreciation of engineering and how that, plus the MBA he received later, helped him in the decision-making I use every day. He added, The RPI part was the ability to think logically and get to the point quickly and scope out problems.
Schmaier represented the younger generation of this group; in fact, he talked about being in the first class at Rensselaer where the PC was introduced as a standard teaching tool. He recalled one particular class at Rensselaer, where some students were building a company called MapInfo, and that taught him that software was becoming clearly equal to hardware.
My own answer to the question was that the best part of RPI was the opportunity to learn about a lot of different kinds of technologies, and to work on the Poly. It gave me a framework as to how to ask about different things, and that has worked well for me because as a technology magazine editor, I am always seeing something new.
Huang, of course, was not a Rensselaer graduate, but he did point out that he chose to start a firm with an RPI grad as his chief technical officer.
A time for entrepreneurs
Believing passionately in what youre doing is a major key to success in these fast-changing times, said the panelists, all of whom are big believers in the power of entrepreneurship. All of the panelists agreed that it is harder for a start-up to get funded than it was a couple of years ago, but they said it still could be done.
Zander noted that companies like Sun and Cisco were founded during the downturn of the early 80s, while Huang said that NVIDIA was the only fab-less semiconductor company (a chip company that does design, but not its own manufacturing) funded the year it was started.
Huang offered some advice for would-be entrepreneurs: Unless you are passionate about what you do, you are going to get crushed. Thats why so many start-ups dont make it.
Still, Zander said, If youve got some great ideas, go for it; thats what makes the industry so great.
Weve gotten a lot of great things out over the past few years and there are a lot of great companies, and there are a lot of great people thinking about new companies, so Im pretty positive, Schmaier said. But weve got to get through the next year or two, clean out the bad business models, and get on with running our businesses. Were going to be a great industry.
That pretty much fits in with my own observationstechnology has become a major influence on the way we conduct our business and personal lives. Weve done a lot with the technology we have, but theres plenty of room both to invent new technology and to use the technology we do have to improve business, communications, and the standard of living across the globe.
As Huang noted, How often do you get an opportunity to work on things that you honestly, deeply, feel will change the world and touch peoples lives? I think thats terrific.
|Rensselaer Magazine: September 2002|
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