It’s been awhile since my last post and so I figured I would fill you in on what I have been up to that has been taking up a lot of my “free time”. Awhile back I was lucky enough to be introduced to a few great guys that run the Applied Information Technology program at George Mason University, Dr Donald Gantz and Prof Robert Quinn.
At first I knew nothing about the program but was interested in getting involved with the University as a way to give something back to the community but also as a nice potential business relationship for integrateIT. After meeting with Dr Gantz and Prof Quinn, I immediately could tell they had a great passion for this program and they made me want to get involved. They appreciated the energy that I had about my company and where it was headed and wanted me to come speak to their students. The program aims at teaching students the things they need to apply what they have learned in a work environment. Basically, what do you need to be prepared to enter the work environment that an IT book can’t teach you.
I started by speaking to a group of students about my company and giving them pointers about what we look for in new hires and also some tips about some items I have learned since entering the work environment that I wish I knew in advance. The class ended up running about a half hour long and yet I had a line of students waiting to meet me and ask additional questions long after they were free to leave. I was truly blown away by the attitude and excitement these students showed.
Shortly after my speech to the class, Dr Gantz and Professor Quinn invited me to judge the final projects for the class. I really didn’t know exactly what this entailed but just wanted to get more involved. Think of the show the Shark Tank where people come in and present their idea to a group of investors looking for them to invest in their idea…..only they aren’t asking us for money (and we really have none to give them anyway). The class breaks up into groups of 5-6 students and works with local businesses as sort of a business consulting team. In the first semester of the class, the goal is to meet with the owners of these companies and identify something that can be improved through the use of IT (at times they also uncover non IT changes that can improve the business as well). They then pull together their busienss case for change and present their ideas as the end of semester project. The judges are supposed to ask hard hitting questions to make them think about what they are presenting and provide real business insight to things they may not have thought of or things they may have missed. The groups then take this feedback and enter their second semester of the class where they actually develop the solutions and present them at the end of the semester. It was truly amazing to see what some of these students were able to accomplish as part of a class project. One class actually developed an iPhone app for Capital One that would allow users to submit loan applications directly from their phones. Another developed a threat detection solution that was so impressive that the company they developed it for now wants to productize it and sell it.
It was an extremely rewarding experience for me to be a part of this program and I am pleased to announce that I am going to be accepting a position on the schools Industry Advisory Board so that I can help them shape future curriculum and get even more involved with this innovative program in the future. The sky is the limit for the students coming out fo this program as they are being provided with information and skills that very few students around the country will have as they enter the work environment.