EE degrees can be a path to the CEO's office.
Rob May was an EE student
and is now a CEO. Unusual? Does your education as an electrical engineer help
or hinder your chances of making it to the top of a company? I gave Rob a call
to find out.
Backupify is a fast growing company
started on a simple premise. While all that information being stored in the
cloud is available, cost efficient and ready to serve data for lots of
applications, there are some downsides. What if the cloud bursts? Can't happen?
Do a Google search on Amazon's June 29th outage (or just click here )
and you'll find several reasons why the cloud is not the computing panacea some
would have you believe. Backupify is a Cambridge, Mass-based company created
around the simple idea of providing off-line backup for you or your company's
cloud data and applications. Gmail, Google apps and cloud storage data is
backed up and available even if a monster storm comes rolling through the
middle of the United States.
May is the CEO of
Backupify. He came to the start-up world and ceo role via the University of Kentucky
EE program and working at Harris Corp. as a digital design engineer. So, how
did he make the leap from designing FPGAs to running a fast growing startup?
"I have a problem
solving mindset which I find well adapted to the kind of business I run today,"
May told me in a telephone interview. While he
also received an MBA from Kentucky, it was the engineering discipline that has served him well in the start-up world.
It was also the experience
at Harris which May said helped him learn team dynamics
and big company process that has guided his management philosophy at Backupify.
The progression of EE education combined with big company experience is a
process he would advise to any student thinking about jumping into the
entrepreneurial world. The process is a bit lengthier than the college to
startup leap, but the potential for management and financial missteps is
"I'm not a huge fan
of someone starting a company right out of school," said May. May now has
a couple of startups under his belt, but Backupify started in 2008 has his
attention right now.
While interviewing May, it
was clear that it wasn't the specifics he learned in
engineering school but the engineering process that holds him in good stead.
The ability to speak with the engineers on his staff as peers in the (in this
case, software) engineering process, the ability to apply engineering
discipline to non-engineer tasks such as optimizing marketing programs or
setting sales structures has proved worthwhile.
So, does being an EE
prepare you for a CEO's job? It can. Just ask Rob May.
Eric Lundquist is vice present and editorial analyst for the InformationWeek Business Technology Network.