Alumni Features: Chris

Chris - Research Triangle Park MBA Intern

Driven by a strong interest in computers and technology at a young age, Chris began programming "for fun" in the eighth grade-using everything from the most basic machine language code to C++. Chris remained active in the field, building a few computers over the years, and even creating the Web authentication system used with North Carolina State University's Unity login system, called "WRAP". He also managed to leverage that same technology to start his own company in the late 90s. Chris took a moment to share insight on his experience with the Extreme Blue program and how it impacts his current role at IBM.

Please tell us a little about yourself?

Well, my interests are pretty diverse-ranging from sky diving to art, system administration (yes, it is somewhat embarrassing to admit that as an interest), anime, hiking and climbing, as well as intellectual studies in cognitive science (theories of the mind and consciousness), theories of social justice, and the impact of technology on society.

Prior to going for my MBA, I founded a company based on a security infrastructure software platform I created. The company received venture funding, and succeeded in commercializing its technology, while attracting the attention of large industry players, including Intel™ and Symantec. I also have extensive experience leading diverse teams (both technical, sales, and marketing). I'm currently working in SWG, Developer Relations, with IBM's Academic Initiative.

What Extreme Blue project did you work on?

Our team was based in Raleigh and worked on the ECBA Transformation project. Essentially, we were dedicated to creating tools to enable application developers to move to a Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) in an incremental, cost effective manner to mitigate the risk of the transformation process. We were able to accomplish our goals ahead of schedule and with minimal cost. Our project resulted in two invention disclosures being submitted and is planned for publication with AlphaWorks in near future.

Why did you apply for the Extreme Blue internship?

The director of the Redwall Career Services program for MBAs at the College of Management told me about it. She thought my background in computer technology, coupled with my MBA program, made me an ideal candidate. I checked out the Extreme Blue Web site and became even more interested when I read that they were working on projects that included gaming systems (a hobby of mine) and other fields of advanced computing, including SOA and autonomic systems.

How do you think your background and experience prepared you for the internship?

My technical experience as well as my business background definitely helped me. I think the classes from my MBA program gave me somewhat of an advantage. Specifically, corporate finance-how to determine the value of new technologies, calculating ROIs and net-present values, and what it meant to the innovation process-it was incredibly valuable to me. In addition, my Career Managerial Effectiveness class better prepared me for the innumerable business presentations I had to give. I usually had two to three presentations a week that I gave to senior IBM executives. The class also made me better suited to communicate with my team and made me better able to collaborate with my peers in the Extreme Blue lab. Even statistics, a class that wasn't exactly my favorite, came into use. We had to gather and analyze so much data that I asked for a statistics package to be installed onto Excel-a first, from what I understand, for the lab.

What have you learned from your Extreme Blue experience?

I've learned how to perform in high pressure situations and how to relate the highly complex technology we were developing to different audiences who weren't necessarily technically oriented.

In your opinion, what makes the Extreme Blue internship stand out from other programs?

I think it's the exposure that you receive-that was the most amazing part of my Extreme Blue experience. It's not only the exposure I had to my mentors and their coworkers, but also the CEO and other key individuals within IBM. It's those contacts-and the relationships with my fellow Extreme Blue interns and the EB staff in the Raleigh location, as well as the opportunity to work with leading edge technologies from both perspectives-the technological and the business vantage points-that really made Extreme Blue such a special experience.