Prior to 2007
A Perspective by WPI Alum and Entrepreneur Steve Mezak
As a sophomore computer science/electrical engineering double major at WPI in 1975, Steve Mezak probably had no idea he would return almost thirty years later to speak to students on the value of outsourcing. Yet his eclectic and highly successful career path brought him back on Thursday, November 10, 2005 to do just that.
Please note the Image: Professors Cyganski and Vaz with guest speaker Steve Mezak. Cyganski and Vaz were contemporaries of Mezak. Vaz was WPI class of '79, Mezak was '78, Cyganski was '75. Mezak and Vaz sang together in the Baker's Dozen (a men's singing club at WPI in the 70's) while undergraduates at WPI.
Growing up the son of an immigrant baker, Mezak was steeped in entrepreneurial know-how. His father baked, his mother kept the books, and both instilled in him a belief that remains with him to this day-the great value of establishing your own business. He seized his parents' offer of a college education in the mid 70's and graduated from WPI in 1978 with a bachelors degree in computer science. After graduation, Mezak flew across the country with the intention of working towards a PhD or Master's degree at Berkeley.
Although he enrolled in the MS degree program at Berkeley, Mezak's entrepreneurial upbringing soon manifested itself and he left Berkeley in favor of the working world. His early career involved employment with six start-ups in Silicon Valley as well as self-employment as a contractor.
In 1991, Mezak joined Aspect Development as the first technical employee-a move that changed his business life forever. At Aspect Development, Mezak learned the value of outsourcing. Instead of hiring engineers and computer coders, at his CEO's behest Mezak began working with an Indian team in Bangalore. When Aspect Development went public in 1996, the outsourcing paid off in a high-quality product that resulted in excellent share prices. That experience cemented Mezak's confidence in outsourcing.
Outsourcing According to Mezak
Many Americans think of outsourcing as sending jobs overseas. Mezak argues that outsourcing does not inherently involve sending US jobs abroad. Instead, he claims that outsourcing enables a company to focus on its "core competencies" while delegating non-sensitive jobs to capable outside workers. In Mezak's view, outsourcing allows companies to perfect what they're best at-serving customers in a wide variety of fields-while producing cheap, high-quality products with overseas workers' help. Because of its cost-effectiveness, Mezak predicts an increasing outsourcing trend, and encourages students to familiarize themselves with other cultures as much as possible.
Preparing for a Career in a Global Economy
But what can a student do to prepare for working in an outsourced world? Mezak offers several suggestions for students.
- Mezak urges students to learn a language – any language, although he noted that Spanish would serve him best. WPI offers Spanish and German, as well as access to numerous other languages through the Colleges of Worcester Consortium.
- He encourages students to spend time overseas to become familiar with different cultures. For Mezak, his time in London with WPI's Interdisciplinary and Global Studies (IGSD) program endowed him with an understanding of some of the many different cultures he later began working with. Today, the WPI Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD) sends 500 students a year overseas to work directly with local sponsors. WPI's ratio of international students, the highest among US colleges, also builds multicultural experiences for students.
- He strongly emphasizes the value of being able to communicate clearly. He notes that although many technical students cannot imagine a future of writing or giving presentations, in fact most of them will spend their careers doing precisely those activities. Instead of actually coding or soldering circuits, the engineering students today will eventually graduate into engineering management positions that require excellent communication skills-preferably in two or more languages. WPI's Sufficiency project, which involves students creating a humanities-based project, emphasizes writing skills development.
WPI's Educational Environment
Mezak readily acknowledges that WPI's educational environment provided him with the ability to "learn how to learn," as well as a solid foundation of knowledge that resulted in his entrepreneurial success. WPI's unique curriculum, focused around the Plan and its three projects – a humanities project, a social science project, and a final major-related project – prepared Mezak to thrive in the outsourcing environment he champions.
The WPI Plan: A Unique Educational Opportunity
WPI's style of education, called the WPI Plan, is unique among technical institutions. Students take three classes for the duration of seven-week-long terms; each year is comprised of four terms. During the course of a career at WPI, students complete three projects: the Sufficiency, a humanities-focused project; the Interactive Qualifying Project, a project that teaches students how to integrate engineering with solving social problems; and the Major Qualifying Project, a project that demonstrates the student's ability in his or her own chosen major. Students can complete these projects on-campus or at off-campus locations around the globe, from Thailand to London to Washington, DC. This program of study graduates technical students proficient at thriving in the working world as well as at their chosen fields. For more information, see the degree requirements section of the Undergraduate Catalog or read more about WPI...
- WPI Global Studies Program
- Sufficiency at WPI
- Colleges of Worcester Consortium
- Steve Mezak
This article was written by Katie Ferguson, a Technical Communications major at WPI, class of 2006.
|A Brief Mezak Résumé|
Accelerance, Inc., founder and CEO. Accelerance provides management and technical consulting on software development with expert, unbiased advice to clients including: REDmedic, Asperon and Protobuild.
SendOrder.com, founder and CEO. SendOrder.com is a Business-to-Business commerce interchange for order and shipment information, integrating ERP and accounting systems via an elegant web forms interface. Steve managed and integrated US and offshore outsourced software development teams saving 80% of labor costs (compared to all in-house development).
Digital Market, Inc., co-founder and vice president of Technical Services. Digital Market is a pioneering Business-to-Business company in the electronics parts marketplace. Steve was responsible for the design and implementation of the Digital Market Online Marketplace, initially offered as a service for franchised distributors to sell electronic parts on the Web. This product is now offered as an Internet-enabled enterprise software package for companies wanting to use an e-commerce solution to remove costs from their production purchasing processes. Digital Market, Inc. was successfully acquired by Agile Software in 1999 for $75 million.
Aspect Development, Inc., co-founder and Director of Engineering. Aspect Development is the leader in the Component and Supplier Management (CSM) system market. At Aspect, Steve leveraged his experience in software development to manage the team that created Aspect's Explorer product, delivering electronic component data & document images to the engineer's desktop. Aspect's customers are some of the largest computer and electronics manufacturers around the world. Aspect had a successful Initial Public Offering in 1996, and was acquired by I2 Technologies in 2000 for $9 billion.
January 2, 2006