My name is David Saul and I have the privilege of serving as an Executive-in-Residence at the WPI Business School since 2020. I want to tell you a bit about myself, my career and why I am at WPI. My role allows me to contribute to the education of students who combine business and technology studies, a combination that is key to improving our future.
I have been fascinated by science for as long as I can remember. Astronomy was my first interest as early as grammar school and only increased when the first Earth orbital satellites were launched. I graduated from MIT with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics. I wrote my master’s thesis on Moon guidance calculations while interning at MIT’s Instrumentation (now Draper) Labs. My first job was with IBM where I got to work on the Apollo Project ground guidance computer. My career at IBM was bookended by my project manager position at IBM’s Cambridge Scientific Center. This was my first management position and I received help from regular management development programs. I gained appreciation for the importance of business management skills to complement technology ability. While at the Scientific Center I managed the project that developed the first software that allowed an IBM Personal Computer to communicate with mainframes. It convinced me of the importance of entrepreneurship, even in a large multi-national company. The Scientific Center often collaborated with universities on its projects. That experience taught me the value of diversity and fresh perspectives.
My next move was to the large, global, financial institution, State Street Corporation, from which I retired in 2019. My technology background served me well at State Street while I learned the workings of the finance industry. For most of my tenure at State Street I created and managed its Office of Architecture. Our function was to develop and support technology standards for all platforms. For part of that time, I served as Chief Information Security Officer, applying technology to the critically important areas of security and privacy. While at State Street, I reached out to universities, including WPI, to collaborate on projects, producing value for the firm and employment opportunities for the students. That outreach was global and included setting up joint centers in the Peoples Republic of China and at University College Cork Business School. I ended my time at State Street as Chief Scientist where I was able to use the technology and business experience I had learned. I spent most of my last years focused on the importance of data, including semantic data standards and governance.
When I was approached by WPI to serve as Executive-in-Residence at the Business School it did not take me long to agree. It is obvious from my prior career the convergence of business and technology is the key to solving the large problems that our global population must solve to survive and thrive. On a selfish note, working with students is extremely rewarding. I know of no better way to stay engaged as one sees them develop their skills. My primary aim as Executive-in -Residence is to be a resource for the students, and faculty, applying my real-world experience to their classroom studies.
The other reason I wanted to serve at WPI was to get to work with the outstanding faculty, some of whom I had already met while in business. I believe that the WPI Business School is well positioned to use the university’s business talents along with its science and technology skills to develop the students the world needs in the future. Dean Jackson has that vision, and I am honored to be able to help the Business School achieve its potential.
I am a Worcester native who founded four companies in the area, Checkerboard (1992), Checkmate Technology (1995-2017) eInvite.com (1997) and currently Checker Real Estate (1995). Fashion, licensing, manufacturing, very early (pre-Google) e-commerce, technology, category management for large retailers such as Costco and Toys’R'Us. Before starting businesses in Worcester, I graduated from University of Rochester with a BA in Cognitive Science/Artificial intelligence and an MBA. I worked in Silicon Valley for Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) and for a Virtual Reality startup in 1989 - which may have been just a little early.
I’m a bit of a business nerd as reflected in my reading, participating in local angel investing groups, advising startups, attending YPO-HBS presidents’ week executive education program annually, business conventions and teaching here at WPI. Education at all levels is an area of great interest including playing an active role on the local Bancroft School board as well as programs in my high school, Trinity-Pawling. I’ve stayed close to the Mass Academy of Math and Science since its founding almost 30 years ago. The Mass Academy is a public school for gifted STEM students run right here out of WPI. I am currently part of team that is a finalist in the current XPRIZE rapid reskilling competition - here is a link.
I love the role of EIR because it marries my passion for business and education. Selfishly, being part of the WPI community is incredibly fulfilling. There is an energy, humility, and grit that our students demonstrate which is contagious. We have so many different things going on from robots that can compose and play their own music to development of building materials that enable sustainable living in parts of the world where it would not otherwise be possible. As an EIR I have a chance to work with faculty and students who are trying to find a way to bring a novel product to market. That is my definition of a good time. While I am not a WPI Alum, as a Worcester native WPI is important to our vitality.
I would love to help students and faculty realize their vision of getting a product or service to market. My approach is to ask thought-provoking questions, share experience I may have, and connect the person to someone in my network who has the needed expertise and can offer advice.
WPI Business School has a lot to offer at the intersection of STEM and business. As part of the larger WPI community, we can help all of our students bring their innovations to people through the marketplace which is consistent with our motto, "In theory, in practice." Being in Central Mass with 12 other schools of higher education, a growing Bio Medical community, and in close proximity to many technology and science companies, offers terrific opportunities. I believe higher education is in a rapid state of transformation. WPI has shown in the past, an ability to transform itself in the face of oncoming change. That is not small feet. If past performance is an indicator of the future performance, WPI holds good promise.