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Connecting the dots between Lehigh and the Silicon Valley

If Tom Gillis ’15P ’17P ’19P could physically move Lehigh University to Silicon Valley, he might consider the possibility. Instead, the tech entrepreneur is bringing the two together any chance he can through his vision, involvement, expertise, and personal and technical connections.

Gillis, co-founder and CEO of Bracket Computing Inc., was the catalyst for the successful LehighSiliconValley (LSV) entrepreneurship program in the start-up hub of California, while his son was a first-year student at Lehigh in 2012.

“I look at it as a bridge between the talent pool in Bethlehem and this vibrant cauldron of opportunity at Silicon Valley,” said Gillis, who connected many of the founders and funders from Silicon Valley to participate in the pilot 2012 LSV immersion program.

LSV, a flagship program of Lehigh’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation, just celebrated its sixth-year anniversary with 56 students participating. Since sparking the idea for the initial program and helping to get it off the ground in partnership with Dale Falcinelli, director of LehighSiliconValley, Gillis remains involved and has presented at all but one of the January-held courses.

“We spend lots of time and energy trying to cultivate, attract, and retain the best possible talent,” said Gillis. “Our observation was that Lehigh produces very good talent, but was very East Coast-oriented. The kids at Lehigh didn’t know about the opportunities at Silicon Valley…didn’t even know where to start.”

“Offering students innovative programs is at the core of what we do,” said President John Simon ’19P. “We are fortunate to have Tom Gillis involved in designing educational opportunities for our students.”

As a member of the Parents’ Council and the Engineering Advisory Council in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, Gillis is realizing opportunity at the university and connecting the vision with the talent and technology to make it happen. Eager to help students interested in software-engineering careers or starting their own companies, he was instrumental in assisting with the additional two-day pilot “technical track” program of LSV in 2017.

Called LSV++, students met with top executives from high-tech and start-up businesses Bracket Computing, OSISoft, Cisco, and Vectra Networks. At Bracket, students met with Gillis and Chief Technology Officer Jason Lango to examine tech details and hot topics of the company’s secure cloud environment.

Isaac Wellish ’17, a dual computer engineering and music major, described the LSV++ experience as “getting down and dirty in the technical realm of several software companies.”

On visiting Bracket, he said, “Tom Gillis, a huge Lehigh supporter, opened the doors to his start-up for our team to pick his brain and speak with Jason Lango. Being that all members of this new team had some background in computer science, we were finally able to traverse deeper into a technical space unhindered.”

Daniel Lopresti, Lehigh’s chair of the computer science and engineering department, and Lisa Getzler, executive director of the Baker Institute, co-developed the LSV++ program to provide invaluable hands-on experiences to students.

“Advanced technology in the field of computing constantly changes. It is important for Lehigh faculty and students to gain knowledge from companies who are pushing the boundaries every day and are on the cutting edge of technology,” said Lopresti. “Lehigh graduates will be prepared to work in the real world because of these experiences.”

Gillis is deeply rooted at Lehigh and believes that what sets the university apart is a very strong commitment to multi-disciplinary academics.

“The way Lehigh makes things possible for students to traverse the various options that the university has is really, I think, excellent. It creates an environment for broad out-of-the-box thinking, which is often what is necessary in entrepreneurship,” he said. “As a parent, all I want is for my children to be happy. I think they have been able to be very happy at Lehigh.”

Read the full story at the Lehigh University News Center.

-Dawn Thren is an Associate Director of Development & Alumni Relations Communications for Lehigh University.

April 13, 2017

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