Jordan Szymczyk, a second year undergraduate student in computer science at Rice University, recently won an award from the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) to attend the IGNITE 2016 Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Trek.
Szymczyk started college with an interest in computer science, but took off for a few years to work in the industry. “I never finished my undergraduate degree,” Szymczyk explained. “I started doing outsource IT jobs with a few other guys and worked a lot with small businesses all over Houston.” He returned to the classroom in 2015, this time at Rice where he and his wife are residential associates (RAs) at Brown College. He plans to pair a CS major with a minor in business. Szymczyk has many ideas –both tech and non-tech– but realized he needed to combine his IT experience with a CS degree to pursue his entrepreneurial goals. He said, “It’s hard to do a technical start up just being an idea guy. To either get somebody on board and build it together or build it yourself, you need the expertise to do that.”
Rice University has recently created many initiatives to inspire innovation in business ventures on campus, and Szymczyk is “super excited about the attention entrepreneurship is getting.” Before enrolling as an undergraduate student at Rice, he audited one of the entrepreneurship classes and attended entrepreneurship summits. Last summer, Szymczyk participated in OwlSpark, a start-up accelerator that provides hands-on experience from innovation to commercialization.
He said it is important to have more than one area of expertise, particularly, “in two totally, radically, different fields so that you can find these interesting links between them.” For example, Szymczyk says he “grew up in a quilt shop, and that ignored market, which is actually really big, is ripe for change using technology.” He would love to create a digital platform that could connect people in the quilting industry so they could share their ideas through technology. Szymczyk hopes to “keep finding new interesting ideas [such as this] and see how technology can apply to them.”
-Molly Reilly, Computer Science Assistant Publicist