CSE alumni share perspectives on entrepreneurial successes and career preparation

Panelists (from left to right) Russ Agrusa, Bob Fritzinger, Rohini K. Srihari, and Dan Magnuszewski, and chair Kannan Govindarajan, shared insight and experiences regarding entrepreneurship during the Alumni Symposium, which was part of CSE's 50th anniversary celebration. 

Published October 17, 2017

By Whitney Singleton

On Saturday, September 30, 2017, faculty, students, alumni and friends gathered at the Center for the Arts to hear from UB alumni on a wide range topics as part of a four-day 50th anniversary celebration of computer science and engineering at UB.

The Alumni Symposium, which featured a keynote address, four panel discussions and a research poster session, showcased the impact the University at Buffalo has had on the careers of the many prominent alumni in attendance.

The event kicked-off with a keynote address by Sung-Mo "Steve" Kang (MS EE '72), University of California, Santa Cruz on "The 4th Industrial Revolution and Future of Nanoscience and Engineering."

Next, a lively discussion on "Hot Topics in Industry and Academia," chaired by Dandapani Sivakumar (PhD CS '96), a research scientist at Google, took place. Panelists included Victor Bahl (MS ECE '88, BS '86), Microsoft Corporation; Anmol Bhasin (MS CS '06), Sales Force (previously at Groupon and LinkedIn)Sales Force; Jin-Yi Cai, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Justin Delvecchio (MS CS '04, BS '01) CUBRC; Faisal Farooq (PhD CS '08, MS '04) IBM; Robert Myers, IBM Innovation Center Buffalo; Ashish Naik (PhD CS '95, MS '93), Google; Jian Pei, Simon Fraser; and Sridhar Seshadri (MS CS '94), Synopsys.

In “Entrepreneurship – Opportunities and Lessons Learned,” the panelists shared tips on becoming and entrepreneur and how they got to be where they are today.

“Selling is the hardest part about entrepreneurship. Not only are you selling to customers but you have to convince people to do things they wouldn’t normally do,” said Russ Agrusa (BS ECE '76), president and CEO of Iconics.

“For me it’s about freedom, said Dan Magnuszewski (BS CS '05), cofounder and CTO for ACV Auctions, on being an entrepreneur. “Solving hard problems that exist in the world and being able to see the direct benefit of the work that you do.”

“It is a challenge because academia has its own rewards but when you’re running a company you can’t be half in it. You have to be all in,” said Rohini Srihari (PhD CS '91, MS CS '81), professor of computer science and engineering at UB and founder of Cymfony (and formally CEO of Janya Inc. and Content Savvy).

In addition, Bob Fritzinger (BA '76), president and CEO of Microlanguage Inc. and Zenhir Inc., served on the panel, which was chaired by Kannan Govindarajan (PhD CS '97, MS CS '93), co-founder and chief product officer of DxContinuum, Inc., located in Fremont, Calif.

Panelists shared specific examples of how UB prepared them for life after college in“How UB Education Helped My Career,” chaired by Bob Girardi and Swapnil Khedekar.

Panelists included Anmol Bhasin (MS CS '06), Sales Force (previously at Groupon and LinkedIn); Roger Choplin (BA CS '72), former vice president of Oracle; Robert DelZoppo, assistant vice president at SRC; Norman Hayes (BS ECE '80), formery at AT&T Bell Labs, SUN, Juniper and Nokia); and Gary Masterson (MS CS '79), Buffalo Computer Graphics (previously at Calspan).

The fourth panel, chaired by Bharat Jayaraman, focused on a vision of the future of the CSE department. Panelist included Raj Acharya, dean of the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at Indiana University; Mark Crovella (MS CS '91) professor and chair, Department of Computer Science, Boston University; Deepak Kumar (PhD CS '94, MS '88), professor of computer science, Bryn Mawr College; and Aidong Zhang, professor of computer science and engineering, University at Buffalo.

The day-long event was followed by a cocktail reception and dinner that featured an interactive session of 'Best Memories about CSE,' hosted by Roger Choplin (BA CS '72) and Sreenivas Gollapudi (PhD CS '04, MS CS '96, MS ChemE '94), and an award ceremony.