Category: Enterprise

Q&A with Russ Louks

Sit down with Russ Louks, management information systems professor of practice in Michigan Tech’s School of Business and Economics.

louks-personnel

You received your BS from Michigan Tech in 1979. How has campus evolved since your time as an undergrad?

EERC had just opened. Walker was Sherman Gym. There was no Rozsa Center. The Union was about half its size. K-Day was either on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. A whistle blew at Noon and class was dismissed. Students piled in their cars and went out to McLain for a barbecue. Not knowing when it was going to be held was a lot of fun.

Michigan Tech’s focus on academics hasn’t changed.

Tech students haven’t changed. They are still smart students who are technology focused.

The emphasis on experiential learning and preparation for a career has changed dramatically.

How do your nearly 30 years in industry inform your teaching?

I saw a huge technology change over my 28 years at Ford. Laptops didn’t exist. Devices didn’t exist. Computers were the size of a three-foot bookcase. But the concepts are the same, which is the key to longevity in the field. Eighties and nineties IT is unrecognizable, but the concepts are the same.

It’s about putting what you are trying to learn into a structure you already know.

The new Emerging Technology class I teach at MTU is the same thing I was doing at Ford, interfacing with the real world, using a computer system to use information to make decisions or control a part of the physical environment. It’s a realm I am still incredibly interested in.

What does it mean to be a professor of practice? 

Being a professor of practice goes back to experiential learning—I’ve been there, done that. I have a lot of war stories [chuckle]. I’ve learned how technology evolves. The trends that fizzle out. You learn to look deeper to determine if a trend is really going to make a difference, and how to apply it.

A technology whose hype tails off tend to be the ones who deliver on the offerings. MIS professionals ask: What’s behind this and how can we take advantage of the technology to solve business problems? Getting across the idea that technology is great, but it must solve a problem . . . a technology problem, a business problem, a social problem. Chasing a solution without a problem is wasting money.

You have a diverse background in computer technologies including experience with data collection technologies including 2-D barcodes, RFID technologies, computer networking, serial communications, and handheld computing devices. Why is it important for business students to have technology knowhow?

You can’t run a business today—even a mom and pop shop—without technology solutions. Whether you are in IS, CS, or any other area, you have to touch technology. We must ask: How can technology advance my business? Can I take advantage of it before others? What negative impacts will it have? Will it put me out of business? How will we use it? How will we make money?

It’s an imperfect science.

As the advisor of IT Oxygen Enterprise, what does the team have in store for this academic year?

We’ve got a stream of all-new projects this year including data science projects; we’ve got a project with the Department of Defense, where we will research how to keep mobile networks alive in extreme environments; a project with Microsoft; a project with Ford; and an internal project within Enterprise to develop an easy-to-use web template for the dozens of Enterprise teams on campus.

IT Oxygen is multidisciplinary, bringing together students from computer science, MIS, engineering, and scientific and technical communications. All components are necessary. All skills are complementary–not in competition. Any overlap in skills is what allows us to communicate.

One of your research areas is information security. What can a layperson do now to protect themselves?

Be vigilant. The biggest cybersecurity threat in the world today is people. Perform a risk analysis just like in a financial situation. There isn’t a business immune from cybersecurity issues. You are responsible for the data you collect and store. Change passwords. Use strong passwords. Implement two-factor authentication. It can be a pain, but it’s today’s world. Every morning I check my bank accounts. The cost of convenience is vigilance.

What keeps you motivated?

If you are really enjoying what you are doing, you keep up on trends without realizing it; you read for pleasure. It doesn’t feel like a burden (if it feels like that, you are in the wrong job). Reading, going to events, and learning—not to learn—but because there’s an interest. Working with students is a joy; it’s easy to stay motivated.

What has been your biggest source of pride in working with Huskies?

Watching the transformation that takes place over the course of an internship. The light turns on and students return to campus as young professionals. Just because I teach doesn’t mean students learn. It’s incredibly rewarding when students come back and say, “I get it now.” Seeing them progress and seeing their success makes this job worthwhile.


Target Enterprise Project offers real world experience to ITOxygen members

Where does a giant international retailer turn when it needs innovative IT support?  Michigan Technological University, of course.

Target Corporation, with international headquarters in Minneapolis, is the first retail firm to participate in Michigan Tech’s signature Enterprise program. In the Enterprise program, teams of students work with a business or industry sponsor on a real-world problem that the sponsor would like the students to help solve.

ITOxygen is an Enterprise that specializes in information technology (IT) solutions. Their motto: We breathe new life into information technology projects.

ITOxygen Enterprise team members work on an IT project for Target.

Target actually presented ITOxygen with several problems involving mobile app development and computer infrastructure. Over the school year, the students developed an app for the iPad that measures wi-fi connectivity throughout Target stories. Another app lets shoppers with Android smartphones build a shopping list and share it with others.

The shopping list app will be particularly useful for event planners, teachers and parents buying school supplies, or groups of students or others living together.  “With it, you can avoid buying 200 boxes of Kleenex and no crayons, Russ Louks, ITOxygen’s advisor, explains.

The ITOxygen students also wrote scripts to automatically deploy servers nationwide. Then they were invited to present their work to a meeting of high-level corporate executives.

Target not only put money into the project, they really integrated the students into the corporate IT structure, says Rick Berkey, the Enterprise liaison between Michigan Tech and corporate sponsors.  “The students are working right along with Target IT professionals, learning the language of the industry,” Berkey says. “That level of support and time commitment is unusual.”

Target has enjoyed recruiting for technical talent at Michigan Tech, says E. B. Hakkinen, process consultant for Target Corporation’s Technology Solutions. “Target was interested in continuing to build upon our strong relationship with Michigan Tech, she explains. “We wanted to deepen our partnership and technology brand on campus.   We saw a unique opportunity through the Enterprise Program, specifically ITOxygen, to brand Target as an employer of choice for technology students, while collaborating with Michigan Tech students and giving them a first-hand experience of what it could be like to work for Target.”

“We learned a lot in our first year, 2012-2013, working with ITOxygen,” she continues. “This past year we experienced success with all of our ITOxygen projects. We found the best approach is to allow the students to be innovative in their solutions while we provide the support and tools necessary for them to be successful.  We look forward to continuing our relationship and seeing innovative solutions from the ITOxygen students in the coming school year.”

As Berkey puts it, without a hint of a grin, “the ITOxygen students have been right on target.”

One of the students, David Shull, a computer engineering major, was especially impressed with Target’s commitment to integrating technology into retail sales.  “It’s really exciting how innovative they’re being in mobile and web technologies,” he says.

Shull feels that the Enterprise project teaches skills that are hard to learn in a traditional classroom setting. “The most important thing I gained was the experience working on a corporate project with people from all over the country,” he says.

Projects like ITOxygen’s work with Target prepare students for their future in the working world, which is just what Target—the first retailer to come to Michigan Tech’s Career Fairs–wants. “Target is recruiting skilled IT employees,” says Berkey. “It’s more than a retail store.”

Shull says students need the kind of experiences the Target Enterprise project offered. “It’s too easy for students to think they know what ‘real’ work is like,” he says. “I hear students complain about how a concept they’ve learned won’t be of use in the real world. Opportunities like the Target Enterprise project give students hands-on experience that is guaranteed to be applicable in the real world, and demonstrates the value of concepts that were learned previously. They also facilitate self-learning, engineering management and other key skills.

“Plus—there is something really cool about walking into a Target store and knowing that you wrote an app the employees or shoppers are using.”

This story was originally posted in Michigan Tech News and written by Jennifer Donovan. To see the original story please view this link.


2nd Place Win at Design Expo

A team from the Business Development Experience Course (BUS 4992) tied for second place in the category of Design Expo Image Contest, in 2014’s Design Expo.  This accomplishment is particularly impressive, as over 600 Michigan Tech students across all disciplines competed in this year’s hands-on, discovery-based learning program, hosted by the Institute for Leadership and Innovation and the College of Engineering.

The team, titled “Balise and RFID Use in Rail Systems,” consisted of members Frank Kampe (’14, BS in Marketing), Min Li (’14, BS in Operations and Systems Management), Daniel Holmberg (’14, BS in Management), and Kevin Heras (projected graduation: Fall 2014, majoring in Management).  In order to participate in the Design Expo, team members took the Business Development Experience two-course sequence, where business school students ascertain the commercial viability of potential projects.  Since the implementation of the courses, business school students have been teaming up with the Enterprise and Senior design project teams to look at their technologies from a business perspective.

Team Advisor and Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Saurav Pathak, was pleased with his students and the work they conducted.  “This group in particular made valuable recommendations to Technical Expert Network (TEN) on how to expand the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies in the US rail industry,” Pathak remarked.  He added, “The fact that business school students were placed as award winners in an event that predominantly highlights the technological feats at Michigan Tech is proof that there is value in ascertaining the business prospects of these technologies.”

Congratulations to the team on their award!


International Business Ventures Continues Success!

UP Health Care Network helps mobile wellness systems with International Business Ventures Enterprise.

The Upper Peninsula Health Care Network (UPHCN) agreed to match donations received for the student-run Mobile Wellness Systems project, which is converting a 15-passenger van into a mobile health clinic for Ghana. The UPHCN gave their matching donation to the team on Wednesday at an event held in the Rozsa Lobby. Administrators from UPHCN, Aspirus Keweenaw, Baraga County Memorial and Portage Health Systems were in attendance.

Students from Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Institute for Global Technological Leadership, in collaboration with the International Business Ventures (IBV) Enterprise and a School of Technology Senior Design team, have joined forces on the project. In addition to van reconfiguration, students are coordinating with area hospitals to secure donations of working, quality, used medical equipment for incorporation into the van.

The team also accepts monetary donations to purchase other supplies for the project and cover shipping costs associated with transporting the van to Ghana later this spring. Michigan Tech’s Superior Ideas crowd-sourcing website was contacted and helped solicit project funds.

Mobile Wellness Systems seeks to provide diagnostic, preventative and treatment services to Ghanaians who live in villages without easy access to larger medical facilities due to their remote location and who are not serviced by international aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. The team’s mission is to equip doctors from larger city hospitals with the tools needed to provide healthcare to these disadvantaged populations living in villages located outside of city centers.

The prototype this year’s students are developing will be used for testing in Ghana this summer by local doctors who will be treating and caring for many people who previously had limited access to adequate healthcare. These doctors will provide invaluable feedback concerning the mobile clinic allowing this sustainable project to expand to more villages in the future.

This story was originally published by Paige Hackney in Tech Today.


Savvy Entrepreneurship Series Continues…

Innovation and Industry Engagement and the School of Business and Economics will host the next panel discussions in the Savvy Entrepreneur series, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 12, in the large conference room of the ATDC at 1402 Sharon Ave.

The series provides early- to mid-stage technology entrepreneurs with guidance on key topics that all startups must navigate to realize success. This month’s topic includes “Managing Cash Flow.”

Generate new high-value contacts across the Great Lakes region, while gaining technology, entrepreneur, best-practice insights. As well, learn tricks and tips on understanding cash flow and maximizing the effectiveness of your company.

Event Panelists:

Todd Rammler is the president of Michigan CFO Associates.

Pavan Muzumdar is the CFA-managing director of Pieris Capital.

Mike Semanco is president and chief operating officer for Hennessey Capital.

Jeremy Sanger is founder and majority owner of Ventech LLC.

Attendance is free, and all students and community members are welcome. RSVP to John Diebel (TED) at 487-1082 or at jfdiebel@mtu.edu .

Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, see Enterprise Forum .