Along the I-20 corridor, Louisiana Tech University has taken on a focused and strategic mission to be a leader in building an innovation ecosystem that has the potential to lead a new era of economic prosperity for our region.
A prime example of how this works at base level is the relationship between Fenway Group and Louisiana Tech students, a pairing that began six years ago with four students, a senior technical professional, and a specific project in Tech Pointe to work on for CenturyLink.
Today, as part of Fenway Group, more than 150 Tech students are working on projects in Tech Pointe — its main tenant is Fenway Group — and more space is needed, which the University is urgently pursuing.
What a great problem to have.
“If you got a summer job back in my days as a student, you were pretty lucky,” Tech president Dr. Les Guice said. “I had to drive to Monroe to find an architecture firm, and that helped me a lot. It gave me great experience in what architecture really was. To create those kinds of opportunities on campus is one of the reasons why we started the Enterprise Campus.”
Fenway Group has meant that and much more to the University.
As founder and CEO of Fenway Group — a company based in Dallas with offices in Boston, New York, Honolulu and Ruston — Martin Santora is developing the next generation of IT talent while driving the transformation of IT organizations into centers of innovation. His firm designs custom service delivery methods and best practices to implement those services focusing on critical 21st century technology areas of user experience, information architecture, IT development, and business strategy.
He established what he refers to as his flagship operation of the Fenway Group — the Tech Pointe venture — through his work with CenturyLink. In Monroe, he met Bill Bradley, a 1985 Tech graduate in computer science and the senior vice president of cyber engineering and technology solutions for CenturyLink.
“I was sharing with Martin how successful our intern program had been in producing well-qualified employees for CenturyLink, and how pleased we were with the Tech students,” said Bradley, Tech’s College of Engineering and Science Distinguished Alumnus of 2016. “I told him what a great and underused resource I thought the student and teaching population was. One thing lead to another…”
Bradley’s suggestion led to Santora meeting with Guice and Davy Norris, Tech’s chief research and innovation officer.
“At first I thought, ‘What is this guy trying to sell us?’” Norris said. “Then I realized everything he was saying was out of honest sincerity. This guy is as authentic as they come. He has one child, a daughter. But he feels like he has 150 children now, each one working for Fenway. He loves mentoring.”
During that 2012 meeting, Martin brought to the leadership of Tech a bold idea for a new kind of partnership that would simultaneously benefit his company, serve his clients, advance his industry, and provide a unique career development opportunity through a mentorship program for the best and brightest students at the University. Through this partnership, students are infused with knowledge and best practices while serving Fenway clients and being paid.
“This is a student body here that has a very strong work ethic,” Santora said. “But in addition to that they have tangible characteristics that we look at that we know determine success: that is aptitude, attitude, and passion. Fenway Group is a company that is based on the principle of our mission statement, which is that we are developing the next generation of IT talent.
“That means we are an altruistic company; important to us is the social impact we’re having on the lives of the next generation of young professionals coming up within the context of technology disciplines.”
The students Santora mentors are developing and maintaining leading-edge technology solutions for Fenway’s major corporate clients all over the country. Students’ successful completion of the Fenway mentorship program continues to generate a 100-percent placement rate into permanent jobs upon graduation, usually at above-entry-level positions.
The impact of this partnership on Tech, Ruston, and most of all on the University’s students has been immense. Santora and Fenway Group have been an invaluable partner in helping Tech deliver an unparalleled educational experience for students that will prepare them to compete and win against anybody, anywhere in the world.
“By shaping Fenway Group around his commitment to people and excellence,” Norris said, “Martin has created an organization that embodies the passion of an athlete, the cerebral intensity of a technology entrepreneur, and the humanity and dedication of a committed leader.”
“I see a large talent base on our campus,” Guice said. “We get visits all the time from companies; I let them see the Fenway Group full of students and some graduates, working right there on campus. Their eyes light up. We had a vice president from (global security company) Northrop Grumman visit campus recently and I think we made a pretty big impression. They see what we’re doing right here, in rural north Louisiana.”