The road to becoming an entrepreneur leads in many directions, Alan Atkinson, University of Delaware alumnus and president and chief executive officer of Xiotech Corp., explained to a group of students, faculty and staff at UD on Thursday, May 6.

Serving as the third entrepreneur in residence through the UD Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships’(OEIP) Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program, Atkinson spent the day on campus sharing his success story of making it to the top of Xiotech, one of the largest privately held storage companies in the world.

Stressing the importance of networking, Atkinson said, “Get out of your comfort zone because you need to be in the right social circles.”

After graduating from UD and earning his master’s degree in computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, Atkinson landed a job at AT&T Bell Laboratories where he worked on all aspects of infrastructure, but he quickly realized he needed to “get out of the little pond” and fall back on his networking.

Seeing an opportunity to grow in New York, Atkinson joined Goldman Sachs; over time, he rose to vice president of information technology, handling the firm’s global storage infrastructure.

Atkinson said working 60-70 hour weeks at Goldman Sachs is where he learned a valuable lesson about working hard, “The way you really make a name for yourself is getting things done. You do them right, and eventually, you become the go-to guy.”

Along with hard work, Atkinson stressed to students the importance of networking now.

“The people who will be able to help you in 10 years are not there now. They are the people in this room and in your classes who you are meeting right here at the University of Delaware,” Atkinson said.

Brad Fletcher, a junior computer science major, said he is grateful to meet and connect with a successful UD alumnus, especially after hearing Atkinson emphasize the difference networking made in his own career.

Prior to joining Xiotech in fall 2009, Atkinson was senior vice president of the Storage Software Group for EMC, co-founded WysDM Software Inc., a company specializing in data protection management, and served as CEO of WysDM until the company was sold to EMC in 2008.

Following his presentation, Atkinson spent part of the afternoon meeting one-on-one with students, advising them on how to not only build a successful career but also a solid — and ever-growing — list of contacts.

The EIR program is designed to create excitement among faculty, graduate and undergraduate students who would like to learn the ins and outs of establishing a commercial enterprise. Through OEIP, successful entrepreneurs are brought to UD to share their experiences with faculty and students.

Article by Meredith Chapman
Photo by Evan Krape