Inaugural Fireside Chat -
Amazon.com’s Distinguished Engineer, Allan Vermeulen
“To me, an entrepreneur is someone who takes an idea and then figures out how to do whatever needs to be done to take the idea and turn it into a real thing.” - Allan Vermeulen
On January 31st, The Center for Entrepreneurship at Lewis & Clark was proud to host the inaugural event of the 2014 “Fireside Chat” Series with our distinguished guest, Amazon.com’s Allan Vermeulen. We were honored to open our campus to share in the wealth of experience that Allan offers as an engineer, entrepreneur, and innovator.
Allan has worked with Amazon for the past 14 years, holding the titles of VP, platform services; Amazon Web Services Engineer; Chief Technical Officer, and most recently, Distinguished Engineer. Prior to his involvement with Amazon.com, Allan served as the Chief Technical Officer for Rogue Wave in Corvallis, Oregon. During his tenure at the company, Rogue Wave grew from a small start up to a publicly traded company. In addition to his business ventures at Amazon.com and Rogue Wave, Allan has authored the highly regarded book, The Elements of Java Style, and invests in “high potential, early stage businesses.” In his free time, Allan runs, flies airplanes, and walks across islands with friends, most recently completing the 1200+ mile LEJOG from Lands End in England to John O’Groats, in Scotland in slightly less than three months.
Allan’s accomplishments, which include a central role in the creation of cloud computing at Amazon.com, are an exceptional example of “innovating for impact.” The Center for Entrepreneurship invited him to share his thoughts on entrepreneurship and innovation, and take questions from Michael A. Kaplan - “MAK” -, the managing director of the Center and the audience on hand – including the President of Lewis & Clark College, Barry Glassner, the Dean of the College, Tuajuanda Jordan, as well as alumni, students, and community members.
The evening started with two undergraduate students, Celestina DiMauro and Sam Kumaska, introducing the Center, Michael, and Allan. Both students had recently completed the Center’s weeklong, intensive workshop over winter break titled “The Principles and Practices of Entrepreneurship.” It was designed so that students could be exposed to the ethos of the entrepreneurial mindset and gain first hand experience engaging their liberal arts education with the entrepreneurial world. The course included various guest speakers, a visit to an area start-up that is converting waste plastic into crude oil (Agilyx), networking opportunities, and culminated with student teams conceiving and pitching a plan for entrepreneurial innovation to a board of expert advisers comprised of local business leaders. All this in one week!
After the introductions, the discussion with Allan focused on three main themes: Education, technology, and work & career. Here are some of the highlights from the talk:
Allan gives “his best advice to students in college,” the role of fostering creativity in education, and the importance of diversity in one’s education.
Allan discusses the trends in informational systems – past, present, and future.
Work and Career
Allan discusses his path as an entrepreneur from a small start up to Amazon.com.
Throughout the talk, Allan was insightful and engaging. After Michael’s questions, he fielded several questions from the audience that were collected and asked by Brian Detweieler-Bedell, the Academic Director of the Center. However, the evening did not end after the hour-long chat as Allan stuck around and talked at length with students and other attendees during a food and beverage reception in Gregg Pavilion.