A Lehigh Advocate Sees the Big Picture
Tom Gillis, Bracket Computing
The entrepreneur is working to strengthen the ties between Lehigh and Silicon Valley, and to nurture the next generation of tech leaders.
If Tom Gillis ’15P ’17P ’19P could physically move Lehigh to Silicon Valley, he might consider the possibility. Instead, the tech entrepreneur is bringing the two together any chance he can through his vision, involvement, expertise and personal and technical connections.
Gillis, co-founder and CEO of Bracket Computing, was the catalyst for the successful LehighSiliconValley (LSV) entrepreneurship program in the startup hub of California, while his son was a first-year student at Lehigh in 2012.
“I look at it as a bridge between the talent pool in Bethlehem and this vibrant cauldron of opportunity at Silicon Valley,” said Gillis, who connected many of the founders and funders from Silicon Valley to participate in the pilot 2012 LSV immersion program.
LSV, a flagship program of Lehigh’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation, just celebrated its sixth anniversary with 56 students participating. Since sparking the idea for the initial program and helping to get it off the ground in partnership with Dale Falcinelli, director of LSV, Gillis remains involved and has presented at all but one of the January-held courses.
“We spend lots of time and energy trying to cultivate, attract and retain the best possible talent,” said Gillis. “Our observation was that Lehigh produces very good talent, but was very East Coast-oriented. The kids at Lehigh didn’t know about the opportunities at Silicon Valley … didn’t even know where to start.”
“Offering students innovative programs is at the core of what we do,” said President John D. Simon ’19P. “We are fortunate to have Tom Gillis involved in designing educational opportunities for our students.”
As a member of the Parents’ Council and the Dean’s Advisory Council in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, Gillis is realizing opportunity at the university and connecting the vision with the talent and technology to make it happen. Eager to help students interested in software-engineering careers or starting their own companies, he was instrumental in assisting with the additional two-day pilot “technical track” program of LSV in 2017.
Called LSV++, students met with top executives from high-tech and startup businesses Bracket Computing, OSISoft, Cisco and Vectra Networks. At Bracket, students met with Gillis and Chief Technology Officer Jason Lango to examine tech details and hot topics of the company’s secure cloud environment.
Isaac Wellish ’17, a dual computer engineering and music major, described the LSV++ experience as “getting down and dirty in the technical realm of several software companies.”
On visiting Bracket, he said, “Tom Gillis, a huge Lehigh supporter, opened the doors to his startup for our team to pick his brain and speak with Jason Lango. Being that all members of this new team had some background in computer science, we were finally able to traverse deeper into a technical space unhindered.”
Daniel Lopresti, chair of Lehigh’s computer science and engineering department, and Lisa Getzler, executive director of the Baker Institute, co-developed the LSV++ program to provide invaluable hands-on experiences to students.
“Advanced technology in the field of computing constantly changes. It is important for Lehigh faculty and students to gain knowledge from companies that are pushing the boundaries every day and are on the cutting edge of technology,” said Lopresti. “Lehigh graduates will be prepared to work in the real world because of these experiences.”