- WheelGroup Corporation, Cisco, Eclat Solutions
My advice to students: Try to take every opportunity to work in the field of your choice.
There is something intriguing about an entrepreneur. Rising from nothingness to become distinguished in a competitive market, a successful entrepreneur has taken great risks to later rise to the top. Scott Olson, who left Duke only eight years ago, is certainly an obvious example of a successful entrepreneur.
Scott Olson graduated from the School of Engineering in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, majoring in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. While a student at Duke, he was a member of Air Force ROTC and was in Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity too. In addition to being an avid basketball fan, Olson played on the club tennis team.
After leaving Duke, Mr. Olson joined the Air Force Information Warfare Center, hired as a key manager in the US Air Force Computer Security program. There he briefed high level government officials about the program, including the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
Mr. Olson began his ascent in the business world in October 1995, when he helped found WheelGroup Corporation, where he took on responsibilities as the Director of Product Management for WheelGroup Corporation’s hardware and software computer security products. Wheelgroup grew in size to 75 employees, before it was bought by Cisco Systems in March of 1998. Wheelgroup carried a price tag of $125 million in Cisco stock. Mr. Olson remained with Cisco Systems for seven more months, where he was manager of product marketing.
Though his business adventures already were strong, Olson didn’t stop here. Currently, he is in the process of creating another software company called Eclat Solutions. In the beginning stages, they have seven employees. He resides in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, Jennette Rush Olson, and his 10 week-old son, Grant Douglas Olson (Mr. Olson says, “People can make up their own minds about the name Grant and my previous Duke affiliation”). He is also working on his MBA at the University of Texas at Austin.
Olson realizes the difficulty of starting out into the business world first hand. “If I had one piece of advice for current students it would be to try and take every opportunity to work in the field of your choice as an intern to get some real world experience. The actual implementation of commercial technology products is very different than the academic process. Experience is a quality that is extremely valuable to prospective employers.”
Mr. Olson doesn’t regard his beginnings with Wheelgroup as overly risky. “I feel that the only job security anyone has is by making himself a valuable employee. I certainly took a risk of being out of work by starting Wheelgroup, but even if it hadn’t worked out, the experience alone was invaluable to my future career.” He goes on to advise young entrepreneurs to “take a chance because your only real risk in a startup is finding a new job if it fails.” With this enthusiastic attitude, Scott Olson reached the point he is today.