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Microstrategy CEO Discusses His MIT Experience

By Katie Jeffreys
Staff Reporter

The three career fairs in the last three weeks are testimony to the job search process that annually occupies the lives of soon-to-be MIT graduates.

Many companies specifically recruit MIT students, and many are made up of a considerable number of MIT graduates.

Microstrategy, whose president and CEO Michael J. Saylorgraduated from MITin 1987, arranged a site visit for The Tech to look a little closer into how the MIT experience influences later career performance and outlook.

Ten percent of Microstrategy's employees are MIT graduates. According to Melissa A. Koren, manager of university recruiting, they have a higher "employment acceptance rate among MIT students than any other company that recruits at MIT."

Gaurav Rewari '91, the company's director of project management, said that Microstrategy "felt like MIT in many ways." As a new employee he learned that "you quickly take on more than you can manage," and was remined of the "principle of selective neglect" he had learned at MIT.

Microstrategy, based in Vienna, Virginia, was founded in 1989 by Saylor and Sanju K. Bansal '87 as a consulting company building decision support systems for DuPont. They focused on creating graphical user interfaces allowing corporations to access and analyze databases.

MIT students are ideal for jobs

Because MIT prepares students well for jobs in companies like Microstrategy, many students are recruited on campus. However, students at Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, and Yale, as well as international universities also regularly apply.

The company looks, above all, for graduates with a "great personality, willingness to get their hands dirty, and strong analytical skills," said said Charles Valey '87, director of corporate development for Microstrategy.

MITstudents also tend not to be intimidated by new technology, which can be daunting. "When you are at MIT you eat, drink, and breathe technology," said Thomas Spahr '87, director of information systems for the company, and can apply technical knowledge to society from first-hand experience.

"It's the intensity of the MITexperience which in fact has proven to be the best preparation for business," Bansal said. He felt that the work ethic he learned at MIT helped in his entrepreneurial endeavors.

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program was also mentioned by several alumni as being helpful.

"I think it gets you a little more focused on how high technology can be essentially vented out to third party organizations," Bansal said.

Co-workers term Saylor visionary

Saylor studied aeronautics and astronautics and science, technology, and society during his time at MIT.

Now, "he is unquestionably a visionary,"Spahr said. "When he has a vision he can translate it into something others can understand."

Saylor's goal of purging ignorance', the company motto, is one that he feels will be successful because his vision has three important characteristics: it is ethical, imperative, and timeless.

Theirs is "an almost evangelical mission," said Saylor. Instead of focusing on profitability, Microstrategy wants to allow for improved analysis and distribution of data.

For the company to succeed, everyone from the CEOs of Microstrategy's customers down to the average consumer must succeed, Saylor said.

It is imperative that as the amount of data available increases, and methods of accessing it improve, people are given the opportunity to do so, Saylor added.

Microstrategy provides data

Since 1989, Microstrategy has expanded because of the advent of remote systems that can be accessed by home computers. The company is currently working on creating a World Wide Web-based interface that allows users worldwide to inexpensively access databases containing terabytes of data.

It will be possible to post very specific requests for important data, such as "Which surgeon in New England has performed the most successful open-heart surgeries relative to the health of the patient?"

"The business got a huge kick in '93 and '94," Saylor, said, "and what ensued was a market that we now call data warehousing."

Data warehousing can be used by groups such as banks, car dealerships or hospitals to "take information trapped in a database and get it out to people," Saylor said. Consumers can then make informed decisions which will, as the company's motto states, "Purge ignorance."

Their current customers include insurance, credit card, and retail companies. This customer base of 350 corporations brought Microstrategy to it's present status, generating $50 million annually and employing 515 people. In the past, the company has been growing at a rate of 100 percent annually. "We are looking forward to a record year of growth," Valey said.

Saylor will be at the Institute Wednesday to present an information session for students.