When he graduated from Binghamton University, Michael Wiesman left without a plan and without a direction — just like most students. But unlike most students, Wiesman found his way to the head of a multi-million dollar corporation he helped create. On Wednesday, Wiesman came to campus to tell his success story and to help students create their own.
Weisman, a co-founder of Campus Labs, the company responsible for the PAWS and B-Involved computer programs, spoke to about 60 students Wednesday, telling them his personal success story.
When Weisman graduated in 1998 with a degree in anthropology, he left without a career or any long-term plans for the future.
“Initially I thought it was a tragedy,” he said. “But in retrospect it wasn’t, it was an opportunity.”
After working as an elementary school teacher for several years, Weisman decided to attend business school at the University at Buffalo. While on a road trip with Eric Reich, a friend of Weisman’s, the two decided to create a business together.
The pair entered their idea into the Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition at UB’s business school and won $25,000 to start their brand new company, at that time called StudentVoice.
From there, they started gathering investors and building the business that would eventually have 90 employees, be on 650 campuses across the country and make $10 million in annual sales from their student data tracking programs. That company, Campus Labs, was just sold this August to tech company Higher One for approximately $40 million. Weisman is now executive vice president of Campus Labs and director of the company’s campus relations, traveling to universities across the country to market the company’s products.
Weisman took questions from the audience about his personal success and gave advice to students unsure about their career path. He stressed that hard work and determination are the keys to success.
“Get your degree, figure it out from there, because you’ve got the whole world waiting for you,” he said. “If you don’t wake up every day excited about what you’re doing then you’re not doing the right thing.”
The talk was organized by the Student Affairs Assessment and Strategic Initiatives (SAASI) department in conjunction with the Career Development Center. Chris Knickerbocker, the director of SAASI, was optimistic that students walked away from the presentation with newfound confidence in their futures.
“We hope it inspires questioning in students,” Knickerbocker said. “There aren’t necessarily straight paths in life and we want students to be able to take whatever path they choose and be able to avail themselves of opportunities.”
Students in attendance found the event interesting and informative. Israt Ahmed, a sophomore majoring in anthropology, was encouraged by Weisman’s story.
“One of the best parts about the presentation was that he helped show me that nothing is set in stone,” Ahmed said. “Even if you come into college thinking you know what you want to do, you may not leave college thinking the same thing. Basically, go with the flow and you’ll be successful.”
Vivian Vuong, an undeclared freshman, appreciated Weisman’s advice to students.
“From the way he spoke, he seemed very humble about his success story,” Vuong said. “He reinforced the fact that it’s not just about the letter grades you get on your transcript or your degree, but how you advertise yourself as a person.”