COMA 426-Pacific Lutheran University May Be Home To the Next Startup

5/7/14

When you hear the names Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft or Google, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of the countless hours you spent liking statuses or retweeting a celebrity quote. Or perhaps it reminds you of Googling the name of some obscure philosopher so you can write that essay on Microsoft Word.

When Pacific Lutheran University junior Andre Tacuyan hears these names, he notices that they all have something in common: the ability to bring people, and information, together. Via the Internet and smart phones, startup companies like Facebook and Google have been at the forefront of advances in communication over the past 20 years.

With some of the most advanced technology in the world at their disposal, these companies continue to innovate and connect people at unprecedented levels. This upcoming summer, Tacuyan will travel south from his college abode in Parkland, Washington to Silicon Valley in California, where he will get his chance to connect people through information by accepting an internship with Google.

At first glance, Tacuyan does not look like a future Google executive. His appearance is that of a typical college student, a millennial, if you will. And he behaves pretty much the same as every other 20-year-old: attending classes, scrolling through his phone or networking with his seemingly endless group of friends.

Humble Beginnings

Born on the tiny island nation of Guam, Tacuyan lived in the South Pacific until he was eight, before moving to Las Vegas, Nevada with his family. During his senior year of high school, he moved to Mukilteo, Washington. Unlike today, though, his future after graduating from Kamiak High School in 2011 was cloudy.

Having been a member of the Kamiak men’s swim team in high school, Tacuyan hoped to find a school that would gave him the opportunity to swim.

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do before I got to college,” Tacuyan said. “My mom really wanted me to go (to college) and I ended up choosing PLU for swimming.”

After arriving at PLU, his career on the team, however, was short lived. Despite competing his freshman and sophomore years, he left the pool he loved before the start of his junior season to focus on academics.

Andre was a very competitive swimmer and was always setting goals for himself,” former teammate and senior Kina Ackerman said. “He didn’t take the decision to walk away from swimming lightly, and we all knew that it was such a huge part of his life.” But, he had a lot of amazing opportunities that were in front of him and I think he made the best decision for himself to pursue his future career.”

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Currently on the path to graduate in Spring 2015 with a major in graphic design and a minor in computer science, Tacuyan said didn’t find his calling until recently.

I’ve always been into design since I was little and I made my first website when I was 10,” Tacuyan, dressed in his typical outfit of a V-neck t-shirt and jeans, said. “I really didn’t think of it as a career until my sophomore year. I didn’t even know a graphic designer could be at Microsoft or Google.”

His parents, on the other hand, were skeptical.

My parents always told me I wouldn’t succeed with graphic design,” Tacuyan said. “But one day I got an email from a recruiter and she asked if I was interested in Microsoft.”

We talked on the phone, went through the interview process and luckily I got it.”

After spending last summer at Microsoft, Tacuyan found the experience incredibly beneficial. But it wasn’t quite what he was looking for.

Microsoft was a little too corporate for me because I want to explore around when I’m young,” Tacuyan said. “That being said, I feel like I learned more in 3 months there (Microsoft) than in 20 years.”

Beneath Tacuyan’s giggly, youthful demeanor is the mind of the next startup. After landing internships with Microsoft and Google, Tacuyan potentially qualifies as a “boy genius,” a term he uses playfully to describe himself.

He’s very outgoing and sociable,” graphic design classmate and first-year student Krista Morford said. “As a student, he is very passionate about his work and will strive to do the unexpected.”

A good attitude in the classroom has certainly contributed to Tacuyan’s success during his time at PLU, but even boy geniuses need a bit of luck once in a while.

What I think got me the position was my friends dad was in a frat with one of the directors of Google Chrome and his referral is what made me stand out from the other candidates,” Tacuyan said. I had a couple interviews and they liked my portfolio and side projects. They saw a lot of passion and hunger in me, and thats what made them want me.”

Only a week after classes finish up for the year at PLU, Tacuyan will report to Google Headquarters, his new home for the summer, to start working with the social team. The internship lasts from June 2-August 29 and is paid.

I know Google and Microsoft on my resume will look really good for the future,” Tacuyan said. “The conversation rate from intern to full time at Google is 70 percent, so hopefully I will already have a job before I start my senior year at PLU.

Plan B

In the case that he is part of the 30 percent that doesn’t get a job following the internship, Tacuyan has a fallback plan. The plan highlights the entrepreneurial side of Tacuyan, who focuses on bringing people together around campus.

Me and a team of friends from five schools around the U.S. got together to work on an event discovery app for college students called Clustur,” Tacuyan said. “I saw the need for it at PLU because people would always ask ‘what’s going on this weekend,’ and I thought this would solve that problem.”

As the chief designer, Tacuyan and the group are currently looking for programmers so that Clustur can be launched in the app store.

Despite the whirlwind of class, projects and internships over the past couple years, Tacuyan isn’t getting ahead of himself.

If you asked me a year ago I would not believe you if you told me I would be starting at Google,” Tacuyan said frankly. “I feel like the opportunities are endless.”

Although he may seem a cut above the rest, Tacuyan has all the same fears and desires as his peers.

We live in a rough economy and I don’t want to be another number in the unemployment percentage,” Tacuyan said. “I feel like a lot can be better and I want to make an impact in the world.” I just take opportunities as they come and I feel like I’m going on the right track.”

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