#TGW: Seeing The Bigger Picture
Georgia Tech football's Tre' Jackson and Matthew Jordan are helping the future of public education this summer as interns at Lexicon Technologies
Jon Cooper | The Good Word - There’s a student in Henry County Middle School that will run better in part thanks to Georgia Tech quarterback Matthew Jordan.
A student at Heritage High School will get an assist from Yellow Jackets linebacker Tre' Jackson.
Jordan and Jackson don’t know either student's name nor the names of countless others they will help in the years to come.
They don’t have to.
They just need to know that they’re making a difference every morning when they report to work at Lexicon Technologies for their summer internship.
Lexicon Technologies was started in 1998 by Georgia Tech alumnus Travis Collins (Class of '79). After working in the private sector producing specialty hardware (barcode scanning and other such devices for the Postal Service, UPS, etc.) for nearly two decades and serving on his local school board for another 12, Collins turned the focus of his family business toward education. Today, Lexicon Technologies offers IT support for computer hardware for public schools in several counties throughout Georgia, including Henry, Rockdale, Fayette and Heard, and serves an estimated 73,000 students.
That number could grow exponentially with the pending launch of a software program called Incident IQ, which will help schools expedite software and hardware repairs. Preparing Incident IQ for launch required special help and lots of it.
Enter Jordan, Jackson and former teammate Jake Whitley (a former member of Georgia Tech's football program whose gridiron career was cut short due to injury).
“We think we can provide some better solutions to support technology. That’s supporting the critical mission of K-12,” said Collins. “We needed some help this summer. It’s a big project. We were looking for bright people to help us this summer in kind of a final sprint. We had a great opportunity to expose these guys to an exciting aspect of the future of technology in education and, in my opinion, it’s working out just great.
“We’re in kind of a final phase before commercial launch of this product. There’s a lot of intense testing,” he added. “These guys had the mental acuity to do some very challenging work with respect to diagnostic bug testing and really testing lots of different permutations. To feed back to our development team. They were very adept at that, almost immediately.”
Getting rid of the bugs is the primary focus of the players’ internship and is as intense as advertised.
“On a typical day, we test the site and the product, things like that,” said Jordan. “We’re basically testing that product now so it will be ready for the release date, whether that’s improvements, making it more user-friendly. Then we get to sit in on all the meetings and we learn or (Travis) sit us down and teaches us a little bit more about the business side, whether that’s sales, or something like that. We’re actually learning a lot.”
“There’s also a help guide for the system, for the software,” Jackson said. “So we’re helping them draft and review some help guide guidelines -- the wording, the verbiage, the terminology, what this should say, is there a picture that matches this, helping them be essential. We’ve sat in just about every single meeting they’ve had, so we’ve met with the vice president of Lenovo, the computer hardware company. We got to know him a little bit better and hear his background of success, got to hear a lot about what Dell does and just a lot of these OEMs, manufacturers that we’re working pretty close with. We get really good exposure.”
Knowing how Incident IQ will impact future generations is a rewarding aspect of this summer internship, going much further than simply helping the redshirt juniors advance their careers and add to their resumes.
“It helps them be more efficient,” said Jordan, who graduated with a degree in business administration in the spring and is taking steps toward a masters. “If a kid’s laptop is down, they won’t go without it. They won’t go without learning for the day.”
“I’m seeing how this software and this hardware opportunity is going to be able to help these kids,” said Jackson, a business administration major who graduates in the fall. “Being able to benefit them and give them a little bit of something that I didn’t have when I was in middle school or high school or even elementary school is a great feeling. I feel like we’re going to learn a lot in the process and feel a great sense of achievement after we’ve deployed it. It’s awesome the feeling you get from saying, ‘We can make this work.' So I’m excited.”
They’re so excited that neither minds getting up in the 5 a.m. hour to work out prior to starting their 8-to-5 work day at Lexicon.
Working at Lexicon has meant getting thrown right into the fire and being expected to pull their weight. It’s not just pushing papers, but pushing the envelope -- participating in meetings with such industry heavyweights as Lenovo, Dell, and HP. It’s more than they might have expected.
“When we first got here, we all thought that they were just going to give us some basic paperwork, ‘Here you go, sit at your desk all day and do this,’” said Jackson. “But they treat us as part of the team. They consider what we have to say. It’s pretty cool how they include us and let us recognize the strategy and explain more to us as we go. We appreciate the fact that they include us a lot on this product and in the strategy.
“You feel like a grown-up that’s in the workforce, you don’t feel like a student anymore,” he added. “Obviously, you still feel like a student because you’re learning, but in a contributing way, in a teamwork way. You feel like part of the team [with] the exposure that they’re giving us so far and it’s only been three weeks. I’m sure we have a lot more to learn and we’re very excited ... I haven’t been treated better in the work force ever.”
Treating Jordan and Jackson as peers was never an issue once Collins met them at Georgia Tech's annual scholarship endowment dinner.
“My wife, Rose, and I have had the opportunity to meet several of these young guys and were thoroughly impressed with how bright they were,” he said. “Tech is a great place for identifying people who have great work ethic. So I knew we were getting good raw material.
“Some of our other folks at Lexicon are not necessarily Georgia Tech folks. There was probably some skepticism from some members of our staff,” he added. “But when they met the team, when they met the interns and then began to interact with them, I would say by the second day they were making contributions on an equal level.That says two things to me. One, they’re very bright and No. 2, they’re committed and they’re fast learners. So from that point forward, our philosophy was ‘They’re on the team, so they’re in all the team meetings.’”
Jordan and Jackson enjoy feeling part of the Lexicon team and are grateful to the Georgia Tech family.
“I love how alumni will go out of their way for you like Travis did,” Jackson said. “He is an amazing guy. Just to sit down and talk to for an hour like we did at the donor dinner, I was blown away by the type of person he was. He tells us every day, ‘Son, I’m going to teach you as much as I can.’ It’s like getting an MBA working there.”
“I think this will help me out because right now I’m part of the product-development team and I’ll be working with the marketing team, I’ll be working with the sales team, I’ll be working with the part information team. I’ll be getting a full education of all parts of the business side,” Jordan said. “I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s using a resource, using your networking, using your connections through Tech. I think it’s a great thing."
About the only regret Collins has is rather ironic.
“We have talked about football almost not at all. Zero. Isn’t that a shame?” he said. “We have been so busy that we just have not had time to do anything but put our heads down and go. We’ve got so much to do this summer. We’re at a major national trade show to launch this product, I think around the end of June. Those guys have cleared it so they can go and have that experience, which is a unique and fantastic experience to be able to work in that kind of environment. That’s very exciting. So we’ve got a deadline. There’s a lot to do, so no time to talk football.”