Playing Your Cards Right - Tech Company Qadre Founder Speaks to FHHS students

Posted on 02/05/2018
Playing Your Cards Right - Tech Company Qadre Founder Speaks to FHHS students

It happens all the time – kids are sitting around their living room playing video games, looking for ways to improve their score. Then they start one of the fastest growing startup tech companies in the world. OK, maybe that doesn’t happen all the time, but Nick Williamson did just that. The co-founder of Qadre, Williamson recently stopped by Francis Howell High School to inspire more than a hundred eager listeners that they can build the next great technology or tech company – if they play their cards right.

In the second week of February, FHSD will be hosting its annual “We Love to Code” week, where students of all ages get the opportunity to learn about coding and computer science. Well, the high school students who attended Williamson’s presentation just may put a little more emphasis on it now that they know what they can accomplish. Williamson’s story is one of perseverance and the desire to learn more. Now Qadre, which launched less than a year ago in May of 2017, is already signing deals with internationally renowned luxury goods manufacturers, consumer electronics companies, and one of the largest conglomerates in China. “Long story short,” Williamson said, “I’m going on an around-the-world trip that’s mostly business. I stopped in St. Louis to visit with my parents, and had an opportunity to talk with Francis Howell.”

His father, Dane, is a science teacher at FHHS, helping students learn AP Physics and Principles of Engineering. Obviously, Dane is proud that his son has found success, but he’s even prouder that the young man volunteered to help inspire FHHS students. Nick wasn’t there to preach a specific message, “but more of a framework of thinking of how tech will evolve in the next 10 to 15 years.”

Nick subtitled his presentation “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” explaining the shift in the way tech is built, and how tech allows us to interact differently in our world. “And it looks increasingly likely that the several types of technology that we’re going to be talking about today; one of which my company – Block chain – builds infrastructure for, is going to shape the way we interact with the world going forward. It’s just good to have a conceptual understanding of what people – from business leaders to government to technologists – are saying how things might unfold in the next couple decades.”

“I got great information,” said FHHS junior Lucian McClanahan, “and building blocks on how to run your business, how to work with other people, and just overall great information. I’ve actually tried starting my own clothing business, and I definitely had struggles like he was talking about, so he opened my mind up to not giving up on dreams.”

Not that long ago Williamson was a professional poker player, and he learned how to become a more efficient player by programming models and simulations. He first tried using mammoth excel spreadsheets, but that became unattainable. “So I had to learn programming to do that in a more scalable manner that would allow me to gain better insight in what I wasn’t doing well and how I could improve,” he said. That led into building websites, and building side projects that led to employing block chain codes, and eventually building his own block chain. “Now that’s my job, flying around the world talking to people about this thing that I started putting together in my living room four years ago.”

“I have been thinking about going into the tech field,” said FHHS junior Christopher Steiger, “so this helped me think about what tech field I want to go into.”

There are many doors to access the tech field, as Williamson told them. “There are two ways of gaining a good opportunity – bringing together or cross-pollinating good ideas across different domains to create something new.” Tech can be something completely new, like the internet – that pollinates into many different applications. Tech can also be those applications. But tech can also be a combination of old and new tech and finding ways to connect the two – such as combining a phone and a computer. Regardless, there’s plenty of opportunity in this fourth revolution.

“You may enjoy being the jack-of-all-trades that is in a better place to do the cross-pollination,” Williamson said. “Or you may enjoy diving deeper into one subject and becoming a subject matter expert. Both are very valid, both can be very fulfilling, and both can be very necessary to developments (in tech).”

However, one skill is universal. Williamson said, “I would say learn programming. It’s the way we are increasingly controlling the world around us and learning about the world around us.” And tech will only grow from here. “In the ‘Gartner Hype Cycle,’ I’d say we’re about ready to go through what they call the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ while we start building the real useful stuff.” He later added, “It’s hard outside looking in to make those judgment calls – about what’s actually good, what’s actually real, and what’s going to be useful five years from now. Because you need to start sowing those seeds now and building the infrastructure now to be useful then.”

There are opportunities in FHSD to learn coding, such as We Love to Code week and computer science courses. Students like FHHS junior Michael Spencer, who also learned a lot that day, could be that next jack-of-all-tech or business leader … if they aren’t afraid to go all-in on a dream.


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