Signal Introduces Nebraska Students to Chicago Tech Scene

October 07, 2015

Last Friday, Signal went back to college. No, we didn’t host a fraternity party—but we did host six computer science and engineering freshmen and two advisors from University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

After surviving the eight-hour bus ride from Lincoln, the students were eager to explore the diverse and innovative offerings of the Chicago tech scene. Jenna Huttenmaier, advisor at the Learning Community at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, chose Signal as a destination because “it fit that cool startup vibe we were looking for.”

After a tour of the office, Signalites and our guests circled around a long table in our lunch room. As everyone sipped La Croix and bit into their Donut Vault doughnuts, Mike Sands, Signal’s CEO and co-founder, talked with the Nebraska students.

“Because people are using technology in new and different ways, every year it gets harder to connect data from all the channels and have a clear view of the customer,” Sands said. He explained that Signal is the glue that connects the different channels on which consumers interact, pulling together first-party data to resolve identity and provide a unified understanding of the customer.


Signal CEO Mike Sands tells the Signal story and offers his advice.
Signal CEO Mike Sands talks to students from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

Sands spoke about the inspiration, trajectory, and success of Signal and gave the students advice on their entrepreneurial endeavors. “You have to believe passionately in something that everyone else thinks is stupid,” Sands said. “They won’t want to compete with you, and you’ll have more of an opportunity.”

After Sands spoke, a handful of Signalite developers shared their words of wisdom with the young hopefuls. “Take classes you think are interesting.” “The things you do outside of the classroom are what really matters.” “Find a group of people you really like working with.” “Learn how to fail.”

The students then opened up about their passions for computer engineering. “I built my first computer when I was 15,” said Tanner Oelke, a freshman at Nebraska. His computer was fully functional and inspired him to explore a career in the field. “It was just like Legos, but for adults.”

Oelke says he was pleasantly surprised by the relaxed yet organized work environment at Signal. “My uncle is an engineer in Nebraska, and he wears a suit and tie to work everyday,” he said, “It’s very conservative there, and it’s so refreshing to see how loose everyone is here.”

Lisa O’Keefe, VP of Talent & Culture at Signal, was thrilled to introduce students to the rich tech scene in Chicago and show them they do not have to head to Silicon Valley to solve complex engineering problems. “It’s incumbent on those of us who are working in Chicago to show students they can make a great impact technically, ascend in their career, and stay in the Midwest,” she explained.

We finished the day by bringing the students to our sixteenth-floor rooftop and offering them an unforgettable view of Chicago’s West Loop. “I’m not a big city kind of guy,” Oelke says, “but I’m liking this city.”


Nebraska students on the roof at Signal
Nebraska students and their advisors on the roof at Signal in Chicago’s West Loop.

Jacob Greenberg

Jacob was a marketing intern at Signal and a senior at Northwestern University, where he studied Marketing and Psychology. He is a pale Floridian who enjoys hiking, swimming and eating mini M&Ms.

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