The University of Technology, Jamaica has launched an engaging online series aimed at highlighting distinguished alumni of the institution as well as to showcase the university’s local, regional and international impact ,
Titled President’s Riverside Chat, the first in the series was streamed via the UTech, Jamaica YouTube page on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, featuring Dr Peter Walker, alumnus and corporate vice-president, Microsoft Inc.
Walker shared his inspiring journey to becoming a successful engineer and entrepreneur in an insightful conversation with UTech, Jamaica President Dr Kevin Brown during the one-hour programme.
Introducing the series, Brown explained that the President’s Riverside Chats “will be an inspirational series where you will learn more about what makes UTech so great”. He stated that his conversation with Walker would provide evidence on “what you can achieve when you work hard and focus on your passion”.
Responding to the first question posed by Brown, Walker detailed that his main function at Microsoft is to collaborate with customers facing strategic and significant engineering problems and aid in developing innovative solutions to bring them to market quickly.
During the spirited conversation, Walker elaborated on his entrepreneurial journey in developing the idea for his cloud video gaming technology company. He shared that the idea for the company was developed through a conversation he had with his son while he was playing video games. He pondered the possibility of video games being streamed like a movie on Netflix, rather than using a game console. This fruitful innovation led to the success of his company SpawnLabs, which was later acquired by GameStop, the world’s largest retail gaming and trade-in destination for Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo games, systems and accessories.
Reflecting on his early years, the UTech alum reminisced about the profound impact his teachers had on him throughout his primary school, high school and at UTech, Jamaica (then College of Arts Science and Technology, CAST). He credited his teachers for nurturing his curiosity and passion for learning, noting that “my early childhood is really dotted with teachers and a curiosity and a love of learning. People invested in me and I’m excited and really honoured to have them as part of my story”.
He further highlighted the impact of various teachers who recognised his love for learning and provided him with access to books and resources that fostered his intellectual growth. These early reading experiences continued to shape his educational path, even during his pursuit of a graduate degree at Brown University, USA.
Recognising the need to give back to the institutions that shaped him and prepared him for life, Walker and his wife decided to contribute to their alma mater, St Mary High School. With the aim of transforming the school to drive educational outcomes, they rallied a team, including members from the class of 1982, to establish Wi-Fi connectivity, install approximately 100 new computers, and provide fibre-optic connectivity to the various buildings within the school.
The Microsoft senior executive shared that it was his uncle’s experience while completing his studies in chemical engineering at UTech, that influenced his own desire to attend the prestigious institution. Walker emphasised that UTech, Jamaica provides “practical grounding in preparing students for the marketplace,” reiterating that “the school prepared me for applying my learning and I must say it, indeed, delivered on that throughout my life”.
In reflecting on his journey at UTech, Ja., he fondly recalled completing his final-year project, which his team decided would be the task of building a computer graphics monitor from scratch, an innovative idea that pushed them to understand the inner workings of a computer.
“Although the lab provided some parts, we had to scavenge for additional components from an old computer,” he noted. Through this project, he gained valuable knowledge on debugging, timers, and the limitations of their equipment. This experience played a crucial role in shaping his career in Engineering, and his offer of a job in the Electronics Department by the head of the department at The University of the West Indies, Jamaica in his early career. The department specialised in advanced scientific research instruments such as mass spectrometers, electron microscopes, and various spectrographic instruments needed for continued research.
Guiding the conversation, Brown described the calibre of students produced by UTech, Ja. as “innovative”. Noting that UTech, Ja. has been focused on knowledge process outsourcing as the next big step for Jamaica in creating job opportunities, Brown stated: “We want to create jobs that employ our technology students, our engineer students right here on the island of Jamaica.”
Additionally, the university’s president highlighted that the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC) at UTech, Ja. supports entrepreneurial ventures by providing a space for individuals across Jamaica to develop their ideas into successful businesses. He also pointed out that the TIC provides a ready facility for students to incubate their entrepreneurial ideas and to ultimately bring their innovations to market.
The riveting discussion between the two accomplished engineers was followed by an interactive question-and-answer session with online viewers who further engaged with Walker about his remarkable journey as an IT engineer and entrepreneur.
In his closing remarks, Brown thanked the marketing team led by Ivor Bennett, the Learning Technologies Support Unit (LTSU), staff and students from the Bachelor of Arts in communication arts and technology (BACAT) programme and all persons who played an integral role in the success of the inaugural President’s Riverside Chat.
Promising to be an enriching platform for informative discussions, the series will feature an array of guests including distinguished alumni students, members of faculty, staff and partners of the university.