“An engineer solves a problem he or she is given; a liberal arts graduate thinks about what the problems might be and solves those.”
As vice president and chief technology officer for NCR’s hosted solutions business, Mike Finley ‘90 relies on the computer science, mathematics, and physics majors he completed within Transylvania’s liberal arts environment to find creative ways to grow his company’s products and services. NCR, a $5 billion worldwide company headquartered in Atlanta with 25,000 employees, creates highly sophisticated software solutions that allow businesses to communicate better with customers and also manage their internal systems efficiently.
Finley is responsible for all of NCR’s mobile applications, including smart phones and tablets. A typical product might enable a small restaurant to accept orders from customers’ phones and then show that order on a kitchen screen so the chef can schedule preparation. Internally, an application might allow the restaurant’s cashiers or servers to swap shifts using their smart phones. A gas station operator might receive coordinated projections on gasoline sales and the next scheduled delivery.
“NCR has millions of touch points worldwide where we process transactions for a variety of retailers and banks,” Finley says. “I’m responsible for the software service component of what we’re able to sell to those businesses.”
Finley looks back to the education he received at Transylvania and values both the scientific knowledge and insights he learned as well as the liberal arts perspective that has helped him advance in his profession. He holds several patents, including a U.S. patent for a multimedia distribution system.
“If I’m thinking about problems no one else has thought of yet, that means I can think of solutions no one else has thought of either,” he says. “That’s a critical part of the broad exposure the liberal arts education gives a person.”
That same education allowed Finley to move beyond the technical side of computer science and into management. As encouragement and counsel to others, he co-authored You.next(), a book designed to help technology professionals transition into organizational leadership. His Transylvania business administration minor proved invaluable in this endeavor.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t draw on the quality education I received at Transylvania,” Finley says. “My professors took a personal interest in me, and that has made all the difference.”
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