An Electrical Engineering and Computer Science alumnus has launched a company that aims to help leaders develop in the workplace.
Wes Kendall (’07, ’09, ’11) is a co-founder of Chattanooga-based Ambition LLC, whose computer programs enable employees to hone and enhance their skills by identifying challenges and goals.
“We are creating tools that allow employees to assess their performance within their company and also compete against one another,” Kendall said. “We want employees to know how they rank among their peers while also helping the workplace be a more engaging and competitive environment.”
Kendall said Ambition LLC is the culmination of ideas from an array of people, rather than just the co-founders of the company, and was based off an earlier internal application used by Access America Transport, the fastest growing third-party logistics company in the world.
“The original idea was … that gamifying sales would tap into the personalities of the salesmen and enhance the culture of the company,” Kendall explained. “After seeing the early versions of Ambition that were used internally, the developers and businessmen have come up with new ideas by simply brainstorming often, releasing small features into the wild, and then seeing how our current customers like them.”
Although now an experienced businessman, Kendall didn’t always see himself as an entrepreneur or a computer science scholar.
“I was actually never interested in the aspects of running a business when I was young; however, I did always want to be an inventor,” he said.
As an undergraduate in the computer science program, Kendall built a relationship with computer science Associate Professor Jian Huang. Kendall said Huang, who would eventually become his PhD advisor, was instrumental in his decision to continue his studies in graduate school and to follow an entrepreneurial path.
“I was on the fence about even going to graduate school -- much less pursuing a PhD -- but Dr. Huang took me in as an undergrad and really inspired me to be something bigger,” Kendall said. “I wholeheartedly believe that I would not have gone to graduate school, pursued a PhD, and then pursued (a startup business) if it wasn't for him.”
Kendall said his time as a student at UT helped prepare him for starting a business.
“Working as a team is an important aspect of the startup life, and I had some great group projects at UT that helped me understand the complexities of development among multiple people,” Kendall said.
He was also able to get a lot of firsthand experience working in research and industry through internships with Google, Argonne National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
However, Kendall said that when it comes to startup life, there are some things you cannot prepare for.
“I have to admit that no amount of education can fully prepare someone for it. It is something that has to be learned by diving in and doing it,” he said.
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