An engineer’s journey to innovation

Gioia Messinger highlights the importance of small teams.

Gioia Messinger was 17 when she arrived in the United States from South America. She went on to earn a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and a master’s in computer engineering at the Jacobs School. For the first five years after graduation, Messinger worked as one of the only female engineers at a number of companies before moving on to a startup, where she was responsible for everything from market research to product launch. Soon after, she decided it was time for a change.

“I had worked with a number of consultants as an engineer, and I decided I wanted to try it,” said Messinger. “The startup that I was working with asked me to come back as a consultant. I left on a Friday, and came back on a Monday having started my own business.”

As a consultant, Messinger began managing both teams and projects.

“It required a lot of innovation,” she said. “Things started shifting in my mind — I wanted to start innovating for myself.”

As a result, Messinger’s team participated in the development of the first cable modem and later began working with Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct

Gioia Messinger

Gioia Messinger

the largest population study by the CDC to date.

“I came up with the idea to use touchscreen kiosks to collect data from patients,” said Messinger. “Around that success, I was on the team that created the Pill Cam, a digital device that can be swallowed to take video and images of the intestines.”

Messinger says she realized that innovation happens in pieces. “I always highlight the importance of working in small teams,” she said. “I also want people to think about their job as a lifelong investment instead of a two or three year stand. It’s critical that you enjoy your job, because innovation takes time.”

Currently, Messinger serves as the Founder and CEO of LinkedObjects, a technology and strategy firm specializing in the Internet of Things. Until recently, she served as the founder and CEO of Avaak, Inc. (VueZone) which created simple, beautiful and connected cameras for your home.

Messinger told her story at a Gordon Engineering Leadership Forum at the Jacobs School in February.

Learn more:

Mike Burton

Alumnus Mike Burton, an avid traveler.

Advice from a Groupon Engineer

Alumnus Mike Burton is Director of Mobile Engineering at Groupon and in charge of an app with 100 million downloads that generates more than half of the company’s transactions. He recently talked to us about his career and the lessons he has learned. Excerpts below.

Advice for mid-career professionals: “One thing that has served me really well was getting into open source. I wrote a library for Android programming called RoboGuice and made it open source.

It was a pain I encountered in my job and I wanted to solve it. Now Microsoft, Skype, Starbucks and Nike use it.”

Advice for seniors or recent grads: “I always look for something about our candidates that really makes them stand out. What are they passionate about? What are they driven by? So I look for extracurricular activities, like robotics, captain of the debate team, personal apps they’ve built, it could be anything, but I look for different ways they demonstrate their passion.”

On becoming an expert in Android app development: “I started out with server-side software. But at the same time, smartphones started taking off. The first Android phone had just come out. I knew Java, so this was a natural step for me. We were doing outsourcing contracts for other companies and that’s how I got to program the Android apps for Digg, TripIt and OpenTable.”

Burton's book

Burton's book

Featuring two sample programs, this book explores everything from the simple basics to advanced aspects of Android application development.

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