My name is David Saul and I have the privilege of serving as an Executive in Residence at WPI Business School since 2020. I want to tell you a little bit about myself, my career and why I am at WPI. My role allows me to help train students who combine business and technology studies, a combination that is essential to improving our future.
As far as I can remember, I have been fascinated by science. Astronomy was my first interest in high school and only increased when Earth’s first orbital satellites were launched. I graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics. I wrote my masters thesis on Moon guidance calculations during an internship in the instrumentation labs at MIT (now Draper). My first job was at IBM where I started working on the Apollo Project Ground Guidance Computer. My career at IBM has been marked by my position as Project Manager at IBM’s Cambridge Scientific Center. This was my first managerial position and I received assistance through regular management development programs. I gained an appreciation for the importance of business management skills to complement technological capabilities. During my stay at the Science Center, I managed the development project of the first software allowing an IBM personal computer to communicate with mainframe computers. It convinced me of the importance of entrepreneurship, even in a large multinational corporation. The Science Center has often collaborated with universities on its projects. This experience taught me the value of diversity and new perspectives.
My next move was to the world’s largest financial institution, State Street Corporation, from which I retired in 2019. My tech background served me well at State Street as I learned how the financial industry works. . For most of my tenure at State Street, I established and managed his architectural firm. Our job was to develop and support technology standards for all platforms. During part of that time, I served as Director of Information Security, applying technology to extremely important areas of security and privacy. While on State Street, I reached out to universities, including WPI, to collaborate on projects, creating value for the company and employment opportunities for students. This outreach was global and included the establishment of joint centers in the People’s Republic of China and at University College Cork Business School. I ended my time at State Street as Chief Scientist, where I was able to use the technology and business experience I had gained. I have spent most of my later years focusing on the importance of data, including semantic data standards and governance.
When I was approached by WPI to take on the Executive-in-Residence position at the Business School, it didn’t take long for me to accept. It is clear from my previous career that the convergence of business and technology is the key to solving the big problems that our global population must solve in order to survive and prosper. On a selfish note, working with students is extremely rewarding. I don’t know of a better way to stay engaged because we see them developing their skills. My main goal as an Executive in Residence is to be a resource for students and faculty, applying my real world experience to their classroom studies.
The other reason I wanted to work at WPI was to work with exceptional teachers, some of whom I had already met in business. I believe the WPI Business School is in a good position to use the university’s business talents as well as its science and technology skills to develop the students the world will need in the future. Dean Jackson has this vision, and I am honored to be able to help the Business School realize its potential.
I am originally from Worcester and have founded four companies in the area, Checkerboard (1992), Checkmate Technology (1995-2017) eInvite.com (1997) and currently Checker Real Estate (1995). Fashion, licensing, manufacturing, very early e-commerce (before Google), technology, category management for large retailers such as Costco and Toys’R’Us. Before starting businesses in Worcester, I obtained a Bachelor of Cognitive Science / Artificial Intelligence from the University of Rochester and an MBA. I worked in Silicon Valley for Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) and for a virtual reality startup in 1989 – which maybe was just a bit early.
I’m a bit of a business nerd as can be seen from my reading, I participate in local angel investor groups, I advise startups, I participate in the YPO-HBS Presidents’ Week leadership training program every year, at trade conventions and I teach here at WPI. Education at all levels is an area of great interest, including playing an active role in the local Bancroft school board as well as in the programs at my high school, Trinity-Pawling. I have stayed close to the Mass Academy of Math and Science since its founding almost 30 years ago. The Mass Academy is a public school for gifted STEM students operated here by WPI. I am currently part of the team that is a finalist in the current XPRIZE Quick Requalification Competition – here is a connect.
I love the role of EIR because it combines my passion for business and education. Selfishly, being a part of the WPI community is incredibly rewarding. Our students demonstrate contagious energy, humility and courage. We have so many different things going on, from robots that can compose and play their own music to the development of building materials that enable sustainable living in parts of the world where it wouldn’t be possible otherwise. As an EIR, I have the good fortune to work with professors and students who are trying to find a way to bring a new product to market. This is my definition of a good time. Although I am not a former WPI, as a native of Worcester, WPI is important to our vitality.
I would like to help students and faculty realize their vision of bringing a product or service to market. My approach is to ask thought-provoking questions, share the experience I can have, and connect the person with someone in my network who has the expertise and can offer advice.
WPI Business School has a lot to offer at the intersection of STEM and business. As a member of the larger WPI community, we can help all of our students bring their innovations to people in the marketplace, which is in keeping with our motto, “In theory, in practice”. Being in Central Mass with 12 other higher education schools, a growing biomedical community, and close to many tech and science companies, offers tremendous opportunities. I believe higher education is in a state of rapid transformation. WPI has shown in the past an ability to transform itself in the face of change to come. They are not little feet. If past performance is an indicator of future performance, WPI is very promising.