An entrepreneur embracing the live, work, play lifestyle
Cloud computing expert and NC State computer science graduate, Troy Tolle, is the co-founder, vice president and chief technology officer of DigitalChalk in picturesque Asheville, NC. His head is in the clouds – literally and figuratively.
Noting that a degree in computer science allows you to essentially work anywhere, Tolle chose to locate his start-up in the mountains of North Carolina near his hometown and family, in the beautiful Biltmore Park development where he could pursue the idealistic work, live, play lifestyle that so many people strive for.
His passion as an entrepreneur and his love of the lifestyle make him a tremendous ambassador for the business community in Asheville and he actively works with officials in trying to attract new hi-tech jobs to the area. And when it comes to talent, Tolle knows just what to look for in a future employee.
“I don’t look for people who can read or write a specific programming language, “he said. “I look for people who can think outside the box, solve complex engineering problems, and adapt to constantly changing situations.”
Tolle also focuses on the whole package when it comes to education, which was the kind of experience that NC State offered him.
“The Computer Science program at NC State does a great job because they build on more than just computer science,” Tolle said. “There is a great balance between the professors who focus strictly on research and those who focus on other aspects of a student’s educational experience. If you’re interested, then they are going to help you dig in and be successful.”
As a Caldwell Scholar at NC State, Tolle found his niche creating software. His professors were so impressed with him that he was encouraged to apply for the Kenan Fellowship, a prestigious scholarship for graduate students.
“I had to make a very big decision and I’ll never forget how the department chair sat down with my dad, to discuss my options. That was just unheard of and we were so impressed,” he said.
Following graduate school and a stint as an adjunct professor at NC State, Tolle spent five years at a boutique software-consulting firm. His entrepreneurial turning point came when his company landed a contract to build an online university.
“I came up with the idea when I was developing a software program to deliver online training,” he said. “At that time, nobody knew what cloud computing would do and Amazon had just released the beta EC2. We were probably one of Amazon’s first customers.”
Tolle created DigitalChalk, a premier educational platform using cloud computing, which provides user-customized distance learning and training programs for any subject. Not only has he created his own career path, his work gives him a new challenge each and every day.
“It’s not just managing the company that excites me, it is the fact that I get to dig in every day and solve very complex problems with the latest technologies available to me,” he said. “It is really satisfying when you can tackle some seemingly impossible problem and wrestle it to completion, emerging victorious with an elegant solution. That is really why I love doing this and I think it is contagious when you get to do it as a team.”
Tolle credits NCSU for giving him the background he needed to create a life and career for himself that brings him great satisfaction.
“You cannot lose by getting a computer science education at NC State,” he said. “If that is your school of choice, then you are already ahead of the game.”