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Chip Witt

Chip Witt ’93, ‘01 has played many roles during his years as a student-athlete, staff member, teacher and alumni board member at Dominican but he may have landed his best role yet – a problem-solving co-founder of a new high-tech start-up called Cloudstead (http://cloudstead.io).

It is a culmination of years of experience in information technology where Witt has utilized his well-rounded Dominican education to evolve a career in product management and client services. He is more than a proverbial jack of all trades. He is what one former boss called a “Swiss Army chain saw,” capable of cutting through layers of systems, sales, and solutions to connect business stakeholders and high tech.

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“Dominican and the liberal arts education made me that. It made me open to different roles. You are not defined by your education. You are defined by what you do with it,” Witt says. “It relates back to my ability to be versatile. Because of Dominican I have been able to become organizational putty. I find a hole and I fill it until such time something better comes along to fill that hole more permanently and I can move on to the next thing. That’s been my play.”

Witt has found a niche. Though he came to Dominican as a biology major with a minor in chemistry having a goal of becoming an anesthesiologist, Witt has parlayed his life sciences background into numerous opportunities.  He has worked for Westwave Communications, Kenamea Inc., Hyperic Inc., VMware and Limelight Networks where he became Director of Client Solutions and Support for a software-as-a-service product that converted video onto mobile devices for NBC, CBS and some big publishing companies. In between, Witt was a Senior Systems and Informatics Engineer at the Buck Institute for Age Research, Principal at Witt’z End Technologies and lastly Director of Product Management, Enterprise and OEM for Webroot.

Along the way Witt has shared his expert technology opinion at national conferences and in business articles, including a recent Gartner Security Summit and in a Forbes article focused on approaches to information security at the edge of the network.

Dominican helped prepare him for such opportunities associated with his multi-faceted jobs.

“If you open yourself up to what Dominican has to offer in way of its people, the interesting opportunities and challenges, and the way, in which the education is delivered, you really do get surprised,” Witt says. “It may not be immediate. You may not understand in the time you are actually dealing with the problems and what their value is, but if you stick through it and open yourself up to the experience -- and usually that involves help from others -- you wind up on top. The ‘aha’ moments don’t always come in the moments. They come down the road.”

The road to Dominican for Witt was an unexpected one. In high school, he was accepted at UC Davis and ready to study pre-med when a Dominican recruiter encouraged him to attend an open campus visit. The first person Witt met on his tour was Sister Aquinas Nimitz, then Vice President for Institutional Research at Dominican. She apparently had done her homework about the prized recruit.

“She saw me and said, `you must be Chip Witt.’ She knew everything about me. It freaked me out,” Witt says.

It left quite an impression, however. Witt liked the idea of studying on a smaller campus with greater access to hands-on practical experience in science laboratories.

“The experience at Dominican is bar none probably one of the most interesting experiences you can get,” says Witt, who was an assistant lab manager in the biology department as well as a tennis player at Dominican. “We were challenged. Some people may have found that problematic, but in retrospect it was one of the most advantageous aspects of my education. We had to learn to innovate … to problem-solve and that has served me well.”

Witt also was drawn to Dominican by its ideals and its “emphasis on service above self.” The experience, he said, made Witt a more compassionate person and better man. When Witt lost focus on his medical ambitions in his senior year, Dominican stepped in.

“That’s what Dominican did for me…what Dominican does. It threw me a lifeline,” Witt says.

He deserved one. Witt, who once ran for student body president at Dominican, spent his first four years at the University commuting each day from Rohnert Park so he could care for his ill mother. He carried 17 units almost every semester and worked as many as four part-time jobs. One of them was as a mobile DJ spinning tunes at weddings, parties and dances on campus.

Witt also served as general manager of Penguin Radio for three years, the last when he became a Residence Hall advisor and maintained a part-time job on the Help Desk in the IT department where he honed his computer and social skills.

“I survived on coffee and cat naps,” Witt says, grinning. “My favorite place to nap when I had few minutes was on the comfy couch in the back of Albertus Magnus.”

Witt was no couch potato, though. He was urged to pursue his MBA in Strategic Leadership at Dominican. He joined a telecommunications company, Alcatel USA in Petaluma, and finished his MBA studies while commuting from Sonoma County.

It was during that period that Witt took the solitary technology course in the program and helped improve it by writing a new full curriculum for it. Dominican was impressed and hired Witt as an instructor for eight years, first teaching undergraduates and eventually engaging graduate students in Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation.

Witt, during that time, also served as a founding member and chairperson of the Dominican Business Association and was a member of the Dominican Alumni Board of Directors from 2003-09.

“I used to refer to myself as a Dominican alum twice cooked…or refried,” Witt says, smiling. “As my palate has matured, I view my education more like frittata. It was cooked on the stove top of undergraduate studies for a while and finished off with that fluffy center in the broiler that is graduate school.”

Now Witt believes he has something cooking with Cloudstead.  In July, he became one of its three co-founders, a breakthrough opportunity for Witt to become management afforded the responsibility of making bottom-line business decisions. He and his partners work out of an office in Oakland’s Jack London Square aiming to address and meet the concerns of businesses looking to manage the cloud computing concept.

“Ease–of-use and data privacy are the two mainstays of our differentiator and it’s all based on open source technology. It’s a private cloud platform on which a collaboration suite including email, calendaring and other applications can run,” Witt says.

It’s an innovative approach that served Witt well while at Dominican.

“There’s something about a Dominican education – liberal arts in general and Dominican specifically – that lends itself to out of the box experiences,” he says. “My fondest Dominican memories come from being adjunct faculty and teaching groups of passionate graduate students. Sharing my experience with them was a way to give back some of what I received. It will likely remain one of my career highlights.”


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