Tim Harris, class of '77

Tim HarrisMeet Timothy Harris, a 1977 graduate of the engineering science program, who eventually went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering at Cornell University and an MBA at Northwestern University.

Tim recently spent a year primarily in leisurely pursuits—fishing, traveling, hanging out with his family, and, of course, working and playing at his computer. Not a bad accomplishment for someone, who when he entered college, didn’t truly know what he wanted to do!

"I grew up in Hornell, the son of a math professor [Frederic Harris] at Alfred State College, so ASC was familiar to me. I wasn’t quite ready to head off to a four-year program too far from home," notes Tim. "And Alfred State had what I was looking for.

"I had done well in math and science in high school, and I could use Alfred to help me decide which direction I wanted to pursue," Tim continued.

Even though the young Tim had been accepted at MIT and RPI, he enrolled at Alfred, commuting to his classes, either solo or with his father.

"I didn’t schedule any classes with my father," Tim says, "but he was always there for me for advice and guidance when I needed it."

But there were professors whom Tim remembers with fondness and respect: Ed (Lawrence) Burns "meant a lot to me at the time. He was a really nice guy who truly challenged us in class. I loved physics and he really made it fun," Tim remembers.

Tom Enderle is another professor (math) Tim recalls.

"He gave me a good focus," he says while reminiscing.

There was also Joe Amato, one of the electrical engineering professors.

"He challenged the living daylights out of his students," Tim laughs. "And although I didn’t always agree with his methods, he certainly helped me grow up!

Tim Harris "As I look back at my time at Alfred State College, I can see that there is not one professor, one class that I didn’t get something out of," Tim says. "I can’t remember any time being wasted," he says, "and I can’t say that about some of my other college experiences."

Tim graduated from ASC with a 4.0 grade point average!

As he continued his studies in electrical engineering at Cornell University, career plans began to crystallize. Although he enjoyed the technicality of computers and wanted to work in an electronics-oriented industry, Tim decided to approach it from the business side, and continued his education, pursuing the MBA in the financial arena.

"You can see the connection with the numbers of finance and my love of math," he laughs. And although he never worked as an engineer, he has managed teams of engineers.

And so, his career was born during the summer between his first and second years at Northwestern—he was hired to work at Texas Instruments (TI) and did so well during that time that they hired him full- time when he graduated. He spent the next two years of his career with TI in a management rotation program where he worked at a variety of sites in Texas, learning about different aspects of the business.

In the early 1980s, while the personal computer was a novelty, a group of people whom Tim had worked with decided to found Compaq computer and invited him to join them.

Although it was a risk, leaving the security of an established company for a brand-new venture, Tim took the plunge and never regretted it.

"The work was interesting and challenging. The industry was new and exciting. And the people involved were people I liked to work with, people who supported [my] efforts, and we learned from each other," Tim says. "The corporation was supportive of its workers and made decisions for the right reasons with people in mind first, corporate objectives second. It was a wonderful experience.

Tim Harris "It was fun to face the new challenges. Even if we failed, we would have had fun trying."

But the company didn’t fail. It went on to beat out IBM and Apple as the number one manufacturer of personal computers worldwide.

Tim had risen through the ranks at Compaq, retiring as vice president and general manager for the commercial desk-top division.

His success, he says, came because he was part of a team.

"No one achieves alone; I had lots of support from my family and my co-workers," he notes. It didn’t hurt that although he "never worked as an engineer," he could "speak their language" even though he was one of the "finance guys," he says now.

From his start as a financial analyst with Compaq, through his increasing responsibilities, Tim notes, came increasing rewards. These rewards allowed him to step out of the industry for awhile to spend time with his wife and their three children.

Eventually, however, the lure of technology brought him back to work. Tim is now the chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Questia Media, Inc., a newly formed computer-based company which provides access to college and university libraries via the Internet. This new venture promises to keep him engaged for sometime.