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Alumnus Eric Swildens

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Software Development Serial Entrepreneur

Eric Swildens  
Speedera created an on-demand; utility-like solution that provided outsourced services for companies seeking to extend their Web presence — companies such as NASA, Fox Broadcasting, and Sony Music Entertainment.  

Eric Swildens, who graduated from UMD in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, was inducted into the 2006 Academy of Science and Engineering at age 34, the youngest inductee in the history of the academy.

Now, Swildens serves on the Swenson College of Science and Engineering (SCSE) external advisory board. “The board helps UMD with outside feedback,” he said. “We provide a corporate and external viewpoint to help students get jobs when they graduate. We know what skills are needed and what UMD needs to do to make graduates attractive to hiring.”

At a SCSE External Advisory Board meeting, UMD student Dana Johnson, a double major in mechanical engineering and industrial engineering, gave a presentation on UMD’s Formula One-style race car. The student group, part of the Society of Automotive Engineers, designs, constructs, and tests a Formula One-style race car in order to compete in the nationwide competition. Swildens was impressed. So impressed, he made a donation to support the project.

Perhaps Swildens sees a bit of himself in the students working on the race car. He remembers throwing himself into his assignments. “They became much more than just school projects, they became part of me,” he said.

Swildens acknowledges the assistance he received. “UMD faculty were very good, " he said. "They helped me get interviews, which led to my first job at Computer Data. They got me started in a career as a computer science engineer.”

It’s been quite a career. After graduating from UMD, and the brief stretch at Computer Data Corp, in Minneapolis, Swildens landed in Silicon Valley. He had a hand in a wide range of products — network servers, user-interface frameworks, interactive gaming, developer tools, 3D graphics systems and others. He took on increasingly challenging positions in software development, basing two companies on his ideas, Microline Software and Speedera Networks.

In 1996, he co-founded and was CEO of Microline Software in Sunnyvale, Calif. The company, which used Java technology and developed graphic user interface software, was sold one year later.

In 1999, along with two co-founders, Swildens created Speedera Networks, a web-based content delivery company. Speedera created an on-demand, utility-like solution that provided outsourced services for companies seeking to extend their Web presence — companies such as NASA, Fox Broadcasting, and Sony Music Entertainment. “We developed the largest servers in the world to deliver the largest websites,” he said. The company went global and was sold in 2005.

Recently, Swildens has changed directions, co-founding Waba Financial, which specializes in commercial real estate in the Twin Cities.

UMD faculty say Swildens thrived in a science environment. They predicted his success. Carolyn Crouch, professor and director of graduate students for the Department of Computer Science, said, “I remember him as a fine student and someone who was active in class participations. He certainly stood out.”

“Being inducted into the Academy of Science and Engineering was huge privilege for me,” he said. “I tried different classes and majors until I realized that I should major in computer technology, because it came naturally to me.” Swildens credits UMD with giving him the tools he needed to succeed in the computer industry.

This article originally appeared in the fall 2011 issue of the Bridge (Vol. 29, No. 1)

Written by Cheryl Reitan. August, 2011

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