Alex Roe and Scott Schroer joined the Georgia Tech lacrosse team as it began its drive to national prominence and helped lay down the foundation of both work ethic and team work necessary for success on the field and in business. "Their contribution was significant to the team development was significant!" says Head Coach Ken Lovic, "But what they achieved in school was even more!" Scott for example was a Mechanical Engineering major who was on the Georgia Tech Football Scout team for two years while on the Lacrosse Team!
Alex and Scott won the prestigious Georgia Tech InVenture prize for innovation their Senior year, an amazing accomplishment. Georgia Tech Inventure Prize Competition 2015 The Emmy Award-winning InVenture Prize at Georgia Tech is an interdisciplinary innovation competition open to all undergraduate students and recent graduates of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Created in 2009 and organized by Georgia Tech faculty, the competition brings together student innovators from all academic backgrounds across campus to foster creativity, invention, and entrepreneurship. Partnered with Georgia Public Broadcasting, the InVenture Prize transforms an ordinary invention contest into an electrifying televised competition.
We recently interviewed Alex and Scott about their experience at Georgia Tech now that they are out of school several years.
Why did you choose GT and Play Lacrosse?
Alex: Both my father and grandfather had gone to Tech and I had been going to Tech football games since I was young, so I grew up wanting to go to Tech as well. When I got to Tech, I didn't play lacrosse my first year as I wanted to focus on school. I missed playing a so I joined the team my second year. From attending the initial fall practices, I was really impressed with the coaches and how serious the team was run - described then as a "virtual varsity" program. Joining the team was one of the best decisions I made at Tech and seeing the success that the program has been having lately is a testament to the building blocks that were being put into place many years ago.
Scott: I chose GT because I always knew I wanted to be an engineer, and Tech is one of the best schools around. I also knew I wanted to go to a big school with bigtime sports so tech seemed like the obvious choice. I came into Tech knowing I wanted to play lacrosse because I loved playing and wanted to stay active in college. I was very surprised at the level of play and the quality of the program that Tech ran and was forced to work to earn playing time in college, something I didn't think I'd have to do. It was also the perfect combination of commitment level and professionalism in a college sport. Run like a varsity program, but without the 35 hours a week of commitment.
What did you get out of playing lacrosse at GT?
Alex: A better work ethic. Between my first and second seasons playing, I committed to putting in extra work outside of normal practice and saw it pay off when I almost doubled my total points the second season (I won most improved player at the team banquet that year). That experience has served as an example to myself of the gratification possible when you commit to going above and beyond at something and the feeling that comes from achieving success after putting in the hard work.
Scott: In addition to staying in shape, continuing to play a sport I love, making some great friends outside of my fraternity, and making some great memories, playing lacrosse at tech coupled with school forced me to learn hard work and time management and kept me from sleeping in till noon every day. It was a great decision and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It was also great getting to be part of a good team and playing against some talented competition.
Scott, how did you handle the incredible burden of playing both Football and Lacrosse simultaneously?
Scott: It was tough, especially when the seasons overlapped in the spring mostly. Coach Lovic let me take off lacrosse fall ball, but I still tried to make it to the scrimmages and some of the morning runs. In the spring, lacrosse started ramping up usually around the same time Spring Football practice started. The practice times didn't interfere (football was in the mornings and afternoons, lacrosse was at night), and football scrimmages usually weren't the same day as our lacrosse games, but it certainly made for some long weeks. I'm still not sure how I did both, but it does speak well of the programs that I wanted to be a part of both enough to figure out how to make it work.
Alex, what sort of Internships did you have while at Tech and how did they prepare you?
Alex: I interned at CodeGuard, an Atlanta startup, after switching my major from Industrial Engineering to Computer Science. This internship completely changed my trajectory as I was exposed to how tech companies function and given more responsibility than I should have been given my then lack of programming experience. My work at CodeGuard gave me the confidence and skills to then apply for an internship at Google, which I applied for on a whim and ended up getting the summer before my last year at Tech. I had "imposter syndrome" at the start of my Google internship - the feeling that I wasn't really supposed to be there. But that summer I was able to excel in the program and receive a full-time offer, giving me more confidence in my abilities and helping me realize that my "weakness" of getting into Computer Science late was actually a strength in that my skillset was more well-rounded and ideal for a product management position.
Tell me how you two won the 2015 InVenture Prize.
Alex: We won the InVenture Prize with a product called the Grill Defender - a safety device for gas grills. The device would measure the propane levels in the grill and sound an alarm if someone tried to light the grill with the propane levels being too high. The product came out of a realization that there were multi-millions of dollars of damages done each year - both to property and people - by propane grill explosions where someone went to light a grill that had gone out but still had high levels of propane left in it.
We had a great team: Scott was a Mechanical Engineer who handled the physical design of the device and Alex was a Computer Science major who wrote the code for the device prototype. We also had a third team member, Will, who was a business major and had the original idea and drove the presentations and overall product strategy.
In my opinion, a large part of us winning was being able to effectively communicate the problem we were trying to solve, demonstrating a prototype that would seemingly solve that problem, and having a team that gave the judges confidence could make it work.
After winning InVenture prize we entered talks with several grill manufacturers with the hope of licensing the technology, but unfortunately ran into roadblocks with how long it took to get back the patents. We all had other career options at the time, so decided to pursue those instead of continuing with Grill Defender.
Overall it was a great experience and we all learned (and grilled) a lot.
Scott: Alex covered most of this, but I'd add that the reason I think we won over some of the other teams is that we made a concise effort to cut down what we were trying to do to a simple, streamlined product, and I think we also had the most robust strategy to market. I'd echo everything Alex said about having a team that complemented each other and putting in a lot of hours and seeking out good advice from people outside of our team.
What you are doing now career wise?
Alex: After Tech I started at Google as a Product Manager at their headquarters just south of San Francisco. I worked on products such as Google Search, Google Photos, and Google Lens. Earlier this year after almost three years there, I left to work on my own ideas and figure out my next step. I built and launched a product - a journal that you talk to like a friend called JournalBot (available in the iOS app store) - then recently joined an early stage startup called Cresta.ai as their first product manager hire.
Scott: I was working for a chemical engineering company designing and building manufacturing and test equipment for them, but I took a job this year teaching high school physics and coaching football and lacrosse at Wesleyan School.
Ken Lovic added in summary, "it was a total privilege to have these young men in the lacrosse program and I'm sure they are going to go on to an even greater level of success in life, true Helluva an Engineers in the Georgia Tech Tradition."