Computer Science and Communications Students from Lewis University visited Sprout Social, a Chicago-based social media company on Friday, March 14. The trip, which was organized by Ben Eveloff, Assistant Professor of Communications, gave students an opportunity to witness firsthand the work and culture of a fast-growing, innovative technology startup right in their own backyard.
Sprout provides tools and services businesses can use to get their message out on a variety of social media platforms and to monitor all those platforms to see how their message is being received. The support Sprout provides is increasingly vital. It can be very difficult for a company to shape, convey, and monitor its message on social media networks, partly because there are so many of them. Sprout provides tools companies can use to craft a consistent marketing message across Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and other social networks. They provide 24×7 support to organizations to ensure that their message is being seen and received well. Organizations of all kinds have embraced what Sprout is doing enthusiastically, helping the company double in size very quickly. Last month, the company moved into a spacious and beautiful downtown Chicago complex, and that’s where we visited on Friday afternoon.
A company like Sprout requires diverse talents to achieve its mission. It requires writers who can compose memorable, informative messages that convey the customer’s mission and services clearly and concisely in a social-network-friendly kind of way. It requires computer scientists and engineers who can develop the client software for a variety of computing platforms and design and maintain the backend systems that manage all the user data. It also requires talented web designers who can create aesthetically pleasing and responsive front ends to an organization’s content, attracting people to their site so that they can learn about what the organization does and can hear its pitch. Without the contributions of these diverse professionals, social media would not be the force that it is today, and Sprout would not be nearly as effective in helping organizations leverage it.
Communications and computer science students have taken several trips together to technology startups over the past year. These are exciting opportunities for the students to see the kinds of careers they’ll soon be able to pursue and the innovative and energetic work environments they’ll be able to enjoy. When I drive back with the students from these trips, they always seem so pumped about the opportunities they’ll be getting. It makes me, as an educator, very pleased to play a part in helping them get there.
These trips are also an outstanding opportunity for students from both majors to see how closely linked their respective skills are and how much they will depend on each other in the coming years. The fields of Computer Science and Communications have much to offer each other. Communications specialists shape the user’s experience through the messages they craft and the mechanisms they design to shape the user’s interaction with the message. Computer Scientists develop the piping that helps deliver that great content and facilitate that interaction with the end user. It’s an exciting partnership that plays out every day in the real world. Fortunately, it plays out very well at Lewis University, too, much to the benefit of our students.