By Claire Winesett
From flipping burgers and waiting tables at Starkville’s Mugshots to becoming the CEO of his own computer applications company, alumnus Steve Caldwell’s journey has not taken a traditional route. After taking a few years away from school and finishing his degree online while maintaining a full-time job, Caldwell says that he believes his successful career is because of his willingness to follow his dreams, even if, according to Caldwell, they “seemed a little risky.”
Caldwell grew up in Berwick, Louisiana, but graduated from high school in Canton, Massachusetts. When it came time to select a college, he chose MSU – the place from which his father graduated in 1977 with a degree in business administration.
“Although I grew up in Louisiana, coming to MSU from a Boston suburb was definitely a bit of culture shock. Thankfully, my older cousin John Caldwell was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at State and introduced me to a great group of guys,” Caldwell said. “I always smile when I think back to tailgating, close games at The Hump, and memorable nights in the Cotton District,” he added.
Caldwell received his Bachelor of Arts degree in communication with a concentration in broadcasting from MSU in 2011. After graduation, Caldwell continued his current job at the time with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi, working as software developer. Caldwell’s career took off after his wife purchased a smart watch. He quickly realized that he could create applications for the watch, and in 2012 he became the founder and CEO of Crosstek, a website and software development firm. Two years later he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, after becoming the founder and CEO of Strap, a software that collects data from various wearable and smart-device apps for businesses. His next transition was this year as he became the director of engineering for Springbuk, the leading employer-facing health analytics software, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“While I never ended up actually working in the field of broadcasting, my time in the College of Arts and Sciences ultimately set me up to be a highly effective software professional,” Caldwell said. “Because the program focused so heavily on written and verbal communication, I have been able to stand out from other engineers who weren't formally trained in those areas.”
He says that his experience at MSU, along with his drive, patience and hard work, have led him to such a successful career.
“I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to develop a dream for a software company into reality twice over the course of four years,” Caldwell said. “With our second company (Strap), we were able to turn an idea into a minimum viable product, and thanks to a successful round of venture capital were able to build out a team and test our technology in the market for over two years.”
Caldwell says that his educational experience would not have been the same without influential professors and mentors along the way. When asked what his favorite class and faculty member were, Caldwell said, “This is a tough one, but I'd have to go with TV Production with Karyn Brown. Karyn was always such a source of encouragement and her positivity was contagious.”
“Mark Goodman's independent study is up there as well; I learned a lot from Mark and he was always genuinely invested in his students – even challenging ones like me,” he added. “I'm fortunate to have had many mentors across my career. MSU graduate Shelley Tingle stands out as one of my earliest supporters during my time at the Army Corps of Engineers.”
“Most of my success can be attributed to making pretty risky decisions. If you want to make a dent in the universe, you have to be willing to chase your dreams and stretch outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to take the road less traveled to end up where you want to be,” Caldwell said. He encourages students to do the same.
While his time at MSU was very influential for his future career, Caldwell thoroughly enjoyed being a student on MSU’s campus.
“It was a lot of fun to be at MSU during a period of extreme growth; the union was being renovated, new buildings were going up all over campus, and the Cotton District was transformed,” Caldwell said. “These transformations brought a lot of excitement to Starkville; events such as Bulldog Bash were bigger and better every year, and the sense of pride with being in Starkville grew as well.”
In his free time, Caldwell enjoys spending time with his three children Stella, Steven and Scarlett. He also enjoys golfing and writing music.