While Indy may have missed out on Amazon’s HQ2 opportunity, Luke Zhang, tech phenom and ELEVATE finalist for Community Ambassador of the Year, is determined to change that and make Indiana the Midwestern hub for tech companies. Only a few years post-graduation from Rose Hulman, the Tech 25 award winner has an insane resume and has established himself as an influential ambassador for Indy’s growing tech community.
Luke’s nominator, Shawn Schwegman, had this to say:
Luke is the total package and has already demonstrated, in less than two years out of college, that he is a brilliant engineer, data scientist, and mathematicians with a bright future. He stands alone as having the highest degree in every quality that matters to me: raw intelligence, compassion and generosity, passion and drive, curiosity and creativity, personality and collaboration, humility and transparency. Most importantly, Luke cares about the greater Indy community.
Impressed? Us too. Here are a few more data points from our chat with Luke:
Q. What do you love about Central Indiana?
A. I’ve had internships on the West Coast and East Coast, but I’ve never seen such a friendly culture as the one in Indiana. Everyone is willing to help you out in any way and wants others to succeed. In bigger cities, everyone is in competition and much more serious about their personal careers. If I had to use three words to describe central Indiana, I’d say friendly, helpful and warm. As a foreign kid, I feel blessed to have received so much from Indiana. I just want to give back as much as I can.
Q. You are involved in so many things in our community. How did you know where to start?
A. First of all, I have to give credit to TechPoint. I joke that I’m a product of TechPoint because I was in the first class as a TechPoint XTern, I met my mentor through their programming and did their two-year Tech Fellowship. Through TechPoint, I became more connected with Indy in general. One thing led to another and now I’m more connected to United Way of Central Indiana, the Mitch Daniels Leadership Foundation and other great leadership opportunities.
Q. What is your vision for Central Indiana for the next 10 years?
A. When people talk about tech, they automatically talk about Seattle, San Francisco, LA, New York, Boston. With the available service and data, you can start a company anywhere. Indiana has a great cost of living, so why not start a company here? We have so much talent . Indiana generates the 2nd largest number of engineers in the country, but we don’t do a great job of keeping them here. Less than 50% of them stay in Indiana! There are so many great things about Indiana that we should sell. Being humble doesn’t mean you can’t be confident. My vision is that Indiana becomes the known hub for tech in the Midwest in the next five to 10 years.
Q. How can tech and non-profit organizations work together?
A. We have a lot of nonprofits that may be behind in tech capabilities. We are living in a big data era, so we need to steer nonprofits toward technology that can help them succeed and grow. I participated in Indy Civic Hack and my partner and I were able to develop an app that helps homeless people locate the closest food shelter or food bank is and see if they’re eligible to go there. Lack of resources prevents many in the homeless community from eating healthy, nutritious food. We implemented an algorithm that would provide the user with nutrition information simply by taking a photo of their meal. It’s little things like that that can go a long way. Nonprofits are serving a greater purpose, so tech companies should leverage their resources and expertise to do things to support those missions too.
According to Luke’s LinkedIN profile he’s already decided what he would like to do with the $250 People’s Choice prize.
“With your vote, I will donate 15 Raspberry Pi’s (Tiny, powerful desktop computer) to Nextech, in addition to my volunteer time to teach Catapults to set up and code using the device.🤖 Most people know that I am passionate about raising young talent in Indiana because I received so much from this community. In my spare time, I am involved with various young talent programs here in Indy. Nextech Program is one of the organizations I mentor and volunteer at. I love teaching high school students to code. 👨🏻💻”