Alumni Presentation: Leadership and Life

How a Man’s Life Shaped Him to Become a Leading Businessman

On Feb. 27, 2020, ERAU hosted alum Matthew Savoca for his speech on “Leadership and Life.” In attendance was President of the Eagles Engineering and Entrepreneurship club, Phil Norton, and several of its members. Many faculty members were also present, including some of Savoca’s former professors.

Savoca started by giving the audience a bit of background about himself. He graduated in December of 1994 with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and was the speaker at his graduation; afterwards, he became a member of the Board of Trustees. Next, Savoca introduced the three main themes of all the stories he would tell that night: hard work, tenacity, and grit. 

Savoca lived in Detroit before moving to Phoenix at the age of ten. When he was fifteen, Savoca’s father died, although no one was ever sure whether it was a suicide or a murder, as he was involved in some shady things that didn’t come out until after his death. 

Savoca moved out of the house during his senior year of high school. He then became an assistant manager at Peter Piper Pizza. While there, he learned a valuable lesson: “No one is indispensable…Someone will take your place.” This important lesson stuck with him for the rest of his life.

At 25 years old, Savoca came to ERAU. To pay for his school, he became a bartender. “It was a fun time bartending,” Savoca said with a huge smile on his face. While at Embry-Riddle, he was SGA president. His stories about his campaign enthralled the audience. He graduated with a 3.0 GPA, admitting “I’m not a good test-taker.” 

Savoca then got a job through a friend as a software engineer with Honeywell. He did not know anything about programming, but his friend advised him to say that he knows “a bit more than Hello World,” which made the people interviewing him laugh. While at Honeywell, Savoca met his future business partner Doug Limbaugh. In June of 2001, they started a consulting and technology business. The consulting part of the business was later sold off to Belcan in 2006. It had 40 employees at the time. 

Savoca described a bit of what his business actually does. “Most army UAVs are controlled in one way or another by Kutta software,” which people found impressive. 

Savoca listed some important skills that everyone should have: the ability to make a decision, listen, and always be on time. Savoca commented that he looks for these qualities in all his employees before hiring them. Savoca also made a sweet shout-out to his wife with the comment, “It’s important to have a supportive spouse when you’re going to start a business.”

The floor was then opened up for Q &A. When asked what would be the most important piece of advice he would give a potential entrepreneur, Savoca replied, “First of all, be ready for a grind…don’t go into it halfway…it needs to be your life for a long time. You need to do something that you’re good at and that you like.” Savoca said that his drive to start his business was that “it always bothered me that my friend got me that job at Honeywell. …It was really me wanting to control my own destiny and not someone else.” 

The audience enjoyed the presentation. College of Security and Intelligence Dean Dr. Haas said, “I’d say his wisdom of tenacity, grit, hard work, and intuition resonated with me as a start-up guy.” Student Tristen McNeal commented, “He had a diverse set of interests, which attest to the quality of his character. I can see why he is a very successful businessman.”

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