Derek Peterson is the VP of software and business development at Intelligent Product Solutions (IPS) and is an expert in software engineering. Currently, he focuses on creating and executing enterprise software services and products.
Peterson has created software products that are deployed on more than 100,000 devices worldwide. Prior to his position at IPS, he was Senior Director of engineering at Symbol Technologies, where he created and implemented the Symbol (Motorola) Software Test and Validation department and procedures. He also holds Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science and applied math from SUNY Stony Brook.
Black Enterprise sat down to interview the accomplished software engineering expert:
BE: What sparked your interest in technology?
Derek Peterson: I was going to go to Stony Brook to be a doctor. I was told in high school that I should take a programming class. I took a fortran and basic class—this was in ’83. People like Kurtis Blow and Run DMC were around. I made a breakdancing application in ‘83, and I was in the town newspaper–it had characters breakdancing. I was hooked.
I created a product for security for public libraries. Windows 3.1 was coming out [at the time] . People would monopolize [library] computers; there were fist fights. My product managed time control and print–when you [went] to print it charged you.
BE: What does IPS do, and what are you working on there?
DP: IPS is a full service product design firm. You come in with any idea you can think of—[from] wearables to full body scans—and we can do that. We make it. We’re an “under one roof team,” so we have software engineers, mechanical engineers, industrial designers—all disciplines
[We] did a project for Pepsi, for Verizon. Right now, I am doing a project for Google; we are doing manufacturing in Taipei.
BE: When you were pursuing your degree, was there talk about diversity in STEM then?
DP: No, I never really heard talk about diversity then. It wasn’t like nowadays.
BE: What, in your opinion, is the biggest roadblock for more people of color in acquiring a STEM education and careers in technology and engineering?
DP: I think knowledge is power. They don’t think it’s attainable. Everyone is always thinking, “I’m going to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant…” no one really throws in engineering and all that math and science. It’s not glamorous per se, but in my field and career, I’ve traveled the world.
It’s awareness, you need the awareness.