Hacker and maker: Andy Shi helps build tech ecosystems in Indy Tech Fellowship
The technology bug bit Andy Shi early in life. From Legos and remote-control cars to building and fixing computers, he’s always loved tinkering and building. With the Indy Tech Fellowship, Andy has traveled deep into this passion, exploring the possibilities with some of Indianapolis’ most exciting tech startups.
While his interest began while he was young, his time at Ben Davis High School let him dive into it. “I was involved in my high school’s web design team for two years, and we helped build the websites for a school district of over 16,000 students and over 20 schools,” he said. “It was my first real-world experience in programming.”
Andy received his degree in computer engineering at Purdue University, where he challenged himself to learn the guts of programming and computing technology. “Engineering school taught the algorithms behind the programming language compilers, how operating systems and processors work, and concepts about the fundamental building blocks of technology,” Andy said.
While at Purdue, he spent many hours in hackathons and with Purdue’s EPICS program, writing software for nonprofit organizations. One such hackathon that his team won involved manipulating Apple’s iOS to use iPhones, cameras, and QR codes to play a form of laser tag. He credits his immersion into the hacker-maker culture at Purdue for helping connect a passion for technology and an interest in entrepreneurship.
TechPoint’s Xtern program became a way for Andy to explore that union. He was connected to then-Xtern coordinator Sally Reasoner at a Purdue event. “It was going to be the first year for the program, and I was super intrigued by the idea of having a full-time internship alongside professional development and social activities,” he said. Andy was able to join the program in its second year, when he worked as an Xtern at Rook Security during his senior year at Purdue.
After the Xtern program, Andy prepared for life after college, wondering what his next steps would be. He was introduced to TechPoint CEO Mike Langellier, which is when he discovered more about the Indy Tech Fellowship. That program was nearing its official launch, too, and Andy knew exactly where he would go next.
As an Indy Tech Fellow, Andy has now spent two full years at High Alpha, first at ClearScholar and then at Structural. He joined ClearScholar as the third employee and helped engineer a significant bulk of the product. With a lot of exposure to the culture of startups during his Purdue years, Andy felt confident that the fast-paced, innovative startup environment would be a great fit for him.
The Indy Tech Fellowship provided Andy with networking and connections to Indy’s tech community, as well as a strong social network with his peers. Workshops with local tech entrepreneurs have given him a special view of the tech ecosystem and how he can participate in it.
Andy now works at Structural, an employee engagement and experience platform for companies, where he’s handling much of the products’ front-end development work. The intensity and energy of the startup culture continue to be especially appealing to him. “Being in startups, I’ve also had the opportunity to help with marketing, product development, design, and have had a large influence on the project as a whole,” he said.
When deciding on Indy as his home, Andy considered many factors. The restaurants, sports teams, and other vibrant aspects of the city’s culture were big draws for him. “I was looking at bigger companies on the West Coast, but I decided that I really wanted to stay in Indy,” he said. “The cost of living is awesome, and I have family who lives here. Plus, I travel a lot, so I want to be somewhere that I can call home.”
When Andy says he travels a lot, he means his trips to more than 20 countries — so far. “I try to go to a country a year, with groups or photography tours,” Andy said. “And I’m planning on going to 50 countries before I’m 50 years old.” Favored memories include hiking and skiing the Swiss Alps, picnicking on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, and exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Long-term, Andy plans to continue at High Alpha and Structural while considering how he might one day found a company of his own. “Working in a venture capital and design firm has been an amazing experience towards that goal,” he said. TechPoint has been integral in Andy’s decision. “The community that I’ve been a part of, largely thanks to the TechPointX talent programs, has been invaluable, and the tech scene here in the city is growing every day.”