O’Brien sharing industry knowledge as Bishoff Entrepreneur-in-Residence

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rick O’Brien, founder and president of SemperCon, sees the world two-fold — as a trained electrical engineer and as a forward-thinking entrepreneur. This combination has allowed his continued success in the technical sales and software industry for more than 35 years.

Due to his industry knowledge and achievements, O’Brien was chosen as the spring 2016 Bishoff Entrepreneur-in-Residence in the Penn State College of Engineering.

The Bishoff Entrepreneur-in-Residence program was established in 2003 as a way to bring successful engineering, business, design or manufacturing entrepreneurs to campus for seminars, workshops and conversations with students, faculty and staff.

On March 24 and 25, O’Brien served as a guest lecturer in several classes that encompass the engineering entrepreneurship minor, discussing his career, lessons learned as an entrepreneur, and the history of technology. O’Brien also met with small groups and individual students to dive deeper into specific startup, technology and entrepreneur questions and comments.

Bob Beaury, interim director and instructor of engineering entrepreneurship and leadership, said O’Brien was a perfect candidate for the role, as his career has placed him in extremely transformative places within the technology field. From working with Atari on the first video gaming system to founding SemperCon, a company that focuses on mobile and Web application development in 2009, O’Brien’s background encompasses all aspects of the technology sector.

“Rick’s career has spanned incredibly important junctures in the technology landscape that still resonate with students today,” he said.

O’Brien previously built and managed development teams for iBiquity Digital Corporation, Airput Inc. and PCvoice. His international experience is equally impressive, having managed Asian operations for Dallas Semiconductor, built hardware products with PCvoice, and created worldwide consumer electronics manufacturing partnerships for iBiquity.  

O’Brien received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Penn State. He began his career in the semiconductor industry working with companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, OKI Semiconductor and Dallas Semiconductor.

During his lectures, O’Brien discussed his choice to enter semiconductor technical sales and use his engineering background as support. He strives to share with students that there are many career options that relate to engineering, especially in the technology industry.

“The old ideal was that you had the choice of being a technical engineer or going into engineering management. Now, there are many different options,” he said. “Students want to see and hear from people that have thought along those different patterns.”

Jake Sheinman, a student enrolled in the entrepreneurship minor, said hearing about O’Brien’s journey through the technology industry provided him with a better understanding of how the technology world has reached its present state.

“From Rick’s presentation, it is apparent that the combination of young motivated individuals and respected industry leaders creates immense potential for future projects and business endeavors,” Sheinman said.

To continue breaking boundaries in the technology industry, O’Brien encourages students to expand their horizons, understand all the aspects of their chosen fields, and work to stay as current as possible.

“It boils down to your priorities, the level of commitment, and the work that is required to make you and your projects succeed,” he said. “You’ve got to be constantly going, doing, trying, and working to take your ideas to the next step.”

The Bishoff Entrepreneur-in-Residence program was created through an endowment provided by E.V. Bishoff, a Pittsburgh native and longtime supporter of the College of Engineering. Each semester, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program contributes to the engineering entrepreneurship program through continued innovation, leadership opportunities and highly influential project-based coursework.

Last Updated April 04, 2016