Tech jobs on cutting edge, but diploma still required
                      July 27, 2000              ©New Haven Register 2000

TROY, N.Y. ó Donít let the informality of the high-tech field fool you into thinking you can make it without the formality of that degree, advises a young ó and successful ó entrepreneur.

Karthik Bala is 24 and runs Vicarious Visions, a multimillion-dollar video game development company in the Rensselaer Technology Park.  His advice is straightforward: "The best career move you can make is to stay in school." 

Yes, there drop-outs who have made it big in the industry, he concedes.  Just donít count on being one of them. 

"I liken the reality of becoming the next Bill Gates to that of a great college hockey player thinking heíll be the next Wayne Gretzky," Bala says.  "No one talks about failures, broken dreams, and ruined investments." 

He urges would-be tech entrepreneurs to look for a school with programs that can nurture those talents, like the one he encountered as a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  RPI has a high-tech business "incubator" on campus, access to area venture capital investors, and a technology park for successful companies that have left the incubator. 

Thatís where Bala has set up headquarters for his company, which recently has signed contracts to develop games for Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64, and Gameboy Color systems. 

That support system is what kept him in school, even after he was tempted ó as a freshman ó with a six-digit offer from a high-tech entertainment company. 

"When I hire people, I like to see a resume with a diploma from a reputable school," he says.  "It means the person knows how to stick it out and work toward a long-term goal.  It tells me that prospective employee will stick around in good times and in bad."