Under the shadow of Mt. Hood, outside Portland, Oregon, Aaron Tersteeg oversees his team of international information technology experts. As the Global Sales Director for Artificial Intelligence at the Edge at Intel Corporation, he leads a team of sales professionals and PhDs who tackle the most cutting-edge business problems companies face. A graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, Tersteeg’s career path has proven as dynamic and personally rewarding as it has been fortuitous.
Aaron Tersteeg ’94, G’96
Tersteeg’s journey through the iSchool began in 1990. Hailing from Northeastern PA, he made the trek into Central New York to attend Syracuse University to pursue a degree in engineering, but was also inspired by the curriculum of the School of Information Studies. After receiving his BS in engineering, Tersteeg worked as a research assistant in the School of Engineering while pursuing his Master’s in Information Resource Management from the iSchool.
Following the achievement of his MS, Tersteeg landed a job with Carrier as a business process consultant. This shifted his focus from being the builder of systems to an architect of best practices. In this capacity, he was figuring out and recommending which processes would be most appropriate for the goals of engineering teams. While working with teams in Asia, South America, and middle America, Aaron discovered how cultural differences between groups can generate vastly different outcomes. His job was to find the best processes for each team based on their professional and cultural practices.
The switch from engineering to business process consulting was largely bolstered by the training he received from the iSchool. “Because of the iSchool’s focus on the combination of business perspective and technical application,” says Tersteeg, “I realized that technology is not the end-all-be-all, solving the problem is the end-all-be-all. So if you understand what the big picture is, you can build a tool that helps you solve that big picture problem.” This is where Tersteeg’s education and experience was best put to use; there was a need for a new method of storing and synthesizing data. “It was the early 90’s. Netscape had just gone public and web browsers were taking over the world, and we were really doing the foundational work of replacing file cabinets with web browsers,” says Tersteeg. The web 2.0 phase-in meant that data was no longer static and one-directional; now they needed to be able to manipulate and interact with the data within these programs they had created in order to truly maximize their utility.
“Because of the iSchool’s focus on the combination of business perspective and technical application, I realized that technology is not the end-all-be-all, solving the problem is the end-all-be-all.”
After Carrier, Tersteeg moved to Portland, Oregon, and started with a small software company. In his new role, he was responsible for providing myriad solutions for other brands. Across many industries, he was building systems that would help streamline business processes like reservations, scheduling, manufacturing, and banking.
Through developing a strong professional reputation in the Pacific Northwest for building solutions, he was approached with an opportunity at Intel Corp. in their High Performance Computing group. He started at Intel as a product data manager who helped customers optimize software performance on next generation products in 2005. “This was kind of a big pivot, but it was a really cool opportunity for me,” says Tersteeg.
This pivot, and the ubiquitous adoption of web 2.0, led to Aaron’s involvement with online forum discussions, podcasting, and conventional customer service overhauls. “I was one of maybe a dozen folks who were really pushing the envelope in terms of setting up blogs, opening up forums, stopping all the moderation, stopping all the PR, editing, and making all of the information flow directly from the engineers to the customers,” says Tersteeg. This was groundbreaking because up to this point there was no direct way of troubleshooting, or getting feedback directly from the engineers who know the systems better than anyone else. Suddenly there was a way of collecting information that could be applied to many different real-world problems, and make it available for other customers to use in real time. For the first time, people could easily and directly talk to experts regarding very specific problems. But not only that, these conversations and solutions could be stored and searched for online by other customers with the same problems, creating positive feedback loops in lieu of conventional customer service.
Tersteeg is now the Global Sales Director for Artificial Intelligence at the Edge at Intel Corporation. While overseeing teams all around the world, he uses his background in engineering as well as his experience working across cultures to advance the application of Intel’s AI division. He is also closely involved with the Peak-to-Peak program that brings graduate and undergraduate students to the Intel campus for tours and conversations about career opportunities. He remains closely aligned with the iSchool, both for the professional recruiting benefits and because he greatly values bringing people together and sharing their professional stories and career aspirations.