Maverick Software Consulting Gives Technology Students More Opportunities

News | Thursday, November 18,2010

By Grace Webb

Maverick Software Consulting may not be well-known to most Minnesota State Mankato students, but for those majoring in computer science, information technology or computer engineering it's a fantastic place to work. The company provides students with real-world experience, networking and good pay, all while encouraging education and allowing flexible hours.

Students employed at Maverick Software have countless real-world experiences available to them, whether it's software testing, developing new software or debugging work. In class, these students learn the basics of their fields, but when they work at Maverick Software, they put everything they learned into practice — and more. The company trains them on new technologies and pushes them into more complicated situations than what their professors lectured about. Yet the company also recognizes its employees are students, allowing extremely flexible schedules and viewing education as the No. 1 priority.

Sean Oberg is another student employed at Maverick Software Consulting. A nontraditional student in his last year, Oberg said he wanted to work for Maverick Software ever since he started his schooling.

"I heard a lot of good things about it," he said.

He is one of the newest employees, working for the company since this summer. Oberg is a software tester, making sure new programs run smoothly without bugs or errors. He has nothing but praise for his new employer.

"I came from a job I definitely wasn't happy with," Oberg said, "so moving here was great. There are always new things to learn, but they understand that we don't know everything; they're really patient with us. They want [us] to succeed, They understand you're a student and that comes first."

Chuck Sherwood, co-owner of Maverick Software, said that the biggest potential challenge of working with students — scheduling — has actually turned into a benefit. He said students are able to make their own schedules and also move around hours if they need to study for tests or work on class projects. Because every office is built within 10 minutes of where students take their classes, it is easy for the student employees to go back and forth between school and work. They can come in for a few hours between classes and get a lot done. The projects they work on don't have tight deadlines but instead usually take months to complete, so it doesn't matter if a student pushes his or her shift back by a few days.

"It's not a big deal for us, [but] it's a big benefit for the students," Sherwood said.

Another challenge was convincing potential clients to trust college students with their expensive and critical programming work. Companies could instead send work overseas, where labor would also be cheap and employee skill would be assured. But the top-notch students working for Maverick Software make a good case as to why student workers are a valuable investment for any company.

"They're the best," Sherwood said. "Every semester, I'm always concerned about hiring my new students, and every semester, I'm impressed."

"It's a lot of fun," said Lindsay Mortland, a junior at MSU majoring in information technology.

Mortland started working for the company in March after some friends who worked at Maverick Software encouraged her to apply. Now she is putting what she's learned in the classroom to use as she writes automated tests to see how well websites function.

Mortland said working for Maverick Software provides her with much more real-world experience than her university classes. She said in class, she may work on small programs with only a few computer codes, but at work, she deals with huge projects and works with teammates from all around Maverick Software's four offices.

"I can see [my job] helping me in my classes a lot," Mortland said. "It's been a good learning experience."

Maverick Software Consulting was formed in 1999 by Marty Hebig, an MSU graduate. For some years, he worked as an independent consultant, but then he sold part of the company to Sherwood, a friend and fellow MSU graduate, in 2006.

"I jumped at the chance because it [was] such a great idea and such a benefit for college students," Sherwood said.

The two of them formed a partnership with MSU that same year, getting the idea from a 1990s IBM-MSU partnership that gave MSU students the opportunity to work for IBM testing its operating system.

While Hebig and Sherwood were forming their partnership with MSU, the university was also working on creating another partnership with Thomson Reuters, one of the top information and productivity solution providers in the U.S. legal system. Thomson Reuters wanted to increase its visibility on university campuses, hoping to snag smart college students when they graduated. However, the company did not want to deal with managing student employees at campus sites. That's when Hebig and Sherwood stepped in. Hebig told Thomson Reuters that he could make and manage a company to work with it, and soon Maverick Software Consulting had its biggest client.

Maverick Software Consulting has only one client — Thomson Reuters — at the present, though it is looking for another company with which to partner. Still, its one client provides enough work for 80 student employees (20 students at the Mankato office) and four offices: MSU, the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Hebig works with Thomson Reuters at its Eagan campus while Sherwood is in charge of the Mankato office.