With 20 years of experience as a technology leader and business owner, Greg Lontok ’01 is eager to share his wisdom and inspire the next generation of data-driven professionals. Soon after graduating from LMU with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems, he became head of technology at Hi-Speed Media, an online advertising and e-commerce firm, which was sold to ValueClick in 2003. A few years later, Greg co-founded an online advertising platform, GlobalWide Media, where he served as CTO and VP of data science.
In 2018, Greg steered his career in a different direction and joined LMU College of Business Administration as a clinical assistant professor of Information Systems and Business Analytics (ISBA), a role that aligns with his passion for setting students up for success. Learn more about Greg’s career journey, his impact in the classroom and why there’s never been a better time to major in ISBA.
What do you enjoy most about teaching at LMU?
The low student-to-faculty ratio allows me to have more meaningful and intentional interactions with students. Service, as an educator, is not transactional, but focuses on the development of a relationship. LMU professors are like attentive waiters at a fancy restaurant; they don’t hover, yet they take notice and are engaged the entire time. They know when to step in but allow space for students to grow on their own.
Why should a student major in ISBA?
We’re generating and collecting more data than ever, but not everyone can effectively manage and analyze the data to produce actionable and impactful insights. An ISBA major will develop in-demand skills to work with data. These skills are valued by organizations that use data to make decisions. The ISBA program not only focuses on business analytics, but it also provides the skills to develop and optimize information systems that generate business process data and how to secure those systems (cybersecurity). Information systems include websites, mobile applications, databases, SaaS, ERP, APIs, networks and cloud computing infrastructure.
As an alum, how did your LMU experience impact your career?
My entrepreneurship courses with Professors Fred Kiesner and Cal Caswell inspired me to think like a principal or business owner at my first startup job as a software developer. To better understand the business while building my technical skills, I volunteered to work on projects spanning all departments, from accounting to customer service, and even building security. This exposure benefitted my subsequent roles as a technology leader and business owner by prioritizing projects that solve a real business problem and to go about it in the leanest way possible.
There were many times when I had no idea what I was doing, but my team and I always found a workable solution. Professor Kala Seal gave me my first exposure to networks and databases – two areas in the ISBA field I’ve consistently worked with for the past 20 years. And now, I teach “Networking & Cloud Computing” and a database course called “Developing Business Applications Using SQL.” Good thing I ran into Professor Seal at Sacred Heart Chapel on my wedding day. That chance encounter is how we reconnected and why I’m back at LMU.
What inspired you to pivot your career from the tech industry to higher education?
In 2012, I sensed an invitation to explore how can I pursue a more generative and life-giving profession to pay it forward in gratitude for the opportunities I’ve received, particularly the opportunities gifted to me by LMU and the Jesuits. It took six years before that invitation turned into a calling and a timely opportunity presented itself. Ten years after the serendipitous run-in with Professor Seal on my wedding day, he invited me to co-teach a new course on one of my favorite topics, SQL. My daughter was one at the time, and I desired the flexibility to be more present with her and my wife. In that same semester, I had a liquidity event which affirmed my intention to move on from the tech industry into higher education.
How has your industry experience/expertise impacted your teaching?
I do my best to translate the chaos and non-deterministic nature of business with open-ended projects, real-life stakeholders, and dirty data. Much of my career was in performance-based marketing. We are compensated when someone completes a certain action, i.e., make a purchase. We are not compensated for simply displaying an ad. I frame my teaching in a similar fashion. My objective as an educator is to help students find jobs by teaching them in-demand, industry skills and giving them opportunities to build portfolio-worthy projects to show potential employers. Along the way, I hope for students to discover the joy in learning new skills, to learn how to learn, and to learn about themselves to become more self-aware and whole.