Featured Alum: Vaskin Kissoyan, Computer Science 1996

Hi, I’m Vaskin Kissoyan. I graduated from Christian Brothers University in 1996 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Psychology. I’m currently the CEO of Lokion Interactive, and I’d like to tell you the story of the very first CBU web site (http://www.cbu.edu.)

In 1993, I had my first introduction to the Internet. I was at the CBU computer center using the VAX VMS system. Up until that time I had been working with pre-Internet networks such as the BBS-based Fidonet. That first glimpse of direct access to the Internet was a watershed moment for me. I was hooked. I had dreamt of a world that was interconnected, and, suddenly, what had seemed like science fiction became real possibility.

Part of my fortune was timing–it was a great time for nerds–but my classroom experiences at CBU allowed me and encouraged me to apply lessons to this new public network we now know as the Internet. During a junior year semester project, I was able to research and develop using the latest Internet technologies, which were just beginning to flourish. Under the direction of Dr. Yanushka and armed with a Dec Alpha machine and a T1 line, I researched the new software needed to make websites. It was a software package provided by CERN, the famous physics lab where Web technologies were invented. These days that same software lives on – more or less – it is best known as “Apache.”

My curiosity about the web resulted in CBU’s first website. I proceeded to evangelize the technology by surreptitiously installing the Mosaic browser (predecessor to Netscape, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) on every computer in every lab on campus. I literally went computer to computer installing it, setting it to auto-start and making www.cbu.edu the start page. In its earliest iteration, the CBU website consisted of a few very basic items, such as contact info and a picture of the bell tower. Realizing the potential of the web site as a marketing and communications tool, I lobbied the head of the admissions office to use the website for recruiting. Eventually, faculty and staff got interested and once a new system administrator was hired, he took over the care and feeding of website, which is now hosting this article. I am very proud to have been involved with CBU and web technology at such a historic moment in time.

As graduation approached, I looked for ways to apply my skills and start a career in the industry I loved. Together with my friends Marcus Stafford and Mike O’Hearn, I built Quest Interactive Media, which produced web applications for FedEx, Harrah’s and International Paper. We created some of the best technology that Internet software of that time could offer. This type of work caught the eye of USWeb, a firm that was building a national network of Internet-focused teams.

When Quest Interactive Media was merged into USWeb/CKS (later known as marchFIRST) in 1998, I moved to the Washington, D.C.-area to join a large eCommerce group. There I further refined my experience in various fields, building sites for National Geographic, Tower Records, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and many other big brands. Ever since that time, I’ve been involved heavily with eCommerce, specifically enterprise-level eCommerce systems.

Twelve years ago, I helped found Lokion Interactive, a Memphis-based interactive agency, that picked up where Quest left off in its pioneering role in the high-tech web services market. Today, we have an excellent roster of Internet experts, and we work with many prominent clients, helping them with digital strategy, design, and software development. We can execute on the entire array of services required to deliver a great customer experience on the web, mobile phones, kiosks, or other devices.

I’ve always been very vocal about the outstanding education that I received at Christian Brothers University and am especially proud to have been taught by Drs. Yanushka and Bedrossian in the Computer Science department. During my time at CBU, I was also very lucky to have attended a couple of Electronic Engineering (EE) classes taught by Dr. Olabi. One particular class covered everything from the basic logic of “AND and OR” gates to burning a 4 bit microprocessor as a final project. I’ve held onto the final project report from that class. I never delved any further into EE, but the mere fact of understanding CPU interaction on that level has helped me with problem solving and has given me a very unique perspective when it comes to software design and coding.

My bottom-line advice to young students and alumni alike is that education is not solely about facts and grades. Learning to enjoy the journey of discovery and be comfortable with a constant flow of change is much more valuable in the long term. Dive into the industry you’re most likely to be involved with and just read about it. Listen to a niche podcast. The more time you invest in that, the more comfortable you will feel making the important decisions that affect your future.

Vaskin Kissoyan
CBU Class of ’96