February 13, 2013

Fellow Spotlight: Sam Stites, TurboSquid

Name: Sam Stites
Hometown: Washington, DC
University: Vassar College ’12

Product Architect, Turbosquid
New Orleans, LA
What initially attracted you to Venture for America?
In my first spotlight I mentioned that when I first heard Andrew speak about Venture for America, I saw him paint a picture of the entrepreneur that was a problem-solver, is looking to make positive impact, and isn’t afraid to take risks to help others. That definitely still holds true, however I would also mention that there was a huge allure in the fact that VfA doesn’t give you a giant marked-out pathway that they’ve cleared out for you – they give you a compass, the food supplies, a big book of landmarks and friends to support you as you pave your own way. The rest is covered in mystery and excitement: I recall not even realizing that accepted fellows were helping in coordinate some of the pre-training social events until it all happened!
What is the best part of being a VFA Fellow?
Going through Training Camp pushed me into learning a great deal about myself I never considered. I would imagine it’s a similar feeling Mario gets from a +1 in Super Mario World. But it doesn’t just end there, now that I am in New Orlean I want to do as much as I can to help. I think that Venture for America has increased my drive to give back to communities that support me. Alongside New Orleans, I have a firm belief that Venture for America – the Fellows, Staff, Board Members, and Supporters – are striving to add value for others and I will support them through and through.
What does TurboSquid do?
TurboSquid is like the Amazon of the 3D Art world. We’re a portal for artists to sell models to business customers – like Pixar, Raytheon and Activision. We’re also pushing a standard called CheckMate Certification so customers can rest assured that their purchases are a guaranteed to be both high quality and no hassle to use. While we’re not making products to improve artist and customer experiences – we like to join in mug-painting, Office Olympics, and Karaoke!
What do you do on a typical day at work?
Scoot into the SquidShack, grab a bowl of Luck Charms – hoHo! more marshmallows than yesterday? I think so! Chat with Adele, the VP of Marketing, about Entrepreneurship – greet the deskmates. Hop onto the computer and kick up excel, R, and SQL Server. I’ve got my headphones in with The Stanford Ecorner or an audiobook on play. Break for some design meeting where we discover that the name of the project has changed – yet again – and talk about edge cases of animal taxonomy: How do we classify BearManPig on the site? Is it a Bear, a Man, or a Pig? No it’s a BearManPig!
Stay in late to ask questions on StackedOverflow. Chat with my boss about TurboSquid in the bar downstairs, then depending on the day, go through some of MIT’s OpenCourseWare, Head over to The New Movement Theater for improv, or go rockclimbing with officemates. Dinner at last, followed by work on a personal project, and then crash for the night.
What’s your favorite thing about NOLA?
New Orleans is, right now, going through reverse brain drain. We have a ton of people from all over which not only makes the city a diverse one, but also means that everyone is very open and accepting of you if you want to contribute your interests to the giant gumbo of culture. I was at a Community dinner the other day and was sitting next to Laim, a gondalier in City Park, who helps to organize pop up, backyard story-telling for anyone, from everyone. Some people have stories which are long, some people have stories which are short, some people simply need to listen but everyone contributes and you can really see how vast our community is.
What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?
I hope to mobilize others towards improving the City of New Orleans as well as myself. There is a lot of self-learning that I also wish to accomplish, including improv performance (at The New Movement Theater) and starting my own company. I also hope to become a resource for others when asked how to be more involved with social change and entrepreneurship in here in nola. Training Camp also made me a huge fan of human-centered design and I’m planning out a human-centered design enthusiasts group to unbundle how we might help the city.

Posted in: Fellows