CHARLOTTE — Editor’s note: Charlotte Beat is a regular feature on Wednesdays in Local Tech Wire. When Mirsad Hadzikadic earned his doctorate at Southern Methodist University as a Fulbright Scholar in 1987, he thought his only option was teaching. Little did he know that when he accepted a position at UNC Charlotte it was the beginning of a multi-faceted career that included much more than lecturing and conducting research.
Today, Hadzikadic, a native of Bosnia, is dean of UNC Charlotte’s College of Information Technology, the only college in the Carolinas dedicated exclusively to IT. Earlier this year, he spun off a new company, MindValve, Inc., when it received seed funding and a CEO through Academy Funds. And since first coming to Charlotte some 15 years ago, he has also had stints outside the academic arena, in both the nonprofit and private sectors.
Ironically, the offer from UNC Charlotte was the lowest paying one Hadzikadic received, and the institution had no doctorate programs. So why did he take the job?
“It was an exciting place and strong in my area,” Hadzikadic, now 47, says. “It was a young university and a dynamic place. And it reminded me of Bosnia, with its trees and being close to the ocean and the mountains. And I was taken out to dinner at country club by a leading businessman, and that overwhelmed me.”
A diverse job history
Hadzikadic remained at the university for two years as an assistant professor in computer science before returning to Bosnia. He came back to Charlotte in1992, when he did consulting work for Carolinas HealthCare System and worked for Deloitte & Touche. In 1997, he returned to UNC Charlotte as chair of its computer science department.
Says Hadzikadic, “IT is pervasive and pivotal in every business process. It’s an interdisciplinary skill, really — you can’t do anything without the use of computers these days.”
By that time, the university was pushing IT, but it was a “virtual” effort with no physical presence. Professors remained within their own departments, scattered all over campus. “It was hard to plan, to execute plans, or to reward people,” Hadzikadic says.
In 1999, when planning began to form an actual separate college for information technology, Hadzikadic was named interim dean, and became dean when the college was formally created in July 2000. There are currently 900 students enrolled in the college, 700 of them undergraduates.
Under Hadzikadic’s leadership, the college was named a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the National Security Agency. He also played a pivotal role in the formation of the Institute for e-Business Technology with Dell Corporation, Bank of America and Wachovia as partners. The Institute is part of the Charlotte Institute for Technology Innovation (CITI), formed last year. IT is one of three areas CITI will focus on; the other two are precision engineering and opto-electronics.
UNC Charlotte has already developed a national reputation in three specific areas within IT: computer security and privacy issues; intelligence systems; and networking and information environments. Its faculty is also becoming known for its expertise in bio-informatics.
“UNC Charlotte is an extremely remarkable place,” Hadzikadic says. “(Chancellor) James Woodard helped us define the vision for the university, to become a center for applied research for this region. We are here to help the region, and it needs a research university — it will become the driving force behind the region’s future growth.”
The entrepreneurial side
But Hadzikadic hasn’t abandoned his research. MindValve, which he began last year with four other UNC Charlotte faculty members, is based on his doctoral thesis on real time analytics. The company is an innovator in business decisions and customer interaction support by offering a proprietary software technology program called “Real Time Advantage” that enhances management of the entire life cycle of enterprise data. The firm received substantial seed funding from Academy Funds in February, and David Maw was named CEO. Hadzikadic will remain as a consultant to the young enterprise.
Hadzikadic also has a grand vision for the area he now calls home. Ultimately, he says Charlotte can become another Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley or Research Triangle Park.
“We know where we want to go, and we’re connected to the region,” he says. “We’re not starting from scratch — it’s already a formidable place.”
To cotact Hadzikadic: Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org