Rising Star Q&A: Andy MacMillan

Andy MacMillan, a 1999 telecommunication graduate, received the ComArtSci Alumni Board's Rising Star Award  in 2009. Residing in Burlingame, California, with his wife and three children, MacMillan is the CEO of the high-growth tech company User Testing. User Testing is a platform that helps companies connect with users and get feedback on services that they are building. The company recently went public on the New York Stock Exchange. 

What was your favorite class at ComArtSci?

The one that really stood out to me was TC 201 with Professor Steinfield. What I liked about the class was that it was really a way to think about technology broadly and how it can be applied. I think that was really useful when you think about a long career in the technology space.

What was your favorite study spot on campus?

I was just off campus, and I would go to Crunchy’s to study. Not sure if that was best practice but that is where I tended to go hit the books.

What was your favorite thing to do around East Lansing?

I really enjoyed the walk along the Red Cedar River. I lived in Hubbard Hall as freshman and so I would walk to ComArtSci from the other side of campus. Despite the walks in the winter, it really is such a beautiful campus.

What’s your favorite MSU Memory?

I did a study abroad program at Michigan State that really changed my life and sparked my love for travel. By complete coincidence, my classmates and I were in Paris in 1998 when France won the World Cup at home which was pretty amazing.

So, you earned your degree in telecommunication at ComArtSci, can you speak about how things have evolved in your industry since you graduated and where you foresee things going from here?

I was at ComArtSci right as the internet was emerging and right as there was this massive shift that was happening in the world. I think a lot of what I learned with all of that change going on was how to think about the evolution of this technology. I think tech is really becoming a leveling force and I think it presents a big opportunity no matter where people are at.

What was your biggest lesson learned during your time at ComArtSci? And what was your biggest lesson after ComArtSci?

While at ComArtSci a lot of what we talked about was change. Especially with the timing of the internet in the late ‘90’s. Things were going to change, and business models were going to shift and that was really interesting. I think the thing I’ve learned about after ComArtSci is pairing that change with the people aspect of business and building networks and relationships. Even though we live in this highly tech enabled world, it’s still really about people.

Fast forward to the end of your career. It’s your retirement party and everyone is there celebrating your achievements. What do you hope people say about you?

I hope the people at my party are people that I have enjoyed working with, that I care for and care about me. I think one of the things you realize as you go through your career is that early on, you’re looking for folks to give you that opportunity. When I think about how I got to this point in my career it’s because a few people along the way put a lot of trust in me. I look back and think about how I am paying that forward. I hope those kinds of people are at my party that are saying they got life-changing opportunities working with Andy.

To those students who are confused, overwhelmed, not sure what they want to do, unsure about what a degree from ComArtSci can do for them, what would your message be to them?

A lot of life is about attitude and approach. Early in my career, my view was that I want to work well with other people and build a network of people I genuinely enjoy working with. I think the other thing is finding enjoyment in solving hard problems. I’ve really tried to figure out hard problems that the organization I’m with is facing and put my hand up to say I want to go and work on those.

By Joe Strother