In 2001, ComArtSci helped direct promising young graduate Jeff McWherter toward a path that would lead him to become the owner of his own company. McWherter earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Telecommunications (now considered Media and Information) and decided to put his talents to use close to campus. He used the tools, skills, and knowledge he learned at ComArtSci to start web design agency, Gravity Works, located in Lansing, Michigan.
“ComArtSci gave me a tool that I use in all my business ventures - confidence, and the ability to sell myself,” said McWherter. “My degree program was staffed with excellent professors that valued my opinions and treated me more as a peer than a pupil. The department offered endless opportunities for interacting with other students and industry leaders, and went to great lengths to make sure I felt prepared to make those connections constructive.”
Making a Difference
Before he founded Gravity Works, McWherter worked for many companies that prioritized profit over strategic business opportunities. He came to believe that decision-making motivated purely by money only hurts your company and degrades your work environment. Learning from prior experience, McWherter decided to bring a different motto to the Gravity Works team.
“My favorite part about being an owner of Gravity Works is the ability to ‘do good,’” said McWherter. “Don’t ‘play’ business, but do business strategically, thoughtfully, and genuinely. At Gravity Works, I take pride in creating a culture where everyone is 100% invested in the success of a company.”
Putting Others First
As a business owner, McWherter feels accountable for the livelihood of his employees, he appreciates his position to foster a positive, stable work environment. His top priority for the company is providing a workplace where employees can expand their careers and contribute meaningful work. He’s found that this kind of approach leads to great, higher-production work, as well as a fairly relaxed and comfortable environment.
“We value people, and go to great lengths to ensure every member of our team is comfortable and working on the types of projects they love,” says Mcwherter. “We’ve worked with some great clients through the years- one being SMART (Metro Detroit’s public bus provider), developing a website and mobile app with real-time tracking.”
McWherter said the work with SMART served as an anchor for landing other transit clients including The Ride (Ann Arbor’s public bus provider) and most recently, the Lansing-based CATA .
“I will say, it’s a great feeling when I see a SMART bus driving past me with an ad promoting the mobile app that our team developed.” he said.
Helping Future Professionals
Reflecting back on his time at ComArtSci, McWherter revealed advice that will help students reach their desired roles after graduation. He feels that every piece of information, big or small, learned in the classroom may guide employees through the rest of their careers and certain professors may be the voice behind them.
“Ron Choura, an adjunct professor at the time, taught a 400-level Telecommunications class that continues to be the cornerstone of my career 20 years later,” he said. “I wouldn’t have thought it back then.”
McWherter described how Choura explained each element of a RFP process (Request for Proposals) with great detail, giving him the training to create and respond successfully. Jeff credits this for helping him land big clients. He says Choura gave him his first insight into sales, and taught him the importance of writing clearly, concisely, and to the point.
“It’s all about who you know, so spend time networking and meeting people now so you have those connections after graduation,” McWherter advised. “Try to engage with industry leaders in an equal level; get to know their story before you start asking for a job, or an internship. Above all, be engaged with other students, because the relationships that I formed in college helped me to obtain work, solve difficult problems, and have life-long friends.”