August 19, 2009

Jeff Silvan ’07 Gaining Attention for High-Profile IBM Project

By Dan Stefan ’10 and Kate Helm

As a business consultant for IBM’s Global Business Services, Jeff Silvan ’07 is making a lot of friends. He also is earning the attention of some corporate hotshots.

“I am working on a rather high-profile project within IBM that garners quite a bit of attention from the executives,” says Silvan, who has been on the project for about a year-and-a-half. “On [IBM global communications sector managing partner] Bill Battino’s visit, he actually took the time to stop and introduce himself and talk to me about the project. He was quite the down-to-earth guy, and I found it very impressive that someone in his role with such a giant corporation would take the time to chat with someone who is quite a bit lower on the food chain.”

Silvan is working with a major southern California utility company to revamp its geographic information system.

“I’m in the Smart Grid portion of the project as a business analyst; think Google Earth or Maps on steroids,” he explains. “It allows one to plot any information a utility company might want to know about its business. Using this system, they can see things such as property lines, roads, utility poles, buildings, gas pipes, and even environmental information like endangered species habitats or soil types. This allows the company to plan new projects such as installing a new pipeline or transmission line more efficiently, minimizing the cost and impact to the environment.”

Frequent trips to Los Angeles have helped Silvan make friends in high places, and not just Battino. He is now on a first-name basis with the flight attendants.

“A couple weeks ago, the scheduled departure time for my normal morning flight was changed 10 minutes early for the season,” he says. “It just so happened that my flight was delayed by 20 minutes one week, so I got to the airport later than I normally would to avoid waiting around. As I’m walking to my gate, I hear someone yelling my name behind me. I turned around and it was one of the usual attendants on my flight. She was on a different flight that day, but was concerned that I didn’t know the schedule changed and I was going to miss my flight!”

Spending time in L.A. has other perks. The HBO series Entourage filmed at Silvan’s hotel for a week, allowing him to see all its stars. He’s also had celebrity sightings at the airport and at Lakers basketball games, including Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicklaus, and Paris Hilton.

He also encountered his first earthquake while on business in L.A. and is now an old pro, having been through about 10 mostly small quakes. He recalls his first: “I knew something was wrong, but I really had no idea what was going on until one of my coworkers told me it was an earthquake. It was quite an experience, but I don’t recommend experiencing one for yourself.”

For Silvan, one of the most challenging things about life after Lafayette was the change in lifestyle.

“I moved a few hours away from most of my friends, so it was difficult not being able to just walk down the hall and hang out,” he says. “Traveling all the time also makes it difficult to stay involved with much in any one location, but I still actively participate in my local Mustang Club and I play on a kickball team. Aside from that, I have found quite a few young alumni whom I often get together with.”

The mechanical engineering graduate’s encounter with Jeff Helm, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, on a campus visit demonstrated the personal attention that Lafayette could offer a student interested in engineering.

“One weekend I visited Lafayette with my family and decided to walk around the campus and, of course, the engineering building,” he recalls. “After a few minutes, [Helm] approached me and asked if I needed help or had any questions. In the end, he stopped what he was doing and gave me a tour of the building and talked to me about the engineering program and College. Something like this is impossible at a larger school and something I knew I wanted.”

Silvan believes the hands-on engineering program Lafayette provided was truly unlike any other. As part of his senior design class, he was a member of the Formula SAE team.

“Lafayette prepared me not only to push numbers and be prepared for tests, but for the real world, helping me get a career, not only a job,” he says. “Life is not only about passing classes.”

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