Alumnus Story: Dr. Alexander Suma, PhD Civil Engineering ’10
What did you do in the year immediately after graduation?
After I graduated, I continued my work on PowerNEST, a single renewable energy system for high rises that uses both wind and sun, during evenings and weekends. I had a full-time job at TNO, a Dutch National Research Institute.
What do you do for a living now?
I am now the CEO of IBIS Power, a commercial company that provides effective, innovative renewable energy solutions, including PowerNEST, PowerVIBES and PowerRESPONSE.
Describe one key memory of your time at the CoE.
When I was at the College of Engineering, the Ph.D. students had weekly meetings with Antonio Nanni, professor and chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural & Environmental Engineering (CAE), in the conference room. Before one meeting, I had gone to the store to purchase a Dutch national soccer team shirt, which I put in my bag. At the end of the meeting, I gave the bag to Dr. Nanni and asked if he would wear the shirt during all the upcoming Dutch matches, and said I would reciprocate and wear the Italian national shirt. I opened up my hoody zipper and showed him I was wearing it. He proceeded to laugh and said the Dutch would never become world champions. He continued, saying, “If the Dutch reach the finals, I will paint myself top to bottom in orange [the Dutch national color].” As the weeks passed, Italy was out of the running and the Dutch were getting ready to play in the semifinals. I passed by his office with a can of paint. During the final, Dr. Nanni showed up covered completely in orange – you could only recognize him by his white beard. Unfortunately, the Dutch did not win the game, but for sure it is a great memory. He took a photo and hung it up in his office.
What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
The best advice I could tell anyone is: “Listen to your gut feeling!” If you have a good idea, you will know it, so just go for it! The only thing you have to lose is the moments you didn’t start yet. You also need to proceed responsibly and with calculated risk.
In what ways did your CoE experience have an impact on your career and who you are today?
In my studies, I developed great analytical knowledge, which enables me to bring my technical team to a quick understanding and decision-making level. Having meetings as a CEO and also being able to cover technical discussions gives a lot of confidence to people. Dr. Nanni taught me not give up and to stay optimistic and creative. I learned from him how to write grants, network, create teams and communicate to inspire people. A team led by Bart Chernow, who was then UM’s vice provost of technology advancement and vice president for special programs and resource strategy, as well as director and founder of UM’s Executive Medicine Program, trained me to pitch, to include business in my technical thinking and to develop value within a business. Thanks to his and Dr. Nanni’s belief in PowerNEST, a 15-person company named IBIS Power is now ready to change the world of renewable energy.