If there’s one word that could describe University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) alumnus Tony Valenti, it would be “driving.”
In the early days of the Internet, Valenti worked hard to learn as much as possible before even attending the UN College of Information Science and Technology (IS&T). Her drive and determination shaped her academic journey at the UN a little differently than most.
Rather than fulfilling his general education requirements from the get-go, Valenti dove straight into the tougher classes of his degree. Valenti had a clear idea of the courses he wanted to take. UN IS&T faculty worked alongside it to explore niche areas through independent courses of study. One of his favorite teachers was John Clark, who was an IS&T instructor in the 2000s. His focus on data structures and algorithms was invaluable to Valenti’s career path.
“Data structures and algorithms have taught me new ways of thinking. Concepts in this class make the difference between a solution that works and one that’s really, really great,” he said. “He teaches and applies concepts that elevate ‘computer programming’ to true ‘computer science’. There are very few places that offer this caliber of education.
While studying at UNO, Valenti worked for a small startup at the Scott Technology Center. Although he had never worked for a company before, the experience inspired him to start his own business while pursuing his university studies.
His first venture focused on helping businesses manage their online presence. While a number of similar companies already existed at the time, Valenti recognized that it could provide a competitive advantage: exemplary expertise and customer service. Valenti mentioned that back then most people expected to pay around $5 a month for web hosting. His company, with its deep technical expertise and strong focus on 24/7 customer service, had commercial customers paying over $250,000 a year.
He put college on hold while his business grew and demanded more of his attention. About a decade later, his startup was acquired by a publicly traded company, and Valenti returned to UNO to finish what he started. The UN was ready to welcome him back to complete his last courses and obtain his undergraduate degree.
“If there’s one thing I would echo in a prospective student, it would be this: Pursue greatness in your field. Don’t go to college to be average. Take the time to become an Olympian in your field and graduate with honors because that’s what really makes the difference. Nobody wants to hire second place and it’s always a photo-finish.