KOKOMO, Ind. — When he pulled up to the drive up window at a Kokomo fast food restaurant, Mohammad Almalag was surprised to see one of his most talented informatics students serving up his coffee.
The restaurant job helped the student pay the bills while attending school, but Almalag was concerned it wasn’t assisting him in meeting his career goals.
That encounter inspired the Indiana University Kokomo associate professor of informatics to start a business, with the goal of offering scholarships and internships for students, and jobs for graduates.
“I think this is the right thing to do, to give back to the community, to the campus, and to the students,” he said. “Students work at minimum wage jobs that aren’t related to their future careers. Everyone working at my company will be IU Kokomo graduates or students. These jobs will allow them to use and practice what they are doing in school, without having to leave the area, and to see what they can do with a degree in informatics.”
Almalag co-owns Foxglove Digital Information Systems, which specializes in software consulting and website design and development, with IU Kokomo graduate Derek Bertrand. The software development company is among the start up businesses housed at Inventrek Technology Park, a local small business incubator.
Bertrand works full time for the company, while Almalag is there once a week. They started in one of the smaller offices available, and plan to move to larger quarters within the incubator as they grow.
“I don’t think we could have asked for any better place to start than this,” he said. “I could not believe this was available to us, with convenient office and meeting space, all utilities included, and fast Internet.”
In addition to benefitting students, with jobs and internships, Almalag said it brings new business to the area. They’ve already contracted to develop and maintain a website for a company based in New York, and he anticipates more interest from out of state.
“We can provide the same level of quality as people in other areas, but less expensively, because the cost of living is less here,” he said. “Business owners see the value in that. We have talented people here.”
While he’s chosen teaching as his profession, Almalag always knew he would be a business owner as well.
“Business is part of myself,” he said. “I came from a business family. It was in my genes to be an entrepreneur. I like the adventure and challenge of it.”
He’s also happy to be in Indiana. Almalag grew up in Saudi Arabia, but his family had lived in Indiana in the 1970s, while his father completed his Ph.D. at IU Bloomington. They returned to their home country before he was born, but he grew up hearing stories of their life in Indiana, and decided that he would live there someday.
After completing his undergraduate degree in Saudi Arabia, Almalag moved to Indiana, where he completed his master’s degree. While in Virginia completing his Ph.D., he found himself homesick for Indiana, and decided he would look for jobs in the Hoosier state after finishing his education. He joined the faculty at IU Kokomo three years ago, teaching classes in systems analysis, system development, databases, computer networking, and introductory informatics.
“It is a family thing for me to be at IU,” he said. “To come back and live in Indiana, that is an unbelievable thing. This company makes it more home, more permanent for me.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.