IlLUminate, the Lehigh University College of Business and Economics’ (CBE) dynamic, new multimedia platform, offers fascinating insights into the latest research and thoughtful perspectives on a wide array of topics from faculty and alumni.
Building on the CBE blog launched early in 2017, the college recently added podcasts featuring professional audio of blog posts and the Executive Edge video series, developed specifically for executives and management professionals.
CBE Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips says the multimedia approach reflects the university’s commitment to “disseminate knowledge as widely as we can. If you think about the goal of any educational institution, that’s what it is: the creation and dissemination of knowledge.
“We’re meeting consumers where they happen to be, rather than forcing them into the modality we choose to give them. Not everybody likes to read. Not everybody likes to listen. Not everybody likes to watch. So we offer all three options. From the classroom to the internet, there are so many ways that we meet people where they want to be met in terms of the dissemination of knowledge.”
With the proliferation of podcasts in recent years, CBE sought to find an approach that would differentiate ilLUminate in a crowded marketplace. When looking for a new and innovative way of doing things, it’s always a good idea to look to a Lehigh alumnus. Especially one who continues to draw on the advice, knowledge, and skills of his Lehigh adviser.
And that’s what CBE did, partnering with SpokenLayer, a New York-based company founded by Will Mayo ’08, ‘10G.
Mayo earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, while also studying product design, and got his master’s degree in computer engineering, while also studying ergonomics. Put that together with his love of performing with the Lehigh Choir and Glee Club, and parents and grandparents who all worked in the entertainment industry, and it’s no wonder he wound up starting a company that combines technology and voice.
“All of those factors culminated in me being the founder and CEO of a company that changes the way people can consume content and enables people to listen to content that is relevant to them in any context,” says Mayo, who launched SpokenLayer in 2010, just months after getting his graduate degree from Lehigh. “And now, with the advent of new platforms like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home and all these connected devices, it enables any device to be something that you can talk to and consume content from.”
Mayo came up with the idea for the company while he was still pursuing his master’s degree. He credits his master’s thesis adviser, Bradley J. Askins—at the time, an adjunct lecturer in computer science and engineering—with providing sage counsel and encouragement. And since Mayo started SpokenLayer, Askins, the husband of former Lehigh President Alice Gast, has continued to play a key role as a board member, investor, and so much more.
“He’s stepped up when we needed him to,” Mayo says. “He was basically acting as the COO of the company for about a year or two and has acted in data science roles and other roles in the company.”
Mayo’s master’s thesis was on collaborative music notation and editing software, and SpokenLayer started out developing music collaboration software. Within two years, however, the company migrated to building the first versions of the current platform that creates professionally recorded audio from written content that people can listen to anywhere. It’s what Mayo calls “the voice ecosystem.”
The company produces SpokenEditions, which are “stories that speak to you,” from such major media clients as TIME, Huffington Post, Slate, Wired, and other leading magazines, newspapers, and websites.
As well as Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics.
Phillips says SpokenLayer is an elegant solution for the CBE model. Many podcasts involve an interview format and run from a half hour to an hour.
“SpokenLayer allows the words of faculty members and alumni who write for ilLUminate to be presented unfiltered, directly to the listener,” Phillips says.
The spoken audio versions of the blog posts also are usually 7 or 8 minutes, which Phillips calls “an important differentiating factor because they’re easily consumable. We don’t ask you to devote your entire commute. Just give us a listen for the first 10 minutes of your commute.”
For Mayo, who comes from a family whose ties run as deep with Lehigh as they do in entertainment, working with his alma mater is “pretty awesome.
“For me to be able to support and show off what I’ve done, what Lehigh is, and that whole intersection is just a really powerful and valuable thing for me,” he adds.
The video component of the expanded ilLUminate platform features Executive Edge, a series of short, high-impact conversations with top business leaders and faculty that will help people gain and sustain a competitive edge in their careers.
The first two videos spotlight Joseph R. Perella ’64, founding partner and chairman of Perella Weinberg Partners, who is widely regarded as an investment banking pioneer, and Sanjay Shah ’89 MBA, an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Vistex, Inc., a Chicago-based global software company that helps companies with automating their go-to-market programs, complex pricing, and rebate contracts.
Perella, who has advised on billions of dollars of M&A (Merger and Acquisition) activity throughout his long career and is a member of the Lehigh Board of Trustees, offers insights on leadership in his Executive Edge video.
And Shah, who has guided his company’s growth to a worldwide operation with 20 offices, 1,300 employees, and annual revenues approaching $200 million, discusses the importance of vision and execution.
To read, listen to, and watch the knowledge being disseminated on CBE’s multimedia platform, please visit ilLUminate.
Story by Jack Croft