Company ‘Ctrl+Os’ doors for students

Maverick Software Consulting alumni post high placement in the job market.

Senior Steven Wagner at his desk Tuesday at Maverick Software in Stadium Village.  Maverick is a software consulting firm that employs University computer science students.

Image by Joe Michaud-Scorza

Senior Steven Wagner at his desk Tuesday at Maverick Software in Stadium Village. Maverick is a software consulting firm that employs University computer science students.

by Frank

In a one-room office above Gold Country in Stadium Village, about 30 University of Minnesota undergraduate students joke amid rows of computers and a pyramid of energy drinks âÄî they have everything they need to work as software consultants for a multi-billion dollar company.

The students make up more than a third of the employees for Maverick, a Minnesota-based computer consulting company that consults for the giant information technology firm Thomson Reuters.

Since 2006, students have worked behind the scenes debugging Westlaw, an online legal research service for lawyers, as well as other miscellaneous software development projects for the company.

StudentsâÄô duties range from testing basic Westlaw functions to writing complicated Web applications âÄî making sure the legal database runs smoothly.

“The way of thinking and techniques IâÄôve learned here help with my classes,” said University sophomore Eric Bartusch. The computer science student has been working for Maverick for about two months, but said the work has already helped him grasp difficult concepts learned in class.

At the office, which opened last year, top computer science students come and go, working around class schedules and earning $13.50 an hour.

“I think everyone in the office is taking Internet programming [this semester],” senior Nick Malbraaten, said with a chuckle.

The all-student, predominately male staff works in one large room with a kitchenette in the middle that offers free soda and snacks.

“[The environment] is very loose,” said Maverick founder and president Marty Hebig. Office recreation events are common, and a trip to ski resort Welch Village is planned on their whiteboard.

Malbraaten said he is grateful the work is kept on campus and not outsourced, like many other information technology jobs.

Hebig came up with the idea while attending Mankato State University, when he saw a similar program that hired students to work as consultants shut down. After graduation, he decided to take the business model into his own hands and started MaverickâÄôs first office in Mankato.

Thomson Reuters has been MaverickâÄôs sole client since the companyâÄôs founding, but the partnership has allowed Maverick to expand to locations near the campuses of Iowa State and the University of Wisconsin, with several offices in Minnesota planned for the near future, including one near Duluth.

“TheyâÄôve kept us busy,” Hebig said with a smile.

Other companies have approached Maverick for short-term services, but Hebig said his business is about finding the right client that will be able to provide students with long-term work.

Of MaverickâÄôs 120 alumni, 118 have found full-time jobs after graduation. Several are currently working for Thomson Reuters.

“[The partnership] has been going great,” Vice President of Technology for Thomson Reuters Anna Grecco said. “WeâÄôve worked with other contract agencies [that provide services similar to Maverick] but certainly not in the same model where weâÄôre using college students.”

“ItâÄôs definitely a unique model and weâÄôre very impressed with the results,” Grecco said.

“ItâÄôs tangible work experience, itâÄôs close to campus, itâÄôs flexible, and it pays decently,” Malbraaten said. “They give you meaningful work but Maverick still recognizes that school is your No. 1 priority.”