Security Gives Back: Cypress Integration Solutions Finds High-Tech Talent Pipeline

As coaches and mentors for three high school robotics teams, Cypress Integration Solutions leaders welcome next generation.

Security Gives Back: Cypress Integration Solutions Finds High-Tech Talent Pipeline

Photo courtesy of Cypress Integration Solutions

LAPEER, Mich. — There are plenty of leaders in the security industry who talk often about the talent shortage and their struggle to fill open positions. Cypress Integration Solutions has no such problem, thanks to an almost 20-year relationship with three local high school robotics teams.

Company founder, president and CEO Tony Diodato spent several years as the coach of 20-year-old Team 1684 Chimeras and Team 5460 Strike Zone, which not only has helped him spread the word about his company to young people in the area but helped Cypress build an impressive internship program.

That internship program has borne some impressive fruit, including vice president and chief operations officer Jon Uren, who coaches team 1684 after joining the squad in middle school and working at Cypress since his teenage years, and Natalie Schlaud, who spent two years as an intern at Cypress and will be starting her college career at Michigan Tech in the fall to study electrical engineering with an open invitation to return.

“I just never left,” says Uren with a laugh.

Diodato takes great pride in how he’s built Cypress Integration Solutions, but notes it wasn’t the plan when he started.

“I’m an engineer and I had been working for a fairly large company in the data communications industry back in the late ’70s and early ’80s when I got the wild idea that I could run my own company,” he says.

“When the time came to get help in the form of employees, I did the usual things: went to the colleges, the skill centers, want ads, all the the usual suspects,” he says. “I got some good employees and I got some turds. There was just something missing. There just wasn’t this spark, this twinkle in the eye, the real passion for engineering that I had.”

A fellow Rotary Club member tipped Diodato off to the high school robotics teams and everything changed for him as soon as he made that connection.

“I’d been hanging around Radio Shack looking for hobbyists to come in the door and try to find some help that way,” he says. “[The high school robotics] program had been in existence for a few years, but unfortunately, as engineers we’re terrible at marketing, so it was pretty much a hidden gem.

“That first year in 2005 I met Jon. He was an 8th grader at that point and he was on the team. I felt at home. I’m like, ‘Wow, these these are my people. These are what I was like in high school.’ I always wanted to get involved in things and and do things that were off the beaten path and in electronics and and programming so it was just an awesome opportunity,” says Diodato.

He became more involved as a volunteer, then as a mentor and as a coach “and the rest is history,” he says.

“The joy of it is I’ve been able to step back and just sort of watch the magic happen as it’s taken on a life of its own,” says Diodato.

Cypress Helps Young People Find Their Career Path

Uren says Diodato described the robotics team as “a four-year interview.” He was eager to get going with his career as soon as he finished high school.

“When I graduated, I tried to skip graduation, but my parents wouldn’t let me, so I had to wait until the day after to go out and actually install some equipment for the company,” says Uren with a laugh. “I skipped college, went straight here, and then started working in different parts of the company, using the skills that I learned at robotics as well as stuff that I’ve kind of picked up over the years.

“I’ve pretty much been in every department: engineering, manufacturing, tech support. It just kind of naturally progressed where I started climbing and becoming more of a management type roles as well as I ended up taking over 1684 coaching Tony thought he wanted to retire, and then, a year later, started a rookie team,” he says.

Due to increased demand for the robotics team, they added team 5460 to get more students involved.

“Having a second group that operates completely differently than the first group yielded even better employees for Cypress because now we have people who are thinking completely differently and approaching problems from two different angles instead of just one,” says Uren. “Having that diversity and thought process has been just amazing over the years.”

Cypress

Photo courtesy of Cypress Integration Solutions

Soaking Up Engineering Knowledge

Schlaud didn’t know much about engineering before meeting Diodato and the rest of the Cypress leadership team a few years ago, but she’s glad she found out more about it.

“From a really young age, I’ve always found science really fascinating, but I didn’t know exactly what I found interesting,” she says. “I had some close family friends that were already on Strike Zone and they were really encouraging me to get into it, since I was so interested in science and stuff from a young age.

“I ended up joining the high school robotics team in seventh grade because I knew those people who are on the high school team, and I had an interest in it,” says Schlaud. “Throughout that, I ended up trying to find a specialized field that I thought was interesting and then I ended up getting really interested in the electrical side and the CAD side of it.”

Schlaud “was trying to pull in any information I could find out from people,” including Diodato.

“He showed me how to do a ton of stuff and, from that, I always looked up to everybody at Cypress, and specifically Tony, because he was like the person that really sparked that passion for me,” she says. “When I told him about my ideas and what I was interested in, he was like, ‘Come check out Cypress and come see what we do. I think you’d find it really interesting’ and I totally did.”

Matt Lowe, Cypress product engineer and coach of Team 5460 Strike Zone, has seen the students he coaches grow and that’s a sense of pride for him and for them.

“It’s just great working with the program and watching all these students come in and then, through normal school practices, they have a little bit of know-how, but they really learned how to be true problem-solvers through our program,” he says.

“Watching students go through the program, you can see them start developing that and then, when they get to a certain point, we’re like, ‘yeah, we should have them over here at Cypress and see what they can do,'” says Lowe.

Diodato can’t believe how successful the internship program and his partnership with the local high school robotics teams has been.

“It’s just a replay of my own experience,” he says. “I came in with a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of experience, but I had no mentors. I had no one to teach me business. I had no one to teach me all the aspects of running a company and I wished I had had a program like this when I was coming up through.

“I get to kind of relive that experience over and over again every year as students come through and I think, ‘Yup, I know exactly what you’re going through, because I went through the same thing’ and just watch that pipeline of of skills coming through that we can use in our in our company to help it grow. It means the world,” says Diodato.

If you participated in Security Industry Community Service Day this year or are involved in other service-based initiatives, please contact SSI digital editor Craig MacCormack at [email protected] to be part of the ongoing Security Gives Back series.

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About the Author

Craig MacCormack
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Craig MacCormack is a veteran journalist who joined Security Sales & Integration in June 2023 as digital editor. He covered AV, IT and security with SSI's sister publication, Commercial Integrator, from January 2011 to June 2021.

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