From engineer to information systems

Like all college students, Matthew Sprankle is no stranger to long, late-night work sessions. The darkened room, the frenzied typing, the glowing computer screen, the desk littered with empty energy drink containers — it’s a scene familiar to anyone who has ever had a paper due in the morning or an upcoming exam.

Sprankle will graduate from Youngstown State University this year with a degree in computer information systems, and while he spent his share of late nights studying at YSU, he spent many more designing and building websites for his Web-based business, Sprankle Tech.

Established in 2010, Sprankle Tech has created websites for Ohio North Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, a nonprofit leadership training and youth empowerment organization; Get’n Fit Women, a Youngstown-based fitness center for women; and T.R. Party Centre, a party rental and supply store in Boardman.

“When I was in high school, I thought I was destined for a career in mechanical engineering,” Sprankle said.

“Graduating with a degree in computer systems is one of the best shifts in my life.”

Sprankle said the adjustment in his career plan occurred when he started at YSU as a freshman engineering major.

Sitting in engineering classes, Sprankle said he quickly learned that he wanted something more out of life.

“Seeing the day-in and day-out lifestyle of an engineer, having to do paperwork and go to conferences, working for someone else, crunching endless numbers … it wasn’t for me. I decided that I could make my own rules and choose my own path,” Sprankle said.

Sprankle was working with YSU professors to optimize content for their class websites. The professors started paying him for the work he was doing, and that is when he decided to branch out and design websites as a business.

Sprankle is working with the YSU Office of Marketing and Communications to help develop the new YSU website that is scheduled to be unveiled soon.

Mark Van Tilburg, executive director of marketing and communications, said Sprankle is a promising employee who has contributed greatly to the design of the new site.

“Matthew is one of the most talented student-workers we’ve ever had working for us,” Van Tilburg said. “He’s been instrumental in both the creative content and the technical details.”

Sprankle approaches the problem of Web optimization from an engineer’s viewpoint, examining individual Web components and making sure that each part works with the others to enhance the overall experience.

Unique content, Sprankle said, is one of the hardest things to accomplish in this industry. He said he tries to go beyond colors and code.

“I analyze how a person experiences a website. It starts with just a quick glance, then dives into layout, presentation, navigation and adaptability, covering all aspects of user interaction,” he said.

Sprankle said he plans to continue working for himself after graduation, hoping to make his business mature.

He said he would like to live on the East Coast, but is open to all options. His main hope is to grow as a developer.

“Anyone can find the time to run a business. The challenge is being better than the competition. Your work needs to be more than a hobby. It has to be a passion you are willing to sacrifice your personal life for,” Sprankle said.

He said he tackles the time management and personal life problems by dedicating two nights a week to himself and friends. All of his other time is focused on expanding his business and improving the quality of his work.

“I cannot be still if I want to succeed,” Sprankle said. “Being proactive is the only way to persevere.”