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Entrepreneur Szczurek makes Polish wish come
|4/7/2002 3:00:00 PM |
|By Todd Neff|
|In February, Theresa Szczurek was the keynote speaker at a
conference in Warsaw, Poland, in which business and government
luminaries explored ways for the country to bolster its economy
through better support of entrepreneurial and established
Szczurek was well
qualified for the task.
• She is an accomplished
technologist, having begun her career designing and optimizing PBX
systems at Bell Labs.
• She is an entrepreneur, having
co-founded Radish Communications Systems in 1990 with Richard Davis,
her husband and a former Bell Labs engineer. They grew the company
to 60 employees before selling it in 1996 to Natick, Mass.-based
SystemSoft for about $40 million.
•She is on the Colorado
Techn-ology Incubator’s (CTI) advisory board.
•She is an
independent consultant and budding motivational speaker, and is
working on a book.
is also, in her words, “100 percent pure-bred Polish.”
maternal grandmother, Antonette, grew up in a village called
Wolakosnowa, situated amid rolling countryside two hours south of
Krakow, according to Szczurek. She
visited her ancestral home on her recent trip. “The farm was very
small and they were very poor,” Szczurek said.
Shortly after World War
I, Antonette left Poland, traveling alone to the United States and
carrying a single trunk. She was 15 when she landed in Chicago’s
Polish community, finding work as a chambermaid at Chicago’s Palmer
Antonette soon met the man she would marry. He
had grown up in a village two miles from Wolakos-nowa and was
working at the Palmer House as well. Szczurek credits the roots of her own
entrepreneurial instincts to them.
Szczurek moved from her parents’ Chicago-area
home through an education that includes two master’s degrees and a
In 1984, Szczurek
left AT&T International, where she had transferred
Labs to market the PBX systems she had helped design at Bell. She
founded Technology and Management Solu-tions as she commenced her
doctorate program at the University of Colorado.
Szczurek finished the program in 1989 and began
brainstorming startup ideas with Davis, a former colleague still
with Bell Labs. Before the commercialization of the Internet, Davis
had invented a means of transmitting voice and data through a single
phone line. “He was the technology visionary; I was more on the
business side,” Szczurek
Not long after the sale of Radish, Szczurek was speaking to a local group when
someone asked her what she would do next. “I said that, at some
point, I’d really like to take my entrepreneurial experience and
help Poland and Eastern Europe,” she recalled saying.
Szczurek’s recent trip to
Poland came after a Polish delegation, sponsored by the CTI and the
state’s Colorado Institute of Technology, visited Colorado last
summer. She did a presentation about incubation and what she’d
learned from her experiences with Radish to that group.
both instances, Szczurek was able to
combine two of her interests: economic development and encouraging
people to pursue what she calls their “passionate purpose,” a
research study of which she is currently turning into a book.
For Szczurek, working in
Poland is an example of passionate purpose at work. “Lo and behold,
six years (after mentioning it to the group), I’m doing it.”