Florida Polytechnic University feeding Polk Countys growing high-tech economy

Jan 28, 2019
Florida Polytechnic University feeding Polk County's growing high-tech economy
Joshua Watson, left, founded IronRock Software, Inc., in 2011. Based in Lake Wales, Florida, the company has partnered with Florida Polytechnic University by offering internships to several students. Megan Whitfield, who graduated from Florida Poly in 2017 with a computer science degree, is a former IronRock intern who is now a full-time software developer for the company.

One doesn’t have to travel far to see how Florida Polytechnic University is impacting Florida’s economy. In fact, a 45-minute drive within Polk County takes you from Florida Poly’s iconic campus to Lake Wales, Florida. There you’ll find IronRock Software, Inc.,a company that continues to increase its footprint in software development and database consulting services. IronRock’s trajectory has been paralleled by Florida Poly’s growth, especially now with a former Florida Poly intern who is now its full-time software developer.

Joshua Watson is the founder and chief executive officer of IronRock, and he says having Florida Poly in the same county has made an impact on his company’s success.

“There is a stark difference between before and after Florida Poly,” he said. “Before Florida Poly, I put out feelers for programmers in Polk County and wasn’t getting a-list programmers. Since Florida Poly opened, I’ve had more access to programmers and have been able to hire people in the area who are willing to live and work in Polk County.”

One of those individuals is Megan Whitfield ’17, who earned a bachelor’s in computer science. Her path to her current position started well before graduation when she began an internship at IronRock. That experience focused heavily on front end applications for machine learning. Now, she’s busy on back-end framework development.

“I found it important to really embrace the projects in classes,” said Whitfield of her time at Florida Poly. “I always pushed myself as far as I could. That was where I was able to gain a sense of how something would function in the real world and how something I make could be used.”

IronRock serves a wide variety of industries, including law firms, healthcare, real estate, finance, logistics services, manufacturing, and sales. The company is one of just 10 in the state to have certification to e-file court documents, which allows large scale firms to streamline their court filing process.

Watson, who serves on Florida Poly’s curriculum advisory board along with several other area business leaders, said the technology landscape is completely different than it was when he graduated from the University of South Florida. So having access to Florida Poly’s high-tech, state-of-the-art knowledge base is a big plus.

“It keeps me up to date a little better because I’ve been out of college over a decade now, he said. “Technology changes so fast, it’s good to have new people coming through who are aware of current trends.”

Lydia Guzman
Assistant Director of Communications