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Christopher Cunningham, BEng '08

(Electrical Engineering)

The career he almost missed

In his first decade after graduation, Chris Cunningham worked for three technology giants, then co-founded, built out and sold his own consumer electronics company.

Now a software engineer on Apple’s Health team, the 2008 electrical engineering grad is modest in assessing his success.

“I've always focused on finding interesting problems to work on with good people,” he says. “I enjoy writing software for a lot of reasons. The development cycle is quick – you can launch an app in a month – and there are a number of challenging problems from algorithms to scaling to user interaction.”

Cunningham almost missed out on his software career, originally opting for mechanical engineering before making a last-minute switch into electrical engineering.

He says four years playing for Mac’s varsity rugby team helped keep him sane as he navigated the intensity of the engineering workload.

After earning his degree, he worked briefly for IBM, then took a job with Apple, where he worked on a variety of photo and video editing software for five years.

That led him to a role as a tech lead with Instagram, working with a small but productive team of about 30 people.

“I learned how much a small, talented team can get done,” says Cunningham.

In 2015, he co-founded Rylo Inc., a company that produced an omnidirectional camera with a mobile app for editing 360-degree video.

Along with writing code, Cunningham served as Rylo’s COO, managing the marketing, sales, finance, and operations teams, as well as $35 million in capital over four years. The company was sold to VSCO in 2019.

“Starting my own company taught me everything about building a business,” he says. “This was the most challenging and rewarding thing I've done in my career.”

He urges students to focus on people and problems when making career choices.

“These are the two things that in the long run will enable you to work hard and do your best work, he says. “Pay is important too, but the people and the problem are the foundation.”

 

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