Google's Corporate Match Boosts Poloney's Gift
When Joel Poloney (attended 2004-2007) left the University of Illinois to start gaming company MyMiniLife Inc. with three classmates, he had some major student loan debt—accumulated from paying out-of-state tuition rates that were three times what in-state students paid. “I knew U of I CS was the perfect place for me and was happy to take on that financial burden,” Poloney said. “I struggled to make ends meet at first… but it all worked out in the end.”
Today, Poloney is a member of Google’s Firebase team, where he leads the development of several products that enable mobile developers to quickly create high-quality apps and grow their user base. He proudly stays engaged with his alma mater by attending CS @ ILLINOIS alumni events in the Bay Area and working with student groups like ACM.
Poloney has also returned to campus as an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR), sharing his expertise and career successes with students, which include co-creating FarmVille and founding mobile marketing company Red Hot Labs with Amitt Mahajan (BS CS ’06).
By taking advantage of Google’s Company Match Program, he has directed $10,000 toward two departmental priorities to help students—the Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative (EVSI) and the CS Annual Fund. EVSI helps current students afford their CS education through large, renewable scholarships. “There are so many students who would not otherwise have access to an Illinois education,” said Poloney. “I really want to bring the best students to Illinois regardless of their financial situation.”
Poloney’s gift also supports CS @ ILLINOIS engagement activities and events that inform alumni about faculty and student achievements, provide networking opportunities, and demonstrate the impact of philanthropic support. “I absolutely love the University of Illinois and I really believe we have a world-class computer science program,” he said. “I was very fortunate to have experienced it and owe a great deal of my success to the education I received and the friendships I made while in school.”
Throughout his career, Poloney has always found Illinois graduates to be really smart, technically solid project team members, so he encourages his fellow alumni to join in helping current students receive the gift of an Illinois education.
“By donating, you’re investing in your own future, as well as a student’s future,” Poloney said. “You will surely work with many CS @ ILLINOIS alumni—keeping the talent pipeline strong will benefit you, your company, and our industry.”
Note: this story will also appear in Click! Magazine, 2016, volume II.