Kurt HeckmanKurt Heckman
Entrepreneur, President of vCalc

Kurt-Heckman-Graphic_500
“What's in a name?”

Shakespeare’s timeless words come from the mouth of Juliet, begging the question, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare’s question has yet to be answered. Captain James T. Kirk asks this same question in the Star Trek episode, By any other Name. According to Bill Nye the Science Guy, "A kilogram by any other name would weigh as much."

People have an innate desire to associate words with meaning, but words often have many layers to their meaning. A name can simply be a title. On the other hand, a name can be the very root to which an entity owes its existence.

Kurt Heckman (84) finds meaning in the word “Sycamore”, not only because it’s the name of his first company, but also because there’s a story behind it. Heckman graduated from ENC with a B.S. in mathematics. He worked in the engineering field for 12 years before becoming the president and co-founder of Sycamore Services, a software service company that he started in 1996.

Those were just a few of the biographical details Heckman revealed to ENC faculty and students during his seminar on “Entrepreneur – Lessons Learned.” Heckman wanted them to know that strong ethical roots contributed to the success in his business. Similar roots can be uncovered when revisiting the story of the Sycamore tree in Luke 19.

The word Sycamore is found in the Old Testament referring to a tree that produces figs. In the New Testament this tree holds deeper meaning within the story of Zacchaeus. It symbolizes Zacchaeus’s act of humility when he decides to climb the sycamore tree. This allowed him to break through the “barrier of entry” or crowd that had formed to see Jesus. Zacchaeus put himself out on a limb, literally, and ‘fig’uratively; this act of humility demonstrates his longing for Jesus. Jesus is able to meet Zacchaeus right where he is. Even though we may consider ourselves “short” at times, Jesus is always willing to meet us right where we are, if we are willing. Zacchaeus needed only a willing heart to break through the “barrier of entry”, allowing him to get to know the kind of man that Jesus was. This leap of faith, or “climb” of faith, changed Zacchaeus. Aside from the physical constraints of the crowd, there was no other “barrier of entry” for Zacchaeus; he was welcomed with open arms.

Heckman shared how there was little “barrier of entry” when he started Sycamore and how he was able to find a niche in the market to fulfill a need for his customers. He provided the federal government and commercial clients with software engineering and communications solutions, and services. The service provided aerospace and cyber security software for companies such as General Electric and government agencies such as NASA. Heckman started the company with his partner by recruiting seven hard working and ethical individuals from his personal social network. Heckman explained how the company survived with 6%-9% profitability, but was able to stay afloat during times when there was only a 1% profit because of the firm ethical foundation. He recruited with good pay, benefits, employee owned stock, and an attractive company environment. Sycamore eventually grew to 160 employees and sold to KEYW in November of 2010.

Along with being the co-founder of Sycamore Services, Heckman has been working for the past fifteen years on an online math aid called vCalc. vCalc is an online web based calculator that provides an easy to use interface and a comprehensive database for all things math related. They are attempting to do for calculators what Wikipedia did for encyclopedias making it usable for piano tuners, jewelers and construction workers. ENC faculty and students interested in math and engineering were given the opportunity to collaborate with Heckman in a classroom setting learning the technical operations involved in the online mathematical tool.

Heckman credits his success to a strong work ethic that he learned and practiced during his time at ENC. He recalls Jim Cameron and Jasper Nailer, two professors at ENC that had strong influences in his education and spiritual growth. He emphasizes the importance of having strong Christian role models and people to keep you accountable in life and in business.

- Katherine Smith '14