"What I try to encourage in everyone is an interest in making a difference, because there's so much disparity in the world. The more we learn about other people, empathise with them and look for ways to help, the better our communities become," says Rob Castaneda.
The founder and CEO of Silicon Valley success story, ServiceRocket, was last night recognised with the prestigious UTS Chancellor's Award for Excellence at the 2017 UTS Alumni Awards.
UTS Chancellor Catherine Livingstone AO paid tribute to the UTS computing science graduate and entrepreneur for his professional achievements, as well as his commitment to mentoring both UTS students in Sydney and at his ServiceRocket offices in Palo Alto.
"Rob's work is incredibly inspiring, and an embodiment of our values at UTS. His remarkable career is one that exemplifies adaptability to the changing world of employment and an ongoing commitment to leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship," said the Chancellor.
In 2001, just before he graduated from UTS, 21 year-old Castaneda used a few hundred dollars to launch his technology business.
Since its inception, ServiceRocket has built a reputation for helping non-technical people and programmers alike do more with software. Now employing more than 200 people in offices around the world, including Sydney, Palo Alto, Kuala Lumpur and Santiago, and with company earnings in the tens of millions, ServiceRocket has gone from strength to strength and Castaneda has been celebrated as one of Silicon Valley's best and brightest, recognised as one of '40-under-40' entrepreneurs by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
In 2016, in partnership with Australian software company Atlassian, ServiceRocket was approached by Facebook to be one of its global launch partners for its 'Workplace by Facebook' in initiative. Meanwhile, NASA sought ServiceRocket's expertise with software for the Mars mission.
Castaneda has also been recognised by former US president Barack Obama for his role in co-ordinating a global entrepreneurship program between American and Muslim entrepreneurs. A proud member of the Conscious Capitalism movement, he hopes to motivate his team members, business partners and even the students he mentors to find greater purpose for money than just acquiring possessions.
As the recipient of the UTS Chancellor's Award, Castaneda is now a member of the UTS Luminaries, a cohort of outstanding alumni who are closely engaged and passionate advocates for the university.
"It's really special to share this with my mum and dad who are here tonight," Castaneda told the awards audience. "They didn’t get a chance to finish high school. Mum came to Australia by ship after the Second World War from Malta and dad left El Salvador in his twenties, 46 years ago this week. And somehow the world conspired to have my mum and dad meet at my nanna and pop’s milkbar at the Toongabbie railway station in the 70s.
"So 25 years later I would catch the train from that station and attend classes at UTS. And I remember the late nights on the train. I would print out programming books and read them and it was amazing how much I could read before I had a phone!
"So things go in full circles, and now I’m the migrant on the other side of the Pacific. And at ServiceRocket, with the help of UTS and friends and family, we're now a platform for other Rocketeers to launch their dreams. Yes we call ourselves Rocketeers."
The UTS Alumni Awards gala awards ceremony was attended by 200 alumni, staff and students in the UTS Great Hall. Eleven of the university's most outstanding graduates were honoured for achievements in innovation, leadership and compassion that are changing the world for the better. This year's recipients included artists and community workers, drivers of social justice and change in the community, and leaders across the accounting, health and legal professions.
Internationally lauded healthcare reformist Catherine Breen Kamkong (B App Sc in Nursing 1993) was recognised with the Faculty of Health Alumni Award for Excellence for her work with the United Nations' Population Fund helping millions of people access better healthcare, and for raising the quality of midwifery education standards to reduce maternal deaths in Cambodia.
Adrian Appo OAM, (B Teaching in Adult Vocational Education 1995) was recognised with the UTS Indigenous Alumni Award for his work as founding CEO of Ganbina, Australia's most successful Indigenous school-to-work transition program, and his leadership at First Australians Capital, an investment fund that helps Indigenous businesses to thrive.
Other award recipients included cancer researcher Dr Louise van der Weyden (B App Science in Biomedical Science 1997), who has identified a new pathway regulating immune control of metastasis – the number one cause of death for cancer patients; refugee advocate Om Dhungel (MBA 2001), honoured for his innovative approaches to refugee settlement and community development; and multi-Walkley Award winning journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna (BA Communication (Journalism) B Laws 2007), recognised for her agenda setting investigative reporting, including exposés into the illegal practice of greyhound baiting in New South Wales and the treatment of children in juvenile detention centres in the Northern Territory.
UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said that events such as the UTS Alumni Awards were an exciting opportunity to learn about the extraordinary things that UTS graduates are doing around the globe.
"Our alumni community is rich with people making a positive difference to the world," he said. "They are an endless source of inspiration for our students and the broader university community."
The Vice-Chancellor hosted the awards with Professor William Purcell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International and Advancement), with UTS Business School alumni Karen Zhang and Aaron Ngan as Masters of Ceremonies.
To read more about the 2017 Alumni Awards, and the inspiring stories of this year's Award recipients, visit the UTS Alumni website.
This year's full list of Award recipients:
UTS ALUMNI AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE – FACULTY OF ENGINEERING AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
UTS CHANCELLOR'S AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Bachelor of Science in Computing Science (2001)
Founder and CEO, ServiceRocket
"What I try to encourage in everyone is an interest in making a difference because there's so much disparity in the world. The more we learn about other people, empathise with them and look for ways to help, the better our communities become."
UTS INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIAN ALUMNI AWARD
Adrian Appo OAM
Founder of Ganbina
Bachelor of Teaching in Adult Vocational Education (1995)
UTS ALUMNI AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE – FACULTY OF DESIGN, ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING
Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication (1993)
Artist and Illustrator
UTS ALUMNI AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE – FACULTY OF HEALTH
Catherine Breen Kamkong
Bachelor of Applied Science in Nursing (1993)
Deputy Representative, United Nations Population Fund, Cambodia Country Office
UTS INTERNATIONAL ALUMNI AWARD
Master of Business Administration (2001)
Founding President and Senior Advisor, Association of Bhutanese in Australia
UTS YOUNG ALUMNI AWARD
Bachelor of Design in Animation (Hons) (2016)
Designer, Animator and Director
UTS ALUMNI AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE – FACULTY OF LAW
Bachelor of Laws (Hons) (2001)
UTS ALUMNI AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE – UTS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Bachelor of Business in Accounting (1991)
CFO Technology, Westpac Group
UTS COMMUNITY ALUMNI AWARD
Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Writing and Cultural Studies) and Bachelor of Arts in International Studies (2012)
Writer and community worker
UTS ALUMNI AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE – FACULTY OF ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Journalism) and Bachelor of Laws (2007)
Journalist, ABC TV's Four Corners
UTS ALUMNI AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE – FACULTY OF SCIENCE
Dr Louise van der Weyden
Bachelor of Applied Science in Biomedical Science (First Class Honours & University Medal) (1997)
Senior Staff Scientist, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK