Months before arriving for his first year, Ivan Bercovich attended the University’s graduation ceremony. Flipping through the event program, he noticed the profiles of the recipients of that year’s 21st-Century Leader Awards— the top honor for seniors. “I thought it would be cool to be one of them when I graduated,” he recalls. “That became a primary goal for me.”
At first, the going was rough. His native tongue is Spanish, and Ivan struggled to understand his professors in class; he got a 60 on his first mathematics test. “Failure is a normal part of life,” he now says, “but it can also provide guidance. I knew I had to focus on what I wanted to accomplish.”
Noticing that many of the most successful students around him were members of Commonwealth Honors College, Ivan set his sights on joining. “I really wanted to be part of a place like that,” he says. He made great improvements during that year, was accepted into the College as a sophomore, and went on to become an academic tutor, assisting students in engineering, physics, and mathematics.
“Commonwealth Honors College presented many different experiences and opportunities,” Ivan notes. “I was encouraged to explore different academic disciplines. The interconnectivity of courses really helped me.” Ivan’s honors thesis combined mathematics, engineering, and economics to explore long-term investment strategies. After reading a magazine article comparing two market investment strategies, he decided to explore them to determine whether investing money in a lump sum or in installments over time produces greater returns. Through both his research and his own experience, Ivan came to understand the value of making continual progress toward a goal. With a clear focus and positive attitude, he recovered from his early stumbles to ultimately earn two degrees, and graduate with highest honors—he was named a 21st-Century Leader.
Ivan's undergraduate research led him to the University of California, Santa Barbara after graduation to pursue a PhD in financial mathematics. As a PhD student, he met Kevin O'Connor, CEO at Graphiq and founder of Google's DoubleClick. "It was immediately clear we had similar views on what it takes to be an effective engineering leader. When Kevin offered me the opportunity to build a team from the ground up, I decided to pause my PhD and join the burgeoning Graphiq team. It was a no-brainer."
Ivan joined the engineering organization Graphiq (formerly FindTheBest) during the startup phase and is now Vice President of Engineering. He manages about 30 people in the software development, infrastructure, data engineering/analytics, and design teams. Through his work for Graphiq, Ivan is still aiming high in his quest to "conquer the world, one bit at a time."