Chief Operating Officer, PerBlue
BSCMPE ’09, BSCS ’09, UW-Madison
Each year, the College of Engineering recognizes outstanding alumni during Engineers’ Day—a celebration of engineers, held on Homecoming weekend. Forrest Woolworth is among the engineers we will honor in 2018 at an Oct. 19 banquet.
Forrest has worked with Cisco Systems and at GE Healthcare, but for the past several years has contributed both his technical background and his entrepreneurial expertise in his role at PerBlue. Passionate about connecting people and ideas and building the state’s startup community, he co-founded Capital Entrepreneurs, a growing organization that now has more than 400 members.
We are honoring Forrest for his leadership in nurturing the Wisconsin entrepreneurial ecosystem, the state’s economic development, and as an exemplary demonstrator of collaborative engineering success.
Recently, we chatted with him about everything from his memories as a student at UW-Madison to his career and hobbies. Here are his responses to some of our questions.
Why did you choose engineering?
I always liked building computers and things along with computers. Doing LAN parties with friends—getting 20 friends together in a basement and networking all the stuff together and playing games was a regular occurrence. We actually started a computer-building company with some friends in high school who built PCs for our friends and parents of friends. So I thought it would be a good basis to pursue a major within engineering.
Who was your favorite engineering professor?
Michael Morrow, who taught a lot of the embedded systems classes. I had him for a couple of classes throughout undergrad. He gave good, relevant industry perspective that didn’t feel like it was just textbook academic-type of projects and materials. A lot of his classes were very project-based; there were some very challenging projects and I spent a lot of time on them. But at the end of the day, they were super valuable and I learned a lot from them. That was very influential and definitely very helpful in my undergrad.
What was your favorite engineering class?
That would be ECE 453, which was the embedded systems capstone class. Michael Morrow taught that, as well. Our team got to work a full semester on building an embedded system project where we built an infrared tracking camera. You wore a hat that had infrared lights on it which were tracked by a camera, which would then map those coordinates to a suspended video camera that would follow your movements. So it was this really cool tech stack, from visual processing all the way to interpreting movements in software and getting the coordinates to driving motor controllers to move the camera.
What is your fondest memory of your time on campus?
It definitely goes back to the people I met. It’s not necessarily a specific moment or place. As you go through an engineering major, you see a lot of the same people and you really get to know them over the years in different classes. The people that I met in engineering definitely shaped my career and life path. I met my wife freshman year. She’s also an engineer. And that’s where I met Justin Beck and Andrew Hanson, the founders of PerBlue.
How did your experience in the College of Engineering shape your career?
Engineering teaches you how to learn and how to solve problems. You can continue to apply those skills in engineering and technical disciplines, but I’ve also found that you can then apply those same problem-solving skills to any discipline. So in my case with PerBlue, I’m doing all business operations now. I didn’t go to school for this—but it’s really been helpful to have my engineering background and mindset.
What are your hobbies or interests?
I do a lot with championing and building the Madison entrepreneurial community and ecosystem. That always has been a really strong interest and passion of mine, ever since we started PerBlue. I’m very involved in leadership roles across the Madison entrepreneurial and tech community.