Part of the Solution

Entrepreneur Talin Senner ’00 helps others navigate potential pitfalls in a digital world

Early on in his post-graduation career, Talin Senner came to the conclusion that if you want something done right—meaning quickly and efficiently—you’re usually better off doing it yourself. Working for a federal contractor in Washington, D.C., Senner was a hired IT gun largely tapped to clean up messes that others had either created or couldn’t solve on their own.

“I was being asked to swoop in at the last moment on every contract they won,” he says of the unnamed D.C. firm. “I once spent hours waiting in a datacenter’s entryway, getting added to a contract and approved by the government task leaders, biometrics assigned to me, so that I could access the datacenter to fix a problem that $500-an-hour consultants weren’t able to in monthsthe night before a demonstration before some customers.”

Mounting frustration over such situations lead Senner to start his own company. Based in Stevens Point, Wildcard creates customized IT solutions using mostly open source technology. Senner believes that this approach helps his clients avoid the hazards of taking a “cookie cutter” approach to IT solutions, using mass-produced and marketed software and hardware. It also tends to save clients money.

Among services the company provides are website design and development, content management systems and hardware and server deployment. “All our solutions focus on security at the core,” Senner notes.

In fact, Wildcard has built a client base primarily off its reputation for taking strong security measures and being discrete. Senner’s prior work in Washington helped his new company land an ongoing contract with the Department of Justice to build, host and maintain the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s public website. Wildcard also contracts with the FBI-affiliated National Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, a top-level digital forensics training center. Other clients include the department of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and Worldbuilders, a nonprofit charity-funding organization founded by author and fellow Pointer Patrick Rothfuss ’00.

The latter is indicative of Senner’s philanthropic bent. He believes in what he calls the “David and Goliath philosophy” of giving back, “helping the little guy succeed.” UWSP, Mid-State Technical College, and the Greater Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Association are some of the local/regional beneficiaries of Wildcard’s largesse, be it time or money, in the form of scholarships. Additionally, Wildcard is an active member of the Central Wisconsin Information Technology Alliance and the Association of Downtown Businesses in Stevens Point.

Senner comes by his impulse to give back naturally. His mother, former UWSP counseling center director Dr. Sharon Gahnz, established a scholarship at the university in honor of Senner’s late brother, Tyler Joe. Once he had started Wildcard, Senner was able to fund both that scholarship and another he created to help computing and new media technology students.

“I liked the idea of doing a ‘disruptive’ style of scholarship that allows [students] to be creative and think outside of the ‘normal’ point-and-click box of some systems,” he says of the IT scholarship.

It must be satisfying for Senner to help other students who follow an academic path similar to his own. He graduated from UWSP with a degree in computer information systems, taking classes at a time when CIS was a newer discipline at the university. “On campus, the CIS and Math departments were pretty merged at the time,” he says, “and it was extremely hard getting CIS courses. The diversity of classes and the newness of the degree [were] exciting to me.”

He fondly remembers writing a web app for Herrschners Crafts, which he says “added an air of diversity” to tasks performed in other classes. Other memories of his time as an undergraduate seem to revolve around work; serving as a “web master” for the UW Extension and a summer interning at First Financial Bank. (Senner also worked at Georgia Pacific while attending classes.) Being on the campus where his mother was working didn’t hurt, either.

“I am proud to be a Pointer because at UWSP I was able to learn to be self-reliant and maintain the importance of family,” says Senner. “UWSP is a tie to the local community, which continuously remains an important aspect in my life. Even when working as far away as Washington D.C., the Central Wisconsin area has always been my home.”

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