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From Croatia to Silicon Valley, Cleaning Up The Environment: Neno Duplan, CEO of Locus Tech (Part 1)

Posted on Thursday, Dec 22nd 2011

Neno Duplan is the founder, president, and CEO of Locus Technologies, a provider of on-demand environmental data and information management solutions. Prior to starting Locus Technologies, Dr. Duplan held senior management positions with Canonie Environmental (W.R. Grace Company), The IT Group and D’Appolonia Consulting Engineers. Dr. Duplan holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Zagreb, Croatia, an M.S. in civil engineering from Carnegie Mellon, and a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Split, Croatia. He also attended advanced management training at Stanford University.

Sramana Mitra: Neno, tell me a bit about your background. Where do you come from?

Neno Duplan: I was born in Croatia, which used to be Yugoslavia. I grew up on the Adriatic. After I graduated from college, I got a job with an American company in Italy. It was a small company based out of Pittsburgh that specialized in geotechnical engineering [for the] design of complex foundations for nuclear plants and offshore foundations.

Sramana Mitra: Which part of Italy were you working in?

Neno Duplan: I was located in Genoa and later on site at a nuclear power plant that Westinghouse was building. We were subcontractors, and that plant was never completed. This was 1981. After a year in Italy I was moved to Brussels, where we worked on a number of nuclear projects around Europe. This was 1982, and nuclear energy in the U.S. was dying because of the after-effects of the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. However, nuclear energy was still going in Europe at the time.

I traveled a lot, I was constantly on the road. We got involved in a lot of offshore platform projects where we designed the foundations for North Sea and Persian Gulf drilling platforms. That was a great experience. I did a lot of field work and tackled a lot of difficult engineering challenges. At one of the sites I met a professor from Carnegie Mellon who was a consultant over the summer. We were sitting at dinner, and he asked me if I had ever considered coming to the U.S. for graduate school. I had never been to the U.S. and thought it would be cool to go.

The next September I was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon. I entered the civil engineering department and earned my degree. After I graduated I was offered a job by IT Corporation, which acquired the previous company I had been working for. They were a consulting company that specialized in environmental issues. Environmental laws were beginning to be enacted and enter the mainstream of American business. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act were some of the first pieces of legislation that emerged.

This type of work was very different from the projects I had experienced in Europe where we were building plants and platforms. This was not about building, it was about cleaning up the mess people had made years ago. Compared to my previous projects, this work was not technically challenging. Over time I realized how much damage we have done to the planet through irresponsible corporate behavior. I immersed myself in the business and learned a lot about environmental issues. There was a lot of work at that time because the government was forcing companies to clean up their act. Nuclear work was drying up, and these environmental projects were really the only work that remained.

I was then transferred to California in 1986. It was like coming home because Pittsburgh was freezing cold! I settled in the Bay Area, and it was a very fortunate time to be there. I continued working for a couple of consulting companies, and I was captivated by the amount of data that was generated by large environmental projects. Companies were engaged in endless projects collecting samples, analyzing results, and interpreting data. Slowly the information grew like a cancer, and companies were lost in their data. Projects shifted in scope to data management. The tools available during the mid-1980s were not adequate. There were two PCs in a conference room at most. It was a challenge to digest and interpret data in a timely manner.

This segment is part 1 in the series : From Croatia to Silicon Valley, Cleaning Up The Environment: Neno Duplan, CEO of Locus Tech
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