Mixing it Up
Jim Odom grows global company, keeps ties to university
Jim Odom, LSU engineering alumnus and president and chief strategy officer of PreSonus Audio Electronics, addresses electrical and computer engineering students at the university.
Winning international awards for innovative and affordable music production tools wasn't particularly what Jim Odom had on his mind while sitting in electrical engineering classes in the ‘90s. But it's exactly what happened.
With a grandfather and father who were engineers, it seemed Odom was also destined to become one. Odom chose LSU engineering because he knew it would prepare him for a successful career. And it didn't hurt that LSU was close to home.
"The courses you go through in electrical engineering at LSU do prepare you to keep up with technology, which is incredibly fast-paced," Odom said.
Like many engineering students, Odom initially struggled with the mathematical concepts of the discipline and contemplated changing majors. But two of his professors recognized his in-depth understanding of engineering design and encouraged him to stick with it.
"They felt I had the talent to be a good engineer," Odom said.
With a strong support system, Odom graduated from LSU in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
Today, Odom is an acclaimed entrepreneur, engineer, musician and producer. He serves as the president and chief strategy officer of PreSonus Audio Electronics, a company that he and fellow LSU Electrical Engineering graduate and PreSonus Vice President of Engineering Brian Smith founded in order to solve the technical problems Odom encountered while engineering music CDs.
From its origins in Odom's garage in 1995, PreSonus has grown to almost 190 employees across the United States, China, the United Kingdom and Germany.
With company headquarters in Baton Rouge, Odom doesn't have to look far to find the type of engineers and employees he wants working at PreSonus. Ninety percent of PreSonus' engineers are LSU engineering graduates, and many LSU alumni staff other departments.
Odom, along with his executive team, explained how an LSU engineering education was instrumental in the development of equipment.
"LSU makes engineering more challenging. The curriculum is relevant, and they strive hard to tie what they teach to industry," Odom said. "With an amazing tradition of more than 100 years, LSU Engineering has an excellent foundation with industry and gives students great opportunities to secure internships."
Odom's ties to LSU's Department of Electrical Engineering remain strong. Regularly coming back to campus to meet with students, he and the PreSonus staff exert a powerful influence on current students, demonstrating new products and providing students with internship opportunities.
"This is enlightened self-interest," Odom added. "Staying in touch with the students has enabled us to identify and hire engineers, and it enhances our own continuing education about new technologies and trends."
As if owning a global company doesn't keep Odom busy enough, he also has a career as a respected guitarist and record producer. He has earned two gold records and one platinum record as a member of the band Louisiana's LeRoux, which is best known for its popular song "New Orleans Ladies," and has backed a number of well-known artists, including Grammy-nominated Houma, La., bluesman Tab Benoit.
Odom's accomplishments and entrepreneurial skills haven't gone unnoticed. The Baton Rouge Business Report recognized him as a "Top 40 Under 40" candidate in 2000 – an award recognizing recipients' personal and professional accomplishments. Business Report also listed PreSonus in its "Capitol Region Top 100 Private Companies." In 1996, New Orleans' City Business recognized Odom as "Innovator of the Year."
PreSonus was also recently named in Inc.magazine's 2011 list of the 5,000 fastest growing private companies in America.
Under Odom's leadership and direction, PreSonus products have won a long string of awards from such magazines as Worship Leader, Church Production, Entertainment Designs, Pro Audio Review, Keyboard, Audio Media, Resolution, Electronic Musician and Mix.
Video: The LSU Engineer
The first two models in the company's new line of digital mixers each won prestigious Musikmesse International Press Awards from the Frankfürt Musikmesse, and several PreSonus products have been nominated for Mix Foundation TEC, or Technical Excellence and Creativity, Awards.
Odom doesn't take his success for granted, however, and he continues to look ahead.
"The business of engineering never slows down," Odom said. "Technologies advance, and new problems are always surfacing, needing elegant solutions from talented engineers. The velocity of new innovation is increasing, creating opportunity, and we are excited about what's next."
To learn more about PreSonus, visit http://www.presonus.com/.
For more information on the LSU Engineer, visit http://www.eng.lsu.edu