Steven Cariglio is a great example of a local kid who made good. His family moved to Auburn when he was a toddler. He grew up there, met his wife, started a business and raised a family in Auburn. He still lives there and doesn’t envision leaving the small town any time soon. An entrepreneur like his father, Mr. Cariglio studied computer science at UMass Lowell before switching to the business side of technology. He got a job building personal computers right out of college and a little more than a year later the newlywed left that company to start his own. In fall 2018, he celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary as well as the 30th anniversary of his company, AKUITY Technologies. The company has evolved with the industry, and now provides managed computer network support for companies in a wide range of industries from Boston to Springfield and beyond.
What was it like beginning your career while personal computing was in its infancy?
I started out as a computer science major, and in my junior year switched to management information systems, while minoring in computer science. I graduated in 1987 and went to work for a startup in Millbury for a little over a year. It was a diskette company, and they wanted to start a PC division. I was their first employee. We built PCs and their ads in PC magazine were bigger than Dell’s and Gateway’s, if you can imagine that. Within nine months, we had about 12 employees. I stayed there for about a year, got married in September 1988, and two months later came home from work one day and told my wife I had quit my job because I wanted to go out on my own. It had been a great experience. I learned so much in those 14 months. I had been pretty much running the division at 22 years old. My dad was a business guy who owned service stations and convenience stores. I told him I was thinking about starting my own business, and he helped guide me. I opened up in November of 1988 in the Loft plaza, next to Grossman’s. I had to renovate it first and started selling PCs out of there. That’s when color was first starting to come out in PCs. Until then the monitors had always been amber. A basic PC cost $3,000 back then. Now you can get them for $400.
Why did you decide to locate your business in your hometown?
It’s a very easy commute. I’ve been living here 50 years now. My family and my wife’s family were still in Auburn at the time, and we were very comfortable with the town. Even the location for us, being in IT we always like to be easily accessible. Our business area is anywhere within an hour or so of our office. We can do a lot remotely, but if someone’s server is down you have to get there in a pretty timely fashion. I had no interest in going toward Boston. Plus we started having kids, and it’s nice to have a support system nearby. And, I love the town. I live three minutes from here. We go into Boston and Springfield, Rhode Island and Connecticut. This location is great. The Pike is two minutes away and 85 percent of our business is in Central Mass.
How has your focus changed from the early days?
We started in retail machines for home use, and when networking became more popular I started installing some peer-to-peer type networks. I didn’t hire my first employee for a year or so. After five years, I had five or six employees, and we outgrew that spot. We went up to the mid-state office park by the Mass Pike interchange and stayed there for about five or six years and had 12 to 15 employees. We were doing pretty well and decided to build this building in 1999 or 2000. It helped having Y2K at the time. I couldn’t hire enough people. We were so busy, and the economy was so strong, and people were panicking. They wanted to replace everything because they were afraid the world was ending. It was a good time for me, but I was very busy managing that and trying to put this building up. But here we are almost 20 years later.
In the last, say, half-dozen years we’ve evolved into a managed services provider. We still sell some hardware and some PCs, but nothing retail, it’s all for business, education and municipalities. When I first started I was the guy who bought all the parts, configured the PC, throw a PC Plus logo on them and sold them. Now it’s come full circle. We do more network infrastructure with storage servers, and wireless communication. The big thing for us now is where small to medium-sized companies outsource their IT services to us for a monthly fee and call us when something goes wrong. They have full access to our help desk, and it’s all covered. Nowadays, probably 80 percent of the time my team can fix their problems remotely. It’s much faster and better for our clients. It helps us with clients who have remote offices in Florida or Pennsylvania. We also have a network of support companies we work with who can dispatch local people anywhere in the country.
How has Greater Worcester changed since you started out 30 years ago?
It’s different now, no doubt. Being a big sports guy, I’ve had season tickets to the Red Sox for 25 years and to see the Sox AAA team come to Worcester is tremendous. The restaurants, shops and condos that are going in down there is fantastic. It’s great. I remember the old Worcester Galleria and what they’re doing down there is good to see. It’s only going to get better. Once the ballfield is built, that whole area is going to explode. I can’t say I’ve seen it in our business yet, but the growth is good for everyone, and it’s exciting. We see more companies outsourcing their IT. Technology is not going away. The economy is strong. A few years ago, I’d run an ad for an engineer and get hundreds of resumes. Now you run one and get 20 or 30. People are working. It’s tough to find good quality candidates who know what they’re doing. When I talk to people, I tell them there is ample opportunity to get into the security and networking aspect of technology, for sure.
You are an ardent Patriots fan. Are we approaching the end of their dynasty?
As far as I’m concerned: Belichick and Brady have earned a free ride until they decide to retire.
Compiled by Correspondent Jim Morrison, originally published by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.