Arturo Posadas '11:
Calling Home Made Easier
As fate would have it, computer science and engineering major Arturo Posadas ’11 simultaneously found the perfect match—for both his senior design project and an internship—with PalmCall, a Silicon Valley telecommunications start-up.
Moving from Peru at the age of 10 with his family, Posadas knew from his parents’ experience how frustrating it could be when there were problems calling home using a prepaid phone card. Spurred by this memory, Posadas easily chose his senior design project—and the resulting PalmCall internship afforded him the opportunity to realize his vision: to help the growing African-immigrant community improve their chances of connecting with family members in their home countries through selection of a reliable phone card.
“The first thing my advisor, Professor Silvia Figueira, told me was that calls often can’t get through and many phone card companies are notorious for ripping customers off. Africa has one of the worst connection rates,” he says, “and calls drop or never go through. While the customer waits for a dial tone, minutes are ticking off their prepaid allotment. In many cases, there is no customer service department available for lodging a complaint. So the idea for this project is to create a dynamic system of ranking the cards, based on performance, so customers can choose the most reliable phone card provider in their price range.”
PalmCall’s co-founder and head of telecommunications Bereket Habtezion ’10, Ph.D. mechanical engineering, enthusiastically agreed that the project was sound and viable. “There are many immigrant communities in the U.S. with strong ties to their homeland, and they provide a significant niche for this particular type of phone card platform,” he says.
Impressed with Posadas, Habtezion adds, “Having Santa Clara engineering students ready, willing, and very able to step into a project at local companies speaks to the tremendous resources and opportunities available to students at all levels.”
Eritrean-born Habtezion is no stranger to the mission-driven philosophy of Santa Clara’s engineering school. When it came time to search out the perfect fit for his post-grad work, Habtezion chose Santa Clara not only for its reputation and its proximity to Silicon Valley, but because, he says, “I also aligned with the core mission to inspire students to be leaders, and the campus diversity also attracted me, and I felt welcomed.”
Reflecting on the win-win collaboration, Posadas says, “I was new to all this and didn’t know anything about telecommunications when I started, but it’s been interesting working as an intern at PalmCall. I like software engineering and solving problems. I like being able to help people by taking away some of their frustration.”