Full Sail University

Hall of Fame Inductee Michael La Plante on Helping the Next Generation of Developers

The grad uses his web development education from Full Sail to mentor his employees as well as current Full Sail students.

Michael La Plante smiles at the camera. He is wearing a red t-shirt with a black blazer and standing in front of a white backdrop.

Full Sail graduate and Hall of Fame inductee Michael La Plante has loved technology since he was a kid – his mother taught a computer class at a local school, and he spent his summers crawling through the school’s ceilings to help install cables.

“Every summer I got to play around with [technology at the school where my mother taught]. They'd network the school, and we went from networking hardwired cables – now considered Ethernet – to wireless. And I got to have a hand in that [by] crawling through ceilings [to install the cables],” he says.

Michael’s work today is a far cry from installing cables: He’s currently the Vice President of Technology at Proforma, a promotional product and packaging supplier, and the owner of LaPlante Web Development. He loves the technical elements of his work, but helping up-and-coming web developers and giving back to Full Sail students are his other passions.

I'm really passionate about empowering the next generation because at some point I'm going to get old or something's going to happen and I'm not going to be able to do this anymore.”

Michael grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and started exploring technology early in his life. In addition to helping out with the local school’s cable installations, he loved playing video games and taking apart computers.

When it came time for college, Michael decided to study web development at Full Sail. He fell in love with the university and developed a strong work ethic while he earned his degree. He also realized that well-developed networking skills could help him land rewarding jobs.

“I think why I'm so passionate about [talking about networking] with students and the younger generation is because it can have such a huge impact on their career,” he explains. “When you're coming out of [Full Sail], you have skills that you were taught here, of course. But you don't actually know what the job's like when you're first getting in there. So really that first couple of interviews you're having isn't necessarily so much about the technical skills. It's more about who you are as a person. Are you going to fit in?”

Networking helped Michael find roles that were a great fit as he moved forward in his career. He has helped create internal applications for Facebook and HIPPA-compliant applications for the healthcare industry; he also worked for a cybersecurity company where he helped a large client figure out how they were hacked. In addition, Michael ran coding bootcamps and did a freelance project where he made a suite of iPad apps to help young children learn color theory.

Today, Michael is the Vice President of Technology at Proforma. He leads the application development team and helps build technology for people who own Proforma franchises. On an average day, he meets with customers, helps set up recruiting events to bring new talent to Proforma, and helps his team solve problems and grow their technical skills. Michael’s favorite part of his work is making a difference to his team and to the company’s franchise owners.

“One of the reasons I love what I do, not only because I help my team grow, but I [also get to] see the direct impact of what we do and how it makes people [with Proforma franchises] successful in their careers,” he says. “You know, they have stories that go from ‘I was living in my car because my house burned down,’ to now, ‘I'm able to build my dream house and put my child in private school, and your technology has enabled me to do that.’ Those little anecdotal stories really drive me now… Seeing the impact that I make and being very intentional about the work that I do, that's the stuff that's important to me currently in my career and will be for the rest of my career.”

Michael is also making an impact by connecting with current Full Sail technology students. He’s attended Hall of Fame several times over the last few years, participating in panels and talking with students who want to get involved in the tech industry. He thinks that devoting time and energy to the next generation of tech professionals is the best way to send the industry in the right direction.

“One of the cool things that we've done at other Hall of Fames in the past is these networking events where you get to have one-on-one time with certain select students. And every single one of [those students], I follow their careers, I see what they're doing. I check in with them a few times a year, that's important to me. I genuinely care. I want to see everybody succeed.

“I'm really passionate about empowering the next generation because at some point I'm going to get old or something's going to happen and I'm not going to be able to do this anymore,” he continues. “I’m going have to find something else [to help]. So I want to make sure the next generation's doing really cool stuff and taking technology in the right direction, and what better way to do that [than by] genuinely caring about them?”