UMBC alumni businesses are doing what they can to stay strong and build community during these troubled times. UMBC Magazine will be publishing occasional interviews with alumni business owners to show their resilience in the face of this global pandemic.

Find more alumni businesses at the UMBC Alumni Business Directory.

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Powered by a number of UMBC alumni, Fearless is a digital services firm in Baltimore. Partner John Foster ’04, computer engineering, tells us about the ways the company is giving back, and what it means to thoroughly understand the “why” of what you do.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do? What’s your favorite part of the work?

I manage the day-to-day operation at Fearless. We are a full-stack digital services firm in Baltimore that delivers sleek, modern, and user-friendly software designed to push the boundaries of possibility. It’s our mission to build software with a soul–tools that empower communities and make a difference–so we can create a world where good software powers the things that matter. As one of Fearless’ earliest team members, I’ve seen the company from many different perspectives, first as a software engineer then moving into executive team roles as Fearless has become a company of 100+ people. 

How do you connect your work back to your experience at UMBC? 

Fearless has many UMBC alumni. CEO Delali Dzirasa ’04, computer engineering, is a Retriever and we used to joke that a prerequisite for working at Fearless was a UMBC degree.  Candace Campbell ’19, computer science, is a DevOps engineer working on solutions for the Small Business Administration in the midst of COVID19.

In these tough times, how do you keep going? What inspires you?

Simon Sinek often talks about starting with “why” as the root for anything you want to do in life that has purpose. For Fearless that “why” is our Culture, Customers, and Community. So connecting our employees “why” to our customers and community “why” keeps us going. Knowing that our people really want to make an impact in the world and finding ways to do that for our customers and community is all inspiring and keeps Fearless moving forward.

Are there specific ways you’re giving back to the community right now? Tell us about it!

Giving back has always been an important part of Fearless. Throughout the year we partner with nonprofits and other organizations in Baltimore that help Baltimore City students. We like to be the first people to raise our hand. Help is needed in our city. Now that is more important than ever. We are working with our community partners to identify their needs and how best we can serve them and the people they work with. Fearless has also launched a community hours initiative, where team members get eight hours of paid time for volunteering and other community service projects. Team members are using the time now to sew mask covers for healthcare workers and others are donating blood to the American Red Cross. It’s a small gesture but we also bought coffee for all of the hospitals in COVID-19 testing sites in Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery is the site of our second office and even though we can’t be with our Southern team right now, we want them to know we support them and the city.

What advice would you give to others looking to start their own business?

Businesses are formed in their owners’ and founders’ image. For the best businesses, that image is rooted deeply in a person’s “why.” Before you take even the smallest of baby steps be certain that your passion translates into your personal “why.” By doing so, it will get you through the rough times or times where you doubt yourself.

Header image: Foster, at right. Images courtesy of John Foster.

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