KINGSTON, R.I. – March 19, 2019 — University of Rhode Island alumnus Roby Luna will return to his alma mater March 25 to share his inspirational story of growing up in South Providence to eventually become president of the data science firm Aretec Inc.
The free lecture, to be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the Hope Room of the Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center, 45 Upper College Road, is part of the Anthony J. Risica Lecture Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. A question-and-answer session will follow.
Luna and his business partner acquired Aretec in May 2012. Based out of Fairfax, Va., the company finished 2013 with $500,000 in revenue. Aretec currently has more than $27 million in contracts booked and 37 employees
Long before Luna was negotiating business contracts for his company worth millions of dollars, he was averting the pitfalls that many young people fall victim to in the inner-city.
“It certainly wasn’t easy when you’re growing up around lots of violence and drugs,” recalled Luna. “You name it and it was lurking all around me.”
Fortunately, the teenager had a strong female role model in his life.
“Watching my mom work hard so that I didn’t lack for basic necessities meant so much to me,” Luna said.
After graduating from Central High School, Luna aspired to attend college. But knowing that he didn’t have the foundation to succeed academically, he served two years in the U.S. Army. Upon his return to Rhode Island, Luna worked on an assembly line at a factory that developed circuit boards for electronic firms.
“I recall one day looking up at the clock 15 minutes after I clocked in and thinking, ‘Holy cow. I still have another seven hours and 45 minutes left in my shift,'” said Luna.
That experience prompted Luna to look into URI’s Talent Development program in the summer of 1995. After taking some preparatory courses, he was admitted to the University.
He came to realize he was most interested in cyber security, and he decided to leave URI to work full-time as a data security analyst at Guardent, despite only having three credits left to complete his bachelor’s degree.
“I became immersed in that field, so I decided to join the workforce,” said Luna. “I walked with my graduating class in 2000, but promised myself that I would go back to complete my degree.”
Based out of Waltham, Mass., Guardent managed firewalls, intrusion detection systems and other cyber technologies for Fortune 500 companies. It was at Guardent that Luna was taught how to write codes and scripts.
Luna’s quick success captured the attention of the telecommunications company Sprint, which recruited him to work in its corporate security department. He was one of four engineers to develop all of the security systems that protected Sprint PCS traffic in 2004.
As a young professional advancing rapidly in his career, Luna almost forgot that he still had a degree to complete. He enrolled in a three-credit course at George Mason University, where he was able to apply the credits to URI and officially graduate in 2004.
The Central High School graduate hopes his story will inspire others who have had to overcome obstacles.
“Although it’s not easy to stay out of trouble when it’s surrounding you, it comes down to perseverance and grit and being able to climb yourself out of situations,” said Luna. “I’m a living example of that.”
The annual Anthony J. Risica Lecture Series invites prominent leaders in engineering and business to share their knowledge with the campus community and public. The series was established in 2003 with a generous gift from Anthony Risica, a University of Rhode Island engineering alumnus.