In September, the Boston Business Journal announced its 2015 40 Under 40 honorees, their selections for “Boston's best and brightest young professionals,” reflecting “the mix of brains and passion that makes Boston a business powerhouse” according to the BBJ publisher. One notable name on their list was Cris DeLuca, BSBA ’01, nominated by Francesco Daniele MBA ’06 for being “an innovator and connector in the New England innovation economy” and a “key opinion leader and influencer” whose “highly approachable personality and collaborative working style are infectious.”
Although the two have been friends since high school, Daniele was thinking from a professional perspective when he nominated DeLuca for the honor. Daniele returned to Suffolk in May as associate director of employer relations and new business development in the Career Development Center. DeLuca took him on a tour of the Cambridge-based Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center, which DeLuca was tapped to help develop.
“I walked out feeling like I’d just been in a place that was really special, filled with some really special people who are trying to solve the world’s problems,” Daniele said. “[DeLuca] would never describe himself as a rock star, but I think he is.”
DeLuca credits Suffolk’s career department with helping him start off on the right foot. “Career Services helped me find a co-op position in the financial services industry in downtown Boston,” he said. “Although I have been working since I was 9 years old, this position was truly my foray into building a career. One thing absolutely led to another, and this early opportunity set me on my way.”
After graduating from Suffolk, DeLuca worked as a technical engineer and project manager at Deutsch Bank before earning a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems from Boston University. He then spent six years at pharmaceutical company Novartis International, responsible for emerging-technology projects such as building an online and in-person TED-like community and conference that helped accelerate scientific knowledge sharing both inside the organization and across the world.
In 2010, while still at Novartis, De Luca co-founded Ultra Light Startups, the premier monthly venture competition for emerging entrepreneurs to connect with experts as they seek to turn ideas into profitable reality. This side project has helped hundreds of companies in the Boston high-tech and renewable energy sectors. DeLuca reflects that “bootstrapping a business from literally nothing and taking it all the way to profitability is one of my proudest professional accomplishments.”
Three years later he joined Johnson & Johnson, the largest healthcare company in the world, focused on the pharmaceutical consumer in medical device sectors. There, he is leading the digital innovation team with the goal of bringing new healthcare solutions to people everywhere. He is also a regular panelist, advisory board member, and startup mentor for events and organizations such as the Brigham Innovation Hub, SXSW Interactive, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, swissnex Innovation Consulate, AARP’s Innovation @50+ initiative, and Google Wearables. “I thrive off of having many things going at once,” De Luca says, offering quite the understatement.
De Luca is certainly a source of pride for Suffolk and a role model for current and future students. Asked what advice he has, he starts with recommending Daniele’s team and finding an internship. “Being able to apply what I was learning in the classroom to what I was accountable for in my job was critical to my development,” he says. “Suffolk students don’t need to hear from me that they are ‘learning to learn’ and will be building skills that will last a lifetime, but what they might not realize – and it’s equally important – is that they need to place emphasis and focus on building relationships with both faculty and classmates,” he adds. “This resource will be invaluable throughout their career.”
Coming from Cris De Luca, it’s a lesson to remember.