When Eric Martinez thinks about Clemson University’s influence on him, his memories take him to six tables crammed into the corner of the Cooper Library basement.
At those tables Martinez joined other mechanical engineering undergraduates to help each other through one of higher education’s most challenging majors.
“We all figured out how to solve the problems together, and you learned emotional intelligence,” Martinez said. “That’s the gift.”
Martinez graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and then went on to an influential career that underscores the high value of the Clemson experience beyond the classroom and even after graduation.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said that Martinez is an inspirational leader and a loyal alumnus.
“Eric Martinez is an innovator and entrepreneur par excellence,” Gramopadhye said. “He has a sixth sense for industry needs in the risk and information-technology domains.”
The first day Martinez remembers seeing campus was when he and his parents flew down from Connecticut, and they dropped him off at Johnstone Hall. He had orientation later that day.
What Martinez remembers most from his undergraduate days were football games and heading home with friends.
“I remember going home with in-state students and how well their moms treated me when we showed up,” he said. “They always gave me baked goodies to come back with. I got some if their boy got some. I made lifelong friends. My junior- and senior-year college roommates are still my best friends today.”
Martinez’s career after graduation has had three chapters, the most recent of which brought him back to Clemson.
After graduation, he worked 17 years for AGL Resources, rising to executive vice president-utility operations, a role that had him overseeing six utilities with over 2 million customers from New Jersey to Florida. Martinez then switched to the insurance industry, first at Safeco Insurance and then two years later at AIG, where he rose to executive vice president, claims and operations.
At AIG, he had 30,000 people reporting to him, and he oversaw a budget of $3 billion. He helped facilitate a multi-million investment in Clemson to establish the Risk Engineering and System Analytics (RESA) Center and the Robert Benmosche Professorship in Risk Engineering and System Analytics.
The third chapter of Martinez’s career began in 2016 with the launch of Modjoul in a small office above Todaro’s Pizza in downtown Clemson. Modjoul‘s wearable devices predict if employees will be injured by analyzing data that reflects their exertion, posture and how they work throughout the day.
“You get to a point in your life and you ask how you can make the world a little better place, and that’s why I started Modjoul,” Martinez said. “It’s going to be financially successful, but that wasn’t the end goal. The North Star was how we could make people’s lives better when they can’t afford to be injured.”
In the beginning, all of the company’s engineers were Clemson graduates. Even as Modjoul has grown and moved to progressively larger spaces, about half of its U.S. employees hold Clemson degrees.
An investment this year from the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund helped put Modjoul on the map, Martinez said.
“We’re doubling in revenue the last two years,” he said. “We added a new product. We’ve gotten into RFID– managing inventory and managing assets of the warehouse.”
Martinez said that when he hires Clemson engineers now, it’s to create digital twins to simulate companies’ operations.
“We feel like we’re in a particularly strong position for that because we know customers’ assets, and we know how their people move and how their assets are being utilized,” he said.
The company is also trying to build humanity into robots, Martinez said.
“We think the world is going robotics,” he said. “You still have to have humans in the workplace, and the robots don’t understand human behavior. We want to make sure as the world is getting automated that the humans, our colleagues and our peers, don’t get overworked and overstressed and that the right amount of work is being delivered to them.”
Martinez said that he would love for Clemson to start a team based on one of his favorite TV shows, BattleBots. It would give students hands-on experience in building the robots’ outer shell, programming firmware and other skills that would help them in industry.
“I’m hoping one day to have a BattleBot arena at Clemson and instead of MIT battling it out on TV, it will be Clemson,” he said.
Matinez lives on Mercer Island outside Seattle with his wife, Celeste, who went to the University of Georgia, and their three English bulldogs, Bailey, Vince and Chubb. The couple has three children: Tanner, an M.D./Ph.D. student who researches blood cancer at the University of Chicago; Reid, who plans to graduate from Gonzaga University this winter and then go to law school; and Mollie, who is a sophomore at Gonzaga.
Martinez is an emeritus member of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences Advisory Board. He returns to the Upstate often to work out of Modjoul’s offices, now off Interstate 85 and Pelham Road in Greenville.
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