November 8 is National STEM Day. Across the country, schools and communities recognize today as a time to encourage the scientific and technological curiosity of students and soon-to-be professionals. In this year alone, it is projected that 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfulfilled. This, along with the stark underrepresentation across the field, is one of the many clarion calls front of mind of the organization I lead, as we work to ensure high school and college students are equipped to enter promising careers.
Jessica Pliska: What sparked your interest in science and technology?
Grant Page: I always had a love for mechanics and engineering. At 14, I was rebuilding engines in my family’s auto shop. When I was 17, I wanted to invent a better way to chrome plate parts because it is such a hazardous process. So, I engineered a set of electrodes that, when salt water ran through them, would remove toxic ions and salt. There was this other time when I was around 16 that I rebuilt a truck because I had a friend who lived about an hour and half drive away. I remember my Dad saying, “Sure, you can take the truck, but you have to pay for the gas.” So, I picked up work here and there—getting trash, washing cars, until I eventually started drop shipping companies usa for electronic goods. It showed me the rewards of an entrepreneurial mindset. But it wasn’t until I was a senior at the Naval Academy did I realize my interest in entrepreneurship could intersect with my passion for tech, innovation and making a difference in the lives of people around the world.
Recently, I had the opportunity to dig into all of this and more with Grant Page, founder, president and CEO of Magna Imperio Systems. Here, we chat about how his company is supporting water recovery efforts around the world in being more environmentally responsible, the innovation lessons he took from his family’s auto shop and how we can empower the next generation of STEM talent.
Pliska: Was there a particular moment at the Naval Academy when you saw that intersection come to life?
Page: At the Academy, I was able to take my technology I invented in high school, reduce it to development and get closer to know about how to start dropshipping, and then start a company to commercialize it worldwide. The Academy’s engineering director came into my lab one night when I was working on a prototype of the electrodes I created to chrome plate in high school and asked me, “Midshipmen Page, do you really know what you’re doing here?” When I asked him what he was getting at it, he responded, “You could change the world.” I went to his office the next day to explore securing patents for the prototype, and that same engineering director ended up being Magna Imperio Systems’ (MIS) first COO.
Pliska: Tell me a bit about your company’s technology.
Page: MIS radically improves the commonly used electrochemical processes for desalinating and treating large bodies of brackish, reclaimed water and even seawater. Many cities, states and companies use various practices to separate salts and other unwanted minerals and substances from water, so the water can be used for human consumption or industrial use. We have taken the electrode engineering I invented in high school and further refined at the Naval Academy to significantly reduce the energy required to perform these processes while improving the process’ overall performance, what we at MIS name Electrochemical Nano Diffusion or END.
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Pliska: Why is creating solutions around water use important to you?
Page: I always wanted to serve in the military and it was through my time serving overseas that I realized the severity of water scarcity and the impact I could have on water conservation. By some estimates, over 1.5 billion people face water scarcity issues that directly threaten their health or economic welfare on a daily basis. The impacts of climate change and global population growth are expected to exacerbate these issues to impact over 2.3 billion people by the year 2050. MIS is dedicated to helping communities across the world access clean and safe water so more and more people are able to lead healthier lives.
Pliska: How has your leadership grown since founding Magna Imperio Systems?
Page: As a younger CEO and founder, I’ve had to work extremely hard to earn the trust of investors, colleagues and clients. I’ve learned a great deal through this process, and at times had to make very difficult decisions on behalf of the company, including one occasion where I was on active military duty in the Middle East during the early months of MIS. The lesson I took from these experiences is the importance of a leader’s instinct, regardless of age, when protecting the mission and vision of a company. Serving in the military gave me such great perspective on gut and strategy, which is directly applicable to my growth as a leader. Since doubling down on MIS’ vision to reimagine healthier water access for vulnerable communities, the company has improved roughly six times in value within the last year. I now know there is tremendous value in leading with a strong mission focus.
Pliska: How can the STEM industry work toward increasing diversity and representation in the field?
Page: It’s going to require a lot of work because companies have to establish an organizational culture where diversity is the norm. The hiring practices of many STEM companies need to reflect their goal of making this shift. I think MIS has such a diverse team behind it primarily because of how explicit humanity is to our company’s mission to eradicate water scarcity across the world. This helps to connect people and build a culture that I hope can help move the STEM field forward.