2018 Business Leaders of the Year | Entrepreneurship
When Angela Alban founded simulation and training company SIMETRI in 2009, Lake Nona Medical City was just starting to take shape near Orlando International Airport. She had grown up in Orlando, later earning a degree in computer science and mathematics from Emory University in Atlanta before returning and pursuing both a career with a local simulation company and graduate school at the University of Central Florida (UCF).Alban was impressed by the collaboration in Lake Nona among local and regional government entities, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the universities and industry. “I decided to start SIMETRI because there were opportunities within the DOD that were beginning to grow when it came to research in developing new training technologies regarding simulation for medical training,” she said.
Nearly a decade later, the company she serves as CEO has been recognized by the DOD for its cutting-edge technologies, designed to ensure the most thorough and realistic medical training. “We are probably most known for pioneering anatomical models — hyper- realistic but reusable, affordable anatomical models,” Alban said. “They resemble human flesh, physiology and anatomy for the purposes of training-specific, life-saving procedures.”
The seeds of an entrepreneurial spirit were planted for Alban when she was very young. She describes how her grandfather and uncle, originally from small South American towns, both took a chance in moving to Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, to start their own companies, slowly bringing the rest of their family along with them.
“I knew it was possible,” she said of entrepreneurship. “It was just a matter of taking the risk and working hard.”
Later, her parents would carry on this emphasis on hard work and independence. “My mom was always working, but she was always present and devoted to us,” Alban said. “I didn’t really notice until I was older that she would leave at night to work as a nurse while we were sleeping. She was always there for us in the morning and in the afternoon and at every school meeting or function, not to mention the most influential person in my life. The most important example she set was as a strong and involved mother. She set the bar higher than anyone else in my life.”
Through demanding days and groundbreaking achievements, Alban’s role models worked to build their professional and social lives around one central, most important priority: their family. Alban has kept that legacy in mind in her own pursuits.
“Find what your passion is and never forget it,” she said. “For me, that’s family — both with my children and even beyond that. Our corporate culture is ‘family first.’ I started SIMETRI so I could put my family first and allow others to do the same. We make sure everyone here can do that. You have to take care of employees as if they are your family and allow them to nurture their own families.”
Taking care of people also drives her community involvement. “I grew up here, and I’ve seen this community grow and change,” Alban said. “I want to give back to the community that has been such a positive force in my life and support causes that I know will make an impact for the future of Central Florida.” Those include the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida, and the Samaritan Research Center for the Homeless in East Orange County.
Alban encourages other people, whether they are entrepreneurs or not, to identify their passion. This gives them a foundation, and they can build from there.
“It takes time to find what your true passion is,” she said. “And it takes time and commitment to build something that is consistent with who you are and who you want to be.”