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Customers and Other Irritants

Dr. Stephan Murry
Applied Optoelectronics, Inc. (AOI)

12:30 am - 1:00 pm in Waldorf Astoria

Engineers are trained to utilize problem-solving skills and available technology to create useful things. We spend many years in academia perfecting the technical and analytical knowledge, which we hope to employ in a career, which will offer us intellectual fulfillment and pecuniary reward.

Many of us end up working for companies in order to pursue these careers. When we do, we are forced to confront some very curious characters: customers and suppliers, investors and analysts, co-workers and managers, salespeople and politicians. All of these “stakeholders” have competing interests and engineers are often challenged to adapt our practice of engineering to balance the interests of all the parties that we encounter in our business lives.

While this adaptation can at first seem daunting, the good news is that real, solid, and factual information is the second-most-valuable thing in business (right behind cash, which is always #1). Engineers are trained to deal with information in a way that many other professionals are not, and this training can be employed profitably in business, but only if we recognize that analytical skills alone are not enough to succeed.

This talk will distill some lessons learned in making the transition from academic to businessperson. It will explore the similarities and differences between the academic world and the business world, focusing on the skills that are most needed in business and are often under-taught in academia.

We will explore how companies approach uncertainty, the paramount importance of communications skills in business life, the value of intellectual property (IP) to a corporation and how this IP is created, protected, traded, and utilized, and the role that engineers and scientists play in the business world.

We will discuss the lifecycle of a company and how the roles of the various stakeholders change as the company evolves (or devolves) with an eye towards elucidating those skills that are most needed at each stage in the company’s development. Depending on our career goals, choosing the right industry in which to work and the right “fit” in a prospective employer are two of the most important decisions we will make. Practical strategies are very important.