June 20, 2016 is a date to remember in the history of The SerachLite’s Innovator-in-Residence Program, because it is the first time that we held an event at the Department of Mechanical Engineering in our own backyard at the University of Michigan.
About 15 Mechanical Engineer PhD students attended the event. Four outstanding alumni, Katherine Avery, Laura Wojcik, Michelle Callaway, and Szabolcs Sovenyi, joined the discussion as well.
Professor Katsuo Kurabayashi kicked off the event by showing many successful alumni, who transitioned from academia to industry. The SearchLite Innovator-in-Residence Program is a great opportunity for graduate students to have a taste of industry by participating in hands-on real projects.
Scott Phillips, CEO of The SearchLite, challenged the students regarding their current understanding of the industries which align with their areas of research.. He then explained what The SearchLite is, who The SearchLite’s clients are, and the methodology The SearchLite uses to conduct Customer Discovery. Lastly, Scott used three real cases as examples to demonstrate the work at The SearchLite.
During the final open discussion, a student said he just wanted to be an engineer, and wondered if the business skills would be useful? Both Michelle (General Motors) and Katherine (Ford) responded quickly and stated that if you work for a company you have to deal with a lot of things besides engineering, so the soft skills are extremely useful.
When in a company or an industry, it is easy to overestimate the importance of one’s product or service. That is why they hire companies like The SearchLite, to provide different perspectives. When we are students, it easy to underestimate the importance of soft skills that are not clearly aligned with our majors, but those are the skills that will make you stand out. As the alumni all said, “Mechanical Engineers Need Soft Skills too”.
The SearchLite had the privilege of being invited to McMaster University to conduct an Innovators-in-Residence Workshop on March 3rd, 2016. The invitation was extended by the Graduate Student Life Team, part of the School of Graduate Studies. This event was made possible by a connection between Scott Phillips from The SearchLite and Catherine Maybrey from McMaster University back in 2014 when Catherine hosted a “CV to Resume Webinar” on behalf of The SearchLite.
Catherine began her career with dreams of the tenure track, and along the way discovered something much better – the ability to take the best of what she loves about academia and to apply it in practice helping others. Her approach to career development is grounded in labour market research, hiring practices, and innovative use of technology to make service available to all graduate students on their timetable. She previously served as the Alumni Career Coach, where she advanced services for graduate students including workshops and videos on Transforming Your CV to a Resume, The Academic Job Search, The Non-Academic Job Search, Transferable Skills, and Graduate Student Boot Camp.
The Innovators-in Residence (IIR) program is a community-based learning platform. The IIR program provides a unique opportunity for Ph.D. graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from all academic disciplines to gain experience in innovation commercialization, acquire insights into market risk assessment and build relationships with leaders in industry while trying to solve real-world problems.
The McMaster University Graduate Students who participated in the workshop learned about the principles of Product-Market Fit and Value Proposition Design through live engagement in case studies which represent real Market Discovery Challenges recently completed by The SearchLite. Value Proposition Design is one of the most critical skill sets needed to be a successful inventor or entrepreneur and a key element of the Lean Startup Process and Business Model Generation. Understanding Value Proposition Design will also be a valuable skill for academics in transition to industry with interest in various aspects of Corporate R&D, Engineering, Product Management or Marketing.
Students broke down into teams and were assigned a case study. Their assignment was to identify the best -Product-Market Fit given the Value Proposition for a particular invention. Inventions included (1) Portable Ammonemia Detector (Stanford University) – A low cost, portable, simple-to-use device designed to rapidly detect elevated ammonia in a drop of blood; (2) Rapid Decoupling & Isolation (Oakland University) – Concept with ability to sense a sudden event and rapidly decouple load-bearing, structural joints in order to isolate occupants from the shock of the event; (3) Mobile Power Generation (Diversified Solar) – Hybrid solar system for mobile stand alone and grid-tied solar-based power generation and other inventions.
The teams all did an amazing job. With no background on the principles of lean startup and only one hour to study their inventions, they all presented to a mock group of venture capitalists at the conclusion. It was amazing how they were all able leverage the individual strengths, skills and experiences of their individual team members. After the presentations, Scott had a chance to have lunch and visit with the students to learn more about their future plans and answer questions about The SearchLite and the Innovators-in-Residence Program.
Are you an academic in transition? Would you like to try an experience that may broaden your career?
The SearchLite recently shared some of our projects with graduate students at Michigan State University’s School of Engineering. Several of our Innovators-in-Residence are from MSU, so we wanted to share our knowledge from our Market Discovery Challenges with fellow Spartans and hoped to expand our community at MSU.
image credit: phdcomics.com
[The SearchLite’s Note] To stay in academia or not is a common question to ponder for graduate students, especially for the Innovators-in-Residence at The SearchLite.
You are not alone. According to The 2015 Nature survey of graduate students, more than 60% of the above 3400 respondents claimed that they were “likely” or “very likely” to continue their work in industry because of the severe competition, heavy workload, and limited income of academia. However, some graduate students chose to return to academia after experiencing a career in industry because it “could satisfy her scientific curiosity”.
- Christy Song
- Aug 24, 2015
- Advanced Bionics, Athena Health, Bhramara Tirupati, career development, Devon Triplett, Diane Bouis, Innovators-in-Res, Penn State University, The Inovo Group, the searchlite, transitioning from academia, university of michigan, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
15 things that may catch you off guard when transitioning from Academia to Non-Academic Careers…
Surprises come in many forms and can be your best and worst friend, but the worst type of surprise is when it catches you off guard and you’re not prepared to handle what it has to offer. Have no fear! To alleviate much of this anxiety, The SearchLite went on a quest to find out what surprised people the most upon entering an industry after an arduous academic experience and boy are you in for a treat. Devon Triplett, Diane Bouis, and Bhramara Tirupati are three successful cases of people who have already made the transition from academia to industry, but it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park. Here are the top lists of what they considered to be the most surprising through first-hand experience.