From a “Jack to a King”, a True Story. After years of being a company man and team player, I found myself trying to rescue my floundering career after being given my walking papers. My resume didn’t open the doors it used to, and nobody wanted my skills as a design engineer in the local marketplace. The usual reason given by prospective employers for not hiring me was ” too diverse a set of skills and experience” or, “not a good fit” for our needs. If I was to hire someone to be a design engineer, I would regard any extra pertinent knowledge the applicant has, a positive attribute. After many years, I found that there aren’t many people like me doing the hiring out there in the real world. Apparently, I found that during the course of an interview, a trivial matter such as the color of one’s shirt or tie can influence whether or not you get the job. An interviewer always had a hidden agenda and criteria by which the final decision was made. My qualifications, most often, had little to do with that decision. After giving up jumping through many inteviewers’ hoops, I decided to strike out on my own to survive in the jungle.
Burning my engineering reference library, throwing away my address book, changing my name, getting a face lift, etc. all crossed my mind. Then one day, by chance, I ran across an interesting website on the internet called InnoCentive. Here was a list of engineering problems posted for solutions by this company for cash awards. After much review and scrutiny, I concluded that it was legitimate and worthy of my time, and just as important, had nothing to do with politics, just science. Heck, I had little to lose with my finances down to my last dollar. Also, it confirmed my long standing notion of the trend in the corporate R&D world. It dawned on me that these posted problems can be solved ONLY IF, you have “too diverse a set of skills and experience”, something that the corporate world frowns upon, after all, thinking “out of the box” is not something one is paid for in the corporate world.
I posted and subsequently won my first award, back in ’03.That award saved me from the welfare office, and re-affirmed my confidence in myself. My batteries were re-charged again..From that point in time onwards, I’ve won six more awards and am always writing solutions for InnoCentive Challenges. I’ve invested heavily in design & modeling software, and have become somewhat financially independent. Also, I’ve given up trying to fit round pegs into a square holes and jumping through corporate status quo hoops. InnoCentive does all that work with their seeker companies, and lets me just do the science; A dream job, considering that I get to choose the Challenges I want to work on. I’ve incorporated in the U.S., set up a website, and am also active now in submitting solutions to the U.S. Department of Defence projects through the SBIR / STTR programs. In addition, I plan to invest in InnoCentive stocks with my next awards. After all, it’s the only company I know of that pays it’s solvers to think “out of the box”. I’ve come to believe, “Look at what everybody else is doing, and don’t do it !” A good formula for success these days, and it’s working for me.
Written by Ed Melcarek, C.E.T. / Ph.D, Sono-Dyne Inc.