For most of us, it's not often that you go from talking about Settlers of Catan to autonomous vehicles and patents in one conversation, but that's a day in the life of Martin (Marty) McEnroe, director of data insights at the AT&T Chief Data Office. No matter your background or interests, Marty's story is chock-full of tips and inspiration. Here's Marty to tell you more.
Have you ever shopped online? If so, you've probably used an online shopping cart to "store" your purchases. Now, you probably don't give your cart a second thought as you check out, but this intuitive feature was part of a set of bright new ideas in the late '80s and early '90s. Technically, a patent is “a government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention." This might sound complicated, but you don't have to be a programmer or coder to hold a patent. If you can identify what sets an invention (or an idea) apart, and how it solves a real problem with an innovative approach, you can hold patents.
Early in my career, I had three patents granted. Recently, I've created patent disclosures focused on auction sites, public safety, 5G, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, chat and artificial intelligence. These disclosures were the result of identifying a business problem and determining how AT&T could be part of the solution.
Just 16 months ago, I finished a second master's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While I was remote, my classmates were in the classroom. I've been working in the industry for 27 years and it was so exciting to be around so many brilliant young people. I am constantly seeking out new ways to stimulate my brain; that ongoing pursuit was a big motivator for my returning to school. Since completing this degree, I've submitted 29 patent disclosures and seven have been chosen for filing with the US Patent Office. Many of the other patents are still in development pending a decision to file. The fresh perspective I gained during my master's program helped me realize how differently you see the world when you're looking at it from the leading edge of the computer science industry.
So, am I telling you to start submitting a patent disclosure every day? No. But I do want to share some stories and tips that I think will help you as a student and young professional, no matter what you're interested in pursuing.
A Harvard Business Review article, How Bell Labs Creates Star Performers, talks about the invisible money economy. Think about it this way: When you are young and start a new job, you have a fresh perspective. To learn how to do things, you reach out to experts in your community, such as your boss or a colleague. When they share knowledge, you're essentially taking an IOU from them. It soon becomes clear that you need to become an expert in something too, so you can pay them back and pay it forward. Other people will come to you and ask for your knowledge. High performers balance this exchange and provide a return on the investments others make in them. While working with my classmates, I realized how quickly we could make progress drawing upon community knowledge. That's why I brought the enterprise edition of Stack Overflow into AT&T.
We often get in a routine and don't stop to ask ourselves, “Why are we doing this?" As an intern or new employee, don't hesitate to ask this question and offer up a new, fresh suggestion. There might be a strategic reason why things are done the way they are, but the original driver may have disappeared. Your team might be open to trying something new. If you have passion for an idea, let the team know! If you receive some pushback, listen and think through the business benefit. Always assume that everyone wants to improve the business.
Get to know your coworkers and let your personality shine through. You spend at least 40 hours a week at work, so it should be enjoyable. On Monday evenings, the Chief Data Office hosts game nights. You learn a lot about a person playing settlers of Catan, Werewolf and our new favorite -- Unstable Unicorns.
Does the idea of holding a patent excite you? We're creating what's next and having a blast doing it. Explore the #LifeAtATT at www.att.jobs/.
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