Every spring, I inevitably stumble across the Westminster Classic dog show on TV and get stuck. I’m mesmerized by this event that can only be described as a rebuttal to natural selection—or a celebration of variety.
These dogs all have pedigree, and their lines have persevered through the ages if only to win on this grandest stage. Their purpose in life is to be “oddly-perfect” enough on that night to align their history, and their unique variety, with the judges’ expectations.
And during this event it happens there is a moment when you fall in love with one of those dogs. You don’t know why (Your wife thinks it’s ugly), but it is somehow perfect (Oh, Malachy). In an “oddly-perfect” way, this feeling is what I try to simulate for my clients.
As the initial “judge”, I take a look at the pedigree, understand the required position’s environment, and then introduce a candidate that has the experiences and the momentum to win (even if it is not obvious at first) at this new challenge—a “perfect” candidate.
The Three ‘S’es
To “judge” pedigree in an environment like technology transfer in a university/lab is a difficult task, and the choice is not always clear. The requirements of this professional track are so robust that no one individual can have a complete mastery of them all; however, I do believe that there is a perfect person for each client challenge.
As a starting point to mesh the desired candidate pedigree with a real candidate, I have created the 3 ‘S’es framework: Situational Experience, Skill Sets, Story
Were you in a start-up company environment or managing a multi-million dollar R&D budget at a Fortune 500 company? Did you manage a 20FTE shop operation at a university with a stocked technology pipeline or did you bootstrap a unit at a small school that just joined the technology age?
Generally, each new position is seeking some sort of change, so I have to identify how individual experiences prepare the candidate to exhibit the force required for that demand.
For instance, if a VP of Research is looking to launch a small, nimble unit from the ground up, I need an entrepreneur that is used to creating something out of nothing, with the hustle to back it up.
If a President needs someone to come in a create a management process over a large portfolio, I need someone that can run operations and feels comfortable with driving towards efficiency.
Tech transfer professionals have to be chameleons, whose “color” can adapt to the rapid, changing pace of early stage technology development. Most technology transfer professionals must exhibit (or have the aptitude) to succeed in/understand the following “Big Five” environments:
The Big Five
Each position will require different levels of mastery backed by other soft skills; however, leaders will either understand or know enough to leverage/hiring others to complete the full picture
Finally, I like stories…so do those that will hire you. I need you to have 3-4 good stories that correlate situational experiences and skill sets with results. These should be to the point, factual, and demonstrate your role as a “hero” in the story.
Also, tech transfer professionals realize that failure is part of innovation, and should not shy away from sharing an example of a loss (although hopefully in a smaller proportion to wins), learning from the situation, and ultimately succeeding. Universities and labs are different places, where the pace of progress is often met with resistance…people need to know that you can persevere.
Situational experience, skill sets, and good stories are all components of winning pedigrees. Remember, that while you or Malachy, won’t win every day, there is a good chance that your unique traits are “oddly-perfect” for a future technology transfer opportunity.
Tell us about how some of your past experiences have set you up for a current position? Or maybe, describe an unorthodox hire that you have made that turned out perfect.
Quality #2: Gumption