Engineering, Cornell University
Engineering, Cornell University
focusing on the legal issues surrounding intellectual
Tom's work in the
Quality Assurance Audit Division and benchmarking made him aware
of the legal implications of adopting "best practices" from
other companies, and this led him back to school for a law
degree and to his current position as Corporate Counsel.
"Study hard and to
soak up information like a sponge while they're in school
because it's a marvelous opportunity. There is so much that's
easily available to learn at that stage."
"Engineers tend to certainly make substantial decisions about products,
and they tend to find themselves moving into higher-level positions where
a lot of the fundamental decision-making about markets and market strategy
are derived as well, because the markets are very much based on the
technology we're producing. So it's not unusual and unlikely to find
engineers in virtually every type of functional activity that goes on
within the corporation."
"There were a number of legal issues that we had to address, including
things such as protection of intellectual property, anti-trust issues.
When companies of large size get together and share a lot of information
about cost and prices, there are anti-trust issues that arise, and I found
them to be sort of difficult to deal with as a technical person. And I
thought I'd like to get a little bit better handle on being able to deal
with them directly, and that kind of spurred me on to an interest in law."
Q: What was life like for
you as an engineering student?
Well, that's a good question.
It was quite a few years ago now, so I have to sort of hearken back to
that. It was an enjoyable life. I remember enjoying a lot of the things
that we were doing, a lot of the labs and hands-on work that we did, and I
tried some of the extracurricular events that went on outside of school as
Q: Who has
influenced you in your career?
I guess there are many. I think that for a lot of us, people in our
families, and parents and siblings and other relatives who provided
a lot of encouragement and support to enable us at least to get
through school and into the first job. I think once you go to work,
you find that mentors are available and very important. I had a
number of people throughout my career show me the ropes and kind of
explain to me how things work and how to go about solving new kinds
of problems that I hadn't grappled with before, that they had
grappled with. So I would suggest it's very helpful to sort of hitch
yourselves to the rising stars and coattails of others who've gone
before you, and that you can learn quite a bit from them that'll be
helpful to you in your career.
Q: Talk a little
about the "process" of how you work.
More and more we're
being concerned with not so much the issues of IQ, but the issues of
EQ, or emotional intelligence, the learning organization. We talk
about the importance of establishing efficient processes. We talk
about the importance of sharing information, so that everyone who's
involved on the team is on a common ground and has the appropriate
information for them to do their work. And we talk about the
importance of the people dynamics and the team aspect of how we need
to work. When you have creative people, generally they're people who
have a myriad of different strengths. Now, to work as an individual
as one might do in an academic program, you only have yourself to
struggle with. But now we've got teams of five or 10 people that
you're working on, and you need to respect and appreciate, if not
tolerate, and learn to exploit each other's strengths without
understanding why they're successful since you can't replicate them.
Now, what I think is even more paramount in importance is the
significance of your will to succeed. And your desire to look within
yourself -- to express your work excellence, and draw on your
academic background, which has provided you a grounding and a
platform, but does not solve the problems for you. Most of the
problems that we work on at AT&T are problems that have no cookbook
solutions. We can get ideas from different models that we've worked
with before. But generally, each time we work with a different
customer on a different problem set, it has something unique and
unusual to it. So, we can't completely reuse ideas or models or
mechanisms or architectures that others or ourselves have
accomplished before. But we seek to use them as a stepping stone to
the solution. But, as many people will tell you, the differentiator
is, adding the unique value and the unique way of combining what
you've known before, and stretching a little bit farther to create
something that performs better.
Q: Is it that
aspect, and those things, that help keep the job stimulating?
The stimulation comes
from having an inquisitive mind and a desire to work and a desire to
get some measure of your life satisfaction from producing something
-- either with your mind or with your hands in some form.
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