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Mechanical Engineering Overview - PowerPoint - Podcast

Thomas Bean

Corporate Counsel
Lucent Technologies
Holmdel, NJ


JD, Rutgers University
MS, Systems Engineering, Cornell University
BS, Mechanical Engineering, Cornell University
Corporate Counsel, focusing on the legal issues surrounding intellectual properties.
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."

Bean: "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."

Bean: "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 well.

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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