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Searching for similar minds…

March 2, 2013

Today the Chinese Institute of Engineers held their annual Asian American Engineer of the Year award in Dallas and had a symposium with it. Unfortunately I wasn’t invited to the award ceremony banquet, but I was still lucky enough to have heard of the symposium and was able to attend.

The symposium wasn’t exactly what I had expected. It had the typical layout – opening remarks by the president of the DFW chapter followed by a key note speaker and then more speakers. They were all great. Good content, but not inspiring enough especially when the focus was on innovation and inspiration, which was what I am looking for.

Nevertheless, there were still some good takeaways – new insights, enforcement of concepts, and reminders that I need right now. I even had the chance to pick the brain of a TI principle fellow Gene Frantz on the topic of making ideas happen.

Innovation. By the principle fellow’s definition, innovation is discovering an unanswered problem and solving it. Or, simply creating something that society cannot live without and cannot imagine how it had lived without it. Of course, another vital aspect of innovation is spreading the product – having the business mindset to creat and market it to the extent where everyone wants it and buys it.

It’s a simple idea and is very true. A popular example is the mobile phone (or iPhone for the Apple lovers). This was something that I needed reminder of.

I now need to always remember what innovation is and develop that constant creative mindset. However, I know my flaws and the roadblocks I face right now. One of them is not knowing how to carry a concept into reality. I can see the end goal, but not the starting point.

I asked Gene how he would advise young engineers who wish to bring an idea to reality. Currently, the innovators and the entrepreneurs are the young ones, the inexperienced. Gene pointed the obvious that we need someone with grey hair, someone with experience. An advisor or a mentor to seek the validity of the idea, confirm that there’s market for it and the market is big enough. A market analysis definitely needs to be done to ensure that people are willing to pay for it. However, the big questions for me were the how and the who. How will the business be funded? Who do I include in the start of this exciting innovation?

Money is always the big question, but we often hear or the 3 Fs: friends, family, and fools. Or venture capitalists.

What about the who? As my readers, you may have already realized, but I’ve recently found myself to be an odd one from most people I know or have met. There are only few who share the same ideologies as I. Many of my friends are still fresh out of college or will be soon. They are concerned with having financial stability, which means they follow the normal path of climbing the corporate ladder. So instead, Gene says “there will be those who can’t stand the corporate structure.” That was me! That was what I needed. I didn’t think to realize there were more people like me! It’ll definitely be harder to meet people now that I’m out of college, but at least I know who to look for right now.

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