Before coming to Kellogg, I worked at IBM, and I did a lot of geeky things while I was there. How do I know they were geeky? Because whenever I described those things to people outside of my department it normally took about 10 seconds before their eyes glazed over regardless of my enthusiasm (and trust me, I was enthusiastic). During that time, I got to do a lot of stuff that I am extremely proud of, but one of my favorites by far is that I was on several patent applications submitted to the USPTO via IBM.

I originally set my sights on getting an application filed about 2 years in as a full-timer for several reasons.
<ol><li> The money  - I won’t lie, this was a big motivator. IBM used to pay out handsomely for each filed app, but then they changed the system shortly before I left to make the review process more rigorous and reduce the bonus paid out per app.</li><li>The challenge - I saw it as a challenge to get one approved, especially because it wasn’t something normally done in my department (server testing from an end-user perspective); it was much more common to the development departments. I only knew of one person in my group that had gotten one, and he was laid off shortly thereafter. </li><li>The career - At the time, I still hadn’t decided to attend grad school. Instead, I was still intent on pursuing a technical career, and in my division at IBM you had to have some patents under your belt to get the tech cred factor going in your favor.</li></ol>I’ll never forget the first app that I submitted (and the only one that I went solo on).  The idea hit me at night on a Saturday just as I was gearing up to go to bed. I got so excited about it that I was up until 5 AM looking for any prior IP, writing it up, and then trying to find out the process to submit it. It took nearly two years for it to get approved (after the one below). The review team kept putting it off because they were certain it was already covered by prior art given how simple it was, but they couldn’t find any…so they kept looking.

Since leaving the company, I’ve periodically searched the patent application database to see if any of them have made it into the system, and the first one finally came up two years after being approved internally.

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All told, I had 4 out of about 16 applications get approved for filing after being reviewed by the internal review team and the patent attorneys.  Three of the applications were for usability and serviceability enhancements (that was my area of “expertise” as a tester), and one of them was for an architectural enhancement to Dynamic Logical Partitioning that we stumbled upon while reviewing some test data.  I worked with small teams to develop 3 of the 4 ideas, a few of which I originated.  I can’t say enough how invaluable it was working with other folks (especially ones with different backgrounds) on this type of thing because it was much easier to ideate and sift through all of the different ideas for potential “winners.”