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What advice would you give to recent graduates in your field?

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2013
My advice to my students is to keep themselves informed and up to date, network with people in the field, and keep in touch!
   – @slerner – Shimon Lerner, physics lecturer at Jerusalem College of Technology (via Twitter)


I would suggest to recent graduates to have a good look at photonics applications to telecommunications. This application is about to undergo massive sea change as prototype-integrated optical chip costs are now at the “$1000 each” level, allowing all kinds of ideas to be explored without massive capital expenditures. And the art is mature enough to meet life-cycle expectations of the industry, which is saying a lot. If there are any new grads – or even those still at university – examining their application to ultrashort-pulse lasers, I urge them to reach out to our firm, Attochron. Best of luck in your new endeavors; incredible times are coming!
   – Tom Chaffee, founder and CEO of Attochron LLC (via LinkedIn)


What I would recommend to anyone entering my field is to simply open their eyes to new and imaginative ways we can use this new technology to better our world! From analyzing crop moisture content in the field to detection of drugs and explosives with portable Raman spectrometers, there are many new ways we can use spectroscopy to improve processes, monitor our environment and better our quality of life. New graduates, the world is your oyster. Find your niche, and help our planet! Oh, yeah, and don’t do drugs …
   – Jason Pierce, StellarNet (via LinkedIn)


Go deeper in your profession [for more] extensive knowledge [in a related] or “hot” field. In addition, for finding a job, pay more attention in LinkedIn to see what requirements are necessary for a freshman or senior one.
   – Lin Chun Hua, National Chiao Tung University (via LinkedIn)


Go for breadth. In other words, early in one’s career, gaining experience with a variety of technologies and skill sets is helpful. It is easier to do this in a startup or “newer” company than in an older, highly stratified organization where one may be doing the same job over and over again.
   – Barbara Grant, consultant (via LinkedIn)


I’d like to echo Barbara’s comment about the positive effect of having diverse experiences, interests and jobs. It will prevent you from being compartmentalized into one area during a career. This principle of diversity is doubly important for your networking connections. Many times, students are under the mistaken impression that the only contacts that matter are the ones in their current field of research. The truth is almost exactly opposite. Go forth, meet and connect with people who have taken different paths, and you’ll be better prepared for the changing fortunes of a career.
   – Dirk Fabian, SPIE (via LinkedIn)


I would encourage new technical graduates to maintain a lifelong curiosity that encourages them to investigate and learn new skills and gain knowledge. Keeping abreast of developments in your chosen field is essential both for your own intellectual growth but also to maintain your value to an employer.

   I would also encourage new graduates to develop an interest in fields that are tangential to their chosen field of specialization. Increasingly, breakthroughs are coming about from the integration of ideas from multiple fields of expertise. Note the huge advances in prosthetics when medical, electronic and mechanical expertise collaborated.

   Balance your professional interests while ensuring that you have time for yourself, your family and to give back to your community. And don’t forget that, as a professional, you have a responsibility to maintain high ethical standards in all your endeavors.
   – Richard Toftness, Tasterra Consulting LLC (via LinkedIn)


Develop effective communication skills, oral and especially written. Communication is crucial to establishing and building teams, promoting your ideas and collaborating with others.

   For learning and for obtaining technical support, obtaining a good answer starts with asking a good question (effectively communicating).
   – Lucian Hand, Altos Photonics (via LinkedIn)


Don’t forget about water treatment, or any other environmental areas where general optical sensing technology can be applied.
   – Yana Williams, Ametek Measurement and Calibration Technologies (via LinkedIn)


Learn the business (follow the money): Who are the customers? Why do they pay what they pay? Why do they buy what they buy? How are you adding value to your employer? How can you add more value for your employer? Become a trend-watcher (“Be where the puck is going to be, not where it was.” – W. Gretzky): What trends are your customers’ customers following? How can you help your customers get there first? Learn to feel the ebb and flow of the business, so you know when to switch from offense to defense and back again.

   Finally, from the world of sports: Talk, talk, talk (over-communicate; it’s still probably not enough). Be optimistic (there’s always next play, next game, next season). When it rains, it rains for both teams (i.e., economic conditions hurt everyone; figure out how to play in the rain).
   – Lynore Abbott, Logical Marketing LLC (via LinkedIn)


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