OTT Job Shadowing: Facilitating Communication and Collaboration

Recently, two teams with in the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) participated in a job shadowing exercise. Members of the Industry Contracting and Licensing teams were paired off and spent a day learning about each other’s roles within the office. The Licensing group manages innovations with commercial potential including overseeing the intellectual properties protection and licensing for further development, while the Industry Contracting team oversees the negotiation of various types of sponsored research contracting with industry-partners.

As part of the process each participant spent at least half a day “shadowing” their partner. There was time spent explaining roles and participating in tasks. Then the roles were reversed.

Members from the licensing team included Todd Sherer, Laura Fritts, Cliff Michaels, Raj Guddneppanavar, and Justin Burns and from the contracting team they were Shirley Vanier, Daniella Carter, Sade Ogunmekan, Mekia Hardy, and Chantrell Lowe. Licensing Team photo

Members of the Industry Contracting team noted how the Licensing team works more closely with scientific concepts in their cases. Licensing team members have to understand the science behind the invention, noted Ogunmekan. Carter, who hasn’t done science-related work in years, noted that this isn’t required for their work. Hardy found it interesting how faculty can identify the same issues and sometimes even similar solutions.

Team members also realize that their jobs are connected and affect one another. “The terms of my contract influence what [Michaels] is able to do later if there is a discovery,” said Ogunmekan.

On the other hand, there are similarities in the work between the Industry Contracting and Licensing teams. The logistics, for instance, are very similar. “They’re similar in terms of the function of receiving agreements, editing them, and returning them,” Lowe said.

Some individuals even took away new skills from the experience. Michaels, who shadowed Ogunmekan, noticed that she documented contract language after facing the same problem multiple times. That way, she could reuse this language, instead of rewriting the same sentences over and over. Michaels has since adopted the same technique.

Overall, the participants acknowledged that the job shadowing activity was extremely beneficial. The exercise facilitated better communication and understanding of the different roles between members of each group. “It was a really good experience,” noted Guddneppanavar. “I benefited completely because I had zero idea [of Licensing team responsibilities],” agreed Carter.

Several of the participants had recommendations for future job shadowing activities. Hardy suggested replicating the exercise with different partners, since everyone has a different function. Carter proposed shadowing members of other teams within OTT—like the Patent group—since all teams play an important role in the technology process.

Michaels and Ogunmekan even planned a second day to meet again. They wanted to look through more of Michaels’s licensing agreements. “If we work better together, we can work more efficiently, and we can understand all the parts,” said Michaels.