Outside the Office: Volunteering with Professional Organizations

Several employees at the Office of Technology Transfer extend their expertise in the technology industry to outside professional organizations.

Among these employees are Linda Kesselring, Operations Director; Quentin Thomas, Marketing Manager; Laura Fritts, Director of Patent and License Strategy and Chief Intellectual Property Officer; Cliff Michaels, Assistant Director of Licensing; and Patrick Reynolds, Assistant Director of Faculty and Start-up Services.

Kesselring, Thomas, Reynolds, and Michaels have all volunteered with the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). AUTM is a nonprofit organization that supports individuals involved in technology transfer through education, professional development, and advocacy, among other activities. As a result, the organization provides helpful knowledge and forges valuable connections between members, which is one of the reasons that many employees have opted to join.

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Thomas preparing for AUTM panel

“I decided to volunteer with AUTM because it seemed like a good opportunity to network and learn from others,” said Thomas. Reynolds noted that he wanted to get more involved with individuals further along in their career paths so he could identify potential mentors. While Michaels also acknowledged the networking benefits, he mentioned that his coworkers motivated him to join as well. “I was also inspired by seeing other members of OTT volunteering their time and efforts,” he said.

Each individual contributes to AUTM in different ways. Kesselring, who has been attending annual AUTM meetings for 20 years, noted that the organization has grown in membership and programming over time, which has increased opportunities for all staff in the office. Kesselring specifically works with website and programming committees. For the website committee, some of her duties include establishing a monthly report on website statistics, while on the programming committee, she helps to plan the annual meeting. In contrast, Thomas works as part of the marketing course committee, where he has the opportunity to give back and help other marketing professionals. For his role on this committee, Thomas helps to organize a day-long marketing course for the annual meeting, in addition to a marketing webinar series. Reynolds co-chairs the Better World Project (BWP), which tells stories about how technology transfer can improve individuals’ lives, and he helps with story submissions and editing, among other tasks.

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Micheals preparing for AUTM panel

“Volunteering for the BWP has given me a deeper appreciation for the role technology transfer offices play in pushing cutting-edge research and technologies beyond a fundamental research stage or beyond a great idea in people’s heads,” said Reynolds.

Michaels works on the strategic communications committee, which guides communications and marketing strategies. He described the committee as a “think-tank,” for which he has monthly phone meetings. Michaels has also previously served as the chair of an educational program at Georgia Bio, a non-profit organization which promotes the interests of the life sciences industry within the state.

In addition to those employees who volunteer with AUTM, Fritts, a lawyer, has volunteered with Executive Committee for Atlanta’s IP Inn of Court and the Advisory Board for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Georgia PATENTS. In her capacity as a volunteer, she has been able to help inventors file patent applications that could later benefit others.

While they volunteer in different ways, Kesselring, Thomas, Fritts, Michaels, and Reynolds all cite numerous benefits from their work with professional organizations. Thomas notes that his work with AUTM increases exposure of Emory’s OTT office and fuels additional opportunities, while also allowing him to learn new skills and gain knowledge from colleagues at other institutions. “The benefits to the organizations, my office, and me personally far outweigh the burden of the work,” added Fritts.

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Kesselring preparing for AUTM panel

Kesselring noted the benefits of meeting people from different offices and hearing their own unique perspectives. “It gives you an opportunity to be challenged in new ways,” she explained.

Michaels found that volunteering with professional organizations has allowed him to grow his professional network and to expand his knowledge—but he also noted the impact that volunteering has on the office as a whole. “By having active members of your office as part of these organizations, Emory is viewed as taking an active and leading role in the field, which reinforces Emory’s reputation of being a top-tier technology transfer program,” he said.