Dear College Career Development Counselor:
Think of your engineering students: who in your department is to advise them about their career?
If it is you, please read on. If it is another colleague, refer them to this webpage.
The technical employers who hire your advisees compete in their industries for money, also using patents. In particular, they get patents for the new aspects of their products to restrain future competition, while at the same time they must design their new products so as to avoid the existing patents of their rivals. As such, their engineers are expected to know how to navigate around existing patents, for example be able to search patents, start patent clearance of their proposed designs, etc. Patents are thus central for engineers; in addition, the content of all patents is updated continuously, making it a free way for an engineer to come up to speed in any technical field, at any time. (This was one of the intents of the patent system in the first place.)
While engineering curricula focus on teaching engineering, they often shrug off patents as “niche”. So, they graduate engineers who are often unaware of even the requirement to be able to navigate around existing patents. PATENTS, HOWEVER, MATTER FOR THEIR CAREER, at least if one looks at the data: In a survey of engineering graduates working in industry about experiences important for recent graduates’ competitiveness in the job market, 56%-70% of the respondents ranked Intellectual Property as important or critical. (Source: Christine Kelly and Amy Nguyen, Skills and Knowledge Important in Bioprocessing Design: A Survey of Practicing Engineers, Presentation, American Society for Engineering Education, 2017.) The technical part of Intellectual Property is patents. And the survey does not show whether the respondents had even been warned by their school about the importance of patent-working skills in industry.
You can read more about this later in this webpage but, for now, the good news is that you can help your advisees become more competitive candidates for employment.
Thanks to your steering email, your advisees will be able to plan a 3-day independent patent study course that uses our $35 Patent Ready® textbook, which reads fast for engineers thanks to its more than 50 intuitive custom diagrams. If they only read the textbook it will take them up to 2 days, and they will know what to look for when working. If they do the full self-study course, with each chapter of the textbook they will read a parallel chapter of the Patent Ready® Study Guide, which is a free download. This will enrich their experience with: further explanations, curated sample patent documents, sample situations from industry, exercises drawn from real-life with their solutions in the back for checking, two industry-like 1-hour homework assignments, and more. This Patent Ready® Study Guide also includes suggestions of what to add to their resume upon finishing the self-study course, and even techniques for using their new-found patent-working skills to do better at interviewing, for example: before interviewing, searching patents of the company to become familiar with its technologies of interest, searching recent patent documents of the scheduled interviewers so as to be fluent about their technology of interest during the interview, etc. .
First, do you want to confirm whether the frequent employers of our graduates deal with patents? Of course! You can do this by calculating the PEPI™ score for the frequent employers of your graduates, perhaps once for each Major that your school offers. (PEPI™ stands for Prospective Employer Patent Interest.) After you do, you will know that the companies that obtain patents are those whose engineers must have patent-working skills to navigate around existing patents. And, therefore, your students will be more competitive for such employers if they have such patent-working skills as well. If you do, perhaps update the steering email you send them with the PEPI™ score you calculated or other insights you developed.
Second, you may want to confirm the following two questions:
If the answer is no, then your students will appreciate your sending them the steering email we propose above. To confirm first, you can ask these two questions of either one or both of two different groups:
A) DIRECTLY YOUR ADVISEES, who are interested in doing well in their first engineering job. You can confirm by asking only a few of them, before addressing all of them. For those few, you can get a list of the required patent-working skills from the webpage that your steering email refers them to – in that page look for the heading: “Have you received any training in such patent-working skills so far in academia?”, or walk them through that webpage directly in your office. If they tell you no, then they and all the rest in their class will appreciate your sending them the steering email we propose above.
B) PEOPLE IN ENGINEERING DEPARTMENTS, who decide what is to be taught, and cannot teach everything. For confirming the same two questions, ask but look closely at the exact wording of the answers. Do consider sending your students the steering email in case you get answers like:
… “such a warning would be a matter of job/employer …” – it is true that a minority of engineering jobs, such as for the government, do not require such skills but one should not build a rule on an exception;
… “we have no time for this”;
… “I don’t know about getting into this sort of thing …” (actual reply from a Professor who was also the EE Department’s Curriculum planner);
… “yes, we teach them patents by an adjunct who is a patent attorney”, but if they do not supervise what is taught. Even well-meaning Engineering Departments do not know what to ask for and, therefore, do not give requirements to such adjuncts. And adjuncts, lacking other direction, often teach instead topics that we patent attorneys find interesting, such as patent law, patent policy, or how to write a patent application. Again, we suggest you look at the webpage that our suggested steering email refers students to, and ask the Department as to whether these particular skills are taught. I invite you to read that webpage more closely as well – I simply do not want to repeat it here.
Which engineering students will benefit from my steering email above? All majors (EE, MechE, Ch., Ch.E, Opt., Biomed, etc.), except Computer Science (as of 2017, serious questions remain about the ability to patent certain types of software). If you computed the PEPI™ score above, let that inform you too. Those wanting to work for the government may not need these materials, and the webpage that your email steers them to informs them about this.
When is the best time to send my steering email above? Whenever you think is right. Given various dynamics, here are our suggestions:
.. First time, catchup: to your seniors.
.. And, after that, periodically: once annually, to the juniors only, right before they end their junior year, so they can calendar to self-study during their last summer before graduating. This will permit them to update their resume accordingly in time for interviews in the Fall of their senior year. (Did you want to calendar an annual reminder for yourself?)
Your graduates likely will know that patent skills are needed; they may have already been shown a patent. Depending on their circumstances, these emails send them to a different webpage that is more suitable for them:
.. First time, catchup: if you have contact with any recent graduates (0 to 3 years) who you know are still working as engineers, you can send them this email. They typically have a job and, at this time, they are more focused with doing well than bolstering a resume.
.. And after that, as arising: as an additional advice tidbit to any engineer alums who may have been laid off and are looking for a job, send this email.
Surveying your graduating students: Does your department have the capability to survey your graduates? If so, here are some questions you could consider adding to your engineering graduates, after 2 years of them being in industry:
.. 1) Are you working in a company that develops new products?
.. 2) If yes to #1, as an engineer are you expected to have patent-working skills like knowing how to search patents, understand patent documents, clear new product ideas against rival patents, etc.?
.. 3) Did you do the self-study course with the Patent Ready® textbook that we recommended?
.. 4) If yes to #3, has it helped you in your job?
.. 5) If yes to #3, did you take the course before interviewing?
.. 6) If yes to #5, did you use your what you learned in the patent course to prepare for your job interview?
.. 7) If yes to #6, do you think it helped you in getting the job?
Feedback from your frequent employers: Do you ever speak with your frequent employers? Perhaps they are not permitted to discuss individual hires after the fact, but is it possible for you to find out how those of your graduates who did the patent self-study are doing?
Greg, why did you start this project? I saw the need for this project when I was employed, for a decade, as a full time in-house patent attorney in industries that develop new products, which is a type of job that many patent attorneys in law firms never want. I observed engineers struggle to create designs that avoid existing rival patents, while having little, or plainly wrong guidance about how to do that. Some of them told me they had never had any instruction about patents as engineering students in college, or even a warning that being able to navigate through patents would be required in industry. Others told me they had even been taught “patents” as engineering students, but what they learned was not helpful now, nor is it the kind of thing that engineers in industry are asked to do; rather, it was things that we patent attorneys find interesting, such as patent law and related topics.
So, I wrote the Patent Ready® textbook to define what are patent-working skills from the point of view of engineers. I went about this by:
..a) removing whatever legal analysis the engineer will not be allowed to do,
..b) leaving in only what the engineer needs, including the very basics, and
..c) explaining all that mostly in engineering-like drawings, so it reads fast for the engineer.
The result is learning made clear and without waste for the engineer. In fact, one of them wrote: “This is the patent book I have been looking for in my whole career!”.
Finally, I recognized that it would be hard to teach this as a class: first, to read the book alone does not take that long(!); some people have read it in a single Saturday and were done – had no questions, etc. So, a class like this would be worth maybe one credit hour if it included proportionate class instruction, but such class instruction is time plainly not needed because the book is self-explanatory, uses drawings, etc. And, to artificially add such class instruction, the instructor might want to supply auxiliary materials, examples, etc., but to know these the instructor would have to be a patent attorney who has worked in-house to understand the engineer’s perspective and would be interested in teaching something other than law. So, to provide what a knowledgeable lecturer would contribute to enrich the experience, I created the Patent Ready® Study Guide into which I developed and incorporated many these materials; so, now steering them to self-study permits removing patent teachings from the otherwise constrained curriculum for engineering students. This also recognizes that some engineering students will not need patent information.
Good luck to your graduates and, as you can see, you can help make them more competitive with technical employers!