The Moscone Center
San Francisco, California, United States
2 - 7 February 2019
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Charting a Course in the Photonics Industry

Kate Bechtel, Triple Ring Technologies Inc., Andreas Frölich, Nanoscribe, Ryan Shelton, PhotoniCare, Inc., Cather Simpson, Univ. of Auckland

Charting a Course in Photonics Panelists (left to right) Kate Bechtel, Triple Ring Technologies Inc., Andrea Armani, University of Southern California, Andreas Frölich, Nanoscribe, Ryan Shelton, PhotoniCare, Inc., Cather Simpson, Univ. of Auckland

PhD students and other young professionals received solid advice on how to find meaningful work in the photonics industry during a panel discussion at Photonics West on Sunday.

Resumes, degrees, and published papers don't matter as much for career development as networking and understanding how scientific research can solve problems, according to four panelists and the moderator, SPIE Fellow Andrea Armani, a professor at University of Southern California.

Answering questions about the hiring process in industry, Andreas Frölich, the head of sales and marketing at Nanoscribe, explained the "very risky" ways a hiring manager makes decisions about hiring someone. "It isn't like having scientific data," Frölich said, but relies more on evaluating how a potential employee can communicate, solve problems, and work within a team.

The job candidate's important role in the process is to qualitatively evaluate whether s/he is a good fit for the organization by asking questions that can supply as many quantitative answers as possible.

"If I interview someone," said Kate Bechtel, a biophotonics fellow at Triple Ring Technologies, "and they don't ask me detailed questions" about my company and the work we do, "then they are not passing the interview."

Fellow panelist, Cather Simpson, a professor at the University of Auckland, agreed. "You need to know if this is the right job for you," she said. Simpson says she routinely has candidates for jobs at her lab meet with her group members "when I am out of the room" so that her students and staff can interview the job candidate and vice versa.

Ryan Shelton, CEO and cofounder of PhotoniCare, said that networking and interview questions are number one on his list. "I want to hire someone who is smarter than me," Shelton said, so that every new employee can add value to the company. An question he asks of all candidates is "What would you do if you disagreed with me?"

Ryan added, "It's important that they speak up."

The panel discussion was one of several workshops and presentations at Photonics West to help photonics professionals hone their job skills and connect with potential employees. The free SPIE Career Center Job Fair will be held in the South Exhibit Hall of the Moscone Center from 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday and Wednesday.

For more information on professional development events at Photonics West: