Are you pleased with the results?
There’s been a really good return on
investment. Researchers are not only
inventing new stuff, they are jointly
writing top quality, peer-reviewed conference and journal articles.
You’ve worked hard to transfer the re-
sults of HP Labs research into actual
We formed a research advisory
board that’s composed of lab directors,
technologists from all across HP, and
business unit leaders. Jointly, we meet
and select which projects get funded at
HP Labs. We also provide a much better match between what we build in
HP Labs and what a business unit can
actually receive. Every big bet project
gets reviewed twice a year. That way,
the business unit members are part of
selecting the project, they see how it’s
progressing, and when the project has
ended, they are ready to catch the technology, so to speak.
“in the ideal world
of academic purity,
does whatever they
want and you hope
for the best. But
our approach has
been an approach
of focus, and that’s
really paid off.”
Unless I engage with the researchers
on a regular basis, the passion will not
be there, the intensity will not be there.
I say, “What are you trying to build? Can
we not do something bigger?” Then I
say, “The specific research you are doing, how will it make that dream come
true?” There’s an unrelenting pressure that I want to be able to feel—that
CACM lifetime mem half page ad:Layout 1 8/13/09 3:57 PM Page 1How do you inspire your researchers to
if we don’t do it, someone else will.
Before you joined HP, you spent more
than 20 years in academia. Did you find
the transition difficult?
Many people warned me, “Prith, you
will not survive.” Fortunately, my experience in academia was not in only one
position. I also took two exits into the
world of startups, and what I learned
from those startups are things I’ve tried
to preach and practice at HP Labs.
In academia, professors can work
and work and refine their papers to the
last word. The world of startups doesn’t
give you that luxury. I learned how to
deliver fast. I learned how to run—I am
always running. I try to convey that to
my colleagues at HP Labs—you have
to find the right trade-off. I want you to
document your work. I want you to advance the state of the art, but don’t just
keep on publishing and refining—run,
right? Start making stuff, as well.
Leah hoffmann is a brooklyn-based technology writer.
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