Over the last few years I've made many university visits to discuss all things high-tech. This Fall I plan to increase the number of visits. During my recent swing to the West Coast I settled into a bit of a groove when it comes to how I approach an initial university visit.
First and foremost I always look for an opportunity to talk to the students, whether it is an open lecture or a small classroom. My favorite topic is to describe the products I've worked on and how we built them.I did this with students in Russia last year.
The other aspect I enjoy is having the dialogue with the professors about their research interests. These meetings for me are a 90% listening exercise that puts me back into the classroom. As I learn their research interests I'm internally mapping them against the corporate research strategies currently in place at EMC. I'm also looking for new research themes that my company might want to pursue.
The other 10% of my time is usually spent asking questions and proposing the introduction of relevant EMC resources into the University. I'm finding more and more that these resources fall into six categories:
- Curriculum. In very few cases do universities have a formal curriculum that provides a solid mapping to the needs of the storage industry. It is even rarer for them to have a full set of cloud courses that steer the students towards careers in cloud building and/or cloud usage. So I offer up books, video trainings, and coursework that are available in those areas. Pretty soon I'll be able to add Big Data curriculum as well.
- Lectures from field engineers. In some cases the students are already quite educated on technologies like cloud. There's nothing quite so interesting, however, than having a true cloud-builder come into the classroom and explain the design experiences they have had at customer sites (pitfalls and all). Professors (especially in the "Systems" field) are always quite keen to contrast the field approach against system theory. In general it's a great opportunity for EMC field engineers (e.g. like a vSpecialist) to talk about what they do without turning it into a sales pitch.
- Lectures from engineers. In nearly every case a university is interested in having an engineer come in and talk about the product or service that they are building. Cairo is a good example.
- Equipment and/or data sets. I have found that professors love access to live data sets from an enterprise environment. They often don't have the budget or IT capability for their storage needs in a certain field of research. Often times EMC will have a local lab nearby that can carve out some space for them to play on (of course equipment donations are highly valued by universities as well ;>)).
- Assistance with publications. I've found many universities that place a strong emphasis on publications and value any assistance to that end. A recent example of this was the research on replication of social data at UMASS Boston.
- A visit from EMC Ventures. Some universities are not interested in having their portfolio reviewed by venture capitalists. But many of them are, and a visit from EMC's internal VC team is quite welcome.
The Fall semester begins in a few weeks, and I hope to write a few posts about some of the more interesting research initiatives I encounter on my visits.
Director, EMC Innovation Network