Kirsten Leute works in technology transfer for Osage University Partners.This blog is published here with her permission.
While my colleagues at OUP have recently been outdoing one another on well-researched blogs (here, here, and here), I’ve decided to go the opposite direction and write about some non-data oriented, anecdotal thoughts I’ve had on the technology transfer profession and how it’s changed from a little-known job to an actual career.
Around 15 years ago, while I was working at Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), the calls started coming in.
“Could you tell me how to get into university technology transfer?”
“How did you find your job?”
My own path in tech transfer, not unlike the experience of many others, was one of serendipity — the right place at the right time. I’d planned on a different career, one in medical illustration, but happened to temp as a receptionist at Stanford’s OTL in 1996. When I was offered a full-time position, I hesitated as it meant shifting my priorities. I ended up staying because of the people — enthusiastic, encouraging, smart, and affable.
At the time, most of the people in OTL joined the office with no previous technology transfer experience. They’d come to Stanford from business development or other roles in industry. They’d studied science, but moved out of the lab and into the relationships and agreement part of the business. And working for a university technology transfer office was interesting, but not highly sought after.
So when I started receiving the calls from people interested in a position in technology transfer, it was a noticeable shift. Many of the people calling were currently in the lab, who, like me, decided their fate was not as a principal investigator or as a lab tech — pipetting, running gels, and waiting in line to use expensive instruments. However, they still loved science and were exploring career options to use their deep knowledge and inquiry-based orientation.