Our employee group, The NETwork, recently hosted an event exploring AT&T’s vast IP portfolio called “Patenting for Beginners.” Grad student and intern Brittney Smith was there and now she’s sharing her experience.

Brittney SmithAs a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, pursuing the Master of Mechanical Engineering, I have begun seeking experiential learning opportunities in the career field for which I have laid the foundation of my technical education: intellectual property, in particular, patents. AT&T’s Patent Development Internship appealed more than similar programs because it offers a window into patent work at the ideation stage, the first and perhaps most critical in the process of securing a patent. And yet, to my surprise and satisfaction, that window has revealed even more than the mechanics of various roles and insights from those who fill them.

AT&T’s Patent Rich History

On my first day interning with AT&T, I was reminded the company’s intellectual property portfolio includes over 10,000 issued and pending patents. Who were the inventors, I wondered? A patent portfolio that substantial led me to imagine labs chock-full of scientists and engineers huddled alone at their stations, charged with the sole task of conceiving patentable ideas. What I have learned, however, is twofold.

First, inventing can be collaborative; in fact, in my experience, that is when inventing is most fun and most rewarding. Gathering with colleagues, tossing around ideas, improving on them, it feels exciting to be a part of that. And it feels gratifying to both explore and expand the limits of your creativity.

Second, anyone can be but, more importantly, should be an inventor. Every member of the AT&T team, no matter their title or tenure, encounters throughout the course of their day unique problems with potentially unique solutions. In that sense, we are all inventors. It is only a matter of realizing our potential.

Brittney’s Advice: Just Go for it

For anyone unsure of their potential or hesitant about getting started, I would tell them to just go for it. Moreover, I would encourage them to find a colleague to join in. I have witnessed firsthand that some of the best ideas come from collaboration between people with diversity not only of experience but also of thought, from people with varying levels of proficiency, varying educational and professional backgrounds.

Inventing is a matter not of occupation or expertise but simply of motivation and belief. Of all the lessons I have learned this summer, that one is very likely the greatest.

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