Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship

When one thinks about working in Social Enterprise, mechanical engineering is not one of the first job descriptions considered. Traditional and popular opportunities include community development, fine arts, and microfinance. Most people do not consider the wide array of professional trade associations that prove to be equally effective in advancing Social Enterprise. HBS Fellowships truly provide access to a broad range of opportunities and organizations within the non-profit sector.

As an HBS Social Enterprise Fellow this past summer, I interned with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the professional non-profit society of mechanical and multi-disciplinary engineers. As a mechanical engineer by undergraduate degree, I have been an active volunteer for the society for 11 years, since my freshman year at Penn State University. Working full-time for the society that has given me so much was an incredible experience, and one that has made a strong impression on me as I consider my future career.

Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, today’s ASME is a 120,000 member professional organization focused on technical, educational and research issues of the engineering and technology community. ASME conducts one of the world’s largest technical publishing operations, holds numerous technical conferences worldwide, and offers hundreds of professional development courses each year. ASME sets internationally recognized industrial and manufacturing codes and standards that enhance public safety.

My summer internship took place at the Washington DC office of ASME-Strategic Ventures, which has resources that reach out to government agencies, industry, federal laboratories, Congress and allied trade and professional associations. As a Business Development associate, I began implementation of the Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative, fulfilling the Presidential challenge of collaboratively building the 21st century economy through the development of engineering talent, innovations, and entrepreneurship.

From day one at ASME, I jumped right into a series of projects and initiatives. I tackled a series of research and analysis projects such as exploring the viability of a U.S. based Manufacturing Excellence Award, the applicability of an anti-counterfeiting technology and how ASME can support it, and the development of a proposal to the Department of Labor for a $3.5 million grant.

The two major undertakings I spearheaded were the redesign and expansion of ASME’s Industry Advisory Board and the development and launch of the Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative (EEII). I was responsible for many significant components of the EEII. First, I created and managed the Engineering Business Management Track at ASME’s annual Congress in early November. I organized 15 sessions total, of which nine focused solely on engineering entrepreneurship and innovation.

The second major component of the EEII is developing a Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The Center will start off as a website, or portal, which will serve as the national resource center for engineering entrepreneurship and innovation. Resources, tools, networks, events, competitions, training seminars, workshops, links, discussion forums, and much more will be created on this website, and serve as the hub of engineering entrepreneurship.

The third exciting branch of the EEII is the creation of the Innovation Showcase in collaboration with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and Idea to Product Competitions. The vision of the Showcase is to be the premier nationwide technology entrepreneurship showcase event to inspire engineers and future engineers to be product and corporate innovators. The mission of the Showcase is to collaborate with existing entrepreneurship and corporate innovation organizations and to provide the necessary services so that engineers can move their ideas into world-class products and ventures.

The first showcase will be piloted at the 2007 ASME Congress in Seattle, Washington, and will feature a Pacific Northwest regional competition at the collegiate level. Based on the results of the pilot program, the Showcase will then be expanded regionally and nationally in future years, also targeting pre-college students and professional working engineers. I completed a full 30-page business plan including a detailed marketing plan, timeline, financial plan, and competition details. I continue to serve as the lead staff project manager on the development of this event.

There are many other initiatives part of the EEII, including engineering workforce training and development in the Department of Labor’s defined 13 WIRED regions, actively promoting and facilitating STEM (Science, Technology, Math, and Science) education, encouraging diversity in the engineering workforce, and addressing the President’s grand challenges, including energy and alternative fuels, aerospace, advanced manufacturing and materials, water, and biotechnology.

The entire experience was exciting and very educational. I gained extremely valuable experience in business development, combined with entrepreneurship, marketing, and education. I cannot possibly imagine a better summer experience elsewhere. One of the best benefits has been the opportunity to immerse myself in the government world. I attended multiple government briefings, caucuses, and presentations each week, including Congress, Senate, foreign, and industry councils. Such exotic conferences I participated in include India & Innovation, Pakistan Power Sector, China & Innovation, Japan Science & Technology policy, Council on Competitiveness, and the RFID Technology caucus.

There are many opportunities in Washington DC in the non-profit and government sectors. I look forward to exploring the many options as the year progresses. I am grateful for the opportunity and experience I was afforded this summer. Thank you to the Social Enterprise Fellowship program for making this possible.