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Luck and my MIT Ph.D Saga (III) 精选

已有 2357 次阅读 2017-11-14 04:15 |个人分类:生活点滴|系统分类:科研笔记

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This is the third in the series of articles by my friend, Dr.Art Chen , of his MIT ph.d. saga. It contains interesting history of the US corporate giants, such as  IBM, RCA, and GE, of the second half of the 20thcentury as well as lessons of  company hubris well worth knowing and remembering.

Lucky Decision, My First Job After Ph.D.

Art Chen

Mid 1960's was the golden age of corporate research when I received my Ph.D. from MIT. I had many opportunities with all major researchlabs (Bell Labs, IBM, DuPont, etc.) and came down to deciding between RCA Labs at Princeton, NJ or GE at  Schenectady, NY. RCA was my first choice, Princeton was nice, near New York City  and Schenectady was old, cold and 3-4 hours from any metropolitan area or Chinatown.  I did, however, assessed that my manager to be at GE to be a nicer person to work for.  The key factor in my decision was that my thesis advisor had some patent dispute  with RCA. As I had already had problem in defending my Ph.D. thesis, there was no  need to ask for more trouble so I decided on GE. I told my wife we will be there just  for two years for me to get established.

So luckily joined GE turned out to be a great decision. The scope of the  businesses was very wide providing me with many technical opportunities.  And it was staffed with fewer engineers so there was lesscompetition. The management was supportive and informal, which fitted my personality.

After about 20 years, GE bought RCA in 1986. We visited RCA Labs after the acquisition  to discuss possible integration plan and I was shocked at what I saw. Due to poor  corporate  management, RCA Labs was a shadow of its former self.  The equipment was old and they were struggling to find a role within a changed  RCA. GE finally donated RCA Labs to SRI to take it off its hand.

My fate would certainly have been different if I joined RCA instead of GE.

The two power corporate R&D labs, Bell Labs and IBM suffered similar but not as  dramatic fall. AT&T lost its monopoly position.With the development of Internet, etc, Bell Labs could not keep up and it now a shadow of it’s former self.

IBM and its labs went thru the PC shock in the late 1980’s,where it had to change itself. I  was invited to IBM lab at Armonk for an informal discussion on culture change in a  corporate lab. Before I went to GE,it just went thru a change to orient its mission to work  closer with GE’s businesses. IBM labs, being a part of a natural monopoly  in the 1970’s, on the other hand set out to be top in science and win a Nobel Prize.  It did win a Prize (GE won one in the 1930’s and in 1970’s), but in my opinion,  it failed to help the future of IBM businesses. The primary one is in PC, where IBM had to source the microprocessor from Intel and the simple operating system from Microsoft. IBM lab had to go thru a rapid transformation. My schoolmate, whowas the head of the physics research, told me that he had to outplace half of his 600 staff to other  IBM positions or to academia in less than six months.

Are there lessons to learned from this story? Luck in decision is important but also how  you make the opportunity made available toyou.

As to future employer, it is difficult to determine a priori.One suggestion is aim at an  employer, which is very competitive and do not suffer the complaisance of being  a monopoly. But nothing is certain. I had a great 28 years career at GE and retired  early over 20 years ago. Recent development in GE shows that no company is immune  to poor corporate management.

Note added by Blogger Y.C.Ho on 11/14/2017:

GE stock lost 7.2% in one day trading yesterday because GE annouced dividend pay cut on her stock. You may also be interest to related articles of mine on CEO  being the last dictator in a democracy.  http://blog.sciencenet.cn/blog-1565-1068242.html ,  http://blog.sciencenet.cn/blog-1565-530569.html




http://blog.sciencenet.cn/blog-1565-1085137.html

上一篇:Getting my MIT Ph.D continued (II)
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