Advice from an Industry Professional: OSA Ambassador Interview Series

By Jelena Pesic, OSA Ambassador, NOKIA Bell Labs, France

  1. What is your education background?
  • I studied Electrical Engineering at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany. There I also did my PhD in optical transmission technology.
  1. What got you interested in science?
  • I cannot exactly answer this question, because I cannot clearly remember. That was probably already in school when I mostly enjoyed Math, Physics and Chemistry.
  1. Why did you choose optics?
  • This was no deliberate decision. It happened that once my professor asked me whether I would be interested in working for a PhD at the university. And the topic was in optics. If it were any other topic, I would probably work in this field now. But once I started working in optics I really began to enjoy it. Sometimes life is quite simple.
  1. Is there any person, from the world of optics/science, you admire?
  • Lots. Mostly they come from the supplier industry, some from universities. Academic people are sometimes too far away from what is actually needed. Nevertheless, there are some who are brilliant scientists, e.g. in the field of optical quantum key encryption. Many optics colleagues from the supplier industries are excellent experts and also privately very nice guys. E.g. I have one person from Ciena and multiple from Nokia, Adva or Coriant in mind. Most of them do not care so much about company’s strategies but are more devoted to their specific research or development. Only those people push the industry forward.
  1. What motivates you in the morning to go to work every day and to push the limits?
  • Honestly, besides pushing my company and my department forward, I also need to earn my salary somehow. After many years working in industry, going there is also an accepted habit. Nevertheless, I like my work, but could also enjoy life without it.
  1. What makes you feel you accomplished something at the end of the day?
  • Pretty often I do not have a totally satisfying feeling when leaving the office. But if so, I have such a feeling when I bring a certain activity to an end. It is less the quality of the delivered work but the hope to be well prepared for the next coming tasks and have some more time for those.
  1. What is your dream job?
  • Honestly, it is pretty close to what my current job is now. If I could wish for something, then I wished to be less exposed to my upper management interference.
  1. How did you figure out what your dream job is?
  • One can never figure out clearly what your personal dream job is. For that purpose, you always have to work on it for a while. And I think there is no clear dream job anyway. Any job will turn out to be satisfactory if you can cope with the challenges and make best use of your knowledge.
  1. If you could use a time machine to get back in time, what advice would you follow to get yourself through your studies?
  • Care about the fundaments of your profession. Fashions change, but the basics remain. And do not trust your fellow students who might say that a certain lecture is completely obsolete/unimportant (“you’ll never need this stuff!”). You can always learn something in those courses. But when you get older, say 30 yrs and beyond, learning becomes more and more cumbersome. Creating ideas does not happen in your smartphone but in your brain. That’s why you do not need the knowledge on the smartphone but in your head! And during learning phases, lay your smartphone aside!
  1. Why is industry an important sector for students to look into?
  • Real life happens in industry. That is the field where you can earn your money in the end. And industry has the money to fund an exciting new idea.
  1. When we were students, we all had moments when we thought, ‘why do I need to learn this’, ‘when will I ever use this in life?’ Did you experience moments like these? How did you overcome them?
  • Of course, I did. I cannot clearly remember how I dealt with those moments. Probably I was more afraid to fail the next examination, so I accepted to learn what my supervisors presented. Perhaps I was a little too conservative and under-confident.
  1. From your point of view, what is the difference between research in university/institute and research in industry?
  • Research in university/institute is much more fundamental and has less view on practical implementations. Often, academic people do not even know in which direction they should do research. That’s why they need industrial guidance. Without most of the effort might be just waste of time and resources, with guidance that they can deliver excellent work. Then collaboration between academia and industry makes perfect sense and is mutually fruitful.
  1. How do you like to spend your free time?
  • Together with my wife and sometimes the children when they happen to appear at home.


Posted: 30 April 2018 by Jelena Pesic, OSA Ambassador, NOKIA Bell Labs, France | with 0 comments

The views expressed by guest contributors to the Discover OSA Blog are not those endorsed by The Optical Society.


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