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Career Accelerator

01 May 2022 – 05 May 2022 Asilomar Hotel and Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, California United States

Understand core skills and expectations in the corporate environment.

To compete and succeed in the optics and photonics field today, students and early career professionals need to develop skills inside and outside the lab to understand how to utilize their expertise in this ever-growing and changing sector. 

Career Accelerators seek to fill the training and education gap by focusing on career paths and the professional and personal skills needed for success. Our goal with this program is to acquaint students with the corporate world's culture, language, and methodology as they plan their transition from academia to industry.   
Topics include:

  • Leadership Development
  • Team Building and Group Dynamics
  • Business Strategy
  • Innovation & Product Development
  • Budgeting and Financial Management
  • Management and Decision Making
  • Marketing and Branding
  • Effective Communication
  • Negotiating
  • Project Management


Quick Links



We have an engaging and informative program planned.  The thought leaders featured on our agenda are all leaders in their profession and field. 

Sunday, 01 May   

17:30-17:45 Welcome Remarks

  • Speaker: Chad Stark, Executive Director, Optica Foundation

17:45-18:45 Facilitator and Attendee Introductions

19:00-20:30 Dinner

Monday, 02 May   

8:00-9:00 Breakfast

09:00-10:15 Kickoff: Sustainable Networking for Scientists and Engineers

  • Speaker: Christina Willis, Senior Analyst, ColdQuanta

10:15-10:45 Break

10:45-11:45 Leadership Styles and Teams in the Corporate Environment

  • Speaker: Larry Schwerin, Managing Director, Blue Line Group

11:45-12:45 Project Management for Engineering, R&D, Technology Teams

  • Speaker: Kenneth Barber, Director, Project Management, Edmund Optics

12:45-14:00 Lunch

14:00-15:00 Corporate Culture and Engagement

  • Speaker: Jamie LaCouture, Communications and Engagement Manager, Thorlabs

15:00-16:00 The Many Faces of Marketing

Speaker: Karen Liu, Project Management, Nubis Communications

16:00-16:30 Break

16:30-17:30 Corporate to Entrepreneur

  • Speaker: Mario Paniccia, CEO, Anella Photonics

17:00-17:15 Daily Wrap Up

18:00-19:00 Dinner

Tuesday, 03 May   

8:00-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-10:00 Innovation and Product Development

  • Speaker: Jim Kafka, Advanced Research and Development Director, MKS/Spectra Physics

10:00-11:00 Identifying Emerging Technology Trends

  • Speaker: Michael Yadlowskv, Director of Applied Physics, Corning Inc.

11:00-11:30 Break

11:30-12:30 Intellectual Property: Academia vs Corporate Approaches

  • Speaker: Darius Sankey, Managing Director, Innovation Acceleration Capital

12:30-14:00 Lunch

14:00-15:00 Negotiation Skills

  • Speaker: Eve Griliches, Senior Product Manager, Cisco

15:00-15:30 Break

15:30-16:45 The Language of Business: Managerial Reporting and Accounting for Decision Making (Part 1)

  • Speaker: George Bayz, Vice President and General Manager, Synopsys (retired)

16:45-17:00 Daily Wrap-Up

18:00-19:00 Dinner

Wednesday, 04 May   

8:00-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-10:00 The Language of Business: Managerial Reporting and Accounting for Decision Making (Part 2)

  • Speaker: George Bayz, Vice President and General Manager, Synopsys (retired)

10:00-11:00 From Resume Review to Final Offer: Inside HR and the Hiring Process

11:00-11:30 Break

11:30- 12:30 The Role of a Product Line Manager

  • Speakers: Keeley Hurley, Product Line Manager, Coherent

12:30-14:00 Lunch 

14:00-15:00 The Role of the Account Manager

  • Speakers: Erik McKee, Government Scientific Accounts Manager, TOPTICA

15:00-15:30 Break

15:30-16:30 A Career in Optical Manufacturing: Fabrication and Design

  • Speaker: Jessica DeGroot Nelson, Director of Technology and Strategy, Optimax

16:45-17:00 Daily Wrap-Up

17:30-19:00 Dinner

Thursday, 05 May   

8:00-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-9:05 Morning Welcome

9:00-10:00 State of the Optics and Photonics Market

  • Speaker: Tom Hausken, Senior Industry Advisor, OPTICA

10:00-10:30 Break  (Checkout of rooms if needed)

10:30-11:30 Leveraging the Key Learnings to Enhance your Career

11:30 Adjournment and Lunch



Kenneth Barber

Director of Program Management, Edmund Optics

Kenneth has over 23 years of experience in the photonics industry specializing in Project Management and Product Development. During his career he founded and help develop Edmund Optics’ Project Management department and New Product Introduction process. As Director of Engineering and Project Management, he leads a global team of Designers and Project Managers in the US, China and Germany in the development of new product. Kenneth holds a graduate certification in Project Management from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and received his BS in Optics from the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY. • Founder and Co-chair of Edmund Optics’ US Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee • Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Published Articles contributed to: • Optics that focus on manufacturing  • Hemispherical Display Uses Single Lens and Digital Projector 

George Bayz

Vice President & General Manager, Synopsys (retired)

George Bayz joined Synopsys as the Vice President and General Manager of the Optical Solutions Group with the Synopsys’ acquisition of Optical Research Associates (ORA) in October 2010. Bayz has over 25 years of senior management experience with high-technology firms. Prior to Synopsys, Bayz was President and CEO of ORA, served on the ORA Board of Directors and chaired the ORA Audit Committee, which provided oversight of the reporting practices of the company and the quality and integrity of the company's financial statements. Prior to ORA, he was President and CEO of PeoplePoint Systems, Inc., an enterprise software company; General Manager and Executive Vice President at Artemis International Solutions Corp., a provider of advanced project management solutions; President and CEO of Thinque Systems, a workforce automation solutions provider; and President and CEO of MAI Systems Corporation, a provider of information technology to the hospitality industry. Bayz received a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Southern California and a J.D. from Loyola Marymount University. He is a Member of the California Bar and is a California Certified Public Accountant.

Jessica DeGroot Nelson

Director of Technology and Strategy, Optimax Systems, Inc.

Jessica DeGroote Nelson is the Director of Technology and Strategy at Optimax, a high precision optics manufacturer, located in Ontario, NY. She joined Optimax in 2007 after graduating from the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester with a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Optics. She furthered her education with an Executive MBA from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester. During her time at Optimax, Jessica has been a scientist, researcher and leader, focusing on the spirit of innovation at the company. Jessica has not only expanded and improved the internal optical manufacturing processes, but has also received several Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants funded by NASA and the Department of Defense (DoD), leading a team of researchers on these initiatives. In addition to her roles at Optimax, Jessica actively presents and collaborates with Optica (formally OSA), Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE), the American Society of Precision Engineers (ASPE), and the Optics and Electro Optics Standard Council (OEOSC). Optics education is a strong passion for Jessica, and she currently leads the educational outreach activities for Optica – Rochester Section and chairs the SPIE Education Committee. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester.

Eve Griliches

Senior Product Marketing, Cisco

Eve Griliches is the Product Marketing lead for the Optical BU. Previously, Eve was Director of Solutions Marketing at BTI Systems and Managing Partner of the global research firm ACG Research where she was VP of Optical Networking. Before ACG, Eve served as IDC Program Director for Telecommunications Equipment, where she provided in-depth analysis on key telecom market technologies. Additionally, Eve has more than 10 years of product line management experience at equipment vendors including Marconi (Ericsson), PhotonEx, Nortel Networks, Bay Networks and Wellfleet Communications. She also spent four years at Thinking Machines Corporation, one of the first parallel processing supercomputer companies.

Tom Hausken

Senior Industry Advisor, OPTICA

With over 40 years in optoelectronics, Dr. Hausken focuses on industry content at Optica (formerly OSA). For 13 years until 2012, Dr. Hausken led market research and strategy consulting for lasers, image sensors, and a range of other photonic products at Strategies Unlimited. He was also a telecom policy analyst at the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and held R&D and production positions at Alcatel and Texas Instruments in photonics and electronics. He has a PhD from the University of California at Santa Barbara, in optoelectronics.

Keeley Hurley

Product Line Manager, Coherent

Keeley earned her BSc from the University of Arizona. She started her career at OptoPower/Spectra-Physics doing product development of fiber coupled and stacked laser diode arrays for medical, industrial and defense applications. She then joined DILAS Diode Laser, Inc. as one of its two founding members in 2005 as product manager. She continued her career with DILAS taking on rolls in both quality and operations management. After DILAS was acquired by Coherent, she returned to her role as Product Line Manager for high power diode laser component products for defense applications and has also led multiple production ramping efforts to support the expanding needs of the defense industry.

Jim Kafka

CTO and Fellow, Spectra-Physics / MKS

Jim Kafka received the B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester in 1977 and 1983, respectively. For the last 38 years, he has been developing new products and is currently the Chief Technology Officer for Spectra-Physics, and a Fellow of our parent company MKS. In addition to authoring numerous journal articles, conference presentations and seminars, he co-authored a book chapter on Ultrafast Nonlinear Optics and holds 45 patents. Jim was the principal designer on three products, the Tsunami, the Opal and the Millennia X, which have won technology achievement awards. He has served the optics community as the Ultrafast Phenomena topical editor for JOSA B, the co-chair for the CLEO and Advanced Solid-State Photonics conferences and as a Director on the Board of Directors for Optica. Jim is quite pleased to have served as a Distinguished Traveling Lecturer for the Division of Laser Science of the APS and to be a Fellow of the OSA.

Jamie LaCouture

Communication and Engagement Manager, Thorlabs

Jamie earned her MS in Management, Strategy, and Leadership from Michigan State University. Her prior education includes a BS in Communications and a BS in Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Jamie’s tenure at Thorlabs is just over eleven years, where her most current role entails corporate communications and engagement efforts as well as corporate giving and community outreach. She seeks to drive employee engagement by connecting employees with causes they are passionate about and are willing to contribute to – largely related educational initiatives and youth development. As the point of contact for industry relations and university partnerships, Jamie has recently begun organizing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts with several partners, to help advance Thorlabs mission to elevate underrepresented populations in the scientific community. In addition, she has launched an Ambassador Program to help build and foster relationships with university students and their labs, ensuring that Thorlabs fulfills its promise to customers, and future customers, to be a complete and valuable partner.

Karen Liu

Senior Director of Product Management, Nubis Communication

Karen Liu is responsible for Product Management and Marketing at Nubis Communications. Previously, she served as VP of Sales and Marketing at Kaiam Corp, and VP of Marketing and Investor Relations at Lightwave Logic. Dr. Liu initially moved from technical R&D to Marketing at Tellabs in order to introduce customers to the then-new approach of DWDM optical networking. She was involved in architecting the first optical networking products and their required components at Tellabs and IBM. Subsequently, she saw a broad range of companies and emerging technologies as an industry analyst at Ovum/Informa/RHK. She received a PhD in Applied Physics from Stanford University in the field of fiber optics, and a BSE in Mechanical Engineering from Princeton University.

Erik McKee

Government Scientific Accounts Manager, TOPTICA

Erik McKee is the Government Accounts and Application Manager for TOPTICA Photonics for North America. Erik has been with TOPTICA for over 5 years managing multi-million-dollar Government National Lab and Government Contractor projects related to lasers and optics with a focus in laser enabled Quantum Applications and Technologies. An interest in lasers and optics beyond just working in the lab drove him to pursue a career outside of being directly in research and development. This led him to a position that explores the field more broadly with real world applications and needs, working with diverse groups of people involved from the researchers in the lab, to program directors, Noble prize winners, government officials, and many more. Erik’s educational background includes a MS in Optics from CREOL at the University of Central Florida and a BS in Physics from the University of Central Florida.

Mario Paniccia

CEO, Anello Photonics

Dr. Paniccia is an experienced executive with over 20+ years in the photonics industry. Prior to ANELLO, Mario was at Intel where he achieved the level of Intel Fellow, CTO & GM of the Silicon Photonics Group. Mario is considered a world expert in silicon photonics & the technology he pioneered is used in Data Centers around the world.

Darius Sankey

Managing Director, Innovation Acceleration Capital

Dr. Sankey is the former president of Ocean Tomo China Technology. He served as the Senior Director of Portfolio Management at Intellectual Venture, overseeing investments and developing licensing programs for the $5B Invention Investment Funds 1 and 2. Dr. Sankey was a General Partner at Zone Ventures with Tim Draper, and he worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, Inc. He has also held strategic planning, consulting, and R&D positions at RAND and AT&T Bell Laboratories. He holds a B.S. in Physics, a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and a Ph.D. in Optical Engineering.

Larry Schwerin

Managing Director, Blue Line Group

Larry Schwerin has a distinguished multifaceted career spanning applied research at AT&T Bell Labs, General Management and Executive Business Leader at Lucent Technologies, Venture Capital General Partner at Vanguard Ventures, Board Member at private and public companies as well as being an accomplished CEO of multiple companies, including most recently, Elenion Technologies, which was acquired by Nokia in 2020. Coupled with his real-world experiences, Larry became an avid student of scenario planning and gaming theory to better understand the dynamics that affect business outcomes. He brings these collective experiences to help guide his Blueline clients into tangible success strategies. Larry has been a guest lecturer as well as authored numerous papers and presentations on telecommunications technology, network evolution as well as fundamentals in venture investing. Larry graduated with highest honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Drexel University and achieved highest honors with a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University.

Christina Willis

Senior Analyst, ColdQuanta

Christina C. C. Willis is a laser scientist, author, and public speaker with a passion for public policy. She served a year in the United States Senate as the 2019-2020 OSA / SPIE Arthur H. Guenther Congressional fellow and currently works as a Senior Analyst at the Boulder-based quantum technology company ColdQuanta. In her free time she teaches yoga and volunteers as a firefighter. You can download her book Sustainable Networking for Scientists and Engineers for free from SPIE Press ( and you can find her on Twitter @willischristina.

Michael Yadlowsky

Director of Applied Physics, Corning Inc.

Michael Yadlowsky is the Director of Applied Physics at the Corning Technology Center, Silicon Valley. He has held a number of technical contributor, technology strategy, and leadership roles in Research, Development and the Optical Communications business sector in Corning. Dr. Yadlowsky’s work has included product development, system modeling, and measurement development for a variety of applications including automotive sensor systems, optical fibers, optical fiber amplifiers, and optical communication systems. He has contributed to new products and technologies resulting in more than 40 technical publications, 35 issued patents, and >$400M in revenue. Previously, Dr Yadlowsky was a Principal Engineer at Alcon Research where he conducted research on ophthalmic surgical instrumentation and led the development and manufacturing transfer of novel technologies for cataract and vitreo-retinal surgery. After completing his PhD, Dr Yadlowsky was a National Research Council Research Associate at the National Institutes of Health where he investigated biomedical applications of optical imaging technologies. Dr Yadlowsky holds MS and PhD degrees from the University of Colorado, Boulder, an MBA from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Virginia.


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