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Roundup Review: Optica's Career Accelerator Driving the future forward by empowering optics leaders of tomorrow

Becky Bosco, Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Optica

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. The Optica Foundation “Career Accelerator” seeks to enhance training for our students and early career members on core business functions that impact their organizations. The program aims to familiarize attendees with the corporate world's culture, language, and methodology as they move up to senior leadership during their careers.

Optica’s 2023 Career Accelerator attendees, hosted at an authentic Florida dude ranch and rodeo Westgate Resort, built a diverse set of skills—from accounting to bull riding! The rodeo-infused atmosphere energized attendees and speakers alike and provided ample opportunity to socialize with unique activities. Optica’s Career Accelerator brought together leaders in the industry, rigors of academic study, and career-guiding conversations to enhance attendees’ skills that are highly sought after by employers globally. Attendees traveled from 26 countries for five days of learning, networking, and ranching.

"Our Career Accelerator is a reflection on Optica’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within optics and photonics— it's a reflection of the impact that's possible when our industry comes together to teach skills outside of the lab," said Marcia Lesky, Senior Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Volunteer Cultivation at Optica. "We're proud of fostering the next generation of talent with this group of students and early career professionals. During this career accelerator, attendees hear from experts from across the industry. It is an open forum of insights and discussion creating new career paths in optics and photonics."

Select speaker insights:
Kenneth Barber, Senior Director of Engineering at Edmund Optics, USA, “Never be afraid to ask questions! Thoughtful questions work to support and set goal expectations, thus how to allocate resources. Work towards understanding the “why” of any business challenge you may have -- the “how” will appear through this questioning process. Finally, be kind - your goodwill bank should always exceed what  you ask of others.”

Anjul Loiacono, Vice President of Quantum Signal Processing, Infleqtion, USA, "Alternative careers have always existed, but it wasn't the most common next step after a Ph.D. When I moved into marketing at Thorlabs, I led us through several corporate marketing strategies during acquisitions. This was not something I learned during my Ph.D. studies, but skills I learned on the job. Marketing and communication are everything in our community. A technology or product is useless if it never gets into the hands of the people who will use them. "

Sam Rubin, CEO, LightPath Technologies, USA, “My career in optics has taught me the value of international collaboration, big-picture thinking, and curiosity. It has taught me to make decisions based on the company's core values. Core values in a business setting are more than a one-size-fits-all approach. I encourage all to learn the core values of their organization and utilize them daily.”

Christina C. C. Willis, Senior Legislative Affairs Specialist, Infleqtion, USA, "We have opportunities at industry meetings to connect, collaborate, and network. Don't let these opportunities pass you by! Get contact information and maintain these relationships remotely. These connections may become friends or future collaborators."

Select attendee insights:
Abhishek Anchal, Ribbon Communications, Israel,My experience at the Career Accelerator program was more than I expected. As an early career researcher, I felt that the program was catered to address my needs (such as social networking, project management, human resources, finances, etc.). I highly recommend it for early career and Ph.D. researchers.”

Mitchell Cox, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, “My research focuses on developing long-range wireless optical systems, and I've recently started my own lab. Several speakers shared their career journeys from research to commercialization with us which was inspiring! Besides the pro tips from the presenters, I think my biggest "take home" is the new friends and connections I've made! ”

Angelina Frank, Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore, “The Career Accelerator was a unique opportunity to learn about the key qualities and values that drive innovation and success of our industry on the highest level. It offered great insight into the industrial world as much as it fostered a collaborative and international community that will shape my future projects in industry, academia and beyond.”

The ability to be flexible and adaptable, strong communication skills, and the capacity to see a task through to completion are essential qualities in any leader. The Optica Foundation Career Accelerator 2023 wrapped up in sunny Florida with attendees having lots of notes to think through, connections made and new leadership skills acquired.

Find these takeaways insightful? Explore other resources and engagement opportunities with the Optica Foundation.

Level Up Leadership
Are you leading a team for the first time? Do you know how to handle conflicts? Are you feeling like an imposter? This program for early-career professionals explores these questions and the communication and leadership skills necessary to advance your career to the next level.

Siegman International School on Lasers
Created in honor of laser pioneer Anthony Siegman, you will experience an overview of laser science and technology like no other. For graduate students, attendees have the opportunity to connect with laser luminaries and can present their research. Innovation School Learn how to take a great idea and turn it into a product and how to take an idea that isn’t working and pivot it into something else. Here, early-career professionals and students explore the lean-canvas model and customer problem fit on a team racing towards a pitch at the end of the four-day program.

Innovation School
Learn how to take a great idea and turn it into a product, take an idea that isn’t working, and pivot it into something else. Here, early-career professionals and students explore the lean-canvas model and customer problem fit on a team racing towards a pitch at the end of the four-day program.


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