Be Creative at any Time: The First Step to Becoming an Inventor
It was 2015 and I had been an engineer at Avaya for almost eight years when a Hackathon was announced. We were encouraged to submit an idea and develop it over a 24 hour period. Afterward, we presented the solution to leadership and more frighteningly, to our fellow colleagues. At the time, I had no idea that this would be the start of my journey to filing patents and becoming a female inventor.
A few of us sitting near each other started to brainstorm. This freedom to do anything you wanted to do – it was empowering! After a few lunchtime discussions, we submitted the project named ‘like my call.’ The idea was simple: instant feedback on agent performance. The solution simple, too: Dual Tone Multiple Frequencies (DTMF) tones collected on any hard phone or smartphone. With the click of a button, a customer who was receiving great service could instantly rate the voice call.
The not-so-simple part was customizing a car sales website with real-time statistics about calls and tweaking our lab contact center to add in this new feature.
My teammates and I presented our idea during the Hackathon and were delighted to come in second overall in the competition. This was a huge confidence boost in our idea and started us off on our patent journey together. We filed ‘like my call’–renamed to the much smoother ‘Efficient mechanism for customer feedback from a voice call’–later that year. It is pending granted status.
We went on between us to file another seven patents and on five of them I was either inventor or named as co-inventor. One I am proud to say has been granted and makes me a bona fide inventor.
We can always be creative in what we do. Find what it is that you enjoy the most in your job. What part of it excites you? If you can answer that, the rest will follow. Creativity comes at any time. It can come while talking to customers about the limitations they have or while using products yourself. It can come from finding feature gaps or ideas for enhancing the service the product delivers. A theme that flows through my patents and will continue to, is the idea of increasing efficiency for our customers. How can our products be more reactive themselves? We are at the cusp of the power of AI. It is a very exciting time to work in technology with such rapid advancements. Think about how fast things have shifted since even 50 years ago, and the pace of change continues to gain speed. It makes our ideas more achievable.
What might start out as a thought, a tiny innovative spark, developed or expanded through discussion with peers. Documented for presentation to our leadership. Working with lawyers to give it the best chance at attaining the patent and finally getting it filed. At Avaya, there are supports in place at all stages of this process. When the patent gets filed there is a huge sense of achievement.
The most enjoyable part for me is working with others. Collaborating with my peers. Sitting around brainstorming these ideas is fun and above all fuels our enthusiasm for what we do. Discussing patent ideas with my colleagues has always given me confidence to bring those ideas further along.
And finally the best advice I have been given is no matter where you are or what you are doing, ALWAYS note down your ideas – big or small. Catalog them for later, you will not be sorry.