Why You Don’t Need to Have Great Ideas to Be an Inventor

On this issue of the IBM Patent Leadership Series, we are featuring Dana Price. Dana handles Application Modernization for IBM Cloud Private, as a Master Inventor for IBM Hybrid Cloud.

The IBM Patent Leadership series marks IBM’s 25th consecutive year leading in patent grants. The series consists of innovation stories from remarkable IBMers who help make this company what it is and has been for over a century: a collection of inquisitive, restless, determined humans who drive the culture of innovation within and beyond our walls.

Dana Price was 17 years into her IBM career before she realized she was an inventor. Even after filing her first patent, she still saw inventing as a mere side project. One day it clicked: You don’t need to have great ideas to be an inventor, you just need to have some great problems.

Another 13 years later, she’s an enthusiastic problem-solver and mentor. But Dana sees her job as so much more than the title on her business card.

Dana Price, looking for problems in her kitchen.

“There’s more to work than just your assigned task,” she says. “Partnering with people on things that aren’t part of my day job, mentoring, and participating in social activities helps me get to know people as people, not just as coworkers. And those relationships are what cements my connection to IBM and to my job.”

Dana, a mom of two and avid kayaker, says she didn’t know the first thing about patenting for most of her IBM career. But, thanks to an eye-opening conversation in 2004 with her mentor, she came to the realization that she could patent some of the solutions she was already tackling in her day job as a WebSphere engineer. Since then, Dana and her brainstorming teams have filed 88 patent applications, of which 35 patents have been issued to date.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we asked Dana to share her thoughts on women’s progress, “To me, ‘women’s progress’ means a continuation of the efforts of women who came before us, clearing the way so that women who come after us will have a more natural and unobstructed path toward happiness and career satisfaction.”

DANA On the issue of gender equality in the workplace, Dana says, “Women in STEM are under-represented in colleges and as job candidates. I am proud of IBM’s programs to sponsor girls in technical educational programs, and to encourage female employees to excel in technical roles. For the majority of my career, my gender has been a non-issue at IBM. I believe that I have had the same career opportunities as any other employee, while I have also benefited from programs whose goals are to ensure that female technical employees find satisfaction and success in those technical roles as their careers continue.”

Dana, an IBM Master Inventor, is passionate about mentoring young women who are just starting their careers. She is a participant in internal IBM communities such as the New Hire Network and Patent Champion Team for IBM’s North Carolina office, and attributes many of her successes as an inventor to partnering with small groups where the team dynamics spark exciting discussions.

“Patenting is a creative and social activity,” Dana points out. She meets regularly with other inventors and mentors to talk about problems they encounter-sharing lists that typically begin with, “I hate it when…”-and then brainstorming on possible ways to solve these issues.

For those who are interested in patenting, Dana suggests keeping track of the hurdles you face while working on a project. By the time you’ve solved a problem, the solution may seem like old news-when, in reality, it could be an invention worth celebrating.

Find out more about the foundation of IBM’s Patent Leadership.

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