Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Santokh S Badesha of National Academy of Inventors Is Helping To Change Our World
It is important to recognize and leverage diversity, not just race but skills in work environment! It helps in an overall team environment. Soft skills that include looking beyond the traditional diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, etc. Diversity of skills in developing future job offerings is critical in the workplace.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Santokh S. Badesha.
Dr. Santokh S. Badesha is Corporate Fellow and Manager Open Innovation at Xerox. He is also an Adjunct Innovation Professor at Purdue University. Badesha is responsible for providing direction and strategies for materials research and leads cross-functional development efforts in high performance materials for component design for marking subsystems. He holds 263 issued U.S. Patents and an additional 50+ applications are at different stages of the patenting process. Badesha is Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK and Chartered Scientist, Member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Fellow of the Punjab Science Congress, and Honorary Member of the Society of Imaging Science & Technology. In addition, Badesha serves on a number of Xerox committees that are responsible for Intellectual Property generation (IPC), Intellectual Property evaluation (TAP), and Intellectual Property management (MIP-COMIP).
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always had a passion for science education. It was instilled in me from childhood and the people who excelled where I am from in India were science majors. My driving force was that I wanted to be a science teacher. In high school, I completed a bachelor’s of science from a local college. We had four choices: chemistry, physics, math or English. After that, I went to university and had the freedom of picking a major, but the system was such that when you graduated from local college, your standing within the state was published in the newspaper. Based on that standing you can apply for a university. I always liked physics more than chemistry, so I applied to the physics department at Punjab University. The Dean said they couldn’t admit me but suggested the chemistry department and I ended up being a top choice for admission there.
I received a second bachelor’s in chemistry, a master’s in chemistry and then received my PhD — all in India. I then applied for a post doctorate in England. I learned that the British system allowed for a second PhD, and I was able to finish my second PhD in England in two years versus the standard 4–5 years. We had a small stipend of 58 British pounds per month and I was able to save 78 pounds over two years. I proposed to my wife and when I purchased the ring I used the entire 78 pounds. We have been married for 45 years. We moved to Troy NY, where I taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for four years. I went to an American Chemical Society National Meeting where I met Drs. Tom Smith and Dave Williams who were recruiting for Xerox at the time. I didn’t have a resume in hand but after briefly chatting, I was invited to visit Xerox Webster Research Center to deliver a seminar. By the time I went for my seminar, I already had two offers in hand from Rohm and Haas and 3M, so this process didn’t feel like an interview. After the lecture at Xerox, Tom offered me a job. Tom offered to match or do better than my two other offers and made me feel comfortable as a client. From there our relationship grew and I have been at Xerox for over 42 years.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Working in this environment at Xerox is very productive, supportive, offers lots of freedom, and you’ll be doing fundamental science that has the potential to address critical technology problems. Tom was a great teacher. We became friends and way more than associate and manager. He always advised me to try to understand what others in our work environment think about us, and leverage that understanding to our benefit. This is more relevant if you are a minority — there is a structural bias and we all have it in one form or the other, no doubt.
Tom’s advice was to make more piles rather than building a mountain, diversify your skillset and be involved with and good at multiple things. This is different than academia, where you must make a mountain to get tenure, promotions, and funding. When you’re working in industry, one needs to be good in all aspects of offerings — in printing image generation, image development, image transfer to paper, image fuse/fix. I have used Tom’s advice throughout my 42+ years tenure at Xerox.
Be Proactive, If you know there are projects or individuals who need help and you know you can provide that support, don’t be shy about seeing if you can help rather than waiting for them to call you. Most of us wait for the call rather than finding that our neighbor has a problem and getting involved. Also, sharing your learning will help you be a better innovator. Ask others to help if you need it. Personally, I am never shy or embarrassed about asking others for help and I do this quite often. Ask and you will be surprised how willing people are to go the extra mile to help you. Get involved and don’t be a loner because you are going to need help from others for idea advancement. Work with others when it comes to ideas, share them and build on the ideas of others. If you want to see your ideas implemented, get involved with the business groups. Bottom line — get involved.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Very early in my career at Xerox, Tom Smith was struggling with a technical problem. The problem related to Se Te Particle precipitation and incrementally building the particle size, chemical alloying, reclamation, and tailoring the electrical properties of these photoactive materials. I came up with a process where he can make those particles and use them, and Tom was very impressed.
I was naive to tell the team to use it in their process for implementation in image generation (photoreceptor). It’s one thing to have and demonstrate the idea but then to move it to the customers’ hands is another process. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to move ideas from test tube to customer hands”. I didn’t have the appreciation at that time to see what it takes to move from your hands to the next hand internally.
My mistake was that I was trying to pass a pig on the poke without knowing what is involved to take an idea from test tube to customers’ hands. My attitude was “what is wrong with the engineering team? They should be jumping on this idea to advance the technology and I was upset that they weren’t utilizing it. However, it was a great lesson to learn that the engineering team needed resources in addition to the idea.
I was not aware of the “Valley of Death” as you advance the idea, more resources in infrastructure, legal, and financing are needed. For this one it was close to $10s million dollars.
The lesson learned is that demonstrating your invention on a bench level is just a start of the process. I needed a further understanding of what is involved to move forward, and this lesson has guided me in taking many ideas through internal and external organizations.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
My inventions have helped drive the digital publishing revolution, which has transformed the productivity and communication of hundreds of millions of individuals and businesses world-wide. Many of my inventions have been critical for transitioning B/W printing from analog to digital, ushering in the 1990s print-on-demand era. Since that time, nearly all Xerox printing machines have used my inventions, constituting core business revenue measured in the $100Ms and supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the US and globally. My inventions also led to dramatic improvements in the cost and reliability of laser printers, while simultaneously reducing emissions and energy usage, and reducing landfill usage through longer-life components. My collaboration with IBM responding to the America Competes Act’s call for action directly resulted in new programs instituted at North Carolina State University and University of California Berkeley to address the future talent needs for the fastest growing sector of the economy, the services sector. I played a key role in establishing and fostering the growth of advanced technology research centers at Clarkson University, RIT and the City University of New York. My contributions to the design of curricula for Purdue Engineering’s Professional Master’s Degree Program (PMP) and MicroMasters® are also opening new professional development and career opportunities for students.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
David Gervasi — I passionately call him my boy, and I see myself in him. I met David as an intern. I coached him to do his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and then sent him to Clarkson U to do his PhD and I was a co-advisor on his thesis. I continued to coach and follow his growth throughout his transition to be an IP expert and later as a patent attorney where he now works for the law firm MH2. David and I now have more than 20 US patents together. I am very proud of David. If I were to retire tomorrow, I’d tell Xerox to go get David.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- It is important to recognize and leverage diversity, not just race but skills in work environment! It helps in an overall team environment. Soft skills that include looking beyond the traditional diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, etc. Diversity of skills in developing future job offerings is critical in the workplace.
- It is important to focus on the workforce of the future. Politicians should support state and federal level funding to connect academia and industry research for innovation, and this will feed into the creation of new jobs and the future workforce.
- Community and society can help bring needed talent from the inner-city, rural areas and other diverse neighborhoods. There is lot of talent out there. It is a must-do effort to bring all the talent together on the same level so that everyone can excel.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
A leader is one who takes responsibility and clearly communicates what, how and when for driving products and solutions strategy, planning and execution. This definition is relevant to hardware centric offerings for printers, PCs, etc.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- The importance of diversity: It is important to have the awareness and ability to leverage diversity, especially diversity of talent, skills, and resources needed in the workplace. It takes a village to bring ideas from the test tube to the customers’ hands.
- The importance of being a team player: It is important to be able to let go, get involved and collaborate!
- IP Generation and Management: The ability to generate the value for the organization you are working for and manage that function.
- Environmental Imperatives such as sustainability, cleantech, and designs for sustainability: All businesses are forced to look into the environment. Industry folks can design offerings around sustainability and the environment. Whatever you put out will come back to you because it is a lifecycle! Design things in a way that you are willing to address when it comes back to you.
- Open Innovation: This term was coined by Hennery Chesbrough. It means that when you start doing a task, don’t try to complete it with what you have. Try to see who else can help you. Look at competitors, academia and do it together. Additionally, while you are working together share the output with your partners to build lifetime relationships. Play not only into your companies interests but also your partners’. Your ability to work across the isles with academia, other businesses, and at the government, state and federal levels will make you very successful. I am an example of that. This is what I teach and preach.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe it is very important for parents to be involved with their kids. Kids learn a lot from their parents and it’s their responsibility to instill societal values for children to succeed. The lessons learned from parents are a crucial starting point in a child’s life. I believe in helping but not doing for someone, like that quote, “give a man a fish, feed him for one night, but if you teach a man to fish you will feed him for a lifetime.” God helps those who help themselves.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I am a champion of open innovation, which I learned from Henry Chesbrough. So it’s fitting that my life lesson quote is from him. The quote below is my version of what Henry said during one of his presentations
“Useful knowledge is abundant, go find, get, and use it” — Henry Chesbrough
For more than 75% of the things I’ve delivered with Xerox, I’ve used open innovation as a process every time. Whenever I get involved with a project, I look around and see what resources I already have available before beginning the work.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I would choose Ursula Burns, who was the former CEO of Xerox and the first black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. There are two things I like about her. When she speaks, there is no confusion. She is very straight forward in her delivery, and you won’t miss the message. She was also a homegrown CEO. She had a technical background, worked in manufacturing at Xerox then was promoted to CEO. When Xerox received the National Medal of Honor from George Bush, she invited me to come with her to receive it. I have a lot of admiration for her and would love for her to lecture at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where currently I am an Adjunct Innovation Professor.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Google and LinkedIn are the best ways to follow my work.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!