Who knew mimicking Jesus would be part of a career in tech transfer?
“Thy words were found and I ate them — yum, yum, yummy!”
The lyrics from my college days that I sang alongside friends during Campus Crusade for Christ meetings are in my head as I write this post. We sang about finding and eating God’s words — described in that way by the prophet Jeremiah:
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.Jeremiah 15:16, KJV
The “yum, yum, yummy!” part simply captures that eating God’s words is a joy. Eating your own words? Not so much. But here I am anyway.
Just last week, in a post I titled Maybe Your Job Is to Reach the 1 Rather Than the 99, I declared that “I don’t want to write about what I do for a living. I want to write what is in my heart.” And, ironically, because God has a sense of humor too, now what’s in my heart relates to my work.
That’s because my day job IS to reach the 1
When I wrote about “reaching the 1,” I referred to Matthew 18:11-13, a picture of Jesus as the Great Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find 1 lost sheep.
I envisioned the lost one as frightened and needy. Instead of enjoying the green pastures and quiet waters of Psalm 23, this sheep is in rough territory. Maybe she has fallen into a pit or gotten stuck between hard places, or maybe she doesn’t know where she is. She either can’t make her way or can’t find her way back to safety, and she needs a shepherd to come find her.
(Or — within the confines of the story I shared in that previous post — “the one” is a driver alone on dark roads at 3 a.m. with nothing but a sheep-story-telling radio talk show host for company.)
As I returned to work this morning and considered what I do for a living — in part, marketing for a technology transfer office — I realized that my day job IS to reach the 1 rather than the 99.
What, exactly, is ‘tech transfer’ you ask?
In simplest terms, technology transfer is moving discoveries (inventions) from research institutions into businesses where they can be developed fully. That process includes formally licensing a technology to an existing business or to entrepreneurs who form a startup company.
The trick, of course, is to find the right company or entrepreneur for a technology. That’s part of what I do:
Marketing an invention for tech transfer is like posting a profile on a dating site. I aim for an honest description that highlights the best attributes without sharing anything too private so I can attract and keep the best mate.
The “mate” might be an entrepreneur or an existing company. They buy the rights to commercialize the invention — get it out of the lab and into the marketplace where it is intended to do good. The invention might be anything from an app for your phone to a small molecule that cures cancer to a rehydrating sports beverage to a nerve graft that saves limbs from amputation.
Just as the spouse you met on a dating website might “complete you,” a “mate” for an invention “completes it.” If it were a small molecule to cure cancer, a “mate” would manufacture the therapy, complete clinical trials, and get the invention through the FDA approval process, which takes years and millions of dollars.
As a marketer for technologies, I don’t have hundreds of the same product to sell to hundreds of individuals. I have hundreds of different (usually patented) inventions but only one of each one. Each single technology needs one entity to license it. (I’m speaking in generalities. We also offer non-exclusive licenses wherein multiple parties can license the tech).
The joy in reaching the right ‘1’
So when I market a technology, I am looking for that lost sheep, that 1 in 100 or more. I call that sheep a “potential licensee.” Unlike the lonely sheep I envision in the Matthew passage, my potential licensees don’t necessarily feel lost or needy. In fact, the sheep likely isn’t alone.
If you envision a field full of sheep — a hundred? more? — and your job is to find the one sheep that has a tiny pink spot on her belly that needs a cure. Maybe she knows she has it, maybe not. Regardless, you need to find the sheep and then persuade her that she needs what you’re selling.
In my role, I aim for the what I think is the right flock and share the “dating profile” of a technology and hope it attracts the individual sheep, the 1 in 99 — or the 1 in 29. Just as I might craft a dating profile to find Mr. Right, I am trying to attract the Right Business with my marketing. (I am using the “dating profile” scenario as a hypothetical, tangible comparison; I’m already married to Mr. Right, also known as Mr. Thinks He’s Right.)
Just as the Shepherd had great joy in finding the lost sheep, I am happy if one potential licensee responds. Ecstatic, actually. I’m over the moon if the right one responds, licenses a technology, and makes the invention reach its full potential.
So why do I care enough to write this?
As a marketer for tech transfer, I said my job was to be like Jesus. He came to seek and save those who are lost. Like him, I make an effort to find the “lost,” the company that could license one of my university’s technologies to commercialize a cure, a product, a service to make the world better.
His quest was different from mine, I know. He sought for the 1 because the other 99 were not lost. In my job, I seek for “the 1” because I only need 1 license per invention — but I target a larger number of companies because I’m not sure which is “the 1.”
My limited thinking is that I get lots of practice trying to reach 100 just so I can find 1 in my day job — and that should encourage me in my personal writing.
But it occurs to me that just as the Shepherd knew which sheep was lost and where to look, He knows — in my work and in my writing — who is in need. If I co-author with Him, if I prayerfully seek to share the story He has laid on my heart, then He can use my words to seek and save the lost, too.
He used my words to find Mr. Right
Back in 1991, I lost my first husband, suddenly and tragically. About nine months after Bill died, in honor of what would have been our third wedding anniversary, I wrote a column for our local newspaper in which I recounted my loss and realized, essentially, “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but my Mr. Right read that column and it touched his heart. His wife was dying of melanoma at the time, leaving him with four young children.
Because Mr. Right read that column, he started following my other writings for the newspaper. Because Mr. Right read that column, he knew my name two years later when the friend who would become our matchmaker asked him if he knew me. He did — because I’d written the words the touched him right where he was.
Was this happenstance? A lucky result of blanketing a community with the local newspaper hosting an intensely personal and painful column I wrote?
No. It was the Good, Good Shepherd, healing me through writing and reaching this good, usually right Mr. Right with my words inspired by a God who has a purpose for my life.
Which happened to include Mr. Right.
I eat my words today by writing about work after declaring I didn’t want to do such a thing. But somehow even eating my own words makes me want to say, “Yum, yum, yummy!” as I sang so many years ago. Because when I let God use me, when I co-author with Him, even my own words are a delight.
To me, at least. 😉