April 15 marks the 562nd birthday of Leonardo da Vinci. As a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer, da Vinci is considered one of history’s most diversely talented people and the epitome of a multi-faceted “Renaissance Man.”
Da Vinci’s many inventions and innovations include flying machines, helicopters, parachutes, motorized vehicles, armored cars, robots and scuba gear. His ideas came from his meticulous observation and measurement of the world around him, which he chronicled in 13,000 pages of notebooks.
Continuous invention and innovation are central to Agilent’s culture and heritage. “Innovation is the heart of this company,” says Agilent President and CEO Bill Sullivan. “It allows us to differentiate ourselves in the eyes of our customers. Without innovation, Agilent could not thrive and grow versus the competition.”
Part of what drives Agilent’s culture of innovation is its strong makeup of engineers and scientists. At a recent industry symposium, Agilent’s Director of Technology Strategy Jim Hollenhorst discussed how his personal background as a career physicist has helped him to foster innovation.
“Physicists bring a unique set of skills to the corporate environment,” Jim said, “including a desire to understand the fundamentals, a solid foundation in physical principles, expertise in applied mathematics, and most importantly, an attitude: namely, that hard problems can be solved by breaking them into manageable pieces.
“In my experience, hiring managers in industry seldom explicitly search for physicists, but they want people with those skills.”
After his panel discussion, Jim was inundated by students eager to know more. “There were so many students who wanted to hear about physics careers in industry,” he recounts. “One young woman told me that there is never a talk like mine on the college campus and students are starved for this kind of information.”
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