The Hertz Summer Workshop: From Seed to Success

Summer Workshop
posted: 8/24/2017
listed in Fellows

From Seed…

The Hertz Summer Workshop began a decade ago as a germ of an idea in the mind of a Hertz Fellow—Ray Sidney. Ray was attending another event hosted by the Foundation when he came to the realization that the Hertz Fellows sitting around him attentively listening to the presentation were little more than strangers to him. Yes, he knew most of their names, the school they attended and perhaps even their area of focus—but that was all information he could easily glean from a name tag. He didn’t feel that he knew any of them. He regularly attended Hertz conferences and symposia, but the tightly scheduled days left little time for interactions, let alone actual discussions and you could certainly forget a friendly debate amongst peers.

Ray looked around and saw amazing potential—potential for friendships, sounding boards and partnerships. It was then that Ray knew he needed a different event with a new format. One that enabled, encouraged and fostered conversation. One that tapped into this incredible resource—the Hertz Community. Drawing inspiration from the math summer camp he attended as a young boy, Ray worked with the Hertz Board of Directors to create an event that would provide Fellows with the opportunity to connect with their peers and “plant the seeds of collaboration.”

…To Success

Having now attended my second Summer Workshop, I can say with confidence that Ray achieved his goal and more. Both this year and last I was immediately struck by how quickly the Fellows…even those we just welcomed into the Hertz Community this past March—came together and easily engaged in conversations.

Hertz Fellows come from an assortment of fields within science, mathematics and engineering, but this did not lead to self-segregation by area of interest as one might expect. In fact, what I witnessed was quite the opposite. Fellows were eager to exchange ideas with those outside of their own field and explore how what others were studying may actually intersect with their own research or work of their company. This open-minded and insatiable curiosity is just one of the common threads between Hertz Fellows that I admire and it was on full display at the Workshop.

When they weren’t forging new friendships and potentially future partnerships, Hertz Fellows also had the opportunity to learn from a variety of experts, including several alumni Hertz Fellows.

2017 Hertz Summer Workshop Key Learnings

Hertz Fellow and serial entrepreneur Troy Wilson shared with us the key problem that must be solved in order to be successful in the biotech field. He explained that MOST PEOPLE THINK THEY NEED TO SOLVE A SCIENCE PROBLEM, BUT IN REALITY THEY ACTUALLY NEED TO SOLVE A MATH PROBLEM FIRST. He was referring to the need to ensure that a sufficient return on investment was possible in order to ever attract the necessary funding to see an idea through to fruition. He explained that the best way to yield a higher ROI is to keep the investment low, which is possible when you are able to drive greater efficiencies, which may take some creativity and good old fashioned bartering at times, and minimize “burn.”

We were honored to have Tom Kalil, Senior Advisor, Eric and Wendy Schmidt Group, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UC Berkeley, and former Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama Administration, speak during the workshop. His presentation challenged us to think bigger when considering problems that need to be solved and he shared a particularly poignant and timely message: IF YOU WANT TO DRIVE CHANGE THEN YOU NEED TO CREATE A MOVEMENT. We are now working with Tom to design a “Grand Challenge” engagement opportunity for Hertz Fellows. Stay tuned….

University of California at San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla provided us with a history of the role of research in society, the evolution of the American Research University and the direct correlation between research and the economy—AN IMPORTANT FACT THAT MUST BE RAISED OVER AND OVER AS OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS REDUCING FUNDING FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH.

We wrapped up the Workshop with three presentations by Hertz Fellows, including one from in-school Fellow Jim Valcourt where he took us through the ups an– d downs of publishing his first book and the many lessons he learned along the way. Most notably, he encouraged us to BECOME MORE COMFORTABLE WITH SCIENCE COMMUNICATION AND NOT TO WORRY AS MUCH AS LONG WHAT YOU SAY IS ACCURATE.

This brief recap hardly even scratches the surface of the several compelling presentations given at the Workshop—the full agenda is available here—and we are thankful for everyone who participated this year, both as speakers and attendees. The Workshop’s success is equally dependent on the presentations that spark conversations and those participating in those thought-provoking conversations.

While the focus of the Workshop is certainly on those conversations and building a multi-generational Hertz Community, the weekend also resulted in an incredible achievement for the Foundation itself. At the dinner on Friday evening, the anonymous donor behind the $300K in 300 Days Challenge took to the podium and promised to write a matching check for the top three pledges made on the spot. The result was $274,000 in new pledges, including $24,000 in annual gifts and a named Fellowship. This was truly unexpected and the Foundation is eternally grateful for the generosity of all our donors. It is through their support that we are able to continue our mission to identify and support tomorrow’s leaders, disruptors and shapers of American science, mathematics and engineering.