We spoke to Dave Martin, Director of Software Engineering and Prototyping at Fidelity Center for Applied Technology to find out how he came to be an inventor. Dave is an inventor on 5 issued Fidelity patents.
Q: Tell us how you first got involved with invention?
A: I’ve always done it. My father got me started as an inventor when I was 9 or 10 years of age. Wanting to challenge us on a rainy day, he gave my sister and me a motor and asked us to put a propeller on it. Using my creative instincts, I made a hovercraft out of a plastic milk jug and popsicle sticks. To my surprise, it actually worked. That was the beginning and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Q: What do you value most about your job and opportunities here at Fidelity?
A: I have the opportunity of coming up with new ideas and then finding use cases for them.
Some of the biggest opportunities for me have been working with the Fidelity Patent Program. I’ve been able to develop several of my ideas to the point where we were able to file a patent application, some of which have already resulted in issued patents for Fidelity. I love that an idea I have can turn into something tangible that people consume.
Q: What was your big career break?
A: When I worked in a group that was a very early incubator model, in 1997, I had the opportunity to work on an early version of a retirement planning tool.
Here at Fidelity, I began prototyping on the side. People heard about me and began asking me to do prototyping in connection with some of their projects. Eventually, I became a leader in prototyping.
Q: In your personal life, you’re creative and have a music background. How does that contribute to your creative/inventive mindset at Fidelity?
A: Song writing lets me create something from nothing: turning a thought into something people can react to. My music training taught me that there are no limits to what you can do.
Q: What motivates you to invent?
A: Ideas enter my head. It’s not about money or bragging rights. I enjoy creating solutions to problems.
Q: What do you think has helped you most as an inventor?
A: Networking. Internal networking is critical. The person you sit next to might be running a division someday. I started working at Fidelity after getting a call from the bass player in my band. He was working on some innovative projects and ended up becoming an inventor. I was very curious about the entire process and thought how cool it would be to get a patent someday.
Also, being invited and not declining brainstorming meetings, which got me a reputation for being creative. I never say no – I make the time.
Q: What kind of advice do you have for others who want to invent?
A: Talk to the people and make the right connections through networking. Be visible.
It takes a while for an idea bubble to find its way up to the top. Be patient, it will rise.
Be willing to argue and state your case. Don’t take “no” for an answer.
Draw on your bag of tricks. Remember what you’ve done before.