NAME: Margaret Hartnett
BACKGROUND: PhD, C Chem. MRSC, MIEEE, BSc (Hons)
ACTION/SECTOR: Science, Health, Research & Technology, Education
POSITION: Head of Research, Enterprise and Innovation Services
ORGANIZATION: University of Abertay, Dundee
My Background and Career
I secured funding under the UK Intellectual Property Office Fast Forward scheme for a ground-breaking project to bring Abertay’s (as the only Scottish University to secure this funding this year) computer-games related Intellectual Property into the public domain. The project entails making the source code generated by students & other members of the Abertay available to the students, games developers etc to evaluate & try out in their own projects & prototyping efforts. In doing so, Abertay aims to reveal IP which has previously been largely unseen & unused, thereby contributing to economic growth of the local, national & international games industry.
I also created, organised & hosted (for 3 years running) the cutting edge “Digital Spark” conference, which takes an unorthodox approach of presenting a joined-up legal & commercial perspective on the practical use of IP in the digital creative industries. The conference specifically attracts thought-leaders (e.g Senior product counsel Google, Head of Aardman Rights, Head of International Patents, NCR, Head of Legal, SEGA, Chief Economist PRS for Music, former President Sony Entertainment Europe) as speakers. Nonetheless, Digital Spark is completely open to the public with the aim of attracting a diverse body of attendees & stakeholders to engage in lively & fast-paced debate of a particularly topical & exciting area of development which embraces pervasive technological, social, cultural & legal change.
Economic. - Moving from one country to another is expensive & demands significant personal financial investment. Personal possessions have to be shed at regular intervals & I do not have the trappings of significant financial stability (house, car etc.).
Family - leaving Ireland & my family behind.
Personal - Repeatedly moving from one country/city to another has made it hard to build relationships of any significant depth or longevity, since I find it emotionally very hard to say goodbye.
Social (discriminations....) - Being a woman in a senior research position in an engineering department is not easy. However, it was even harder still in the legal profession, where there were implicit challenges to progression. Being slightly older than the norm on entering the Patent profession also created challenges.
Being a woman in a legal, managerial context in a University is not always easy. When I first arrived, I was completely unprepared for the unprofessional & sometimes aggressive responses of older male colleagues who didn’t appreciate being told what to do by a mere blow-in (& a “lawyer” at that….)
Other - Changing academic discipline at post-doctoral level is not easy. It is easier to make such changes at an earlier stage in an academic career, where the stakes, demands & expectations are less-developed. At post-doctoral level, there is an expectation & demand that the researcher be independent & fully-developed in the relevant discipline.
Opportunities and threats which had a strong influence on your career.
• Chance conversation with an engineer, led me to a radical change of discipline from chemistry to engineering, by securing a post-doctoral engineering position in the internationally recognised control engineering research group at the Queen’s University of Belfast
• Chance observation by my mother of a newspaper advertisement for a position of a trainee patent attorney with a leading Irish Patent & Trademark firm, led me to undertake a radical career change from academic to legal professional. This transformation took almost 7 years to achieve & involved me working for a vast range of clients in the UK & on the continent.
• Chance conversation with an academic in the University of Abertay, led to an invitation for an interview for a position as IP & Commercialisation Manager at the University, from which I rapidly progressed to the senior management group & Head of Research, Enterprise & Innovation Services at the University.
• Repeatedly failing Patent Law professional exams, led to a sense of despair, despondency & disillusionment. I would probably never have escaped from this & eventually qualified without the help, patient & generous support of some very kind colleagues.
• Losing my job in a Patent & Trade Mark firm. I thought I would never recover my self-confidence & find work again. However, the University of Abertay Dundee saw something in me & were willing to take a chance on me. I have never looked back from this.
Hints & Tips
Deciding factors of success.
Money - it costs a lot to move from one country to another;
• Family - the unwavering & generous & unconditional support of my family in Ireland;
• Education & training - provided me with the tools, skills & confidence to enable me to make the various professional transitions mentioned above;
• Your character
o Tenacity has always been a central personality trait. I don’t give up easily
o Burning curiosity has also been central
o Uncompromising demands for excellence – idealism is one of my more fundamental traits.
• Personal relationships / acquaintances - Few. However, those I have are rather deep & long-lasting & permit a degree of honesty, emotional openness & support which is essential;
• Professional relationships / acquaintances - Vast. I network extensively across multiple disciplines, industrial, HE sectors & policy-makers.
Inspiration for your project / action / enterprise
Often the inspirations for my projects come from apparently disparate, chance comments &/or observations from the many different people I meet. Often these ideas & thoughts swim for extended periods of time. Then serendipity or even just the passage of time & intervening events brings them to the fore.
Suggestions and advice to give to women:
When you doubt yourself the most, find some really good people to talk to;
Recognize that everyone doesn’t share the same values & beliefs as you;
Make the pursuit of excellence (personal &/or professional) a central & unrelenting tenet