It's All about People: Sophie Vandebroek: As Xerox's Chief Technology Officer since 2006, Sophie Vandebroek Oversees the Company's Research Centers around the World, Leading a Diverse Corps of Researchers to Create Breakthrough Innovations

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When I was seven years old, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut. My parents woke me at 4:00 a.m. to watch Nell Armstrong set foot on the moon. That vision stuck with me and encouraged me to study engineering. I got my Master's degree in electromechanical engineering at the University of Leuven, and then I pursued my PhD in microelectronics at Cornell University. My dream of becoming an astronaut was left behind, but it led me to engineering, which is what I love.

I now have the privilege to lead Xerox's research centers around the globe. I collaborate with researchers in india, France, Canada, and New York; at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC Inc) in California; and with our Fuji-Xerox joint venture researchers in Japan.

The ability to do amazing research all starts with people. Attracting the most creative and entrepreneurial researchers is critical. Creating an inclusive environment where researchers can be themselves and bring both their intellect and their passion to work is a ticket to the game.

When I reflect back on my time in graduate school and in my early career, I ask myself what was it that made me effective as a researcher. What led me to bring my intellect and my passion to work? There were two main reasons. The first was the chance to work on interesting challenges, ones that made a positive impact for Xerox, for our clients, and for the world. The second and perhaps most important reason was the people I worked with. Bright, diverse, and entrepreneurial people create an innovative culture that others want to be part of.

I like to lead by engaging researchers in articulating the vision and setting the research agenda. Allowing researchers to have a level of control over what they work on, how they do it, and when they do it is important. Obviously this is not always easy, as business challenges require us to constantly evolve and focus our investment dollars where it matters most.

There are several ways we encourage creativity. …


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