From Intrapreneurship to Entrepreneurship: Is Technical Expertise Sufficient?- a Case Study

By Woodilla, John E. | New England Journal of Entrepreneurship, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

From Intrapreneurship to Entrepreneurship: Is Technical Expertise Sufficient?- a Case Study


Woodilla, John E., New England Journal of Entrepreneurship


Following a successful career in industry, Dr. Douglas V. Shick, a newly minted entrepreneur, established NRS Associates, LLC, to perform consulting services based on two highly technical computer-modeling programs. Doug was heavily involved in the development of one program, an innovative computer simulation software for modeling a particular manufacturing process, through intrapreneurial activity during his corporate experience. Doug established his business on September 1, 2001, and on September 10 announced his services by e-mail to everyone he knew. The unforeseen events of the next day, September 11, produced some unexpected aftereffects that Doug had to factor into his developing business.

In late spring 2002, Doug Shick was sitting in his home office, thinking about adding another link to his company website. He looked at the Visa/MasterCard credit card reader next to his computers and wondered how soon-or long-it would be before he would ring up another sale. What a six months it had been! he had made the leap directly from industry to entrepreneurship. He had worked through every imaginable business scenario before setting up his new business venture-a high-technology consulting service based on two very sophisticated computer analysis programs. He'd also spent 70 days as a ski instructor, because of the unexpected downturn in the economy. Skiing certainly wasn't in his original business plan-but then neither were the events of September 11. Surprisingly, the skiing had brought forth some unexpected business-related benefits. Where, he wondered, would his next lucky break come from?

From Intrapreneurial Engineer to Prospective Entrepreneur

Doug's Career in Industry

Doug has been involved in solving complex engineering problems using state-of-the-art computing resources for his entire professional life. Following receipt of his bachelor's degree in physics in 1976 from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, he obtained both the master's and the Ph.D. degrees in mechanics in 1979 and 1984, respectively, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Between 1985 and 1990 he was first a post-doctoral fellow, and later a research associate. In 1990 Doug left academe and became employed by the Advanced Technology Center of the Ingersoll-Rand Company in Torrington, Connecticut, first as a research engineer, and later advancing to the position of manager, engineering analysis and technical services.

In his positions at Ingersoll-Rand, Doug further developed his skills in computer modeling and solving complex technical problems, and also set up computer networks within his department. The latter responsibilities required him to coordinate his efforts with the corporate information technology (IT) organization. In addition, he had special assignments as part of his daily work routine, two of which involved setting up and administering his department's annual operating and capital expenditure budgets. Although these budgets had to follow established corporate guidelines, he nevertheless became very familiar with budgeting and financial issues, especially when he sought exceptions to the guidelines. In addition, he learned human resource and people skills through various courses and seminars and, more practically, from managing the 12 skilled people who worked directly for him. In these situations, his manager provided coaching and watched his leadership skills improve over the years as Doug progressed through promotions from an individual contributor to supervisory and then management-level positions.

In performing corporate R&D, Doug had to generate and develop ideas that would benefit some group of internal customers within the company. These customers were usually the engineering departments in the manufacturing divisions. Doug's ideas might have their origin in a problem that the customer was experiencing, or the idea might be one of Doug's own creation to advance the future capabilities of the company. …

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