Skip to main content

Traveling Your Path


Traveling Your Path

By Michael Forkner, OSA & SPS

  Amy Eskilson on Traveling Your Path
As a young professional, many career paths are available to you. From decisions about what level of education you should pursue, to whether you want to work in academia or industry, the number of options can be daunting. At OSA’s 2017 Innovation School, Amy Eskilson spoke about her path as a non-technical communications major to the CEO of Inrad Optics in “an unconventional but somewhat classic manner.” Eskilson broke down the qualities needed to be successful into five categories: hard work, brains, luck, experience, and leadership informed by empathy and the ability to make connections across multiple competencies and generations. The first four are general qualities and attributes that most experts agree are needed to be successful, but Eskilson added that both empathy and the ability to make connections were essential to effective leadership.

From first glance, one can understand why all five of these qualities are important, but when it comes down to it, many people misrepresent the value that each of these brings. We all know that we need to work hard to achieve our goals, but the real benefit comes when working towards things that do not come natural and are uncomfortable, once you become accustomed to this work, it will expand your world and give rise to new opportunities. Eskilson then went on to talk about how certain types of intelligence can be undervalued. As someone who lacked certain skills, Eskilson took full advantage of her strengths and leveraged the skillset she did have to become a leader in the optics community.

Citing a LinkedIn study, she talked about how one year of extra experience outside of your core competencies is valued the same as three years of core experience when becoming a senior manager. While it is a longer path to the top, experiencing different areas of business makes you better equipped to not only succeed, but encourage others to succeed as well. Eskilson also attributes her success to the wide range of professional experiences throughout her career.

Eskilson explaing the essitional attributes for success  
Leadership is an innate skill that some people possess, but it must be honed. By itself, it is not enough to be successful in the increasingly complex world we live in today. Without empathy to understand your customer’s viewpoints, you can never offer up the best product. Without empathy to understand your employees, you will not be able to effectively lead. This ties into the ability to make broad connections. You must be able to pull on the experience from all areas, and create teams that work cohesively.

Eskilson emphasizes that there is no direct path to success, and a winding path will increase your ability to be successful and a better leader. She says that you must learn to make peace with certain aspects of your life if want to become successful. She knew she would never fully understand the technical aspects of the optics field like the scientist, but she knew she could  lead and make connections efficiently. Amy Eskilson’s path to success is truly inspiring and empowering. 


Posted: 28 July 2017 by Michael Forkner, OSA & SPS | with 0 comments

The views expressed by guest contributors to the Discover OSA Blog are not those endorsed by The Optical Society.