CACM recently interviewed Prith Banerjee, the director of HP Labs. Here are the final 3 Q&A’s:
Q: How do you inspire your researchers to think big?
A: Unless I engage with the researchers on a regular basis, the passion will not be there, the intensity will not be there. I say, “What are you trying to build? Can we not do something bigger?” Then I say, “The specific research you are doing, how will it make that dream come true?” There’s an unrelenting pressure that I want to be able to feel — that if we don’t do it, someone else will.
Q: Before you joined HP, you spent more than 20 years in academia. Did you find the transition difficult?
A: Many people warned me, “Prith, you will not survive.” Fortunately, my experience in academia was not in only one position. I also took two exits into the world of startups, and what I learned from those startups are things I’ve tried to preach and practice at HP Labs.
Q: Such as?
A: In academia, professors can work and work and refine their papers to the last word. The world of startups doesn’t give you that luxury. I learned how to deliver fast. I learned how to run — I am always running. I try to convey that to my colleagues at HP Labs — you have to find the right trade-off. I want you to document your work. I want you to advance the state of the art, but don’t just keep on publishing and refining — run, right? Start making stuff, as well.