Lucian Sweitzer has his hands full. He has a full-time job in his new role as a technology commercialization associate at the Lab’s Intellectual Property Office. He is working through an evening and weekend MBA program at Haas Business School. He has two young children, aged one and three. But with help from a supportive wife, Lab supervisors and colleagues, and with good communication and careful time management, he might just pull it all off.
His career journey has taken a few twists and turns rather than a straight path. Armed with a major in industrial technologies from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Lucian’s first job after college was as a mechanical technician at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, working with scientists to develop prototypes and procedures for National Ignition Facility projects. While he enjoyed being in a science environment and the hands-on work, he yearned to see the impact of his work in shorter timelines. When his brother offered him a role with his construction company doing interiors for restaurants and bars in San Francisco and Oakland, he jumped at the opportunity, learning the needed skills along the way. The job gave him a chance to reconnect with his brother, with whom he hadn’t lived near since he was nine, due to their parents’ divorce.
He learned a lot in the construction company and enjoyed the time working with his brother, but he also missed the world of science. His next role was as a mechanical designer for the new accumulator and storage ring at the Lab’s ALS-U. After two years, he took on a supervisory role at Engineering, overseeing assembly and validation of scientific research equipment.
And then his career took another turn. In 2019, through a Berkeley Lab-Haas Business School commercialization program called “Cleantech to Market,” he discovered the technology transfer world. Over time he learned more about technology transfer at the Lab, about the Haas evening and weekend MBA program, and the Lab’s tuition assistance program. He applied to Haas’ MBA program in 2020, and was accepted in 2021. He hadn’t considered a technology transfer career path, believing that he didn’t have the qualifications, but participating in the MBA program changed his thinking. When an opening for a technology commercialization associate came up, he put his hat in the ring. He started his new role in the summer of 2022.
“Learn from everyone around you. Everyone you work with — colleagues, supervisors, people in industry that you connect with — everyone has interesting things to teach you.“
– Lucian Sweitzer
How many different jobs have you had in your career journey, and which one was the most rewarding?
I have had a lot of different jobs, but I think my most rewarding one is my current one as a technology commercialization associate at IPO. I am continually engaged, interacting with researchers and outside companies, working to understand the technical details of an invention while also trying to understand its market potential and companies’ pain points. I manage a broad portfolio of inventions so I’m always learning. There is a lot of space to research and learn and expand my knowledge. I have great colleagues. I have always wanted to be in a career that has a positive impact on the world, and there is so much potential for that in this role. And I get exposed to a lot of different projects across the Lab. There are so many brilliant ideas to push out into the world.
How did you decide on your current career path and to what extent has Berkeley Lab supported you along your journey?
I was always interested in science, and wanted a career where I could have a positive impact on the world. I’ve also always been intrigued by the business and commercialization side of things. That said, I had never considered that I was qualified for a role in technology transfer. The Haas program has made me more confident and comfortable in this area.
The Lab has been instrumental in my journey. My initial exposure was through a Lab and Haas-developed program called Cleantech to Market. It is a capstone course in the MBA program where students from different disciplines — business, law, science, and engineering — form teams to develop a commercialization plan for a clean tech startup. I then learned about the Lab’s tuition assistance program and about the Haas evening and weekend MBA program. And each of my supervisors (I’ve had three at the Lab since I applied for the MBA program) have all been exceptionally supportive.
Berkeley Lab does a tremendous job of supporting employees in their careers, including the tuition assistance program, the culture of collaboration, encouragement of staff to pursue their interests, and supportive supervisors. These all helped me get to where I am today.
What career setback or mistake has helped you to succeed and grow?
I worked for Task Rabbit as a handyman for seven months after I was laid off during a construction downturn. It was a lot of work to build up my profile and reviews, and it wasn’t very rewarding work – I worked alone so there were no colleagues or support network. But I gained confidence in my ability to make it on my own, and it helped me reframe what I wanted to get out of my career. I learned that what I really wanted to do was to go back into the science environment and to feel that my work was meaningful.
What is the most important piece of career advice you have received?
The best career advice I ever got was just to learn from everyone around you. Everyone you work with — colleagues, supervisors, people in industry that you connect with, everyone has interesting things to teach you. You can become interested in a new area, become aware of new opportunities, and expand your network. This is particularly true at a place like the Lab where there are brilliant people at all levels and in all job functions. There is an infinite amount of knowledge to soak up here, and so many people who are passionate about what they are doing.
A career at Berkeley Lab offers a range of opportunities supported by training, mentorship, and career development programs. Whether you choose to build a career at the Lab or take your skills to other organizations, a career path to and at the Lab sets you up for success.