Teaching in Terminal A

by Patrick on May 15, 2011

in Classroom, Prof. Winston's Ideas

Professor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70

Usually, when I fly into Boston, I head straight to my car. This had been a particularly rough trip and I was hungry, so for the only time in my life, I decided to stop at Au Bon Pain in Terminal A for a cup of soup.

I was about half way through the soup when I heard a voice.

“Are you Professor Winston?”

“I think so,” I said, trying to be funny.

“I’m a postdoc at MIT. I recognized you because I’ve watched your `How to Speak’ talk several times.”

“Oh.”

“The version you recorded at Harvard.”

“Ah.”

“I’ve watched it because, well, times are tough and it is hard to get job offers.”

“Yes.”

“I’m on my way to give my first job talk now, in Europe.”

“Hmm.”

“Actually, I wonder if you would have a minute to look at my presentation?”

“Sure.”

As he was booting up his computer, I said, “Too many words; too many slides.”

“How do you know? You haven’t seen them,” he said.

“Will the sun set?”

The talk had problems, all readily fixed, but I was having trouble finding the job-wining slide, even after looking through the slides a few times. Then, there it was, in small type, buried in a wordy, cluttered slide.

One hundred fifty research labs were using software based on his research. “Aha,” I said, “Every research lab wants to be famous, and that happens if their people are famous. If 150 research labs are using your stuff, you’re famous, but they won’t know that unless you tell them.”

I told him to make a slide titled Used in 150 Research Laboratories and put it up front, making it the second or third slide, so that everyone would see it before fogging out in the technical detail.

He dropped by my office a few weeks later to report he got several offers. He took the one from the place he was headed when, unlikely as can be, he ran into me in Terminal A.

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