The Millionaire Next Door

The Millionaire Next Door. . . An Academic Entrepreneur

Two recently published articles caught my attention.  And, bear with me, they are related!  In the first one, Bob Dudley, the well respected CEO of BP, is quoted: 

Employment is difficult in many places.  But anybody who goes through petroleum engineering, chemical engineering there will be jobs for them. . . .  . . . they will have phenomenal opportunities.

In past blogs, as well as in Stop Acting Rich, I have mentioned that engineers in general are quite productive in transforming income into wealth.  Even more productive are professors who teach petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, mining engineering, etc.

The second article deals with the concept of substituting computer software for humans in grading essay exams.  After reading this, I had a hollow feeling in my gut because my choice of becoming a professor was initially stimulated by my experiences grading essay exams.  During my first year in a master’s program a senior faculty asked me:  “Do you want to make some extra money?  I need you to grade some midterm exams.” I accepted the offer, and I was delighted with my new task.  Part of the job description was to read the textbook thoroughly in order to evaluate the essays.  Essentially I was paid to improve my knowledge and understanding of the subject matter in my chosen field.  It is the same way with teaching.  Later, as a professor, I was compensated for constantly learning and disseminating knowledge via lectures, published papers and books. 

Some in education complain about “the agony and hard work associated with publishing.”  But publishing is a way to prove to yourself and others that you are a scholar.  Publishing enhances your reputation as an expert and leading authority.  By doing so you, your university and your students all benefit from such achievements.

A good number of professors can be classified as academic entrepreneurs.  As an example, consider Dr. David Schwartz, one of my early mentors.  His book, The Magic of Thinking Big, sold over 3 million copies, the audio version over 11 million.  He also wrote two successful textbooks.  Dave received more  than 200 offers per year to give speeches and training seminars independent of the university.  Yet he never made a sales call; he never had to. 

In Selling to the Affluent, I mentioned that

There is a significant number of David types in our academic communities.  In fact, according to the National Science Foundation, more than 3,000 engineering and science professors . . . own companies independent of their respective universities.

There are tremendous employment opportunities for those have a degree in petroleum and chemical engineering.  But I also think there is a greater opportunitity for those who teach these subjects.  It’s not easy to spend 3 more years earning a Ph.D.  But those among them who become academic entrepreneurs can write their own ticket to success.  This assumes that professors will not be replaced with software driven robots!

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