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issue: July 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

People
Kenan Sahin of TIAX, LLC


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Plenty of people talk about applying academic models to industry - Kenan Sahin, president of TIAX, LLC, actually does it.



Kenan Sahin

Dr. Sahin received his B.S. and Ph.D. from MIT, and during the ensuing 18 years of teaching and research at MIT, Harvard, and the University of Massachusetts, he picked up some sound academic habits, applying them first at the software development company he founded in 1982.

Today, he's implementing these same lessons at TIAX, a collaborative product and technology development and consulting company that he created out of the former technology and innovation business of Arthur D. Little, Inc.

"There is a lot of merit to the academic model," says Dr. Sahin. "For instance, I've learned to have great confidence in the ability of a capable mind to come up to speed. In academia, you start the semester with students who don't know enough to even frame a question, and after three months you see them become proficient. There's a strong encouragement to emphasize aptitude over experience.

Dr. Sahin surrounded himself with this kind of raw talent at Kenan Systems, the company he started with U.S. $1,000 of his own money and built into an 800-person entity with offices in a dozen countries. Dr. Sahin says one reason for his company's phenomenal success is his insistence on excellence - another practice he learned in academia.

"At high-end academic institutions, there's no room for 'good,'" he says. "You have to maintain excellence across the board. It's the same policy you would apply if you were a product manufacturer. You can't have some products that are good and some that are excellent. There has to be consistency.

Dr. Sahin sold Kenan Systems to Lucent Technologies in 1999, becoming president of Lucent's Software Products Group and later vice president of Software Technology for Bell Laboratories, Lucent's R&D arm√Ďa post he occupied until 2001. Not long after, a new challenge beckoned. Dr. Sahin saw the chance to create a premier R&D company based on the legacy of Arthur Dehon Little, another MIT alumnus who believed in firm links between academia and industry and who founded the legendary technology consulting company Arthur D. Little, Inc.

As if new business development wasn't keeping him busy enough, Dr. Sahin also had to build a company infrastructure from the ground up. But this level of activity allowed him to practice another academic tradition - situational leadership.

"In many cases, the best leader for a certain situation isn't going to be the company president or vice president," he says. "Leadership should be dynamic - you tap the best person for the job regardless of his or her title. That's another aspect of the academic world that can be carried over into industry.

When taking a break from academics and business, Dr. Sahin enjoys snowshoeing in Maine. He also enjoys reading and watching the stars through his telescope.

 

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