"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
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 armÑa 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
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
aspect of the academic world that can be carried over into
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.