Scientist-turned-attorney Nicole Janovick is a success story for those wishing to forge a path for themselves at the intersection of business and law. Nicole’s legal journey began while completing her Ph.D. in Animal Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Although passionate about her work, she knew pretty early on that she did not wish to remain on the research and grant writing track as a career path. While finishing up her education, Nicole participated in a fellowship program comprised of a diverse group of colleagues from overlapping fields such as statistics, veterinary medicine, engineering, and law. It was during this programming that Nicole discovered that she wanted to pursue a law degree. Upon completing her Ph.D., she was accepted at the University of Illinois College of Law, where she started her journey in the legal profession.
During law school, Nicole interned with University of Illinois’ Office of Technology Management. This was a unique opportunity that gave Nicole hands-on experience conducting prior art searches, market research, and other projects related to the patent and technology commercialization process. The role enabled Nicole to work with a variety of technologies and build relationships with a variety of inventors. As graduation approached, Nicole knew that she was not particularly interested in the law firm track and she hoped to find a position that would allow her to use her science background and legal training in a growing environment. Thankfully, through her connections during her Ph.D. program, Nicole was presented with a unique in-house opportunity to support Venture Dairy, a start-up, hybrid not-for-profit and for profit investment company that provides services, technology, and education to developing countries in the agriculture sector. Nicole modestly credits receiving this role through the fact that she just so happened to be in the right place at the right time and know the right people, although certainly her stellar educational credentials and prior experience also played a role.
Nicole served the dual role as Venture Dairy’s General Counsel and Director of Technology and Enterprise Development for two years, at which point she became intimately familiar with not just Venture Dairy’s business and challenges of bringing appropriate technology to developing agricultural markets, but also not-for-profit tax matters and corporate regulations given the company’s association with its sister for-profit entity. Nicole also led a large program initiative in Nicaragua and frequently traveled on-site to formulate project plans and oversee development efforts. One of the things Nicole enjoyed most about this role was the fact that she did more than just play the role of counsel and was actively involved with program growth and investor relations. For someone whose personal motto is “variety is the spice of life,” Nicole knew that any subsequent role would also need to allow her room to satisfy her natural curiosity and allow her to develop in several directions.
Nicole later joined Northwestern University’s Innovation and New Ventures Office as an Intellectual Property Associate, and was recently promoted to Assistant Director of Intellectual Property & Transactions. Although rising up the ranks in a university setting can be a challenge, Nicole credits her success in her intellectual property role with her open-mindedness and willingness to work on matters outside of traditional portfolio management. One of the things that Nicole likes best about her role is that she is able to provide a legal eye and support for those in her office that do not have formal legal training, but who nonetheless find themselves negotiating agreements that cover a variety of technology transaction scenarios. Even though she does not represent the university, she provides input and advice regarding university intellectual property policy interpretation. She also helps to identify issues related to disagreements and provides a helping hand to move discussions forward again when they have gotten off track or stalled. Being both willing and able to support both her team and those around her provides Nicole with ample room to grow, and it naturally made her a logical choice for increased responsibility as Assistant Director.
In Nicole’s opinion, the most important assets she brings to the workplace are her willingness to finish whatever job needs to get done, regardless of her official title, and her natural desire to develop ways to perform work more efficiently. For example, without prompting, Nicole developed her role as one of an educator within her organization. She is always on the lookout for teachable moments and develops interactive educational tools designed to engage her team. By basing these teaching tools on real-life scenarios her team may encounter or hear about on a day-to-day basis, she has helped create memorable and meaningful examples that give her team confidence when tackling new or similar problems or challenges. When clarity on how to respond to a scenario is needed, Nicole provides it. Nicole also streamlined management of the template agreements her team relies on that cover all aspects of their technology transfer activities. The process Nicole developed ensures that everyone has access to reliable and up-to-date agreements, promoting consistency while simultaneously avoiding the need to recreate the wheel or hunt down copies of the correct starting point.
In her spare time, Nicole is a self-proclaimed gym rat who loves fitness, running 5Ks for fun, and generally being active. She is very involved in her church and, together with her fellow parishioners and Catholic Charities Legal Services, is helping to start a legal help desk at the soup kitchen that her parish operates. Of course, she enjoys attending ChiWIP programming (especially the annual progressive dinners) and staying in touch with other ChiWIP members. Thanks for being part of the ChiWIP community, Nicole!
Meet some of our other ChiWIP members here!
Do you have someone you would like to nominate for a member spotlight? To nominate or to share your own success story, please fill out the form here.