Solver Stories: Ed Melcarek

By Wazoku

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InnoCentive is now part of Wazoku

My name is Ed Melcarek – “It dawned on me that these types of problems can be solved only if you have “too diverse a set of skills and experience”. Something that the corporate world frowns upon.”solver_2

From a “Jack to a King”, a true story. After years of being a company man and team player, I found myself trying to rescue my floundering career after being given my walking papers. My resume didn’t open the doors it used to, and nobody wanted my skills as a design engineer in the local marketplace. The usual reason given by prospective employers for not hiring me was “having a too diverse a set of skills and experience” or, “are not a good fit for our needs”.

If I were to hire someone to be a design engineer, I would regard any extra pertinent knowledge the applicant has, a positive attribute. But that’s just me. After many years, I found that there aren’t many people like me doing the hiring out there in the real world. In fact, I found that during the course of an interview, a trivial matter such as the color of one’s shirt or tie can influence whether or not you get the job. An interviewer always had a hidden agenda and criteria by which the final decision was made. My qualifications, most often, had little to do with that decision. After giving up jumping through many interviewer’s hoops, I decided to strike out on my own to survive in the jungle.

Burning my engineering reference library, throwing away my address book, changing my name, and getting a face lift all crossed my mind, until I came across this crowdsourcing platform. Here was a list of engineering and scientific problems asking for solutions by companies for cash rewards. After a detailed review and scrutiny, I concluded that this was in fact legitimate and worthy of my time.

Plus, something that had become just as important to me in my experience searching for a job, this had nothing to do with politics, just science. This business model also confirmed my long-standing notion of the trend in the corporate R&D world. It dawned on me that these types of problems can be solved only if you have “too diverse a set of skills and experience”. Something that the corporate world frowns upon. After all, thinking “out of the box” is not something one is paid to do in the corporate world. I had little to lose with my finances down to my last dollar.

I posted a solution and subsequently won my first challenge. I came up with a method of removing dissolved impurities in dry cleaning fluid without using heat. By generating a vacuum in the containment vessel, the solvents’ boiling point was lowered to a point where it could be distilled at room temperature comprising of a containment cover integrated with a vacuum pump. This cover was fitted over a standard 50-gallon steel drum with an adequate seal. The prize money saved me from the welfare office and re-affirmed confidence in myself.

My batteries were re-charged. From that point in time onwards, I went on to win 12 more awards and I am always searching and writing solutions. I’ve gotten to a point now where I have invested in design and modeling software and have become somewhat financially independent.

I have solved 13 challenges so far. I’ve given up trying to fit round pegs into square holes and jumping through the corporate status quo hoops. The open innovation business model lets me just focus on applying what I know for dollars. A dream job, considering that I get to pick and choose what I want to work on.

Extract from our book One Smart Crowd  – How crowdsourcing is changing the world one idea at a time. The book is available in Paperback or Kindle format here.

By Wazoku

Wazoku is an innovation SaaS business that helps some of the world’s biggest organizations to innovate at scale. Whether it’s making the most of your employee's ideas, identifying new partners to collaborate with, or exploring the boundless potential of open innovation – or all three! – Wazoku makes innovation happen.