CASE STUDY 2020
FL wanted to be assigned a project that was consistent with his Ph.D. training and that would give him visibility in the company.
In 1972, shortly after completing his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at Cornell University, FL joined Xerox Research Labs as an Assistant Scientist. Although his Ph.D. training was in Spectroscopy, he was assigned to the Materials Science Group in Xerox. His first project was to mathematically model the Xerography process. FL started his project by meeting with four of the scientists and engineers who were leaders in creating various copying machines at Xerox. At the beginning of his last interview, on learning that FL had been assigned this project, the scientist told FL that he should demand a different assignment because no one had been successful in doing that project and it was usually given to people whom Xerox wanted to leave the company.
PERSONAL IMPACT (HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL?)
FL became quite anxious because he had told the Manager who had given him the assignment, that although he had taken graduate level mathematics courses at Cornell, he was not a mathematician and doubted that he could really do this project well. Fl wondered whether this assignment was a set up to demonstrate that he could not meet the performance expectations at Xerox. He also wondered whether he was given this project because he was Black.
COMPANY IMPACT (WHAT DRIVES THE COMPANY?)
The new SVP and Head of R&D at Xerox had two commitments. He wanted to increase the number of Ph.D.’s in the company as well as to hire Black Ph.D.’s. At that time, there was only one Black Ph.D. in an organization of about 1000 scientists and engineers. That year, FL was one of three Black Ph.D.’s hired by Xerox. Many of the engineers, who were non-Ph.D.’s and who had been very successful in creating and marketing the first copiers, felt that they were being pushed out of the company. The manager of the Materials Section did not have a Ph.D. FL also discovered that he was assigned to the Materials Section because the Spectroscopy Group that had recruited him had been terminated.
What should FL do?