Join us in celebrating the work of trailblazing women around the world and in raising awareness about why it is so important to encourage more women to participate in the IP system, to protect their valuable IP and commercialise their ideas.
To celebrate our own “Women in IP” we’re taking this opportunity to introduce Hanna Dzieglewska – Head of the Dehns Biotechnology team.
Hanna joined the firm in 1987 and became a partner in 1995. She has particular experience in developing patent portfolios and IP strategies for her clients, and providing them with advice throughout their commercial development process to ensure they derive value from their innovations.
Tell us a bit about your role?
As a patent attorney and partner of the firm, my role is to work with clients to assist them in protecting and utilising their inventions and intellectual property to their commercial benefit. Principally, I work with small to medium clients to obtain patents for their inventions and develop their patent portfolios worldwide, and to provide advice in relation to their patents and activities. As a partner, and as head of the group, I also have a responsibility for training the new generation of patent attorneys coming through the firm, and also contribute to business development and management of the firm.
What is a typical working day for you?
It’s hard to define a typical day, as this can vary quite a lot, depending on the pressures and deadlines at the time, and can often include something unexpected. Administration and management tasks typically are a minor part, but can on occasion take over. The major part of my time is devoted to working on client cases – I work a lot with individual inventors and spend much time drafting new patent applications. This involves discussion with inventors to thrash out the core new and inventive aspects of their work, and then to craft that into a patent specification. Drafting patent specifications can be time-consuming. Other day-to-day aspects include analysing and advising in relation to search reports, and responding to examination reports. I also handle a fair bit of advice work, including in relation to freedom to operate. A large part of my day will therefore be spent reading and writing, and actually since the work is so analytical, thinking! However, I regularly have meetings and discussions with clients (typically video meetings these days) and also with my trainees, going through their work, as well as discussions with colleagues.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
The job is very deadline-driven, which can present challenges in day to day management of my workload, especially as it not unusual for last minute requests to come in from clients, sometimes requiring you to drop what you are doing, and divert your attention to the new task. I work for a lot of small clients, and my work can be quite diverse; it can sometimes be difficult to juggle conflicting work demands, and at the same time to attend to the needs of my trainees. I do not like to say no, so always try to find a way to get it all done, which can be quite demanding.
Intellectually, dealing with various different aspects of my specialism, biotechnology, can be very stimulating but can also present challenges. In particular, where new ideas have been developed for how to do something, like new probe designs for a nucleic acid assay, it can be quite a struggle to find the words to bring together in one claim the key concepts of the invention in various formats, while weaving your way past the prior art. However, the satisfaction once I have achieved this is enormous!
What are the most important skills needed for working in IP?
Analysis and problem-solving ability are key. Also, the ability to express your thoughts and ideas clearly and succinctly, both in writing and orally. You have to be able to stick your neck out, make judgments and decisions and act on them. I find that clients appreciate clear, direct and decisive advice, even if it is not what they necessarily wanted to hear, so although you do sometimes need to hedge your bets, incisive thinking and the ability to provide clear conclusions and propose practical solutions are very important. I should also mention you need to be thorough and accurate, and have strong time management and work organisation skills.
Do you prefer to collaborate on challenges or do your best ideas come from deep thinking?
A lot of my work involves analysing and thinking about something myself, and often I will derive the “solution” myself, so I would say that typically my best ideas do come from deep thinking, and, as noted above, that can be deeply satisfying. I have even been known to get up in the night to write down an idea or some wording that came to me while thoughts regarding some gnarly invention have been churning in my head. However, that is not to negate the importance and value of discussing ideas and problems with colleagues, and it is not unusual to obtain inspiration in that way.
Do you encounter many women working in IP and innovation driven sectors?
The short answer is yes – in my field of technology, biotech, there have since my university days been significant numbers of women studying and working in the science, and that has reflected in the women I have come across both in the profession, both in the UK and elsewhere, and as scientists working in universities or research institutes and client companies. I guess when I started there weren’t many women in senior positions in patent firms, however there were plenty of trainees, and I certainly did not feel unusual, even if we were out-numbered. I became the first female partner at Dehns, and since then, the number of female partners has increased steadily and significantly. We are proud that at Dehns, more than a third of our partners are women. Although this is not at parity, I believe that this is higher than the ratios in STEM university courses as a whole, or in some other professions.
How common are truly new ideas?
The majority of my work probably involves inventions that are developments of existing ideas, rather than being truly ground-breaking. However, that does not necessarily make them less interesting, and sometimes a small seemingly trivial difference can have a big effect. We do sometimes come across truly new ideas and that can be very exciting, but ground-breaking science in the medical field can be hard to translate into a functional new invention, or a commercial success, as the science doesn’t always play out as expected, or hoped!
What key principles do you follow in order to deliver the best possible outcome(s) for a client?
I have always worked on the basis of delivering the best work product that I can.
What career advice would you give to women interested in joining the IP profession and getting to your position?
If you have an enthusiasm for science, and an interest in new and emerging technologies, then go for it! This is a great profession for being involved in science, without having to do it yourself. The profession is still quite small, and so competitive to enter, and does involve years of study for professional qualifications. However, it is engaging and challenging, and brings you into contact with lots of interesting people, and that’s a great basis for a career. Being a woman in this profession is not a bar to getting to the top.