Hi All -- I want to update you on my IP journey. After living abroad for 4 years in Asia, I moved to the Bay Area in March 2016 and found a contract job as an IP manager at an electrical engineering-focused startup in the 80mm-120mm funding stage. It has been trial by fire here and has pushed me forward. I am drafting, aiding in prosecution, budgeting, doing freedom to operate searches, working with outside counsel, and helping out with IP strategy. I get a lot of exposure (I work with the CTO and CFO) and a lot of freedom to run a program. The major risk is that I have no solid IP mentor, so I attend conferences and read a lot of books/articles to do a sanity check. I'm still doing patent data analytics for another startup in the $150mm-$200mm funding stage. I set up an S Corp to save on taxes, and my hourly billing has been in the $50-70/hr range. I plan to increase it to $70-$100/hr in the coming year. While I haven't done any weekend birthday parties, my juggling has gotten me into the six-figure range with 50-70 hours per week of work, which isn't saying much in the Bay Area, however, it's the first step.
My next step is to go work at a major hardware company as an IP manager, where they pay in the $140k-$160k range, and I realized I need to reinvent myself. I wrapped up a data science certificate, which actually helped me land the job at the hardware company because they want me to also help out on patent analytics. I will apply for a part-time master in EE degree (2-4 years), and I'm thinking of a cheapo law degree to pass the bar exam. California has a strange rule where you can do an online law school for $30k in 3-4 years, and then you're allowed to take the bar. At this point in the game, I think that's the best move for sanity and for opportunities.
@MYK and @NJ Patent1 were right, there is a lot more to IP than what I had imagined, and drafting is one piece (albeit major) of the IP industry. I was worried that if I can't draft good patents, I can't do anything else. I now am drafting patents, and it is taking me a lot longer to do it well because I have outside counsel expensively teaching me tips and tricks through patent draft revisions.
My new 20-year goal is to either go down the lawyer path to open up new doors in big companies (or well-funded startups), or to use IP as a starting point in running my own engineering consulting company that designs and develops new technologies for startups. The next few years will help me decide which path is right for me. I'm throwing away half of my dream (the engineering side) to give IP a solid chance and to see if it's a great fit for me.
Satisfaction-wise, I have had a fantastic time working with a diverse group of passionate individuals. Everyone has different views of IP, what it should be, how they should manage IP, and what is a reasonable budget. I particularly enjoy the invention side of things, and also how to apply the inventions to building real-life products. I've been gravitating toward the strategy and engineering side of things, thus, I want to have some sort of insurance on the technical side, in case I find the law-only path to be not enough. I'm also aware that the best way to succeed is to focus on one thing at a time, so I'm focused exclusively on IP management for now.
I'll update you all again in a few years, after I have some experience to share from my time at the major hardware company.