Match passion with talent, composites scientist advises
ALUMNI | Many inspirational speakers advise others to follow their passion in determining a career path, but Ashish Diwanji, EG90PhD, believes that’s not enough.
“You have to match your passion with your skills,” he told an audience at the University’s Center for Composite Materials (CCM), which honored him with its 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award. “Pursue the things you love, but make sure you’re good at them.”
In his own career, Diwanji has melded his leadership and entrepreneurship skills with his love of advanced composites over the past two decades, emerging as vice president of innovation in Owens Corning’s composites solutions business.
After earning his doctorate at UD in materials science, he joined Lord Corp., where he spent five years learning the fundamentals of buying and selling. In 1995, he joined Owens Corning, known for its pink insulation. Diwanji says the company’s discovery of fiberglass was actually a mistake, but that proved to be a lesson in innovation for him.
He went on to work in various facets of the composites business, including engineering, product development and management. He says he couldn’t make the jump to leadership until he gave up the need to do everything himself. “That’s the difference between a manager and a leader,” he says.
Diwanji was the brains behind Owens Corning’s 2010 Composite App Challenge, a global competition to find new applications for composite materials. Two CCM-affiliated doctoral students, Cedric Jacob and John Gangloff, won a prize in the challenge for their concept of an integrated structural composite fuel cell.