“You really want to know your customer.” That’s the advice Maha Maji offers to ISHOW finalists. “You really want to make sure you completely understand your customers’ needs. Because ultimately, that’s really going to drive whether or not your technology is viable… And that is something that judges can pick up on very quickly.”
We spoke by phone with Maha at MIT, where she is a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering. She’s specializing in offshore structures, in a joint program with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. At ISHOW USA 2015 in Washington, DC, she represented CalWave, one of three winning teams.
CalWave is made up of graduate students and post docs in engineering and business at the University of California Berkeley. Plus a couple of full time staff. They are developing wave energy conversion technology. The team is one of several projects supported by Cyclotron Road, a technology incubator run by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
In our call, Maha also stressed the value of preparation. “Practice as much as possible,” she advised. “What helped me was practicing in front of a lot of different groups, before I actually got to the competition. Different groups will ask you different questions. And some of those questions may actually be what the judges ask you, so it’s good to already have tried presenting and fielding questions. And if you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to say you don’t know. It is better to be honest about it.”