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3M’s “100-Patent Woman” Audrey Sherman Explains How She Did It

Monday, January 14, 2019 2:06 pm CST

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Technology and innovation are at the heart of 3M – the company has been granted more than 118,000 patents, and each year, more than 4,000 new patents are issued to 3M worldwide.

Getting one patent is a huge achievement. Getting 100 sounds nearly impossible. In its 116-year history, only 18 3M inventors have reached the 100-patent mark, and Audrey Sherman, a division scientist in the 3M Medical Solutions Division, is 3M’s only female to reach this milestone. We talked to Audrey to learn how she did it.

Her first patent

Audrey began her career at 3M as an intern while still in high school and got her first patent after being at the company for five years. At that time, she asked her boss how many patents she should aim to earn per year. He told her that a good pace was one patent per year. “All I could think of was, I am so far behind because I’ve been here for five years,” she said. Audrey was determined to catch up. And she did – averaging nearly five patents per year over the next 26 years.

Road to 100

In 2017, Audrey became the first women at 3M to reach the 100-patent mark. She currently holds 125 patents, and each of those plaques adorn the walls of her staircase in her home. “I wanted a way to share these collaborative accomplishments and have this as a conversation starter when people come into my home,” she explained.

Collaboration equals more patents

Early in her career, Audrey set out to work with as many senior scientists as she could to see how she could help them come up with new ideas. Along the way, she learned that it takes a village to get each one of those plaques – it takes many people to ensure that a discovery can become an issued set of protected claims.

 “When I see the plaques, I don’t always remember what the patents are for until I see the names of the people I worked with on each invention,” she said. “This process is all about the people and the collaboration that it takes to make these discoveries that really help our customers.”

Check out the video above to learn more about Audrey’s career and to hear what inspired one of her most memorable inventions.

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