Scott Bickham’s Philosophy of Balance

Scott Bickham’s Philosophy of Balance

Scott Bickham’s Philosophy of Balance

Development Fellow Scott Bickham describes himself as an independent thinker, a trait that became one of the principal reasons that he decided to pursue a career in physics. He remembered being aided by his middle school teacher, Mr. Phillips, who gave him free rein to work in a fast-paced, independent learning environment. During this time, Scott discovered his passion for solving tough scientific and technical problems.

“[Mr. Phillips] was a strong mentor throughout my younger years, and he helped me uncover the mystery and beauty behind physics and math,” Scott said. “Everybody needs their own “Mr. Phillips,” or someone who they can connect with when they encounter tough technical challenges. Mentors help you avoid working in a vacuum.”

Scott’s influences positioned him to pursue his graduate degrees from Cornell University, which led to his first research positions at the Naval Research Laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Scott worked throughout the latter half of the 1990s to hone his skills in modeling, optics, glasses, and the interaction of light and matter, topics that would encompass much of his work in his current role with Corning’s Optical Communications business.

“This agility between multiple areas gave me enough know-how to establish myself as a critical part of the innovation process at Corning,” he said. 

Scott’s skills and experience have proven to be the perfect match for Corning. Since 1999, he has been a critical contributor to many optical products and processes. According to Scott, these milestones are due to Corning’s continued investment in development activities and an enabling workplace culture that holds a diverse assortment of knowledgeable scientists, engineers, manufacturers, and more.

“It’s absolutely crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance in order to succeed both in and out of the workplace.”

Today, Scott focuses on early-to-mid-stage optical communications projects as a project leader or individual contributor. He also helps support the development and manufacturing groups in production locations domestically and contributes to the design and development of optical fibers and cables that enable applications including fiber-to-the-home and 5G.

From 2006–2010, he contributed significantly to Corning’s bend-insensitive multimode fiber product. “This allows for more capacity and provides a significant reduction in material weight and cost,” he said. “This was one of the most thrilling experiences for me, to see a concept grow to a large-scale production and to see how it has become an integral part of a key suite of products in our business.”

Scott also puts a priority on what he’s able to achieve outside of work, which gives him the clarity needed to contribute to large-scale optical projects. He gives credit to the city of Corning for enabling him to maintain a healthy work-life balance, grow personally, and raise his family.  

While many of Scott’s achievements have been a result of his individual contributor path, he has also thrived on being part of successful teams. He was a seven-time letter winner on his high school track and cross-country. He still enjoys running and has participated in many J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge events as a member of the Corning running team. One of those teams won the co-ed division at the championship race in London in 2014, where he and his teammates were congratulated on stage by the renowned British sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie. Scott described this scene as an honor and something he never would have been involved with had he not continued to pursue his extracurricular interests. He adds that he has typically performed better in running events when he’s been part of a team rather than competing as an individual, and that has carried into his career at Corning.

The Corning area has also provided Scott’s family with rich opportunities to pursue hobbies and extracurricular activities, particularly those relating to science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). His son, Sam Bickham, mechanical engineer, CDT was a member of the Corning Area Robotics program starting in middle school, initially participating in the FIRST Lego League (FLL), and then in the FIRST Tech Challenge Program (FTC) in high school. Scott also gave back to the program as a coach and mentor from 2010–2014, helping Corning turn technology into a tradition and inspiring countless dreamers to pursue a career in STEAM.  Scott’s daughter, Gracie, ran cross country and track throughout her middle school and high school years while also learning and performing dance through the programs at 171 Cedar. His wife Annie is also very active in the community and enjoys cycling and hiking with Scott in the Finger Lake region. 

“[Sam] is now in his fourth year as an employee with this company, and I couldn’t be prouder of what he’s been able to accomplish,” Scott said. “His development and achievements are key endorsements of my family’s selection of this area and my choosing of this company. The area continues to give back to us.”

The sustainable and healthy balance Scott has maintained exemplifies the influence he wants to pass down to the next generation of innovators. To him, a work-life balance is a pillar of career success and fulfillment. 

“It’s absolutely crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance in order to succeed both in and out of the workplace,” he said. “There will be periods when you will need to work extra hours or travel to move projects forward, but these should be balanced by periods when your schedule is a little more consistent where you can recharge your batteries and spend more time with friends and family.”