Bringing Technical Expertise (and dogs) to Our Team - Meet Damon Diehl

Posted by Alex Ormond on Fri, Apr 27, 2018

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Damon Diehl | Technical Writer / Science writer

When at work, you will most likely find Damon at his standing desk, writing. When he’s not in the office, Damon is likely still writing, usually for his blog, “The Very Least You Need to Know about Optics.”

 

1. What brought you to Launch Team?

I was the principal scientist for a company called ASE Optics when I met Michele. We hired Launch Team to help increase our ability to do inbound marketing. Years later, after I started a business as a science writer, Michele began hiring me to help Launch’s clients create engaging technical content. I was spending a lot of time at the Launch Team office. In 2017, I decided Launch was where I wanted to be full time. I’m very happy I found my way here, but it certainly wasn’t the most traditional employment path. 

 

2. Let’s back the story up a bit. You were working at an optics company before joining our team. What does the rest of your professional background look like? 

I have always been interested in both science and writing. In high school, I had to decide if I was going to be a physicist who was good at writing or a writer who was good at physics. I chose the former. I ended up at the University of Chicago where I had to learn to do both.

I moved to Rochester to attend the University of Rochester. I had been doing holography research since I was in high school, and in Rochester I had a chance to study under Nicholas George, who is very famous in the field. I met Chris Cotton, the founder of ASE Optics, about a year before I finished my dissertation, and I started working for him almost immediately after I defended my doctoral thesis. ASE Optics was very small at the time—I was a full-time employee before Chris was. In 2010, Rochester Precision Optics, another Launch Team client, purchased ASE. I stayed on, part time and then as a consultant, until I started a business helping people write research grant proposals. I paused that in 2012 to become the coordinator for the Optical Systems Technology program at Monroe Community College. The program had faltered, and I was part of a consortium of optics companies that worked to save it. The turnaround was amazing to be a part of. Over the course of just the first semester, we went from having 6 active students to running day and night sections of all the freshman classes with 12 students in every class and one or two on the wait list. The program gained a lot of inertia and eventually attracted about $750,000 in external funding and even more in donated equipment.

 

3. You certainly had experience with the technical side of Launch Team, how about the marketing side? How has that been similar or different to your previous roles?

A research proposal is a form of marketing, which was why Launch was a good fit for me. I know how to take information about a technology and transform it into a document that conveys the work’s importance and relevance to a funding agency. At Launch I do something very similar—

I help companies create content that aligns with the interests of the “personas” of customers that buy a product or service. The shift from proposal writing to marketing content creation has set me on a path to learn more about writing content for digital platforms and how that requires different best practices, such as keyword optimization.

 

4. You attend a lot of industry trade shows, as well. How has that experience changed for you given your different types of roles?

I’ve seen many angles of trade show strategy. I started as a student attendee, and then I began presenting my own research. In 2011, SPIE hired me to start teaching a workshop on grant writing. Now I spend most of my time in the classrooms or the exhibition halls.

 

5. Speaking of SPIE, isn’t that how your work on “The Very Least You Need to Know about Optics” began?

Yes, it started with Tim Lamkins, SPIE’s acquisitions editor, whom I have known since we were in graduate school together. My friend Rich Youngworth and I pitched an idea for a book that would cover core optics concepts in a manner that was relevant to non-technical business professionals. It was a work in progress for a long time, but in the end my position with MCC didn’t afford the time to finish the project. However, I had half of a book, so we turned that into a two-hour course called “The Very Least You Need to Know about Optics. ”The course is different from most “Intro to Optics” courses, which focus on attracting people toward technical careers in optics. Our audience is people who already work in the optics industry, but in non-technical roles, and who are interested in learning a bit more about the underlying technology.

 

6. What’s your favorite part of your job with Launch?

Launch Team is a high-energy, creative place, and that is a lot of fun. The work also drew me in, in a surprising way. Marketing involves a lot of problem solving. I wasn’t expecting that originally. I love working with small businesses and helping them better communicate what they do. It’s a thread through my whole career; I did this type of work for myself, and now I get to teach other people how to do it.

 

7. Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on for a client?

Yes, it was a short-term project with a technology company. It was exciting because I was involved from the beginning to the end. We were tasked with helping them explain their technology to buyers. Our first focus was on the website, clarifying their offering and giving them a better understanding of who they were selling to. Alongside our in-house design team at Launch, I helped come up with effective imagery for the campaign. Simultaneously, I was working with them to write the technical content. It was fun for me to be part of the full project, all the way through.

 

8. Many of our readers have probably already met a couple of your pets through social media since they tend to visit the office frequently. Do you have any other pets?

Yes, I have the office dogs, Baron and Tibilt. They each come in at least once a week. At home, we also have 3 cats and a ball python. 

 

9. What’s something no one would know about you?

I knit. It requires a lot of manual dexterity, which is a holdover from being an optics researcher. I’m not fast, but I really enjoy it.

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