If you are a Hutchinson Center researcher who has discovered or invented something with commercial potential — or think you might one day — you should know the name Linda Billedo. She might just be the friend you never knew you had.
Billedo, who has worked at the Hutchinson Center for 25 years and has spent the last 10 years in Industry Relations and Technology Transfer, is tight-lipped about the contributions she makes to the Center. But don't let her modesty fool you.
Although Billedo often works out of the spotlight, she handles all of the finances in her office — an office that forges a crucial link between research conducted at the Center and applications of that research. In short, Billedo makes sure researchers get paid for their inventions. She gained her financial experience over the years, in several Center departments, including Accounting.
In her current job as administrative coordinator for Technology Transfer, Billedo tracks license agreements, maintains records and coordinates government reports for new discoveries that have been patented and licensed to companies. Perhaps most importantly, once deals are made licensing new discoveries to industry, Billedo is the one who makes sure the money keeps flowing.
A friend to every inventor
"Every inventor here — and I think we paid royalties to 115 different inventors last year — owes their check to Linda," said Spencer Lemons, who supervises Billedo in his job as vice president for the department. "So that should make her really popular right away."
People who have worked with Billedo over the years also recognize the close attention to detail she brings to her work — a focus that is necessary for tracking the large volume of licensing agreements that pass through the office and for making sure revenue is distributed to inventors or reinvested in the Center.
"We all do the glory work, which is all the front-end work," said Julie Holly, patent and contract administrator in the office and a 10-year colleague of Billedo in Tech Transfer. "Linda's the one who handles all the work after we sign the license agreements, and she is the one who makes sure the reports and license income come in the door on time. We could not do without somebody who does that. Linda is absolutely essential in terms of how we run this department." For her part, Billedo shrugs it off. "We all have our hand in keeping this office running," she said. "Sometimes when you do your job, you just take it for granted. I just do it knowing that my efforts help this office run smoothly."
Billedo remembers that when she started — in the Accounting department, where she spent the largest portion of her career — there was only a small staff in her office. Dr. Hutchinson was still working at the Center then too. Since then, Billedo has enjoyed watching the Center grow and change over time.
"It just seems like yesterday that I started here and we had maybe six, seven hundred people and now we have thousands," she said. "Watching the Center evolve — I think that's pretty cool."
Some of the projects Billedo remembers working on during her years in accounting mark her as a long-time employee. She played a role in changing over the technology of the various offices she has worked in. In particular, she remembers that her job used to involve much, much more paper — and even other storage forms.
Changing with the times
"When I started here, we were actually using magnetic cards to store information — cards with little magnetic strips on the side," she said. "To get from there to where the Center is now [with paperless accounting and Web-accessible records] is amazing."
After working for many years in Accounting, Billedo also worked in Accounts Receivable and Payroll. She took some time away from the Center in 1996 — but only for six months. When she returned, she joined Technology Transfer on a part-time basis. Her responsibilities were small then, but almost inevitably, they grew.
"Very quickly she expanded her responsibilities, partly because of her previous experience in finance," Holly said. "She went from someone who really wanted to input data into a database to somebody who learned a lot, took a lot of risks, shouldered additional responsibilities and used her knowledge to help the office run more smoothly."
Billedo said she has enjoyed being part of the Technology Transfer office and supporting the discoveries being made by Center researchers.
"For me it's exciting to be able to be a part of the whole process," she said. "Watching it start in invention and watching the inventions grow to possibly helping the public … it is the bridge to making things happen."
Lemons came to the Technology Transfer office in 2004, and with him came changes to the department. He remembers being impressed with how Billedo took his new ways of doing things in stride.
"I threw just an enormous number of things at Linda and gave her responsibility for not only what she was doing, but a lot more when I walked in the door. And without a blink, Linda took on all that responsibility and performed beautifully," he said. "It's really kind of remarkable when you think about it — someone who's been here that long and is that flexible and is willing to take on new challenges."
Holly agrees about Billedo being willing and flexible to jump in when she can.
"She's always put the office first," Holly said. "She wants to make sure that we run efficiently, and she does everything she can to make that happen. She's always there when you need an extra pair of hands. If there's anywhere that she can be to bring value, she's there."
Holly said that Billedo's skills and interests outside the office sometimes reveal themselves. She's a talented cook, for example. She is also an outdoorswoman — and something of a mysterious one.
"She likes to go fishing at some secret spot. She won't tell us where, although I've seen pictures," Holly said. "She also goes mushroom hunting — again, at some secret place. We've seen pictures of the ground, but with no identifying markers."
Billedo has other skills that can prove useful on the job.
"She does the most unbelievable things with paper and scissors," Holly said.
As with other things, Billedo is willing to demonstrate her handiness here as well. Holly jokes that this can be very useful in a busy office where birthday gifts are sometimes remembered at the last minute. "She's always there with some nice idea for how to put something together so it doesn't look like you've just come in with a piece of tissue paper and a present."
Billedo is, predictably, humble about her adaptability and willingness to lend a hand. She casts the juggling aspect of her job as something she enjoys — which is perhaps a clue to how she has worked in so many roles so successfully over the years: "I have a variety of duties. It's nice that it's always something different."
Billedo said she also has personal reasons to like her job. When asked what she likes most about the Center, she said simply, "What it stands for — we save lives."
She told of a friend who has cancer today. She said that it is heartbreaking to see, but she also appreciates that the Center is here to give people options.
"The Center has been a part of my life not only through making friends here and working here, but it's also touched the lives of friends and relatives who have had cancer," she said. "So to do my part brings satisfaction that I can help in my own small way."