Dr. Sophie Vandebroek

San Francisco, CA

"Don’t be Afraid. Driving Innovation, being creative and entrepreneurial is not without risk."  

Sophie Vandebroek has been Xerox’s Chief Technology Officer and the President of the Xerox Innovation Group since January 2006. She is responsible for overseeing Xerox’s research centers in Europe, Asia, Canada and US as well as the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC Inc.).
Previously, Dr. Vandebroek was Chief Engineer of Xerox Corporation and Vice President of the Xerox Engineering Center, technical advisor to Xerox's chief operating officer and Director of the Xerox Research Centre of Canada.

Dr. Vandebroek is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, a Fulbright Fellow and a Fellow of the Belgian-American Educational Foundation. She holds 12 US patents.  Dr. Vandebroek has received awards from Xerox, IBM, HP, Monsanto, the Belgium National Science Foundation, Semiconductor Research Corporation, IEEE, and Cornell University. Dr. Vandebroek also serves on the advisory council of the deans of Engineering at Cornell University and at MIT. In 2011 Dr. Vandebroek was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame and elected into the Royal Flemish Academy for Arts & Sciences.

Vandebroek was born in Leuven, Belgium. She and her husband, live in Lincoln, MA and enjoy spending time with their six young adult children.

On the biggest tech challenge for companies over the next 10 years: “Alan Kay, who was at PARC in the 70s, used to say: ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’ And that is what we have been doing ever since. Following Moore’s law, the processing power you can get for a fixed price, will increase 1000 times in the next decade. This means that there will be ubiquitous low cost computers embedded everywhere including furniture, buildings, clothes, people and anything else you can think of – and all  connected to the Cloud and accessible through mobile devices from anywhere in the world at any time.

I believe there will be intelligent and very simple computer interfaces everywhere, in public spaces, in our homes, pasted to walls etc.

I also see a trend where our “real” and “digital” worlds will blend. In this future world, semantic technologies will understand human language, gestures and logic. As a result, tasks such as information collection and routing, data acquisition, evaluation, and simple decision-making will be automated.

In addition, as we move forward I believe that how we work and collaborate together will change.  For example, advances in cloud computing will allow competitive marketplaces to evolve where firms of all sizes will shop for services. Knowledge workers will operate as free-agents providing their specialized skills into an enterprise for set periods of time.”

On advice for budding women techies: “‘Get Your Ticket Punched.’” This means gaining respect and credibility from the people around you who are critical to the success of your project.  For a creative inventor this means achieving patents, publishing refereed papers, speak at first-rate conferences and having her inventions end up in products and solutions. It begins with demonstrating technical expertise, but getting your ticket punched is situational. Just because you are well respected and credible in one specific area, don’t expect this to always be the case so as you move into different jobs you will need to get your ticket punched over and over again.   

Don’t be Afraid. Driving Innovation, being creative and entrepreneurial is not without risk.  

‘In Danger There is Opportunity.’ No matter what you do, always look for the opportunity in difficult situations.

Have Fun. This is really about being happy. If you’re not happy, how can you pour your heart and mind into your project and do a fantastic job? An entrepreneur must radiate the optimism required to inspire the team members and keep all the partnerships aligned. Make sure you prioritize what is important to you and balance your personal and professional life in such a way that encourages your happiness.”

Profile added March 19, 2012