Growing up in Michigan, Joe Zane had wanted to be a Marine from a young age. Decades later, that initial inspiration brought him around the globe and back, while building a career in the auto capital of the world.
As a high school senior, Zane applied to only one higher education institution: The United States Naval Academy. "Otherwise, I was going to enlist as a Marine right away," he says. "Luckily, I got in."
Excelling as a math major, Zane earned a two-year graduate school scholarship to Heidelberg University as a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant. Arriving back at Marine Corps base in Quantico in 2009, he then served two years in Japan as a communications officer with Marine Aircraft Group 12 in Iwakuni, Japan.
After a stint at the Pentagon, Zane returned to Michigan and began transitioning his IT networking skills into a civilian career. He worked with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as an IT enterprise specialist.
While he found the work satisfying, Zane wanted to contribute more directly to the auto industry’s future. A Marine for Life Network member at UnitedLex connected him with an opportunity to join the company’s embedded IP incubator team at Ford.
In the spirit of the overall endeavor—UnitedLex and Ford working together to break down silos and generate innovative processes in the IP space—Zane’s experience made him an ideal fit for the role.
He learned quickly, and now supports Ford’s patent processes within its mobility portfolio.
"The people building out the team were looking for focus and initiative, not necessarily the traditional background of a patent engineer," Zane says. "It’s great being at one of the biggest companies in the field driving innovation. Having been previously in enterprise IT, getting into that mobility space more directly was exciting."
And while Zane’s career has transitioned away from active duty Marine service, he remains closely engaged with the Marine Corps through his role in the Reserves. He has led the Southeastern Michigan contingent of the Marine for Life Network since 2016.
The group meets bi-monthly to connect Marines transitioning into civilian life with job opportunities and for general camaraderie.
“My focus is on building a network of Marines who have an ability to provide connection,” he says. “And I’m biased, because I really did get this job at UnitedLex through the connections at Marine for Life.”