GW Brief: Firewall inventor to teach workshops for the Law School

The man responsible for creating the first commercially successful Internet firewall is set to join the Law School’s Creative and Innovative Economy Center as a research fellow.

David Pensak will offer a series of workshops across the globe for senior technology managers and students on “innovention” while based at GW.

Through the workshops, Pensak said he hopes to “teach them how to think outside the box, to really identify what the problem is and then find the solution – all for the minimum amount of investment in time and dollars.”

Pensak said the themes discussed in his lectures can benefit industry executives as well as individuals.

“Some of the best ideas come from a guy working in his basement,” he said. “Big companies need to learn how to work with individual innovators, and individual innovators need to learn how to work with big companies.”

Pensak has a storied background in computer software design and chemistry. He holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Harvard universities, and spent 30 years as the chief computer scientist for DuPont, a chemical company.

His other accomplishments include creating one of the first computerized molecular modeling systems, having a number of chemical patents and developing pharmaceuticals.

Pensak gave his first workshop lecture in Jordan Jan. 16. Though it went well, he said he plans to continually improve his presentation.

“The workshops consist of first trying to introduce them to the process of innovation. There is a myth that you have to have an advanced degree or be a senior executive to be innovative,” Pensak said.

Pensak will be giving workshops over the next year in Bangkok, Brazil and possibly Kenya or Jordan for a second time.

“We work really hard at trying to build relations with people around the world who share an interest with things that we are trying to do,” said Director of the CIEC, Michael Ryan. “When you spend time with (Pensak), you realize that he really is a master of technologies,” he added.

Ryan is optimistic about what Pensak and the institute are trying to accomplish.

“What makes this so important is the potential new impact we can have in developing countries,” he said.

Besides his fellowship at GW, Pensak has a temporary position at University of Delaware’s business school and University of Pennsylvania’s medical school. He also teaches innovation to elementary and middle school students in Delaware, where he resides with his family.

Pensak said he wants “to teach (students) that it is okay to answer a question with a question.”

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