What About Leading A [Large Company] Robotics Team?

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I was recently asked on a dating site, what I think about a fantastic job opportunity that has just come my way.  Since I’ve probably just killed all of the romance in that nascent relationship, and freaked the poor woman out by oversharing, I might as well get a blog post out of the deal. 🙂 In truth, I know that some of my readers might enjoy hearing this pinball bounce around in my head, since they’re mostly family and friends anyhow.  By the way, it is wonderful to have all of you around, rooting for me to succeed. So, I gift you with this:

A view into what it is like to be considering a transition from 8 years of not-so-profitable but completely free entrepreneurship, to a top position on a cutting edge robotics team…

A brief setup… I’ve just been through the whole interview process to join a robotics team at a large, well-known company. Herein they shall remain nameless, simply [Large Company], so I don’t unwittingly lose my yet-to-be-offered job, as I spill all in this scintillating raw story of just how I feel about it beforehand. As for the interviews, I think I did well, and I’ll find out in less than a week whether I’ll be given an offer. By the way, if I am not offered the job, it is totally OK. Feel free to send money, but you need not express your sympathy. I’ve got interesting work to proceed with at my own company, and will find other income soon enough. If I am offered the job, my life is about to be turned upside-down.

Ok, its 2pm, and I’m awake and refreshed. PS. Contrary to what many people assume, I’m not a slacker, even for sleeping so late. Lately I have been working swing-shift (2pm-12pm) because it allows me the most quiet/focused time to work, lets me skip traffic and enjoy some quality time in my “mornings.” If you’re imagining me sitting half naked in a chair, ratcheting my way to the top of Coffee Mountain sip by sip, you’ve pretty much got the picture. I have full control over my schedule right now so I’m just taking advantage of it! If I start working for [Large Company], by contrast, I’d be on a pretty rigid, roughly 9:30 – 7:30 workday. I might even (get to/have to) overlap and interact a bit more with the default world. Boo!  Yay!  Whee!  I’m honestly not sure what to say about that.

So, how do I feel about the [Large Company] gig?  That is a pretty complex answer. I’ll try to touch all of the levels. I hope I don’t bore you… this could get long! If you were sitting in front of me, I’d notice if your eyes glazed over and you started to nod off, but here in text I’m trying to balance giving you a real heartfelt, honest and thorough response that does justice to the multi-level reaction I’m having to this, without overdoing it and boring the hell out of you!  I’m sorry if you wanted more of the “I’m excited” short and sweet answer. Inside, I don’t feel like that.  That would be like calling my beautiful triple sparkley rainbow, mere “Light.”  While I do love light, I also love color, shadow and depth, so I’m about to break you off a piece of that!

On the face of it, personally, I would be really excited to dive into the world of robotics. Having it on my resumé would “Future proof” my career for a decade, at a time when I’m starting to experience age-ism in hiring. After years of working on results that exist purely inside the computer, or on a screen (film studio R&D), I strongly want to work on something that has a real-world result that I can point at, share and see physically.  Pure computing, with no audience, is a lonely affair.  Robots fit the bill, as does lighting (my artistic passion/current business/future hobby). I’ve never worked with robots, apart from a few experiments with motorized elements with an eye towards using them in my artwork. It’d be fun to try! I am a trained and experienced engineer, know I can figure it out quickly and hope I’ve convinced [Large Company] of that. Much of the work is software anyhow, which I know well. Conveniently for me, they’re just starting up their Austin team. I’d be their first lead engineer, with only two of an eventual 8 people on the team. That would be great timing. I’d love to be able to help shape a great team as it grows, and not have to jump in and try to win everyone’s loyalty and support as a latecomer. Personally speaking, it is a great opportunity.

Socially, I’ve been working alone in my design studio for almost 8 years. I miss working with people. I think I’d enjoy working with a team of people, toward larger, more collaborative goals. Truthfully, I wish it was more diverse than a bunch of nerdy tech guys, but, it is what it is. Perhaps I can influence that. My potential boss’ boss, is a fellow Burning Man type, so I know the potential for adventurous creativity and expression exists there. And when I infiltrate that corporate world, I will infect it with more of the same… spreading joy and potential like weeds… Mwah ha ha ha ha… Good luck [Large Company] your culture will never be the same again! 🙂

Entrepreneurially, I’d be trading complete freedom of time and direction, and lots of financial uncertainty, for the exact opposite… solid pay, and fixed, potentially long hours. [Large Company] employee surveys show an average of 10 hour days and a consistent sentiment that they aren’t being paid well for the amount of work they do. Oh, how awesome that must be! It’d be a huge change for me, with my currently amazing but sometime total asshole boss (me) and self-direction. It is probably the one change I’m most nervous about in the immediate term. That said, I can currently never “Turn off” my entrepreneurship, and often work very long days now (ha 10 sounds easy!) (asshole boss!). When I’ve worked full time, I can very easily feel “Done” at the end of the day, which allows me to really fully enjoy my time off. Besides, even working at [Large Company] for a year would set me up quite well for another colorful, entrepreneurial chapter. I feel like a swan-dive into the depths of [Large Company] would be well worth the try!   If I bellyflop, I’ll go back on my hands and knees, and beg my old boss for my old “Job” back, and he’ll have to give it to me.  Total power play!

I have some -strongly- mixed feelings about robotics at a societal level, however. Purely speaking, when a machine can do the work of a human, I think it is a good thing, especially for dangerous, or monotonous, work. Thanks washing machines! In theory, that should allow one less person on the planet to work so hard, and instead focus on things they love. Societally, however, that is, at least currently, -very- far from the truth. Currently, it benefits the owner of the robot, the receiver of the robots inexpensive, consistent, quality work (to the extent that the owner passes it on to the customer, like in lower prices), but it does not at all benefit the worker it replaces. That person is displaced and has to train up for some other kind of work. Combine that with the progress in Artificial Intelligence, which is allowing robots to move into ever more skilled areas, displacing ever more people and we in society have a very scary situation coming on.

I believe self-driving technology is going to be the straw that finally breaks our camel’s back. It will displace hundreds of thousands of workers in trucking, and automobile manufacturing as people opt to subscribe to transportation services, rather than own their own cars. There is NO WAY, especially under current “Leadership” (cough), that our society is ready for this, or our government informed enough to lead us gracefully through this massive problem headed our way. Business has no incentive to, at best, and an opposite, profit-motive incentive not to, in reality. A good PR opportunity with lots of lip-service toward the issue, is about the best I’ve seen from the business world, including [Large Company]. In our best case scenario, our society would provide a guaranteed universal income safety net, and free job training to those displaced workers, so they too could participate in the benefit from that automation, and get to refocus in a positive way.

Unfortunately America’s brand of Capitalism, especially, is not set up, culturally, or politically for that to happen. In fact it is tilted in exactly the opposite short-sighted, selfish direction, making the rich, richer, and screw those poor lazy bastards who won’t work for a living. The worst case scenario is bad… riots, violence, hunger, abject poverty, mass unemployment, chaos, as large swaths of our neighbors and countrymen can no longer feed themselves. Do you think America is angry and fractitious now??? Just wait.  We’re in for some major upheaval, very soon. It has already started at low levels, but self-driving tech will be solid in a few years so it is going to ramp up fast.  This will kick off, in a way that can’t be ignored, by my prediction, within 4-8 years. Believe me when I say, I’d be SO happy to be wrong about this.

Our income distribution problem, which will be massively exacerbated by robotics and AI -absolutely- needs to, and will eventually be solved, either peacefully or violently. People simply need to eat, and get crazy when they can’t.

Unfortunately, me taking a personal stand against advancing robotics, won’t do anything to help the impending societal issue. Robotics are coming, with or without me. We as a society can’t keep our heads in the sand, or they may be sliced off at the neck by a hungry family.

Are you still with me? Are you asleep? 🙂

That pretty much covers it. There is a lot going on in my mind as I consider this possibility that would massively change my life and career.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on what I’ve written, if you’re so inspired, so if we’re taking turns… now its yours! 🙂

How do you spend your time? What do you love about it? Are there things you’d change? How does it affect the society around you?

These can be big questions, and I always appreciate a thoughful comment. I’m moderating the comments by the way, so there are no trolls here.

Yours truly,

Homemade Rules


PS. They day after I wrote this, this article came out, confirming both that the societal transition is already well underway, that self-driving technology is likely to be a major impactor and providing actual numbers… good further reading, if you’re interested in the societal/social justice impact: https://www.fastcompany.com/3069269/robots-are-going-to-kill-jobs-because-they-already-have


PPS. Aaaand another one from the day after: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/mar/31/the-robot-debate-is-over-the-jobs-are-gone-and-they-arent-coming-back




About homemaderules

One response to “What About Leading A [Large Company] Robotics Team?

  • Anne

    Woo hoo! Sounds like the experience of interviewing was well worth it, regardless of what happens. Speaking of which, the best advice I can offer is: figure out the kind of experience you are looking for from your job (describe it in terms of adjectives; mine is: I want to be engaged, challenged and valued) and then look for any and all opportunities to have that experience, whether in your current situation or another. Assess any offers against the likelihood that they will offer you that experience and be open to however it might manifest. 🙂

    [Mystery Large Company] would be VERY lucky to have you regardless, so fingers crossed that the interview yields an offer. If not, it sounds like there is all kind of tech happening in Austin (lots of major companies opening offices there), so if you decide to consider returning to the corporate world, you should have plenty of options!

    Thanks for sharing!


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