Can you think of your two favourite L-words? Maybe that’s “love & laughter” or “leopard & lasagna” or whatever those initials preceding “Bean” stand for; we don’t know your life. Our two favourite L-words come in the form of “Lunch & Learn”, where Spheroites are treated to a bit of food for the belly and mind, provided we’re hungry and haven’t learned everything yet.
Lunch & Learns come in many forms, ranging from the History of Sphero to the inner workings of Firmware. Sometimes we bring in guest presenters outside of Sphero, offering a whole new perspective on other industries and influencing our own. This past week’s Lunch & Learn had us soaring high (how's that dad-pun for you?), as Captain Barrington Irving paid a visit to Sphero HQ.
Mr. Irving is the record-setter for the youngest pilot to ever circle the globe solo, and the first African American ever to do so. While he’s traveled the world and accomplished quite a bit in his young life so far, we could sense some of his proudest moments were his initiatives through education. Irving’s nonprofit educational organization, Experience Aviation, brings after-school STEM activities to middle and high school students around the States. Much of the activities students experience involve robotics, which is something we can personally get behind, and will soon be involved in. Stay tuned.
Q. Hi. To get this going, would you telling us your name and title here at Sphero?
A. My name is Bryan Rowe, most people at Sphero call me B Rowe, and I'm the Photography & Production Manager.
Q. And can you describe what you do every day at Sphero?
A. My days range from doing all the production for upcoming videos and photo campaigns, to shooting BB-8 shorts and Launch Videos, to product photos and a lot of editing.
Q. BB-8 gets into some adventures in those shorts. I want that guy’s life. What advice can impart for those looking to get into the same kind of thing?
A. As cliche as it sounds, having a passion for what you love and sticking with it will help get you where you want to be.
Q. Sound advice. What are you working on these days? Or is it super secret?
A. Well...it's a video series showing off something really cool that the Force Band does that is not public knowledge yet.
Q. Crossingmyfingersitflipspancakes. Besides uber-cool clandestine projects, what else do you love about working at Sphero?
A. I love the flexibility of working at Sphero and not being micro-managed.
Q. Do you have a favourite bot?
A. I've got a soft spot for Ollie because of how involved with the product I was.
Q. What do you like to do outside of work?
A. Mountain-biking, camping, skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing when I can get to the beach.
Q.So, basically relaxing you say. Besides all that relaxing, what do you love about living here in Colorado?
A. The climate and the mountains make this place unbeatable.
Q. BOOM. Let’s keep this going—top places to check out?
A. The Great Sand Dunes are pretty incredible for being in the middle of the mountains. Big fan of Under the Sun in South Boulder.
Q. I definitely dig those places. Ok, here’s your last question: what little surprising fact can you share about yourself?
A. I worked at a health club in London when I was younger where I was on a first-name basis with Princess Diana.
We meet again, Denver. And not for the same reason as last time (sorry about that), but for your fifth annual Denver Startup Week. Nice to see you again. You look great with a sea of inspired entrepreneurs networking on your face. Mind if we get in on the mix? Like Boulder, Denver is quickly becoming a hotbed of some of the industry’s best startups and we’re eager to check them out.
What started as a small gathering in 2012 where admission was granted by wearing your company’s tee shirt, Denver Startup Week has grown vastly into the largest event of its kind in North America. A handful of Spheroites are making the pilgrimage over to the big city this week to attend workshops, network at industry happy hours, and spread the good robotic word. We’re excited to see what Denver has to offer, learn from some innovators in the industry and hope to chat with you, too.
And in case you didn’t know, we’re still growing, and we’re looking for more cool kids to join our team. Denver Startup Week seems like a good place to find said cool kids, so come tell us a bit about what you do. We’re all ears.
Our own Director of People, Mike Nemeth, will be attending a panel on Friday, so definitely stick around and tell him a joke worthy to be printed on a popsicle stick. He’ll like that.
Q. Alright, let’s get some formalities out of the way: who are you and what’s your title?
A. Jenica Watts, Product Manager.
Q. Hi, Jenica. And what does your job entail on the daily?
A. My job is to hold, communicate, and maintain the product vision across each of the departments at Sphero throughout the product development lifecycle. In plain speak, I set the priorities for the products we build and support our technical, creative, sales, marketing, and operations teams to make the right product at the right time for an awesome customer experience. I’m the hub for information and decisions on my product.
Q.Quite the amount of responsibility. What advice can you offer for those interested in doing the same thing?
A. Stay curious, learn about products you admire and how they are built, develop and practice the skills to build them, and be able to place yourself in the customer’s shoes. Be super detail oriented, and get comfortable being able to switch contexts between highly detailed technical work and the big picture of the end user experience or business plan. A background in electrical or mechanical engineering, computer science, or sales may help, but product managers come from many different backgrounds, and customer empathy, industry knowledge, organizational ability, and communication skills are key.
Q. So now I’m eager to know what you’re working on these days. Can you share or is it on the DL at the moment?
A. Hmmm… I think I can tell you it’s a robot.
Q. Gotcha, so it’s something super rad. So besides creating some super rad stuff, what else do you love about working at Sphero?
A. Like most Sphero employees, I’d have to say getting to work with brilliant and motivated people who care deeply about building great products is the best part of working here. I also love the challenge and opportunity of building products for an emerging market category. There’s no playbook to follow for connected play; you get to create the future.
Q. So which of our bots is your fave?
A. I like them each for their own reasons. Sphero is the ball that started it all. It’s versatile and the play styles are endless. I can’t drive an Ollie without bursting into a huge grin, and BB-8 is simply adorable. I also have a soft spot for SPRK. I lead the SPRK education program in its infancy and SPRK Edition was the first robot hardware I worked on as a product manager. It’s exciting to watch kids’ confidence grow as they learn and create with SPRK.
Q. So you’re one of the OG crew. Respect. What do you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. My interests have definitely been shaped by growing up in Colorado. Skiing is my passion. My dad moved to Colorado to ski, so he had me on the slopes by age 2. You just can’t beat the feeling of speed and freedom or the immersion in the mountains, flowing with the fall line, floating in powder--there’s nothing else like it. I love to travel. My favorite trips have been to Japan for skiing and India, where we spent time in a remote jungle watching elephants and tracking tigers. On most weekends you’ll find me hiking with my dog, rock climbing, backpacking, taking pictures or cooking.
Q. Nothing short of adventurous, I’d say. You may have already answered this, but what’s your favourite aspect of living here?
A. I was born and raised in Colorado, it’s truly home. I love the mix of the mountains and city life, the sunny days, and the snowy ones, the orange sunsets, the fluffy clouds, the open skies. The people are friendly, the tech community is collaborative, the beer is good, and there’s a sense of excitement and possibility here.
Q. Well said. So what’s your favourite spot to eat or hang?
A. For the outdoors: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Telluride. For skiing: Arapahoe Basin’s steeps and hometown feel are skiing at its roots. For food and drinks: Don’s Mixed Drinks, Denver Beer Company, Euclid Hall, and Lowdown Taproom. For independent film watching: The Landmark Mayan Theater.
Q. Wow, that covers all my bases. Ok, last question to close this out: tell us something surprising or unexpected about you.
A. I’ve spent most of my life in landlocked Colorado, but I’ve dabbled in sailing and surfing.
Hallo from Berlin, dearest Sphero fans! For those of you who aren’t our 3, maybe 4 blog stalkers, this week we’ve been at IFA and have just wrapped up day 5 of a 6-day show. And do we ever feel an end in sight now more than ever. Are you here Wednesday-at-6PM? It’s us, the convention exhibitors. We thought we heard you drive past our house real slow but that was Monday schlepping along. Don’t worry, we’ll hang for a bit until you get here, then we can head out together.
Not that we’re complaining, Berlin and its Berliners have been great to us. We’re rolling deep with BB-8s, SPRK+s, Ollies, Darksides and the showstopper pair of them all, Special Edition Battle-Worn BB-8 and Force Band. We’re pretty sure Nick from engineering or Matt from sales will be internet famous, as show attendees have been filming their Force Band demos nonstop; guiding our favourite Astromech Droid through the galaxy (our succulent-clad demo table) using the powers of the Force.
In case you didn’t hear, that’s a thing that happened: we launched pre-order for Force Band last week while here at IFA, and holy catfish do we feel popular again. You guys are awesome. Thanks for being as excited about our products as we are. Soon you too will be able to hone the Force with your trustee BB-8 by your side, or an Ollie, Darkside or SPRK+ for that matter. Oh, didn’t know that either? Yeah, the Force runs through us all and that includes our bots. Besides roaming with BB-8, you can use the Force Band to guide SPRK+ through a maze or race Ollie and Darkside up a ramp at the park, NBD. Imagine—guiding our robots with the Force AND watching cat videos on your smartphone at the same time. Seriously, what a time to be alive.
Well, as for us, we have one last day of delighting people from all over the world with the ways of the Force and enjoying the literal wave of arms from the crowd as they mimic our movements. Keep practicing, young padawans.
After tomorrow, we’re homeward bound, so we’ll catch you on the left side of the pond next week.
Q. Hi. To get things underway, would you please tell us your name and your title here?
A. I'm Jim. Jim Stigall to be exact. I am the Senior Concept & Story Artist here at Sphero.
Q. Hi, Jim Stigall. And what do you at Sphero everyday?
A. I work with the Visual Development Team. We are focused on Sphero's physical products and balance support between both hardware and software. My job, in particular, revolves around developing early stages of user experience. As a conceptual and story artist I help breathe look, character and life into our products. My work ranges from early conceptual product sketches and industrial design, storyboard illustration and animatic creation, to app experience and look.
Q. That sounds super rad. What advice can you impart for young artists—or old, we’re equal opportunists here—interested in doing the same thing?
A. Draw all the time! Be inspired! And learn to work and communicate with everyone around you - a most important life skill in general.
Q. Can you share what your’e currently working on or is it super hush-hush?
A. One of the awesome things about my position is that I am often working on multiple projects at once. I can tell you that I'm currently helping the Force Band software team head for home plate as we rapidly approach release. I am also involved in two other hush-hush projects at the moment.
Q. So besides creating some pretty amazing things, what do you love most about working at Sphero?
A. I enjoy the variety of skill that Sphero's employees offer. Artists, software engineers, hardware engineers, marketing and graphic design folks, sales, etc...There is a very mixed bag of talent here—all masters of their craft—working together to bring cohesive products and experiences to our customers.
Q. Good people make the bots go ‘round. Speaking of, which of our bots is your favourite?
A. BB-8, hands-down. That little droid was the first project I worked on here at Sphero. He is so beloved and so full of character and life! Also, I'm a huge, life-long Star Wars fan--so BB-8 was/is a dream project for me professionally and creatively.
Q. I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING. Ok, before I get too emotional, what are some things you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. My art sort of consumes me outside of work as well. Most of my various hobbies tend to somehow fuel my creativity. I can often be found drinking coffee or craft beer, nose deep in my sketchbook. I take on freelance design, illustration, and mural work when time allows. I am very into film - especially animated features and horror films—finding this also vital for my creativity and inspiration. On top of all of this I have two wonderful sons, Braydn and Ethan, whom I love spending time with. All of this is the tip of the iceberg—love trying new things and really do believe in the old saying, 'variety is the spice of life.'
Q. Preach on. What do you love most about living in Colorado?
A. I am a Colorado Native—something that seems to be more and more rare these days. I have watches this State grow and blossom so incredibly over the last 30+ years. It has been fun to see so many people from outside of Colorado fall in love with the place where I grew up. I couldn't possibly begin to explain everything I love about Colorado—it is my home.
Q. So what places can you recommend we gotta check out?
A. Hmm... with the rapid growth of Colorado, recommendations change almost monthly. It seems like there is always something new and awesome to try out! I have really been into trying the amazing craft beer coming out of the State lately... So, if you find yourself in Sphero's neck of the woods, I would stop into Avery Brewing Company (and this is a hard choice because there are A LOT of great breweries in Boulder) - they brew one of my favorite beers called Rumpkin and their tap house food is pretty darn incredible. However, being that I was born and raised in Denver—in many ways lightyears away from Boulder in feel, though only a 25 minute drive—I have to say one of my current favorite Denver spots is The Atomic Cowboy for Fat Sully's NY pizza and, of course, beer.
Q. Alright, bring us on home: what surprising aspect can you tell us about yourself?
A. I have pretty in-depth knowledge about World War II. I love history in general and tend to want to understand the roots of anything and everything I have an interest in - but I do have a particular knowledge of the European campaigns during WWII. My Grandfather was a Combat Engineer with the 104th Infantry Division. My Father and I have been doing extensive research for the better part of a decade now in preparation of a book we are writing revolving around Grandpa's stories.
The past few weeks have been busy for Spheroites both in and out of the office. Not only are we honing and combining our “forces” here at HQ to be Force Band-ready this month, many of us have taken to getting the rest of the outside world geared up for us as well.
Taking care of the south pacific, Sphero Co-Founder Ian Bernstein has been down under in Australia this past week, bouncing between Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. With too few days off and too many people to see, Ian has dropped in for a few Q&As with students at places like Queensland University of Technology; guided SPRK+ through mazes with Aussie kids at Apple, stopped by Disney Channel with a certain astromech-Droid by his side and sprinkled in a few interviews with iGeek, Gizmodo and Mashable, to name a few. This week Ian’s south pacific press tour continues much in the same fashion in Auckland, New Zealand with a final wrap up in Wellington before heading back State-side. We hope a few of you Aussie and Kiwis got in on the action or said hello.
Meanwhile, a few of us are heading to Europe—Berlin, to be exact—this week to attend Germany’s annual IFA trade show. You can bet we’ll have a stellar booth complete with a few cool Force Bands, inquisitive BB-8s and adrenaline-junkie Ollies; all vying for (and hopefully winning) the hearts of Europeans the world over. Check back here next week and we may have a few IFA hearts on display for you. Figuratively, of course. We’re not monsters.
Catching flights alongside BB-8, equipped with Force Bands on hand, watch out world—we’re coming at you with a tour de Force.
No, I’m not taking that back
Q. Hola. To get this things going, mind telling us your name and title here at Sphero?
A. Julie Boyle, Copywriter.
Q. Hi, Julie. Can you describe for us what you do at Sphero everyday?
A. I write all marketing copy for Sphero. Website, emails, lots of social, packaging… if there are words, that was most likely me. I also eat various snacks, juggle cats, and try to take power naps on the toilet.
Q. THANK GOD I’m not the only one who does that. Juggling cats, I mean. What advice can you impart for someone who’s also looking to get into copywriting?
A. RUN. But really… I’m an odd bird. I never took any business or marketing classes. I never took a creative writing class. I studied fine art and fell into writing because I fibbed on my resume to get an email marketing job years ago. Creative Director came along and said “You’re writing the emails? You wanna do the words full time?” And it took about a split second of thought to know that this was the path to fortune and glory. Or, at least a path. I’m still holding out hope for the other two. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was “Julie, if I never have to say, ‘That’s great but we can’t say that’, then you’re not doing your job.” Always push. Some of your best stuff may never see the light of day, and that’s okay. Long story short, find a mentor. Do good work. Have thick skin. Learn all the things you can. Treat people well. Stay inspired. Earn your keep. And fearlessly be yourself. I wouldn’t have gotten very far trying to be someone else. The people you really want on your side can always sniff out the BS. Stay genuine. Also, make people laugh. That’s important. No one is above a poop joke.
Q. Amen. Can you share what you’re currently working on?
A. It’s more like “What are you not working on?” My big thing is getting the Force Band go for launch. Among other top secret stuff…
Q. So besides the cool stuff you get to work on, what’s your favourite part of working at Sphero?
A. I get a lot of freedom to write some pretty fun stuff and we are one of the few brands out there that can push the envelope a little bit to set ourselves apart. There’s a variety of different robots and products that all have their own unique voice, all while being part of one brand. It keeps it fresh.
Q. Which of our bots is your favourite to ‘keep it fresh’ with? Think I used that right...
A. That’s tough. BB-8 has my heart, because I love Star Wars way more than the average bear. But Ollie sure is fun. So, those two are my faves.
Q. What do you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. Too many things. I dabble in a little bit of everything, so i’m never really that good at anything. I run. I hike. I play in the mountains. I love to camp. Skiing, yes. Climbing, sure. That’s like, all of the Colorado things. Then there’s the creative things. I photograph. I write. I read. I cook, and subsequently eat. Sometimes it’s good for me. I Netflix. I chill. Game of Thrones and 30 Rock are a big deal. Star Wars has always been my life. Bourbon and beer are a thing. I’m fluent in sarcasm. And I sleep. Sleeping might be my favorite. Mountain biking is my one big no. The scars and screw implanted in my wrist will tell you why. I’m just not good on a two wheeled horse.
Q. What do you like most about Colorado living?
A. The terrain as a result of plate tectonics. The opportunity to go up excites me. That and the silence and air up there. That’s some zen-like stuff. It quiets a creative mind that rarely shuts up.
Q. Where the air and mind are rarefied, I get it. Any favourite spots you recommend are a must-see?
A. Challenge accepted. There’s so many. Rocky Mountain National Park is my summer getaway. Such wow. Beer? Wildwoods Brewery or Upslope in Boulder. Bourbon? The bar at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park is the ticket. Food? West End Tavern, Centro Latin Kitchen, Mountain Sun Pub in Boulder are places I frequent. Cart Driver in Denver for pizza. Pizza is bae.
Q. I think we can all agree bae’s place is the best place. Ok, one more question: tell us something about yourself that will blow our minds.
A. I actually don’t even work here. I just love questionnaires so people can get to know the real me.
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