It’s no secret Denver is the fastest growing city in the nation right now. Those of us who drive from Colorado’s capital city to Boulder on the daily feel the affects of it in our commutes. What should only be a 30-minute-or-so drive can easily triple as everyone’s shared idea of “beating traffic” is not exactly novel.
Inspired by Boulder’s annual Tube To Work Day, members of our creative team decided to take an alternate route to work to lighten the daily commute.
Our very own Hunter Clawson, David Saucedo (D-sauce) and Taylor Gair opted for an alternate tube—a raft. Possibly prioritising suits over safety, these dapperly-fitted gents braved the mighty currents of the creek; much to the awe but-not-entirely-surprise of a community filled with runners and cyclists alike (so Boulder). With oars in hand and a Sphero flag waving proudly, this maiden voyage could very well have inspired other Boulderites to opt for alternate routes to work with a triumphant arrival at our office backyard.
Needless to say….there were few bumps in the journey. Were the currents’ tumult slightly underestimated? Probably. Did the team make it to our office? Not exactly. Will these fine men be forever immortalized as chicken-foot winners for embarking on this alternate route? Most definitely.
So for all the rewarding delight D-sauce, Hunter and Taylor brought you today, it goes without saying that maybe you should opt for safety over suits if you’re going to try your own alternate route at home or in life.
Just throwing that out there.
Q. To get this started, can you tell us your name and title here at Sphero?
A. Dani Hammernik, SPRK Community Relations.
Q. And what exactly you do at Sphero everyday?
A. As a former elementary school teacher I bring a unique perspective to Sphero’s education team. I lead all things community, which spans everything from educator support, marketing, events, and telling stories though exciting content.
Q. What advice can you offer for someone looking to be in the education field who may or may not want to be a teacher?
A. I always thought that getting my teaching degree meant I’d be in the classroom forever. It turns out that education is constantly evolving, and teaching experience is an asset to have for innovative roles outside of a school that will transform education. I’ve always wanted to make an impact on the lives of children, and giving up teaching to work at Sphero was hard at first. Working here allows me to extend my reach beyond a classroom of 30 students. Get out of your comfort zone and see where these experiences can take you.
Q. I like that. So what are you working on these days?
A. This summer we are honored to partner with Apple as part of their Apple Camp programs in retail stores around the world. This year’s camp theme is coding and robotics and thousands of kids will be programming SPRK+ robots during these sessions. I am honored to currently be working with Apple to develop Sphero activities and an agenda for these upcoming camps that will reach so many kids.
Q. That’s pretty rad. Besides working alongside partners like Apple, what would you say is your favourite thing about working at Sphero?
A. The people I work with. At Sphero you’re not limited to working with the people on your team. Our departments are incredibly cross-functional, which has introduced me to some of the most talented and creative people I’ve ever met and I’m honored to work alongside them.
Q. Being that you’re on our EDU team, I’m pretty sure I can guess which of our bots is your favourite…
A. SPRK+ is my favorite. I am blown away by the creative uses for SPRK+ in education. This robot is not only teaching kids the fundamentals of coding and problem solving, but also giving kids their best days of school. Did you ever think you’d see robots in art and literature? Gone are the days of robots being a thing for nerds.
Q. Gone are the days of nerd culture being only for nerds. More about you—what gets you going outside of Sphero?
A. My sister and brother-in-law are the owners and brewers of a craft brewery in Boulder, Wild Woods Brewery, so I spend a lot of time there. I love beer and I love to eat so exploring new places to do these things really “gets me going”.
Q. What do you love most about living in Colorado?
A. Open space. Living in Boulder, I am minutes away from some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s great to be able to break away from society once and a while and climb a mountain or sleep in the woods.
Q. So what else is around here you recommend I check out?
A. Drank: Wild Woods Brewery—Ponderosa Porter is where it’s at. Eats: Kitchen Next Door—Garlic Smashers and calamari every time. Outdoors: Blue Lakes hike in Telluride—no words.
Q. I’ll definitely be checking out all those places after lunch. Last question: Tell me something about yourself that will surprise me or at least I’ll find unexpected
A. There is a large wheel of cheese in my fridge right now. And most days.
Star Wars. Yeah, that got your attention. This week we’re particularly stoked about Star Wars because we’re heading across the pond for Star Wars Celebration in London. We especially enjoy attending shows in different countries to experience their culture, possibly because our own Sphero culture is slightly different from most work cultures. And we like that.
If you’ve been following this blog for a minute, you may have read a mention of a Friday ritual we have called Chicken Foot. First let us set the stage: every Friday during our weekly company meetings, we take nominations for both the Board of Thanks (BOTs) and Chicken Foot. BOTs is pretty self-explanatory, where employees nominate other employees for helping out on a particular task, going above-and-beyond the call of duty or simply being awesome. Chicken Foot is kinda the reckless brother to BOTs, where employees are nominated for doing something…blunderous. Let’s go with that.
This ritual is all in good-nature, as nominees are usually self-nominated. Some past winners include accidentally breaking prototypes, terminating yourself, sleeping through a scheduled interview, missing a flight or the always-favourite—nearly setting the company on fire. Which has happened more than once. Safety is not overrated.
Despite some near-miss hazards, we celebrate both achievements and blunders, because that’s part of what makes us creative, if not hilarious. Winners of Chicken Foot should wear this badge with pride, since it’s probably the only Chicken Foot they’ll ever get.
Unless your name’s Ross. So many chicken feet.
Q. Sup. Can you tell us your name and title to get a few formalities out of the way?
A. My name is Jordan Chong and I'm the Systems Administrator here at Sphero
Q. And what exactly do you do at Sphero everyday?
A. Hmm. I'm the jack-of-all-trades IT guy. I [do my best] to maintain and expand our infrastructure while attending to the changing needs of our employees.
Q. If it weren’t for you, nothing would work. What advice can you offer for someone looking to also be a tech doc?
A. Have a passion for what you do! I try to give everyone this snippet of advice. IT positions can be as narrowly focused or as wide-reaching as you want them to be. I have found that people don't know where to get started in their IT careers, but having a passion for technology is the driving force that will not only help people to get started, but to keep them motivated as technology evolves over time.
Q. May there be others like you. Can you share what you’re currently working on or is it super secret?
A. Haha, nothing super secret that I can't share. My current projects are updating Sphero's network, budget forecasting (the fun stuff), projects related to single sign-on and device management.
Q. So what’s your favorite aspect of working at Sphero?
A. My favorite aspect of working at Sphero is working with people from diverse backgrounds—all of whom are working towards a common goal: Delivering the best connected play experience in the world.
Q. Speaking of connected play, which of our bots is your favorite?
A. That's a tough question... I'd have to say BB-8. I have friends who have young children and they love how they can make BB-8 nod, or shake his head in response to their kids' questions, and their kids just go crazy.
Q. I also go nutty over that feature. I get you, kids. What do you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. Oh boy...I'm a total couch potato (Netflix/Video games)…otherwise I'm either trying to make it to the climbing gym, or I'm kicking it with my kitties: Bootsy and Buff (Dad gave you a shout out!!!). I have a lot of tech at home, so I'm usually tinkering around or reading up on new things so that I can keep myself up to date.
Q. Dad’s on the blog, kitties! What’s your favourite thing about living in Colorado?
A. First and foremost, I love winter and all of the snow that comes with it! Colorado is full of wonderful, welcoming people, and of course, some of the best craft beers in the world!
Q. Yes. Word to all those things. What place do you recommend I gotta check out?
A. Oh gosh. My favorite drinking spot is the Colorado Keg House. 75 craft beers on tap all from Colorado!
Q. 75? Holy catfish, I’m sold. Ok, one last question—tell me something about yourself that will blow my mind.
A. Well...I was born and raised in Hawaii, and I've never been on a surf board. Mind blown?
Mornin', kiddies. Did you receive the open-to-everyone birthday invitation from our mutual friend, America? We sure did. We think we may have seen you there, too, between our second servign of BBQ ribs with Lynyrd Skynyrd soundtracking our mastication. We were gonna come and say "hey", but you know--macaroni salad is a sweet, sweet seductress.
We imagine you celebrated America’s birthday in a similar fashion to us—too many BBQs to attend with so little time and stomach space. Between all that eating, some of us felt a little ambitious and had a side of trail run or 14er-hike. Others of us opted for America’s party favours and found a baseball game in our goodie bags. However you chose to celebrate, we hope that included some good food and awesome-but-legal pyrotechnic viewing.
Not to rub it in too hard, but hopefully some of you were able to celebrate an extended holiday like us, where your work week started on a Wednesday (today) with Sphero making you some sweet, buttery hotcakes. Yes, you read that correctly. The best part of waking up maybe a pancake in your cup. Or on a plate. Or even going au-natural out of your hand; all three are equally Instagram-worthy.
Seeing how delicious this morning was, we’re thinking of celebrating America’s birthday every week. Pretty sure robot productivity would go through the roof when fueled by post-party pancakes. There’s probably some study conducted by the best scientists and Mrs. Butterworth backing that up.
I’m sure we can find it around here somewhere.
Q. Hi, there. To start this off, mind telling us your name and your title?
A. Claire Tindall, Sr. Director of Marketing and Communication.
Q. Hello, Claire. Can you tell us what exactly do you at Sphero every day?
A. I lead communication, marketing and event strategy for my teams around the globe. My people are spread across every region of the world and together we tackle all things media relations, social media, events and more.
Q. Spreading word around the globe. What advice can you give for someone looking to get into the PR and marketing world?
A. Be resourceful, solution-oriented and humble.
Q. Solid advice for anyone, I'd say. Can you share what you’re currently working on or is it super secret?
A. Mostly secret, as my time these days is spent planning for our major product launches coming later this fall. What I can tell you is that we have a number of cool events on the horizon. Look for us across the pond at Star Wars Celebration in London next week and immediately following that, International Comic Con in San Diego.
Q. Two amazing places and two amazing events. Super jelly. As if that wasn't enough, what is your favourite aspect of working at Sphero?
A. Hands down, the people I get to work with. From my immediate team in Boulder to my partners around the world, I have the privilege of working alongside some of the most talented and brilliant people in this world.
Q. Which of our bots is your favourite in this world?
A. SPRK+ is my personal fave. I am constantly inspired by the creative ways educators and parents are using this bot with kids. Yes, this bot is intended to teach foundational coding and programming, but to see robotics integrated into the arts, music and literature is just so cool.
Q. Another win for SPRK+ in this office. What do you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. I’ll keep it real here … I clock in as mom for my three year old son. With a career that requires travel for trade shows, media tours, etc., I try to prioritize work-life balance. Be it playing in the mountains or simply chasing a toddler around Costco, every weekend is a new adventure.
Q. I feel often feel like a toddler at Costco. Sample-sensory overload. Can you tell me your absolute favourite thing about living in Colorado?
A. I travel a lot for work. I love coming home to the Flatirons, fresh air and open space.
Q. Totally. The view never gets old. What place can you recommend I check out?
A. I survive mostly off of coffee. My go-to spot is ink! Coffee in Denver. I love the Aspen location, too.
Q. I'll add that one to my coffee-tasting list. Ok, one last question—tell me something about yourself that will blow my mind.
A. I once had lunch with Oprah.
Did you miss us, Denver? Were you lonely without us, Big Blue Bear? You don’t need to answer—your eyes peering into our collective soul through 6’’ worth of glass say it all.
As promised, we headed back down the hill for ISTE to see some of our favourite people in education and meet the acquaintance of a few new ones. Education is a big passion of ours and who says learning shouldn’t also be fun?
Our bots are in thousands of schools across the US, teaching kids how to code through art, math and science activities. Not only are SPRK Edition and now SPRK+ popular with educators, but our favourite adrenaline junkies Ollie and Darkside are ripping through the classroom as well; all of which are programmable through our Lightning Lab app.
Not a teacher? Graduated from school, you say? At the risk of sounding corny, aren’t we all life-long students? It’s never too late to learn something new. If one of our bots has done little more than be driven around your house hitting doorways and chair legs along the way, download our Lightning Lab app and give your driving thumbs a break by coding some sweet moves with a cool drag ’n drop interface. Have your SPRK+ perform some color-flashing synchronized swimming in the pool. Race your Ollie from your driveway to your neighbor Craig’s house. Patrol the dark corners of the scary basement with BB-8. Paint beautiful ketchup and mustard masterpieces at your Fourth of July BBQ; the possibilities are endless.
Whether you’re a student in a classroom or a student of life, take it from those of us who create and play with bots all day: learning should never be boring.
Enjoy learning. Enjoy America’s birthday. Enjoy your SPRK+ with or without ketchup.
Q. Hello, Mr. Carney. Oh—for those who don’t know you—who are you and what’s your title?
A. I'm Ben Carney, and I'm the Director of Finance at Sphero.
Q. And what exactly do you do at Sphero every day?
A. I'm in charge of the forecasting, budgeting, and financial analysis at Sphero - a function that’s commonly referred to as Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A). I spend a lot of time in our financial systems and in spreadsheets analyzing the past and modeling the future!
Q. So what advice can you impart for those who also want to predict the [financial] future?
A. There are few different paths somebody could take to enter the FP&A field. A traditional Finance major will typically provide the background for FP&A. There are junior analyst roles that lead to senior positions, or various other routes. However, you could also take the path that I did. I got an MS in Accounting and started my career auditing with the Big 4. After I'd left public accounting I worked horizontally into a FP&A role given Accounting and Finance have many similarities.
Q. Nice move. Can you share what you’re currently working on or is it detrimental to the future?
A. Sure! I have my recurring forecasting activities that occur monthly and then usually have a high-level of ad-hoc work and longer projects. Right now, we are working on a bench-marking exercise where we take metrics from publicly traded companies in our's and adjoining industries and compare our company's performance and financial composition to theirs. It's a great way to evaluate your position in the market and your long-term financial goals.
Q. I was always told to never compare myself to others, but in this case I guess it’s a necessity. What is your favourite aspect of working at Sphero?
A. I love the creativity that comes out of this company. We have a brilliant set of engineers that are really good at making the imaginable become possible through creative tech - I love seeing that process.
Q. We do make some pretty rad stuff. So, which bot is your favourite?
A. For pure play, I love Ollie with its fast speeds and high flying tricks. However, I think the bot I love the most is SPRK (and now SPRK+). Lightning Labs is a fantastic app, website, and community that is full of great content for teaching kids STEM principles and being a father of 2 kiddos myself, I love that!
Q. SPRK has been on a roll (wink) in popularity lately. What do you like to do outside of Sphero?
A. When at home, I love to spend time with my family and garden. I also have a fascination with maps and can spend hours looking at them and researching places online. When we step out of the house I love to fly-fish, white-water raft, hunt, hike, mountain bike, run, camp, and anything else that involves exploring nature.
Q. So basically all the things. Can you tell me your absolute favourite thing about living in Colorado?
A. It's amazingly beautiful and full of recreational opportunities. I don't love I-70, but I love all the places it takes you and how much there is to explore!
Q. The adventure’s life is the only life for me. What else can you tell me I gotta check out?
A. I'm not much of a foodie, so no big suggestions there. But you should definitely check out Lost Creek Wilderness area. Its pretty close to the front range and ignored by many. Its named for Lost Creek which starts high off Kenosha pass and disappears 7 times into the mountain before re-appearing on the other side. It's got un-worldly rock formations and incredibly scenic vistas (not to mention an arch!). For quick scenery and more established hiking enter on the goose creek side. For a more remote experience check out the Lost Park side - it's a family favorite.
Q. I have not heard of this place…the name alone warrants a visit. Ok, one last question—tell me something about yourself that will blow my mind. Or at least that I will find unexpected, thus semi blowing my mind.
A. While spending time in the Lost Creek Wilderness I encountered an African Serval in the wilderness. I got as close as I could until it started to hiss at me and bear its teeth - my wife was not impressed with my bravado! We took GPS units and pics and worked with Fish and Game to get it captured but they were never successful. Best guess was that somebody had illegally kept it as an exotic pet and released it as they couldn't handle it. True story - mind blown!
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