Weekly Wrap Up - Denver Startup Week
13 Sep 2016
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.
A Day In The Life: Jenica Watts
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.