Thursday, 2 November 2017

Summer Placement: Robotical

Khaled Saad, SELA Cohort 2016

Over the summer I have worked with Robotical, a startup based in Edinburgh that designs and builds a robot called Marty. Marty is aimed towards teaching programming, mechanics and electronics.

Being part of a very small team meant that I got involved in a variety of areas and had a big responsibility. I was in charge of expanding the robot capability through both software and hardware by providing the user with more programmable features as well as sensors. I also worked on writing documentation and guides for users. My role was primarily technical but I also got involved in other areas, such as logistics and business planning. Here are the lessons I learned. 

1. You have to keep trying

Before I got the offer to work with Robotical, I have applied to over 30 companies. Going through this process and getting multiple rejections can be very discouraging but I have learned that resilience is a key quality for success. This is a quality that I needed again during the course of my work, which involved a lot of experimentation and iteration, most of which did not work but with each failure I became one step closer to finding a solution.

2. “I’ll do it!”

During my time with Robotical, I got to see the shipment of the first patch of robots. This involved a lot of logistical and admin work to ensure that each robot arrived to the right customer, wherever they are in the world. As part of this process we had to work closely with the courier company to ensure that they get the shipping information in the right format. However, due to the small size of the team, no one was available to complete this process, so I volunteered to do it. Although this is something that I have never worked on before, I was able to quickly pick it up and complete the task. This flexible attitude has not only helped me become a strong team player, but has also led me to learn new skills.

3. How you say something can be just as important as what you are saying

One of the most important lessons that I have learned on my placement is the importance of communication and how to tailor information to your audience. This audience can be your fellow team members, your customers or even your suppliers. Understanding how each member of your audience work and perceive information can be critical to the success of the task. I have learned this lesson through writing guides for different users. This involved understanding the different users’ backgrounds in order to provide them with information that they can understand and easily follow.

4. You can’t measure success if you don’t define it

Before starting the placement, I defined certain goals and aims that I would like to achieve by the end. I also did the same for each project that I worked on. This allowed me to quantify my productivity and understand how to prioritise my time in order to complete the tasks in hand. Aligning these aims with the company’s vision has also helped me stay motivated and to see value in my work.

Working for Robotical has been a very rewarding experience. It has allowed me to put my technical skills in a business context and to understand the importance of non-technical aspects, such as marketing and logistics. The placement has also helped me apply and develop my leadership skills. I view this opportunity as a vital part of my Engineering education and a springboard to further development.

Photo credits: Scottish Enterprise/Rob McDougall

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