In May of this year, I was given the opportunity to join CoreAVI as the Chief Operating Officer, heading up Engineering. Initially, I was surprised they contacted me for this position as I was working in the auto industry. After speaking with the recruiters, I was intrigued by where the company was headed and the magnitude of the opportunity for me.
My career thus far had focused on mechatronic systems engineering in automotive and robotics industries. I had managed teams that included embedded software developers, but never a team where software was the final product or Aerospace was the market served. The recruiters explained that CoreAVI had a distributed workforce (even pre-pandemic) so no problem maintaining my Canton, Michigan residency. When they told me CoreAVI was expanding into automotive and robotics markets, my interests skyrocketed. I quickly learned that their expansion plans were serious, amazingly ambitious, and they already had great partnerships with fellow travelers on this journey, including major silicon chip developers, like Intel, Arm, NXP, and AMD. I learned about CoreAVI’s expertise in high-performance safety-critical embedded systems, and their involvement in the automated vehicle space. One of the most important things I learned in my interviews with the executive team was that they were serious about maintaining a healthy organizational culture throughout their rapid growth and market expansion.
It seems that my 30+ year career prepared me very well for this position. Before diving into the automotive industry, I received my Mechanical Engineering education with a Bachelor of Science from Penn State and Master’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After MIT, I joined Ford Motor Company for 17 years, working on advanced chassis electronics, early electronic stability control systems, CAE tools & methods, Product Develop process improvement, and brake system design. I led development on the industry’s first integrated trailer brake controller and drove several other innovative brake control systems into production. Ford also gave me the opportunity to complete a custom Master of Science program that they developed with Wayne State University in Engineering Management.
As the auto industry tanked in 2007, I took a voluntary buy-out and accepted my first engineering director role, leading design, and later also testing, at an electronics plant in Mexico. Stoneridge Electronics supplies commercial truck and automotive ECUs, sensors, actuators, and driver instrumentation. I grew their first Systems Engineering team, improved their engineering disciplines and developed needed processes.
When warring drug cartels made Juarez the most dangerous city in the world, I decided to pursue my long-desired career in robotics, moving my family from El Paso to Boston area, to head up Mechanical Engineering at iRobot. I helped iRobot through a rapid growth period (my ME team grew 4x in 1.5 years), designing new organizational structures and unifying cross-market development processes, in addition to helping develop products that vacuum floors, handle bomb disposal, and offer remote telepresence between doctors and patients, among other applications. After five years living in New Hampshire, it was time for my Midwestern wife to get back closer to her family in metro-Detroit (my family remains not far from where I grew up in the Philadelphia area).
I wanted to start combining my robotics and automotive experience to work on Automated Vehicles (AVs), so I moved through a series of jobs in Ohio and Michigan to build this expertise. A former boss/friend from Ford had become CEO of TRC, the largest independent North American proving ground, located near Columbus, Ohio. They were interested in getting into research and testing of AVs, so I became VP of their new R&D Business Unit. This evolved into a CTO role as we collaborated with numerous AV technology companies. After learning about test track operations, introducing UAV (drone) testing, winning several large research grants, and starting construction of new AV-dedicated test tracks, I wanted to learn more about AV design and development.
I joined Toyota Research Institute (TRI) to help develop Level-4 automated driving in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This required one more family move, but it got easier this time. All the experience with real estate transactions over my career had inspired my wife to be become a realtor (happy to let her worry about the fine print)! As TRI’s Director of Automated Driving Programs, I built up their Project Management team from scratch. I started helping design and plan Toyota’s first AV-dedicated test track and was given responsibility over all of TRI’s AV testing efforts.
I then had an opportunity to work with Ford again, managing a Systems Engineering team at Argo AI, who is supplying Ford, and also Volkswagen, with their vehicle automation technology. After time helping as a Ford liaison and developing requirements management systems at Argo AI, I got an opportunity to lead Engineering at a small family-owned mechatronics development shop. New Eagle works with vehicle system suppliers to develop and prototype a broad array of Automated and/or Electrified Vehicles (including cars, many-sized trucks, massive off-road mining vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, boats, submarines, military equipment, and more). While improving their engineering and program management systems, I was contacted by the CoreAVI recruiter.
I’m incredibly blessed to be at CoreAVI in this role. Our safety-critical software stack is already in almost all planes flying today. Leveraging the new Vulkan® SC standard, we’re able to provide an open architecture framework that abstracts away configuration details of CPU, GPU, and RTOS interfaces, leaving a much easier platform interface for our customers to build certifiable safety critical applications upon. Customers developing vehicle automation, computer vision, graphical interfaces, and much more, can now more easily port their application to their next generation of hardware. As automotive, urban air mobility, robotics, and industrial IoT markets recognize the applicability of this technology to simplifying work in their domains, we’re going to grow rapidly beyond the defense & aerospace markets that much of the technology was initially developed for. We are now in the process of retooling and growing our organization to keep up with these incredible opportunities.
I am passionate about enabling engineering teams to operate faster, more efficiently and more effectively, especially for teams delivering advanced technologies into high-volume production. I am also passionate about building organizational health as a critical means of achieving the former items. I’ve found very few executives that appreciate the advantage of fostering organizational health to the extent of our CEO and Founder, Damian Fozard. Nor have I ever been as empowered to drive needed organizational change with so little resistance. I’m thrilled to be so well positioned to leverage my strengths improving communication, goal setting, processes, accountability, organizational design/development, recruiting, resource management, engineering discipline, and management systems. I’m blessed to be starting with such a healthy culture and talented work force, but I know we have a lot of work ahead of us to deliver on the opportunities currently at our doorstep.
I still have a lot to learn about our fascinating business, but I’m grateful to be part of such an exciting organizational transformation. I’m expecting this to be the best job of my career!