When I was first hired on as Karlsson Robotics’ Director of Sales and Marketing, I was confident in my ability to sell products I knew nothing about initially. Coming from a background in medical sales, I was used to quickly learning the basics and highlights of a product, just enough that I could sound knowledgeable to a potential client. The products and people I dealt with were literally matters of life and death. I wasn’t particularly intimidated by the idea of selling what I initially thought of as computer parts. Robot parts. Whatever. What’s a servo? I’ll figure it out later.
The thing about medical sales is that the companies that make the products expect them to be sold by medical salesmen, i.e. guys like me, laymen with no background in anything besides fast talking and dealing (as an aside, I did go to college – I majored in English Literature. Yes, I have worked as a waiter. No, I’ve never been a barista). Dealing with the products that KR sells – the aforementioned servo, tiny computers called Arduinos, all manner of sensors and plugs and things whose functions I couldn’t even vaguely glean by looking at their names – is a bit different. Created by specialists to be sold to people who are in the know. Even the product descriptions required a vocabulary I simply didn’t possess. The point is, it’s difficult to market a product when you truly know nothing about it.
I did get the impression that these concepts were not wholly beyond my ability. I was curious. I wanted to know more. And I had resources. My boss (and the company’s owner) is an electrical engineer. My coworkers, for the most part, have backgrounds in engineering, computer science, some sort of hard science at least. If they didn’t know exactly what something did or how it worked, they at least possessed the tools to quickly find out. So, what do you do when you want to know something? Ask someone who knows.
Thus began a common, if decreasingly popular, refrain around the KR offices: “What’s that? What does it do? Can you use it for [insert some vague technical concept I read about on Wikipedia]? What are you doing? What are you making?” At first my colleagues were patient, helpful even. They slowly and carefully explained the purpose of components and engineering concepts, then re-explained them when I promptly forgot what they’d just told me. They directed me to literature they thought might be at my level – mostly stuff intended for kids, sometimes their own kids. But there are only so many hours in the day, and talking with people is really only my job; they had real work to do.
Recently, I was pestering my boss – the eponymous Gustav Karlsson of Karlsson Robotics – and he asked me why I didn’t just figure it out myself. I answered that I had no background in this stuff. I couldn’t even begin to figure out how to begin. He pointed out that not everyone here had gone to school specifically for engineering or computers. A coworker of mine did indeed have a science degree, in biology. Not necessarily the best background for computer science, right? “She taught herself. Teach yourself. You can write about that.” I had been talking about starting up a blog for some time, but found myself at a loss as to what I could actually write about. Gustav had also been encouraging me to write some tutorials to put up on the website, like he was doing, which was a prospect that sounded so beyond my ken that I hadn’t actually put much credence into the idea that it might actually happen. To my surprise, the idea didn’t sound absolutely absurd anymore. After all, I had resources. Not just the people around me, but also literally thousands of components that I was told I was free to play around with. Instruction manuals. A workspace with all the tools I would need.
So I’m giving it a shot. That’s the purpose of this blog. I have a feeling this might evolve in ways I had not originally anticipated, but the idea is that I’ll be taught or learn something, and then chronicle it here for you, dear readers. I’ll also try to leave as asscessable a tutorial as I can that that you, too, can build your own Cylon. Sort of like those blogs where people learn to cook and display their results, except with robots (which sounds a lot cooler to me). I’ll be trying to update at least once a week, probably on Mondays, with sporadic updates sprinkled throughout the rest of the week as the spirit takes me. Eventually I’d like to move into video tutorials and vlogs. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So, where to begin? I haven’t the foggiest. I will continue to poll my coworkers throughout the next few days as to what a good starter project is, and will most likely announce that later this week. I’m also soliciting ideas from the community at large. If you have any ideas for projects (bearing in mind my relative level of skill), questions, or corrections, please feel free to contact me.
AKA John Reck
Director of Sales and Marketing