Engineering Spotlight: Vecna Robotics
Vecna Robotics has created and developed automated robots designed to assist warehouse employees with labor-intensive tasks.
We connected with Jay Doyle, Senior Embedded Systems Engineer at Vecna Robotics, to get an inside look at the company's engineering team. Doyle also went into lots of details about the company’s technology, the various projects, the team's culture and more.
Interested in joining Vecna’s engineering team? Take a look at all of the company’s openings on the list to the right!
Quick Hit Details
Year Founded: 2018
Number of employees: 100
Number of engineers: 40
Industry: Supply Chain
Can you share a summary on what Vecna Robotics does?
Vecna Robotics provides automation solutions for large applications in the supply chain industry. This includes self-driving vehicles (like tuggers and pallet jacks designed to move materials autonomously), and AI software that autonomously orchestrates all moving parts of a workflow in a facility (whether warehousing, manufacturing, or other types of operation). Our products are specifically designed to work well with other technologies to adapt to the future of an increasingly robotic world.
What are some of the different technologies that the engineering team gets to work with?
We have teams that work on creating sensor systems for sensing the world and creating technology to control third-party trucks. Other teams are working on artificial intelligence, creating completely new systems based on their own proposed concepts and designs. Some teams are working on augmented reality, some on end-user experience design, and some are proposing their own projects based on experience, interest, and research.
What are some of the interesting projects that the engineering team is tackling?
In addition to autonomous navigation, which is more of a 3-dimensional challenge as opposed to pure traditional AGV technology which tends to be more 2-dimensional, we’re working on safe and effective ways of doing auto-charging of large vehicles. We’ve also recently released an AI-based software that coordinates tasks in workflow between all available agents, which was a project born and raised by a couple of our brilliant engineers.
Does your engineering team have a chance to work on projects outside their day-to-day responsibilities?
Skunk work projects are part of our day-to-day responsibilities, many in which we’re developing concepts or prototype technologies for areas we’re thinking of getting into. We have plenty of autonomy to pursue personal projects, and we all share an interest in each other’s projects, whether that’s tangible contributions or enthusiasm for helping realize goals. It’s great to have the full resources of the company available for us to tinker!
What is the culture like at Vecna Robotics for the engineering team?
The hardware team is very hands-on; we’re a group of builders and makers who enjoy all the aspects of making a robot. There’s a great understanding and appreciation for everything from rolling up sleeves to work on lowest-level detail to the desire of becoming knowledgeable outside our areas of expertise by accepting challenging projects.
Our company generously flattens levels of hierarchy, creating a collective culture with the flexibility and agility to be adaptive. We put more emphasis on culture fit than I’ve seen in other places. We’ll go out of our way to ensure we hire people that add to the spirit of Vecna.
What can a potential employee expect during the interview process?
We definitely question candidates from a technical perspective, but we also ask about who they are as a person and what they’re interested in. We particularly look for people that have a high level of enthusiasm about the things we’re doing, and whether they’ve personally pursued projects related to robotics.
Are you involved in the local tech community?
People regularly contribute service hours working with schools, colleges, and STEM outreach programs. I often give tours of our space to groups that want to get their students more involved in STEM fields.
Rapid Fire Q&A
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Wars. We have a team member who is a world leader for R2D2 builds, with a working studio-quality model sitting right next to us!
iPhone or Android?
It depends; I’m a hardcore iPhone user, but we don’t necessarily fall one way over the other. The hardware group mostly uses iPhones, and the software group pretty much all use Android.
Coffee – hot or iced?
I always drink hot coffee. The rest of the team is all about iced Dunkin Donuts coffee, usually left half full somewhere in the lab.
Favorite employee perk?
Apart from exceptionally good healthcare, we all really value being able to use the lab spaces for personal projects. We’ve got a lift that employees have used to do work on their cars, we’re able to use equipment for random home projects, and there’s always someone staying late to work on a new development that has nothing to do with their tasks on-the-job.
I sit next to an Olympic medalist in speed skating, who brings his medals to work occasionally. There’s one employee that used to play in the NFL, and we have a couple team members that played sports in the NCAA DI. Here and there we’ll have coworkers in a seasonal sports league like rugby, soccer, or softball.
Techhiest + Most Unique desks
Ni Yang, Mechanical Engineer
I’m on the hardware team at Vecna Robotics. Previously I was a project engineer at Test Devices, where I designed spin tests to validate jet engineer components for FAA certification. I studied Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania, and now I enjoy working in innovative, fast-paced environments where ideas can take root, grow, blossom, and move on—all within the same day!
Warren Walton, Embedded Systems Software Engineer
My work is a creative pursuit that thrives in the creative atmosphere at Vecna. In the past few months, I worked with the hardware engineering team to implement many of the low-level robot controls, and much of that time is at my desk surrounded by various circuit boards and lab equipment. I enjoy the challenges of bringing the possibilities that software systems provide in the physical world; it’s exciting trying to figure out new ways of solving problems, contemplating on the essence of good design, and then bringing that concept to life.
Images courtesy of Vecna Robotics