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5 Questions with Amy Han

As our VP of Hardware Engineering, Amy leads the design, development, and productization of our next generation robot hardware.

We're back with another installment of 5 Questions: a series profiling the brilliant minds behind Bossa Nova. Join us as our global leaders in retail, technology, and business discuss their professional journey, what it's like to work at the leading retail data company, and everything in between! Last time, we met European Managing Director Red McKay.

This week, meet our VP of Hardware Engineering, Amy Han.

With 25 years of product development experience, Amy combines her engineering expertise and extensive industry knowledge to lead the design, development, and productization of our next generation robot hardware. A self-described “product person” to her core, Amy embraces the complex challenges to deploy our fully autonomous solution in the busy retail environment.

Amy, how did you get started in product development, and what types of roles and experience have you had over this time?

I came to product development after graduating from UC Berkeley and Stanford with a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering. I started my career working for startups and design firms before transitioning to some of the big Silicon Valley tech players – Apple, Google, Skype, and Microsoft – where I managed the build of many first-in-kind products. At Apple, it was the first MacBook. At Google, the first Chromebooks. I’ve developed many generation-defining technologies such as the MultiTouch, wearable devices, and room intelligence. While those were certainly dynamic and exciting times, after Microsoft I found myself missing the smaller scale of the startup environment and was particularly keen to enter the “mobility” space. When I was introduced to Martin (Hitch), [Bossa Nova’s Co-founder and CBO], and Bossa Nova, I couldn’t resist the challenge.

Tell me a little bit about a typical day for you in the Bossa Nova office.

When leading the hardware development team, I typically like to kick off the day with a hardware stand-up, where we review the project’s priorities and assign tasks. On certain days this will move to a “bug triage” meeting, where we troubleshoot engineering and field issues.

Essentially, it’s my job to lead the team through the Product Development Cycle (Design, Get, Build, Test) and the challenges of bringing such a complex system into the retail environment. When I first started, my focus was to get the [3rd generation] robot up and running. Now, it’s to make sure the robot as a system is running well.

An interesting aside - industrial design was a major focus of the PRD for our 3rd (and current) generation robot. When we first started, a designer showed me a mockup saying, ‘Oh look, isn’t it beautiful?’ and my immediate reaction was to have him print it at scale. Sure enough, it looked terrifying. After much trial and error, we’ve moved to a shape that’s deceiving in terms of size, with an eye-catching base bot that draws attention away from the optical stack. Industrial design for cobots, robots designed to physically interact with humans in the workspace, is a fascinating and emerging field of research - and I think Bossa Nova is in a unique position to pave the way.

What does your work with Bossa Nova mean to you?

I’ve had the privilege of working in an industry that constantly disrupts and redefines the future. I’m also a product person, so I love designing and making things that go out and work in the real world. I’m also a firm believer in the power of data, artificial intelligence, and autonomy. Bossa Nova provides me with a rare opportunity to combine the two within a nascent, yet growth unlimited, space. As our deployment grows, we handle rising challenges and tasks with science, logic and process. I truly enjoy being part of this journey with the great team I work with.

What do you anticipate is the next big thing in tech?

I think we'll see more focus on autonomy as a distinctive solution for mobility issues - for humans and machines alike.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

My father was a civil / mechanical engineer and my mother was a chemist. For me, STEM was a part of life. Creativity was another strong driver. I thought of many paths -architect, engineer, researcher, designer, etc. As long as I got to make cool new things, I was game.

Bonus Question: What is the one item you purchase every week at the grocery store?

Spinach!

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