It's time for another installment of 5 Questions, a series celebrating the incredibly talented and diverse individuals that make Bossa Nova awesome.
This 5 Questions is with one of our longest standing employees, Caz Mostowy. Caz is a multi-disciplinary engineer and Product Designer with a background in human-centered design. Since joining us in 2012, he has seen Bossa Nova develop and scale, from a robotics company manufacturing toys to the leading retail data solution company that it is today, helping the world’s biggest retailers solve their toughest challenges.
Tell me about your background and how those roles and experiences led you to Bossa Nova.
I studied Electrical Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. After graduation, I joined a human-centered design consultancy/research lab with some incredibly smart people. I was really inspired by the impact that usability, information architecture, and the study of human cognition bring to the design process. As part of this team, I helped design amazing product experiences that ran the full gamut from consumer electronics, to industrial equipment, to interactive environments. I then moved into the field of robotics when I joined a startup that wanted to commercialize a sophisticated robotic wheelchair for people with multiple disabilities - folks that might have problems operating a standard powered-wheelchair. Working in robotics and combining that with bioengineering was really rewarding and it confirmed for me the potential of robotics in everyday life.
I first became aware of Bossa Nova when it was starting out as a toy company. Several years later, I was able to join Bossa Nova at a time when it was transitioning to commercial robots. The team was small, only 5 or 6 employees, and I remember saying to Sarjourn Skaff, our Co-Founder and CTO, "My job is to help you grow, but once we surpass 25 people, I will respectfully bow out - so that I can maintain my start-up edginess". He teases me often about this because after 7 years of growth, we now employ a team of over 200! I’m so glad I’ve stayed because being a part of this journey has helped me grow as an engineer and mature as a person. The company growth created all sorts of new challenges that I enjoy. There’s still a great start-up feel here at Bossa Nova so, it’s really the best of both worlds.
What does a typical day at Bossa Nova look like for you?
I’m classically trained as an electrical engineer, but I’m also a mechanical engineer. Thankfully, my time at Bossa Nova has been really varied and allowed me to use both skillsets. For instance, when I first started, I created the mechanical design of one of our early ball-balancing robots called Mobi. After a year, my role changed and now my focus is almost exclusively on electrical engineering. For the last 6 years, I’ve been leading the design of our robots’ electrical system architectures, and then designing the circuit boards and other components that make up that architecture. I love having the freedom to design at these various levels - from high-level system architecture, all the way down to the small design details at the circuit board level. I also get satisfaction from my other involvements - managing and expanding my team. (It’s one thing to design a robot, but scaling and manufacturing that design creates its own very different challenges!) My day to day activities also involve helping support our other teams - like manufacturing, product management, and fleet services. Supporting these other teams present some very different challenges that I really enjoy too.
What’s your favorite part about working at Bossa Nova?
I’m still amazed that just by passing electrons though various conductive and semi-conductive materials, I can create amazingly complex devices. My family can confirm that I was amazed by electricity as a toddler, but even after all the years I’ve been practicing in this field, the novelty of this ‘magic’ has not diminished for me! I really like to think about it as leveraging, or even exploiting, the laws of physics as my own special wizardry. When I combine those feelings with my fantastic colleagues at Bossa Nova, the culture we share, and the everyday contributions we make to this still-emerging field of robotics - I can’t help but think about the legacy aspects too. As we help shape a future where robots are more common partners with humans, my human-centered design background forces me to think very deeply about the responsibility of making sure that we get these human-robot interactions right- and to me that means making them safe, beneficial, interesting, and fun.
What did you want to be growing up?
I knew and everyone around me knew that I was going to be involved in electrical engineering and robotics. There was a time in college where I became interested in becoming a spy for the CIA or similar. This inspiration came from time I spent with one of my favorite uncles who worked in Naval Intelligence. As amazing as his life was, and as amazing as his stories were, engineering and robotics eventually won the battle and I’m sure it was the right decision for me!
What hobbies do you have outside of work?
My go-to hobbies when I’m not working are riding my motorcycle (in the woods), taking my kayak on multiple day trips on a quiet river, and target shooting.
Bonus Question: What's one item you buy every week at the grocery store?
I never come home without a pound or two of hot peppers and a couple loaves of Italian bread made by a certain Pittsburgh company that starts with ‘M’.