Homework features AHAM members’ insights on careers, success, life outside of work, and AHAM membership. This month, we spoke with Carl Eckersley, Director, Product Compliance, for iRobot.
What personal and professional goals are you currently pursuing?
I am new to iRobot, starting my current role just over one year ago. I am thrilled to be here. The opportunity to lead a functional team in a growing and vibrant company, and within the exciting consumer robot industry, is something I am really enjoying. In many ways, the iRobot culture has the feel of a startup, yet the company is well-established, going on almost 30 years. It is a feeling I have not experienced since I was a young, fresh-out-of-school engineer at another startup company, Compaq. The intelligence, attitude, and ‘can do’ approach at iRobot is refreshing and motivating. My goals are simple and have proven to be everlasting: develop robust and effective processes, be value-added and an expert in my field, and have some fun.
Personal goals: I am an avid golfer. My goals are simple and yet very hard to achieve: continuously improve. I am also enjoying New England. The availability of outdoor activities, history, natural beauty, and even the climate, are a refreshing change for my wife and me. Our current goals are to discover and experience all there is to offer. Above it all, enjoy life.
What is the best career advice you have ever received?
The best career advice I received was in the form of a simple question: “What have you done today that gets you closer to your goal(s)?”
As an engineer, there are so many questions and scenarios to be considered. Often, the number of choices can be either paralyzing or lead to lots of starts and re-starts. The challenge is to pick the right scenario that solves the problem effectively. This advice forced me to identify my goal(s) so that whatever I was doing had a direction. My training and conditioning evolved into a worldview whereby I look at goals and objectives through the lens of a process - basically, the mapping of how you get from where you are to where you want to be. I often imagine myself in the place I want to be and look backwards at how to get there. It is through this process of imagining the future and looking backwards that I have been able to select the correct scenario and narrow the “what if” questions. This has enabled be to get a little closer to achieving my goals every day.
What are your secrets to having a productive day?
I am a constant list maker. There is a little daily satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from making a list of the things that must be accomplished and then crossing them off as completed. Having a written list also keeps me focused throughout the day and the inevitable distractions that come with it. The list keeps me grounded on the priorities set when my mind was clear and not clouded by the issue of the moment.
Predict an appliance or other innovation that will revolutionize the next generation.
The world George Jetson lives in is becoming more of a reality with each passing year. The promise of aggregating information from our smart phones, cameras, sensors, robots and other connected devices will eventually get to the point where instead of telling Alexa what you want to do, she will know (predict) what you need and do it simply based on your action or other non-verbal triggering event.
How did you come to work in the appliance industry?
I started my career in electronics a very long time ago, moving to the Houston area over 30 years ago to work for a little startup company called Compaq. That decision evolved into a long career working through the ranks of supply chain operations, and almost as many mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures, eventually ending up at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The opportunity at iRobot came along and it was too good to pass up. There, I saw a growing and vibrant company where my skills, expertise, and passions would be an excellent fit.
What do you gain from your involvement in AHAM?
AHAM plays a vital role for big and small companies within the appliance industry, providing a single collective voice that no one company could ever hope to achieve. The most significant advantages I have experienced so far are twofold: government relations engagement as legislative agendas are developed across the country, and standards development participation. Both of these areas are generally non-competitive. Through industry collaboration, we are able to influence the development of legislative frameworks that are consistent, industry friendly, and which achieve the agenda in the least impactful manner possible. The same can be said for standards development. Harmonization and consistency are critical to ensure products are safe, energy efficient, resource efficient, and most importantly, that the multitude of standards do not create conflicting requirements.
Outside of the appliance industry, what would be your dream job?
My dream job, assuming I have to work to afford my desired lifestyle, would not be too far from what I am doing today. Leading teams directly and cross-functionally to create and implement effective business processes that bring value to an organization is something I thoroughly enjoy. I have done this in “green field” applications where nothing existed to create a new process, and I have done this by transforming existing processes into new more effective processes.
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