In a regular series of interviews, we speak to autonomous vehicle industry recruiters to find out what they're looking for in candidates, how their recruitment process typically works and what advice they’d give to those pursuing a career in autonomous and connected vehicles.
In our latest Q&A, we caught up with Dr. Ryan Chin (CEO, above) and Dr. Albert Huang (CTO, pictured below) of Optimus Ride.
1. Can you tell us a bit about Optimus Ride and the roles you typically recruit for?
Optimus Ride is a leading self-driving vehicle technology company on a mission to transform mobility. We develop self-driving vehicle algorithms, software, hardware, and system integration for Mobility on Demand (MoD) solutions. Optimus Ride’s fully autonomous vehicles are ideal for industrial and office parks, campuses, resorts, mixed-use private developments and other geofenced areas. Our team of experts helps customers design networks and systems specifically for self-driving vehicles, ensuring end-users reap all of the benefits this revolutionary technology has to offer.
Optimus Ride is deploying the world's first revenue-generating pilot for self-driving vehicles at Union Point, a smart city located 20 minutes outside Boston. At Union Point, Optimus Ride’s self-driving vehicle system provides residents and visitors with an efficient way to move around the 1,550-acre development and access the onsite South Weymouth commuter rail station.
We recruit for a diverse range of candidates, from mechanical, electrical and systems engineers to test drivers, product managers, financial planners and more.
2. What types of candidate should apply?
We are looking for intelligent, driven individuals who are passionate about making self-driving vehicles a reality in our everyday lives. We seek candidates who have considerable experience in the field to which they are applying, and who are able to learn and adapt quickly. You can check out a full list of the applications we’re hiring for here!
3. How does the recruiting process typically work at Optimus Ride?
Optimus Ride actively recruits at major conferences such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) conferences as well as career events at major research universities. Once interested applicants apply on our website, we conduct and introductory and technical phone calls. If we decide to move forward, then the applicant is invited to visit our offices, tour our facility, and meet with an interview panel consisting of engineers and a member of the co-founding team. We then discuss details of the role, working environment, company goals, and benefits. After reviewing the on-site visit, we will then move to providing offers. The whole process typically takes about 2 weeks, although we have fast-tracked candidates before in less than a week.
“We are looking for intelligent, driven individuals who are passionate about making self-driving vehicles a reality in our everyday lives.”
4. What experience or expertise do you value most in applicants?
We look for candidates who have a blend of strong practical experience, knowledge of theoretical fundamentals, and who are able to learn quickly. For example, in software engineers, that translates to being very comfortable writing code and knowing not just how to use various libraries and toolkits, but also how they work and are implemented themselves. For machine learning practitioners, it means being comfortable not just with the theory of classical and modern (i.e., deep learning) methods, but also understanding practical tradeoffs and implementation details.
5. How much competition is there for the best candidates?
A job at a self-driving vehicle technology company requires a considerable amount of knowledge and responsibility; we are looking for the brightest engineering minds to join our team. Being in Boston, we have a large pool of extremely talented young people entering the workforce from some of the top universities in the world, so competition is significant. That being said, we are rapidly expanding, so there are plenty of opportunities for new hires. Check out a full list of the applications we’re hiring for here.
6. What mistakes do candidates typically make during the application/interview process?
Candidates should study the company and come prepared to ask questions that cannot be answered by publicly available information on our website. Candidates should have a clear idea of their timeline and what type of compensation they are seeking.
7. What skills do you think will be most important for candidates as the autonomous vehicle industry develops?
The exact technical skills depends on the role, but there are also nontechnical skills that are both important and cut across the board. Most of those revolve around collaboration, and demonstrating the ability to work well with teams. Building a self-driving car is a team effort, and it's important to foster a collaborative environment where anyone can bring an idea to the table and be heard. As part of that, it's important to be able to have a back-and-forth with an engineer and to really understand their thought process, assumptions, and reasoning. Doing this effectively in a team setting is critical to spreading the best ideas and iterating on and improving designs.
8. How many roles do you expect to recruit for over the next twelve months?
We expect to recruit for over 30 roles primarily in engineering, ranging from individual contributors to management roles. The engineering areas include robotics, software generalists, AI, computer vision, data science and analytics, electro-mechanical design, systems, and testing/QA. We are also recruiting for business development, marketing, sales, and operations.
9. What one piece of advice would you give to someone seeking to build a career in autonomous vehicles?
The first is to enjoy the journey. The self-driving vehicle industry is still young, and that makes it a uniquely exciting time. In some ways, I like to think of it as being present at the birth of the aviation or personal computer industries. It's something that people have thought about and worked on for many years, and all these years of efforts are finally coming to fruition. It's not often that an industry this exciting comes around, and being part of that is something to really appreciate.
The second is to never stop learning. Self-driving vehicles in particular span so many different technologies and disciplines, some of which are rapidly evolving, that a lifetime will not be enough to learn everything. Education doesn't end with school, and it's important to pick up new skills and stay current. It's easier than ever to take on side projects or enroll in an online course, and very few reasons not to. Finding a position that values and supports continuing education can really help with this as well.
“It's not often that an industry this exciting comes around, and being part of that is something to really appreciate.”
10. Finally, what would attract someone to develop their career at Optimus Ride?
Self-driving cars have the potential to transform human mobility in immensely positive ways - we’re able to offer a rare opportunity to build cutting edge technology that will be incredibly useful to the general population.
At Optimus Ride, we are testing vehicles right in our own backyard. Our unique headquarters allows us to test drive vehicles both on our indoor test track as well as outdoors, even in inclimate weather. There are ample opportunities for our employees to get hands-on experience with this technology and contribute to our mission of transforming mobility.
At Optimus Ride, we have already demonstrated the efficacy of our business model and are starting to get feedback and validation on our pilot programs. We have seen the willingness of communities to pay for this service; from a design and engineering standpoint, that's a very attractive proposition because our employees are working on a real life projects - technology that’s actually happening and is in use. People are giving real feedback so we can create the best self-driving vehicle technology possible - what engineer wouldn't want to be a part of that?