Gecko Robotics is a unique NDT company. Not only do we specialize in designing and manufacturing our own robots, but we also build an entire ecosystem of software tools to analyze, manipulate, and exploit the millions of data points collected by our sensors. With such a magnitude of data, Gecko harnesses the power of machine learning (ML) and software artificial intelligence (AI) to find patterns - some detailing damage mechanisms and some detailing proper asset health - to deliver superior insights to clients.
Jimmy Wan: Technical Lead - Cloud Platform
We sat down with Jimmy Wan, Gecko’s technical lead for our Cloud Data Platform, to learn about his journey in computer science, what brought him to Gecko Robotics, and how he sees software evolving for the industry.
To dive right in, how prevalent is Machine Learning within our industry?
“You know, the fact of the matter is machine learning is still a relatively new space. There aren't that many people that have 20 years of experience or anything like that. And so, there are opportunities to learn and apply it to our industries. I mean, one of the challenges of how the inspections happen now is that you usually have to have a subject matter expert literally looking at the ultrasonic scan data to look for anomalies.
Machine learning is one way that you can essentially build out automated processes where as soon as either you're done scanning or even while you're still scanning, you can detect anomalies and kind of get that customer feedback right away. So, when companies have to take their equipment offline to do inspections, it costs them millions of dollars to have that scheduled downtime. The faster you can kind of get them that feedback, they can plan around it. It’s extremely valuable.”
What draws you to early stage tech companies?
“Pretty much every company I've worked for you could probably legitimately call a startup. It's really fun and really challenging at the same time. When you're at a company that small, you quickly sort of learn who everyone is and so there's always more work that needs to get done, right, and more than you're capable of doing. And so one of the fun aspects of working at a startup of that size is every day, you've got to make that conscious decision of not just ‘am I going to do my work?’, but ‘what work should I go do?’”
What drew you to Gecko specifically?
“I wanted to have something that compelled me to go to work more than just the paycheck. Gecko’s mission and place in the world are absolutely what won me over as someone who likes to see almost the underbelly of how everything works and just has an inherent interest. It all goes back to if you have that engineering mind and want to know how things work. The types of skills that you need to be a successful engineer at Gecko, aren't that different from a lot of the other software jobs that are out there.”
How did you start in software engineering and what were some of your experiences before Gecko?
“Growing up I'd always been sort of inclined towards engineering type things, but computer science or computer engineering. It wasn't even a career that was really known to me. Thankfully, I had a good program and a good teacher in high school. That kind of started me down that path. There are lots of different possibilities out there and software was something that always jumped out to me. I've had, in some way, the luxury of being able to find things that beyond a technical level appealed to me as a person as well.
I spent some time working at Indeed around the time of the great recession. It was kind of interesting to help get people back on their feet; working on different ways to help people get jobs. And so that was something that was an interesting challenge and fun to see the company grow out. We started off in an office of about 15 people and it was a couple of hundred by the time I left.
It's really rewarding to kind of be in that environment and where you can grow. So the types of environments I've been in and enjoyed working in, are the small stage startups and getting to the point where you can see it grow and just take it to that next level.”
Now that you’ve spent some time in the Austin startup community, how do you see Austin being unique?
The Silicon Valley versus Austin startup culture is a little bit different. We've had a good number of homegrown successes here as well, which I think has sort of changed the landscape. One of the big events down here in Austin is South by Southwest. And I remember going the first couple of years where they had what they call South by Southwest Interactive, which is kind of geared more towards technology.
You wouldn't talk to anyone that wasn't basically from the Bay Area. And a few years back, you started noticing that when you run into people around town, at that time, a number of people would introduce themselves as being venture capitalists from other cities like New York, San Francisco, whatever, coming down to Austin to sort of see what we had to offer.
But just as time has gone on more companies are relocating resources down here and now pretty much all of the major tech companies - the Googles, The Amazons, the Facebooks of the world - they're opening up offices down here as well. And so it's an interesting shift to see where I think before, they used to have a little bit more of an outside culture, they see this as where all the cool stuff happens. Now they're realizing that they're missing out as time goes on.”
And lastly, what’s in store for the Gecko software team in Austin, and any parting advice?
“We're going to continue to hire in Austin and build out the teams that are here. I think the possibilities are what excites me about Gecko the most. In terms of the team and the types of things that we can do - I think we're just scratching the surface.
To budding software engineers, I challenge them to find something interesting that does speak to your heart: that makes you feel good about yourself at the end of the day. That's what I do!”
Wanna be a Gecko? Check out the open roles on our careers page!