From 4 to 30: Growing the RTI Spain Team Reply

Six years ago I crossed the doors of RTI’s headquarters in California for the first time. Another three people and I were chosen to be part of an important expansion of the company in Europe- a new development center in Spain. But before that, we stayed six months in HQ to learn not only about RTI DDS products, but also about processes and, most importantly, RTI’s culture.

I have to admit that when I arrived, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find- if I was going to fit in the culture or if I was going to enjoy those months there. But I really did! And when the time to return to Spain arrived, it was difficult to leave. I met great people that are not only my work colleagues, but also my friends. I also found them to be great managers and leaders whose paths I would follow in the coming years.

We returned back with a challenge: To start a development center in a small remote office in Granada, Spain. Would a company that provides solutions for connecting distributed systems be able to work in distributed offices? At this point, I guess you have already figured out that the answer is yes. The RTI Spain team started out as a small family that had always been a part of the engineering team in the California office. We participated in all of the team meetings and step by step we all learned how to work around the distance in miles as well as the time difference. Both teams (California and Spain) adapted their work schedules to take advantage of the overlapping business hours. Conference calls, online chats and emails were our daily tools to stay coordinated and in contact. This way, we made sure that we continued working as one single team in two separate locations.

Then, the RTI Spain office started to grow and we were no longer able to fit in our initial office so we moved to a larger space. From there, we kept growing and then had to expand our new office. With this expansion, we needed to evolve our team to include new roles, such as operations, services and sales. We were no longer just a development center, we became a true extension of our peers in California building the same products for the same customers.  I know this is not very common within distributed companies, but it’s really working for us!

Over these past six years, I have been able to see people grow within the company- engineers who develop great products, who give excellent support to our EMEA customers, or who have become great leaders as R&D, Services or Field Applications Engineers on this side of the world. I’m really happy to share my work days with these great, talented and passionate people.

As with other senior employees, I have also gotten the opportunity to grow and  become a manager of the new engineers, helping them to become a part of the team. For me, it is really important to hear how these new hires feel when they join us. I’m glad to hear things like: “You guys have a great quality product!”, or “I love working in this company, my life is better now.” But I think that what people like most is how we are all a part of the same RTI family, #1RTI. Headquarters, the Spain office and our remote employees all work together as a team where everybody knows each other and can rely on everybody else’s work. Once a year we all get together at HQ to celebrate our work and the amazing applications that our customers are building, which unites the team even further.

We also keep in close contact with the University of Granada, as many of us studied there. We present to the students on the newest IIoT technologies, as well as how a Silicon Valley company works in Granada. We participate as promoters of the Tech Challenge organized by the University of Granada and several of our current employees started as interns with their internship program.

But today, I’m not writing this post only because of these past 6 years at RTI. I’m also celebrating that we are hiring our 30th employee in the Granada office, and guess what? We’ll be moving to an even bigger office! Stay tuned! And, of course, we are hiring! Come and join us!

Women and Engineering: A Story for your Daughter 1

Recently, I got the opportunity to present to a group called, “Women Who Code (WWC),” a society for women in software engineering careers. I decided to start with a story that I made up for my daughter when she was little. The kid’s version is contained at the bottom of this post; if you have time, please check it out. But, since you’re likely a harried grown up, here’s the Reader’s Digest version: 

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Julina living in a castle on a lake. High on a nearby mountain lived a valiant prince who admired the princess from afar. But she ignored him; she was too busy collecting things and playing in her room.

Then one day a dragon comes to the valley and attacks the town by the lake. The prince sees his chance to prove himself to beautiful Julina. So, he grabs his sword and armor, and rushes down to the lake to battle the dragon.

You know the drill: fierce dragon against great swordsman. There’s a clash of fire and scales and dagger-like teeth, against training, agility and determination. In the end, the prince sinks his sword deep into the dragon’s soft underbelly. Dragons always have soft underbellies.

Unfortunately, the dragon just pulls out the sword, scoops up the prince and takes him up to his lair for lunch.

But, before the dragon could eat Sir Loin of Beef, he’s distracted by a loud noise from the lake. The dragon goes down to investigate and finds Julina zooming across the water on a roaring machine!

You see, it turns out that Julina is an engineer. She wasn’t collecting and playing in her room, she was inventing a jet ski with a water cannon. Well, the dragon attacks, doesn’t do so well, and Julina saves the day and the prince. Everyone lives happily ever after. The End.

My daughter loved that story.

My daughter starts her PhD In Aerospace Engineering at Stanford this fall.

I did a bit of research on RTI’s amazing women for this talk as well. I found that for each of the last two years, our highest-paid employee was a woman.  Fully 50% of our engineering development managers are women. These are great stats. They were well received by the WWC.  But they missed my point.

My point was not that women can succeed. That should be obvious. The “Women Who Code” should not even have to exist. Of course women can code. Of course women can manage engineers. Of course women can make more money. Of course women can get engineering PhDs at Stanford. These should not be twists in our story. These should be boring normality.

Then I realized these are hardly the only twists in RTI’s story. We find things that don’t make sense everywhere we look. Some examples:

In 2015, the Institute of Medicine reported that hospital error is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. Why? Hospitals perform many complex operations and procedures and use hundreds of sophisticated instruments and devices, like ventilators and respirators and ECG monitors and oximeters. However, today’s instruments are standalone devices; they don’t even know that they’re connected to the same patient. So, they can’t check on each other. With high patient loads, useless alarms and manual checklists, harried care teams make mistakes. And that kills between 220,000 and 440,000 people a year.

RTI software helps. Our customers like Harvard Medical School and GE Healthcare are connecting smart algorithms to networks of devices. Connected devices can work together to monitor patients much more intelligently, preventing thousands and thousands of mistakes. The distributed intelligent system of devices can join and help the care team.

Isolated systems also plague the power industry. Today’s grid consists of huge generators controlled by a central office. This design can’t deal with “distributed energy resources” like solar and wind. One main reason: big generators can’t react fast enough to efficiently use the variable power flow from these renewable sources.

Connectivity also helps here. For instance, RTI runs the largest hydropower plants in North America.  Hydropower is an ideal complement to solar and wind: it’s faster responding, more predictable and more reliable than other “base capacity” generators. RTI also controls large wind farms, such as Siemens Wind Power’s most advanced wind turbines, with thousands deployed worldwide. And, we are a principal in the leading new grid standard to replace central control with distributed field networks for solar, wind and batteries. Networked together, renewable sources can combine to provide the consistent, reliable power we need to meaningfully reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

But, my favorite twist in the technology story is autonomous drive cars, or “carbots.” I started my career crashing cars doing impact testing. Back then, 45,000 people a year were dying on our highways. Last year, 35,000 died. That’s better, but it’s hardly good enough. Carbots will finally replace the weakest safety system: drivers cause 94% of all fatal accidents. We originally developed our “databus” technology for autonomy (flying robots). Now, it’s great for intelligent carbots. 

In the end, RTI fights the dragons of convention every day. Convention says 400,000 people will die unnecessarily in hospitals every year. Convention says we have to burn things for power. Convention says it’s OK to sit in traffic for countless hours and kill tens of thousands of people on our roads every year.

Convention also says most engineering managers are men. Convention says women don’t earn as much. Convention says women rarely get PhDs in engineering. And convention says women don’t code.

Convention is wrong. It’s not always fast and it’s not ever easy, but convention is changing.  I’m truly grateful to the Women Who Code for inspiring women to seek careers changing these outdated conventions. And for inspiring me to brag about RTI’s amazing women, and maybe even attract more. We certainly need them; our women are not paid well or managing teams because we preferentially pay or promote.  They are just damn good.

They prove women can excel in any career.

And little girls can grow up to slay dragons.


The Princess and The Dragon

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Julina. Julina lived in a big castle on a river. This wasn’t an ordinary castle on the shores of a river, Julina’s castle was built on a bridge over the river. The river went right through the bottom of the castle. Julina’s room was on the second floor; she had a big window with a view up the river. But, her window was always closed and covered with shutters.

Julina collected everything. Well, maybe not everything, but lots of things. She collected old shields, swords, and armor from the knights. When the farmers brought their crops to the market outside the castle, they would bring extra corn husks for Julina. She got wheels, rods and metal from the blacksmith. She even went to the kitchen and got grease, candles, old pans and anything else she could find.

She took all these things up to her room. She didn’t tell anyone what was going on in there, but they heard banging, and pounding, and whirring, and scraping, and scratching, and clanking, and clunking, and swishing, and bubbling, and even some screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeching.

Julina liked to play in her room, but Julina’s favorite thing of all was her pretty white dress. Every afternoon, Julina would put on her dress and walk around the castle and the garden. Her dress went all the way down to the ground, with poofy sleeves and pretty flowers sewn down the front, and a hundred buttons down the back. She loved her dress.

Down the river a little bit from Julina’s castle, the river went through a canyon between two big mountains. At the top of one of the mountains there was another castle as big as Julina’s. In that castle, there was a Prince named Phillip — the biggest, strongest, bravest knight in all the kingdom. Prince Phillip was a great hunter and a great swordsman. He could ride his horse better than any knight. And he could even cook.

Every afternoon, Prince Phillip would look through his telescope at the castle built over the river below. He saw Julina in her beautiful white dress. She was soooo pretty. He really wanted to meet her, somehow.

One day, all of a sudden, the earth shook! There was a terrible noise, like a train crashing into a tornado and rolling down a mountain over a pile of rocks and squirrels. The mountain across the river from Phillip’s castle cracked! Tons of rock came crashing down, splashing right into the river. It blocked the river and the river started to turn into a lake.

The lake was growing and growing, getting big enough to cover the gardens around Julina’s castle.  Everyone was scared that the castle would be underwater soon. But suddenly, a screech came down from the top of the broken mountain! Everyone looked up, and there was a HUGE dragon coming out of the mountain! The dragon had bright golden scales, a huge sharp tail, and big green wings. Its huge mouth was filled with crystal dagger teeth, so clear you could see right through them and so sharp you could see the sun glint from every one. And when it screeched, it breathed a huge blast of fire!

The dragon swooped down from the mountain and wheeled over the lake that was now deep enough to cover the bottom floor of Julina’s castle. Prince Phillip grabbed his sword and jumped on his horse. He charged down the mountain to save Julina!

When he got to the castle, the dragon attacked. It swooped down, with its claws out and fire shooting out. Prince Phillip blocked the fire with his shield and stabbed the dragon with his sword! But the sword just bounced off the golden scales.

The dragon came back around, zooming low and fast. Prince Phillip dove on the ground and held up his sword. When the dragon flew over, he slashed at the dragon’s throat!  But the sword just bounced off the golden scales again. But, when it flew over, Phillip noticed that the dragon had a dark underbelly, with no golden scales.

The dragon went way up high in the sky.  It dove straight down at Phillip at 100 mph, screaming all the way. Fire shot out. The dragon’s claws aimed right at Phillip. The crystal dagger teeth shone like a thousand suns. Phillip knelt down on the ground, his sword out, aiming for the soft underbelly. The dragon swooped. Phillip stabbed!  The sword went right into the dragon’s underbelly!

But, then the dragon ripped the sword out with one claw and grabbed Phillip with the other one! It flapped its great wings and flew up to the top of the broken mountain. It dropped Phillip on a rock and opened its great mouth to eat him for its supper! Everyone below heard Phillip yell: “Help! Help!” Phillip was in trouble.

Just then a roar arose from below. Brrriiinnnnnnndddd-din-din! Julina’s shutters flew open, broken glass blasted out and Julina came roaring out on a machine on the water!  You see, Julina was an engineer, and she had invented a jet ski, and built a motor and turned the corn husks into fuel. Her jet ski made a huge roar unlike anything ever heard in the kingdom as she shot across the lake.

The dragon heard the noise. It took off and swooped down across the lake, straight for the jet ski. Julina turned towards the dragon!  The dragon shot out a stream of fire. Julina turned her jet ski just in time, splashing the dragon with water.

That made the dragon even madder. He swooped way up high over Julina’s castle, and started a screaming dive. Fire shot out. The dragon’s claws aimed right at Julina. The crystal dagger teeth shone like a thousand suns. Julina turned her jet ski straight at the dragon and hit the gas hard. Brinnnnnddddd-din-din! Brinnnddd-din-din!

The dragon came screaming in low across the lake, shooting a huge, hot flame. Then, Julina pulled a lever on her jet ski, and a long black tube came up. It curved towards the dragon. It said F—P—X! Fish Poop Express!!!!!!! The bottom of the tube went deep into the lake. It sucked up water and muck and fish poop, and shot it straight at the dragon!

The water and muck and fish poop hit the dragon! It put out its fire and smacked it right in the face! It couldn’t see! It shot right over Julina, swerved a bit left, a bit right, up a bit, down a bit, and right into the rocks that were blocking the river! Scales went everywhere!  The crystal dagger teeth shattered into a million zillion pieces, flying miles away in every direction. The rocks flew away, breaking the dam, and all the water went rushing down the river.

The castle was saved! The dragon was dead! Phillip didn’t get eaten! Everyone at the castle on the river yelled “YAY!” Everyone at Phillip’s castle yelled “YAY!”

Phillip climbed down from the mountain. He had to talk to Julina, and thank her for saving his life. She was the most amazing girl he’d ever seen. On his climb down, he found a piece of dragon’s tooth, a crystal-clear piece harder than any rock. He found a piece of golden scale. He shaped the scale into a ring and put the dragon’s tooth on top. Then he went to ask Julina to marry him.

She said yes, and he gave her the ring. She wore her pretty white dress to the wedding and they lived happily ever after.

And to this day, when people get married, they get a ring made of dragon scales with a piece of dragon tooth on it. The tooth is crystal clear and harder than any rock. When the sun shines on it, you can see the flash of fire that came from the dragon’s mouth. And the bride wears a pretty white dress.

The End.

Postscript: I used to ask my kids to give me three or four things, and I would tell them a story that included them all. This story was the result of the set: a princess, a dragon, a jet ski and fish poop.

© Stan Schneider

#TBT: From Predicting to Propelling the Industrial IoT Reply

If you missed it, you should check out the recent press release about RTI’s growth in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). It’s really a great time to be RTI! Sure, from a business perspective all the vectors point the right way. But for me, the most exciting things in that press release aren’t numbers.  I’m more amazed that we get to play with so many futuristic applications. Carbots? Renewable energy? Smart healthcare? Hyperloop? Flying cars? Wind turbines? CT scanners? We got ‘em all. And new things show up all the time.

How can a small company like RTI play in so many areas? It’s Thursday, so in honor of #TBT, I thought I’d take a look back and see how we got here.

For those of you RTI history buffs, we sold our tools business to Wind River in 2005. It was 80% of our revenues at the time. So, in 2006, we had some money and great people, but not much in the way of products. So, we started looking for new trends. What did we find? Here’s an excerpt from our 2006 vision paper called “The Data-Centric Future”:

Truly profound technologies become part of everyday life. Motors, plastics, computers, and now networking have made this transition in the last 100 years. These technologies are embedded in billions of devices; they have melted into the assumed background of the modern world.

Another step is emerging in this progression: pervasive, real-time data. This differs from the Internet in that this pervasive information infrastructure will connect devices, not people. Just as the “web” connected people and fundamentally changed how we all interact; pervasive data will connect devices and change how they interact.

Today’s network makes it easy to connect nodes, but not easy to find and access the information resident in networks of connected nodes. This is changing; we will soon assume the ability to pool information from many distributed sources, and access it at rates meaningful to physical processes.  Many label this new capability the “network-centric” architecture. We prefer the term “data centric” because the change, fundamentally, is driven by a fast and easy availability of information, not the connectivity of the network itself. Whatever the name, it will drive the development of vast, distributed, information-critical applications.

If you change “pervasive information infrastructure” to “Industrial IoT,” that was a pretty good prediction. Too bad the name didn’t stick, but I suppose “PII” sounds more like the second act of a play or a stuttering math teacher than a technology revolution. Anyway, we thought it was coming soon, but 6 years later, we were still predicting. An RTI handbook entry from 2012 (still before the IoT and before the IIC launched the Industrial IoT in 2014) expanded on this a bit:

There is amazing value in distributed information. Connecting people to information transforms society – news feeds, weather satellites, and the Internet are only a few examples – timely information flow drives value in every industry and every endeavor.

However, current technologies only connect people at human speeds. There’s an entirely new opportunity to connect machines at physics speeds. Just as the Internet connected people and fundamentally changed how we all interact, a new “pervasive information infrastructure” will connect devices at speeds fast enough to drive distributed applications. RTI’s people and technology are the best in the world at delivering that data to the right place at the right time. We fundamentally connect complex systems at extreme speeds better than any organization on the planet.

Our technology enables tens, or hundreds, or thousands, or (soon) millions of processors to work together as a single application. Why does that matter? Because intimately-connected systems can do things that weakly-connected systems cannot. They can request and access data from far-flung reaches fast enough to react intelligently. They can read deeply-embedded sensors, use that data to control high-speed machines, and feed the results to the enterprise for monitoring and optimization. This powerful connectivity is a fundamental transformation that will make currently difficult things commonplace and currently impossible things possible. We are already working on many of these applications. Our work will help astronomers probe the deepest reaches of space, protect passengers from injury on tomorrow’s roads, make our nation more secure from attack, and improve the efficiency of renewable energy generation. RTI is leading the new wave of large connected systems, systems that work together as one.

So how can we play in so many futuristic areas? Call us lucky or call us prescient, but the IIoT has been our target for over a decade. RTI is influential in the IIoT because we got a head start. We’re no longer predicting. We’re now realizing the future.

So, what’s next? Our new tagline is “RTI lives at the intersection of functional artificial intelligence and pervasive networking.” Think about that one for a while. AI and connectivity are perhaps the most important trends for the next 40 years. They will combine to bring new wonders to light in every industry on the planet. The IIoT is much more than a name or a connectivity technology; it’s a new infrastructure for, well, everything. Connecting things together is powerful. Connecting those things to smarts is a whole new game. Carbots will improve transportation, autonomous hospital devices will take better care of patients and smart networks will make green energy practical. But, these are just the ENIACs of the IIoT. It won’t be long until every device on the planet is part of a connected, intelligent infrastructure. That infrastructure will make everything more efficient, more useful and friendlier.  These are exciting times indeed!

In any case, it’s an honor to be a leader in the “new” IIoT revolution. It’s even more of an honor to be associated with the technical visionaries at RTI that put us there.