20/7/2020

Meet Miguel, our Robotic Systems Lead!

Learn about Miguel's work at Sevensense!

Miguel joined Sevensense in September 2018, being the first employee. With his experience in autonomous racing and the control industry he knows what it takes to make robots work. He initially worked in the planning and control team developing our navigation stack. In 2020 he moved to lead the robotic systems team where he helps our technology shine in our customers robots.

When did you discover your interest in robotics?

Quite early actually. When I was 14 Santa Claus brought a Lego Mindstorm to share among my father, my brother and myself. I built a couple of the default kits from the instructions but quickly got bored and moved to building a 2 wheel balancing robot. My father told me he would support the project and would give me 5€ per second the robot was standing, after the first 5 seconds, with a maximum of 50€. I was confident that would be easy money, but needless to say I did not get any.

What exactly do you help robots do now?

I make robots work. It seems like a weird concept, but robotics systems are fairly complicated. I make sure that all software and hardware components work nicely together. Sometimes small changes in one component that seem innocent make the robot worse overall. It is quite hard to detect these issues and find where they come from. We test the robot all the time with all the latest code and monitor several performance indicators to make sure the robots only work better every time.

“We test the robot all the time with all the latest code and monitor several performance indicators to make sure the robots only work better every time.”

You were the very first Sevensense employee! What’s the biggest difference now to when you started?

At the beginning we were so few people that everyone knew about everything and problems could be solved in a meeting with the whole company. This quickly became inefficient as we grew in number of people and lines of code, so everyone focused on some field of expertise. Interestingly this made it harder to find where problems came from. That is why the robotics systems team was created, to address technical issues in between modules.

Being as efficient as a 7 people team with the results of a 100 people company is one of the hard challenges for a growing startup. I believe in Sevensense we adapted quickly and made the needed changes for the different stages we went through so far. 

Of all you have achieved, what are you most proud of?

At the beginning, we asked everyone to communicate several days in advance when a demo would happen. We needed to prepare the robot and maybe put it in some old state that we knew worked decently. Or developers had to test their new code and they would ask if the robot was working that day.

Now everyone can grab a robot, do a demo on their own without previous notice. And not only with one, but there are dozens of working robots. Having a robot that “just works” is harder than it seems, and it makes me quite proud.

You have a background as a successful technical leader for the Autonomous Formula Student team. What did you learn back then which is useful to you now?

The importance of tools. Without tools we would still be apes, and this also applies to software. Brute forcing solutions with effort and hardwork is important to get started, but you quickly have to use/create tools that make your life easier. Tools can also reduce human errors and mistakes and increase overall product quality dramatically.

How do you cope with working from home? What are your tips & tricks to stay focused?

I try to focus on the good things, like cooking for lunch or being able to do laundry any time. I was very impressed with how well remote meetings work. I used to believe meetings were the most important reason to share an office with co-workers, but corona changed my mind. Now I group as many meetings as possible from home, and come to the office to do things I cannot do at home, like testing the robots.

3 things you like about Zurich?

In no particular order, 

  • Career opportunities: I came to Zurich because of ETH and its robotics master. But I stayed because of the tech industry. You have tons of big and small companies which offer opportunities like nowhere in Europe. Google is here, Facebook, Microsoft, but Switzerland is also called the “drone valley” for its dozens of drone companies. Having ETH leads to having a lot of highly qualified talent, and there are a lot of new interesting startups every year. It’s definitely a hub for robotics in Europe.
  • Central Europe: I’m from Madrid, and my family and some friends are still there. It takes me 4h door to door from the office to my parent’s house. I even woke up in Madrid and arrived at the office for a 9:00am meeting several times. Working in other places in Spain would be further home than Zurich.
  • Nature: I love nature and there is always something to do near Zurich. It can be a hike nearby, cycling through some mountain pass, skiing in winter, going to the lake in summer. Nature is very well integrated into leisure and it is extremely easy to organize and improvise plans from Zurich.

Thanks Miguel for sharing your story! If you are interested in joining him at Sevensense, check out our Job offers.

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