Kuri’s Crew: Meet Jamie Young
As a Technical Project Manager, Jamie Young keeps Kuri’s hardware, software, product, and marketing teams on track. In short, Jamie is a rockstar at Mayfield Robotics. Her attention to detail, witty humor, and positive attitude make her a joy to work with. That, combined with her impressive engineering background, make Jamie an invaluable member of Kuri’s crew.
Given that Jamie oversees so much of Kuri, we thought we’d share her thoughts on working at Mayfield Robotics, applying her engineering background, and how Kuri plays with her two dogs: Timon and Pumba.
Q: How would you describe your job in three words?
A: Crazy, hectic, and fun. Crazy because there’s so much going on. We’re launching a home robot — that’s ambitious! And we’re doing this with a team of 50 people. Hectic because what our priority was yesterday isn’t today, so things are always changing. Fun because the people here are great, and we get to work with an adorable robot every day.
Q: What does your typical workday look like?
A: My job involves keeping everyone on task, which means ensuring that various projects are running smoothly. The first thing I do in the morning is to check my messages from the previous night. After putting any fires out, I plan out my day. In the morning, I attend stand-up meetings with the hardware and software teams. During these meetings, teams share what tasks they completed yesterday, and what projects they’ll be working on that day. Sometimes people will raise a blocker, which I’ll then work on trying to remove.
A blocker is an issue that’s preventing someone from completing a task in a project, and it’s my job to address these. People needing robots is one of the most common blocking issues. I help our teams share the available Kuris at our office for things like testing and events.
After my morning of stand-up meetings, I’ll then sync up with people to follow-up on action items and ensure they have all the resources they need to complete their tasks. In my spare time, I’ll build schedules, strategize ways to make our teams more efficient, and organize our documentation in Confluence and JIRA.
Q: What is it like to juggle all the teams responsible for building Kuri?
A: I’m learning a lot. It’s a lot of stuff I’ve never had experience with before – especially how software developers work and how they iterate and push out code, features, and releases. That’s all new to me. It’s fun and interesting. I get to see new features, conversations, and upcoming projects across teams. Oftentimes, I’ll have conversations with individuals and try to help direct them to the right person for more information, or who to best work with on a project.
Q: You earned your B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley. How has your background in engineering shaped how you approach your current role?
A: Anyone who studies engineering will tell you their degree is for problem-solving, and my degree is most applicable to Kuri’s hardware. I understand the context of those issues better than software. Like today, Kuri’s software team was talking about “linting code” and my first thought was a lint brush was somehow involved. It’s moments like these that create great learning experiences. But all in all, my degrees help me approach problems in a more scientific way until they’re actually solved.
Q: What attracted you to study engineering?
A: As a junior in high school, I remember not knowing what I wanted to study in college. At that time, I was in my high school’s yearbook club and was assigned to cover our school’s robotics team. After interviewing and taking photos of the team, I just thought they were the coolest.
After that experience, I joined the robotics team my senior year of high school. Although I still participated in yearbook, I definitely put more time toward the robotics team. I learned how to use a drill press, went to robotics competitions, and met a ton of great, local mechanical engineers. Until that moment, I don’t think I’d ever met an engineer. I told my high school guidance counselor that I didn’t really know what I wanted to study in college. She had me tell her about my interests, and that’s when I told her about how much I enjoyed the robotics club. She said the answer was obvious: engineering.
Q: At UC Berkeley, you were a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Were there any experiences in that organization that particularly shaped you?
A: Yes! It’s a big pet peeve of mine that kids only think they can only become doctors, teachers, or lawyers when they grow up. After joining SWE, I went out into the community and talked about robotics. In classrooms, I’d ask kids to draw an engineer and they’d always draw an Albert Einstein lookalike. I shared with them that engineering jobs have a lot of the same job qualities they were looking for in their potential careers — including creative problem-solving.
I also had a hypothesis that women were being accepted to UC Berkeley’s engineering program, but that they weren’t joining the program because they weren’t sure they had what it took. As a chapter, we created a new overnight program for recently admitted students. I worked with Berkeley’s department of engineering and invited every female student that got into Berkeley’s engineering school to stay on campus with us. We hung out with them, did cool engineering projects, and gave them the lay of the land. At first, UC Berkeley was hesitant to endorse it. But by the end of that program, we’d doubled girls’ admission enrollment into UC Berkeley’s engineering school. Now, Cal overtook that same program and continues it to this day thanks to the success rates we helped build at SWE.
Q: How have you seen Kuri evolve in the year that you’ve been with Mayfield Robotics?
A: The story behind Kuri has changed. When I joined, Kuri was positioned as more of a security robot. Then, our team’s research proved that people want something more relatable — less utilitarian. Today’s Kuri is still very functional, but we’ve been leaning even more into making Kuri a character — a being — who lives in your house like a pet and does quirky fun things. It’s been cool to see Kuri become more and more alive, and also cuter.
Q: You’ve hosted an early Kuri model in your home. What was that like?
A: It was great! I loved the photos and videos that Kuri was able to capture of my two puppies [Timon and Pumba]. I’m excited to use Kuri to check-in on my house, and to host fun dance parties, with when I have my own.
Q: You’re the proud parent to two adorable pups [Timon and Pumba] that frequent Kuri’s HQ. What’s their story?
A: Awww yes! Timon and Pumba are both siblings and rescue pups. I adopted them together through an animal rescue group called Love and Second Chances. I saw their photo online and brought them home in June. I bring them to the office all the time, and I especially love watching them interact with Kuri. They’re funny; Timon and Pumba love people, and Kuri is no different. Plus, anytime Kuri and the pups are together meant I’ll get cute videos of my puppers sent to me.
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