Meet some Xers
Prototyper, Design Kitchen
As a prop master for the TV show “Mythbusters," Joe had an uncommon career "building a lot of really weird stuff.” Also a special effects pro for "Thor" and other Marvel feature films, he had no plans to leave the fantastical world of film and TV. But in 2015 he met an Xer who persuaded him to consider joining the Design Kitchen, a team of busy prototypers who work in a 20,000-square-foot fully-kitted fabrication lab. Today teams across X come to Joe to turn their big ideas into real working prototypes. So instead of busting myths, he's building new technologies. "The work we do is so different than a lot of the work other people do," he says. "X was the one place that could make me leave what I was doing. I've never regretted it."
Hardware Engineer, Rapid Evaluation
"Building structure out of nothing is something I can do" says Gabby. Not that she started out as a hardware engineer: she trained as a classical pianist, earned a degree from Oberlin college of arts and sciences, worked for three years as a wildland firefighter in Oregon, and spent time building pollution-fighting, oceangoing aquatic robot snakes. She heard about X before she started working on an art installation for San Francisco's Pier 27. At X, she now prototypes audacious new ideas for our Rapid Evaluation team. Gabby says her passion for design and technology aligns nicely with her role: “I like trying something out -- playing with a new sensor, getting inspired, and asking 'How might this be applied to a bigger problem?'”
Machine Learning Engineer
“The machine learning and robotics space is still a relatively new field, and I love that I get to be a part of it,” says Alexa, a software engineer in one of X’s robotics teams. Alexa uses machine learning techniques such as deep learning to teach robots how to perceive the world around them. She majored in neurobiology at the University of Maryland, but switched to Computer Science in her third year after she attended a coding class and loved it, then landed in Google’s Search team shortly after graduating. When she’s not tinkering with robots, Alexa – a fluent Russian speaker – loves to keep active, and you might see her running by in San Francisco’s Golden Gate park. She’s also the proud owner of a sizeable collection of dog-patterned socks, which she’s not afraid to sport around the office. Her favorite thing about X? “I love the mix of instantaneous results and longer-reach research at X. In research, it can often take a really long time to get enough data to have meaningful results. But with robotics, it's much more obvious when a machine learning model works. With more data and experience, a robot quickly learns new skills in a new environment."
Hardware Engineer, Project Loon
A graduate of the US Naval Academy,
Christopher went to the Navy's nuclear power school and served as the assistant weapons officer aboard the USS Louisiana (SSBN-743), a 560-foot-long ballistic missile submarine. That hands-on experience in thermodynamics and operational engineering (not to mention close-quarter teamwork) made him a perfect choice to run an engineering lab at X. Says Christopher, "Not only have I been given the opportunity to do amazing and exciting things at X, I've also been given the opportunity to fail and learn – and to do better in the future.” He is also a fashion maven and is often spotted wearing his own designs around the office, including this infamous pink suit
. He's a member of the Loon fashion group, an X community that discusses personal style and then walks the talk with "dress for style" days every few Fridays.
Software Engineer, Project Loon
"I'd never really considered balloons as a career avenue," says Sam. But then, nothing about her story has been predictable. Born in Chile to parents from India, she also lived in Kentucky before heading to MIT to learn aerospace system design. While studying advanced physics she took 100 hours of flying lessons, to avoid being "like a mechanic who doesn't know how to drive." Three degrees and a short stint in the defense industry later, Sam found her way into the stratosphere with the balloons of Project Loon -- where unpredictability has been a feature, not a bug. "It's been really gratifying seeing Project Loon progress from stage to stage, and all the growing pains that come with that," she says. "I really enjoy that process. X has been a great opportunity for me to see what it's like to build something with incredible potential from the ground up." Sam made her first pineapple upside-down cake at age 10 and remains a fanatical baker, a hobby that has only enhanced her rep with her co-workers.
Intellectual Property Counsel
“What I love about X is that you have a chance to make that light bulb,” says Rosa, “As an engineer, I find that very exciting.” Born and raised in Honduras, Rosa moved to New York as a teenager and started high school there without knowing any English. That didn’t stop her earning two degrees – first in engineering, then in law – before specializing in patent protection. Today Rosa works on the Legal team at X, where she’s responsible for building and protecting intellectual property. When she’s not drafting patents or playing with her two young children, Rosa is an avid reader, who loves non-fiction.
Business Development, Robotics
“I’m a crazy cat lady,” says Diana, whose office space is wallpapered with feline-filled posters including “17 things to know about your cat”. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, and the only woman in her Computer Science masters class. Before coming to X, she worked as a software engineer at a startup, but constantly found herself drawn to the business needs of her projects. So naturally, she went back to school and earned an MBA from UCLA where she got involved with Hollywood - Diana put pressure on studios to change the storylines of female characters from damsels in distress to the leading protagonists. Today at X, she leads business development efforts for moonshot solutions involving robotic technologies. Her role requires her to be adaptable, and quickly learn about new industries or technologies that X may need to partner with. You could say that she learned this skill from her father, a Thai kickboxer who now owns a hair salon. “He taught me about the tenacity to reinvent myself,” she says. In her free time, Diana is an avid snowboarder and has even taught her two kids so they can join her on the slopes.
Hardware Testing Engineer, Project Wing
“My dad was an auto-mechanic. So I learned how to fix parts and make them work better from an early age,” says Martin. From chronic breaker-of-things to prototyper, Martin is the definition of a tactile learner. You’ll often find him in the Project Wing lab taking things apart, only to put them back together again. It’s fair to say his desk is often messy. Martin’s lifelong career in robotics and automation led him to his role at X, where he’s responsible for keeping the Project Wing lab safe and his team on schedule. He’s made a name for himself as the team morale booster: he once built a robot bear that flew over his team’s desks to inspire them to challenge themselves and be creative at work. Martin has a keen ability to construct what he dreams up in his head, so it is no surprise that in his free time, he loves to draw and illustrate highly intricate scenes and characters.
Mechanical Engineer, Project Makani
“I didn’t grow up tinkering or building things,”
says Jerome,”I took classes that interested me and continued to learn about the things I liked.” As a Mechanical Engineer on the Makani team, Jerome has moved from wing design to testing analysis; he is responsible for analyzing the data collected from test flights and then comparing to predicted data. This isn’t the first time that Jerome, who was born in Marseille on the southern coast of France, has worked on innovative flying technology. During his P.h.D in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering at University of Texas, he worked on a research project that aimed to develop retractable rotor blades for helicopters. Jerome is also a former rugby player – a sport which has had a strong influence on his career. “Rugby is an all-around sport where you need to know how to perform all positions. At Makani, I like to sit next to the business team – it helps me see the whole picture.” At lunchtime, you’ll find him grabbing sun on the stairs hanging out by the flight tower and riding around on Makani’s tandem bikes