From Australia to Estonia – Q&A by Lindsay Roberts, Head of Autonomous Driving | and Annela Coates | Starship Technologies | Dec, 2021


Lindsay Roberts has been with Starship since its inception – is the ninth employee in the company. It was me, my friend Andy, and an Estonian engineer. The first six months were quite quiet: an average of seven words per day. ”

Lindsay hails from Sydney, Australia and has lived in Estonia for the past 10 years. Tallinn is home, and he says working with Starship is like achieving his dream: “As an engineer, working on robots is an impossible dream. I always wanted to work for a company with a real job, and I feel like, at Starship, installing robots in the streets, we bring the future closer.

Lindsay is currently working as Head of Autonomous Driving at Starship. He was one of the first to form the world’s leading independent charity and has seen the company grow from a small, one-room office, with from 10 to more than 500 employees.

Lindsay Roberts, Head of Autonomous Driving, Starship Technologies

You were one of the first Starship employees, how did your strategy get through?
My trip to Estonia began when I moved to Skype in 2011. At the time I had to change pretty much everything, travel. One of the jobs that pop up was on Skype in Stockholm, but during the interview process they asked if I was considering moving to Estonia instead. I had to do Wikipedia. I was with my friends at the time, and from YouTube we could clearly see that the Estonians were always leaving the kiiking (dangerous sport), and the first thing my friends asked me for years was if I had “played” yet. , how many times a day did I do kiik?

Although, at first, I thought I would stay here for a year or two, somehow without any preparation or awareness, Tallinn sneaked in and became our home. In 2014, I decided to leave Skype and go on vacation to Australia. During break time I had the goal of spending time and meditating on what I wanted to do with my life. On the second day I received a phone call from a friend who asked me if I would like to talk to Ahti about the work of robotics in secret now called Starship. As soon as he mentioned the robots, I gave up all of my life-searching ideas as a lead brick.

What was your first thought on Starship?
A little strange. Skype featured hundreds of people from all over the world as well as regular events. The first Starship office was five people filling one small room in Tehnopol. It was a big deal when I joined them to spread to two adjoining rooms, a little smaller.

The first six months were extremely peaceful: the average number of words spoken per day was about seven. It was me, Andy and about five Estonian engineers in the office. We just worked. We had nothing, which means we needed everything with difficulty, so we kept quiet, and we wrote programs, and the mechanics made pieces of the robot, and we tried them out in the cold and wet.

Although I used to work with (and have) an introvert as a software engineer, the biggest difference I noticed was that Estonians did not seem to be boasting, and this could be a problem in major international organizations. At Microsoft, many shouted their work from the roof while the Estonians quietly achieved greatness. Without a careful look at the output, managers can be seen as the loudest and the most effective. Too often, I hear that the people of Estonia are very dedicated and motivated, and very honest. That when you see emotion or heat is almost something they feel and think. Not, for example, the result of human hope. And knowing that the way people treat justice, that you don’t have to filter it, is a huge relief.

Lindsay thinks deeply about nature… and robots

Which side was the most difficult for you when you moved to Estonia?
Not really, it was an easy place to live. The hardest part was the frostbite during the first winter, but that made it easier when I stopped worrying about fashion. I thought I could wear jeans and a nice jacket but when I started wearing high heels and high heels, things went well. Those -30 ° days were still difficult, but in a way that made you feel alive instead of on the brink of death.

In the Starship you held a number of positions: you started out as a local captain, then you worked as a naval officer and now you work as an independent naval officer. Which side is the most difficult to date?
To be honest the first year. I started working (robot) with a friend, and for a while it didn’t work. We had something that produced results, but not reliably. It took months and months to complete the project and, for a long time, without any obvious signs of progress, any signs we needed to follow the right path. When we first started working, the frustrations were relatively low.

At one point, the company grew enough and I became the leader of a local team, interesting people, very good years. Later, I moved on to lead the Fleet Orchestration, and it is because, from time to time, it looks like Ahti. [Heinla] he comes to my desk and asks me if I would like to try this other part. And while these roles are always stretching, I like to say yes more than no, and every change has been challenging, new, and exciting.

Which side attracts you to Starship?
As a result, there is a strange operation, sent by robots on the streets, a crazy sci-fi dream. And really, to change something, just to touch the world. But, on top of that, working at Starship has been a very exciting experience. Whenever I think I’ve learned a little bit about how to be more involved, more effective, and smarter, Starship has taught me a lot. And culture is a big part of this: it’s the best, lowest BS place I’ve ever worked.

Engineers are, more than any other place I have ever been, have the power and expectation to know what they need to work on. Research, data transfer, reasoning and prioritization. We encourage independence, critical thinking and independence, I would say it is important. Working in Starship has made me realize that when you hire such smart people you have to let them use all their intelligence. When you find five team members not only doing, but thinking deeply about what they are doing, to make decisions, you use the five skills. This does not mean just asking for explanations, but spreading the responsibility for decision-making, prioritizing, for people to do, to learn, to get into the habit.
It also made me realize that the best people are the ones you can leave on your own for a long time, and they will not continue to work so well, and surprise you.

In terms of achievements, what are you most proud of?
I have written many programs over the years, some still in use. But on top of that, I would say that if I have encouraged or helped anyone here to grow, that is something I can be proud of.

What does the future hold?
The star is affecting more and more people around the world, but as we have achieved we have a lot to do. We have to fix everything, we have to make a better program, we have to make the robot more human, capable of self-driving at the most difficult of times, and to say the most amazing things, the list is incredibly large and very interesting. And, of course, we need to upgrade and bring our robots into more space.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the world is changing rapidly, and in many ways it is changing. But this crazy, dubious journey for robots to send goods on the streets, to be able to run things in the same way as the internet makes you know more, is the place where real change is possible. With this in mind, one person at Starship can make a dramatic difference to the world. Bringing the future a little closer.

Would you like to join them for this wonderful journey? Well, we always look for the most talented people. Find your next job Pano. ”



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