I endeavor to include one of my photographs with every daily post. Today, however, I am going to depart from that tradition to include this 3 minute, YouTube video that was shared during the leadership training I attended last week. It illustrates, through an experiment with two Capuchian monkeys, the importance of equitable pay. Of all my responsibilities at work, there are none I take more seriously than ensuring equitable compensation and titles for members of my department. Against the advice of most HR professionals, I have on occasion gone as far as reducing the pay of the over compensated so that I could adequately fund raises for those who were deemed to be under compensated. When presented with my compensation philosophy, assessment model and data, I have found that most engineers favor the rather unconventional approach and extents to which I will go to ensure a fair outcome.
There is nothing I would rather do on my birthday than spend time in the great outdoors on a spectacular fall day. My morning was spent on the soccer pitch where I played well and managed not to re-injure my recovering calf muscle. Unfortunately we lost a hard fought battle that could have gone either way. The real treat was an afternoon hike in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary with the love of my life and her avian friends.
Meanwhile, Nicolai is visiting Colorado College located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs. He is visiting a friend and checking out the school as a possible alternate to the University of Miami where he is scheduled to begin his freshman year next fall.
With all of our work and evening social engagements this week, Jeanine and I have had little time to spend with my mother who is visiting us to celebrate my up coming birthday. Today, however, we got to spend time together including a hiking excursion to the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. There, among other things, we discovered a frog laden pond and this potential prince. Later, my mother joined me for a shopping run to REI where I obtained a few final items for my rapidly approaching Nepal trek. My mother turned 85 over the summer and I used this opportunity to provide her the belated gift of warmth (a down jacket, fleece mittens, cozy socks and a pair of ear muffs). She is pictured below modelling a beautiful jacket that Jeanine gave to her for her birthday.
My 3 day leadership development program wrapped up today at noon. I decided to skip the final luncheon so that I could join my mechanical engineering team for their annual team building event being held at the Nashoba Brook Ski Area. Good team building should provide an opportunity to build closer relationships, learn how to work more collaboratively, and have fun. This year’s glider construction and flying competition hit the mark on all counts. The winning entry had a flight distance of almost 300 feet and a glide time of 10.7 seconds. Each glider was constructed from the same limited set of construction materials and had to carry a video camera payload (can’t wait to see some nose cone footage).
The flying event concluded with a simultaneous launch of all ten gliders. Most impressive was the fact that all remained intact over the course of multiple runs, practice flights and crash landings. Debriefing of the exercise and consolidation of learning happened over beers in the ski lodge bringing a long work week to a very enjoyable conclusion.
For the second day in a row, I have been offsite participating in an executive leadership development program. Yesterday we received our 360 degree feedback, Myers-Briggs personality type test results, and participated in a disaster simulation to assess our performance as a team. Although it is difficult work, I really enjoy leadership development and have gained new insights on this go around. For those that are interested I am an INTP type. My team did very well on the disaster scenario and my individual score was best in class. If you are ever in Australia being over run by a forest fire apparently I would be a good partner to have.
Every year I like to express my appreciation to the spouses and significant others of my management team. I know that they often share the burden of iRobot imperatives that keep their loved ones late at the office or toiling over the weekend. We enjoyed a very memorable dinner at the Salt Box Farm where the evening started with a cooking demonstration. We retired to the intimate one table dining room in the restored farm house for the main course and lively conversation. Best of all, one of my direct reports brought his 6 week old daughter which I selfishly monopolized for much of the evening.
Jeanine was officially named as the new President of Open Table at their Annual Meeting held this evening. She will lead the 300 person volunteer organization for the next three years on their mission to provide healthy food, friendship and support to those in need. After a nice introduction from the Chairwoman of the Board, Jeanine addressed the assembly and shared some of her thoughts on the importance of the organization and its work. She spoke eloquently and from the heart about the fuzzy line between being a giver and being a receiver. Heads were nodding their approval throughout her presentation. Although it means that I will no longer be the primary focus of her culinary attention, I could not be more proud of her and am confident she will do great things for the organization.
Early in my career I was often in the spotlight, either promoting the products I designed or as a spokesman for Truevision, the company I co-founded. I have long since been happy to make my contributions to the places I work from behind the scenes. Today I was back in front of the camera, filming footage which will be used to create online marketing materials for two of iRobot’s soon to be introduced new products. I arrived on set at the appointed hour and was directed first to the “hair and makeup” artist. There was not much for her to work with. Maya would have been rolling on the floor to watch as makeup was applied to my head, face and lips and my eyebrows were glued into submission. I have encouraged her to shun makeup in favor of her natural beauty. Filming was done in our boardroom using a two camera setup, one head on and the other on a sliding track from a profile angle. I read my script from a teleprompter which was paced by the woman pictured here and did my best to respond to the Director’s request for more “excitement” in my delivery. Eventually the expression of the Producer who was monitoring the live video feeds changed from dire concern to mild satisfaction. It is very likely that much or all of my footage will wind up on the cutting room floor. I think it is highly probable, however, that several outtakes will be used to embarrass me at some point in the future.
A busy day entertaining on the Calabria home front. Maya is the Vice President of her National Charity League class which held a planning meeting at the house this afternoon. It was fun to see how ably Maya handled her leadership responsibilities with the group of twenty girls. Later the family dined with SideStix founders Sarah and Kerith, Jeanine’s sister, Susan, and my mother. SideStix was in town for a conference in downtown Boston where Nico spent part of the day working the booth. New for the show were T-shirts featuring a graphical interpretation of a photo I took of Nico volleying a soccer ball. It is outstanding and we were thrilled to receive a shirt for each member of the family. My soccer team nudged into third place with a 3-1 win this morning. I played very well in the first half but re-injured my calf muscle early into the second half and had to watch from the sidelines for the remainder of the game.
My mother arrived from Schenectady this afternoon, still driving long distances at age 85 despite the concerns of her offspring. It took little time before she and Nicolai were engaged in a Latin conga drum along to some of her favorite dance music which she is never without. Meanwhile, I put the finishing touches on the deck project just in time for a large gathering of the National Charity League volunteers scheduled to meet here tomorrow.
Maya and friends gathered at the house before leaving for a home CCHS football game. The fact that Maya does not really care for football was not discussed. I took comfort in her choice of warm clothing given the dip in temperature that was expected. Jeanine’s sister, Susan, arrived from Burlington Vermont and this seemed reason enough for an excursion to our local ice cream parlor.
The Double Tree Hotel was the site of an after work send off for an esteemed colleague who has been an innovator at iRobot for more than 15 years. Well wishers gathered to thank him for his enormous contributions to the company but it did not take long for the roast to begin. Unfortunately, I had to leave just as the stories were starting to get good (something about a hot tub in Las Vegas) for a dinner gathering at home with the 6 person film crew here to shoot a TV commercial featuring Nicolai. His contract contains a non-disclosure clause preventing me from identifying the product he is endorsing. If everything goes to plan the commercial will air during next year’s World Cup. Earnings from his work today will fund nearly half of his share of first year college tuition.
Kyle sent this picture from California of the used car that he purchased today. He has taken a second job as a private chess tutor to help pay for his college tuition (we pay only half to ensure that the kids have skin in the game). The job requires that he travel to his students and therefore provide his own transportation. The gig pays close to $50/hour and there seems to be very high demand in the area for this service. Kyle, always with an entrepreneurial eye to the future, has concluded that parents who can afford these lessons and think them important are probably the shakers and movers of silicon valley. In addition to the excellent pay, he feels he will make extremely valuable networking connections through this job. After consultation with his uncle John, a car enthusiast and expert, Kyle decided to purchase the historically reliable Toyota Camry, a wise choice I believe.
On the home front, I tested a new lens which was waiting for me when I returned from work. It is an extremely light weight 85-400mm telephoto zoom that completes the camera gear that I plan to carry while trekking in Nepal. The 4.5 pound kit will include two DSLR bodies, the aforementioned lens, a 16-35mm wide angle zoom and a 65mm low light prime. A carbon fiber tripod will bring the total weight to 7 pounds, half of what I have typically allocated for photo gear on past treks, a welcome concession to my aging knees.
My commute is 11 miles each way and when cyclists at work organized a Bike to Work Day I was tempted to participate. I have made the ride before which took close to an hour but found myself way too busy this week to even remotely consider the idea. I am working feverishly to log video of Nicolai’s youth for the producer of a television commercial in which he will be featured. They need footage of him participating in sports from an early age to augment the material they are planning to shoot later this week. As part of the deal, the agency in charge of the project paid to have all (close to a hundred hours) of our home videos digitized to disk. It would have been virtually impossible to sift through all the footage any other way.
I have learned to run for my camera when alerted to a beautiful sunrise. The most dramatic colors can be gone in a matter of seconds. When we watch with our eyes we rarely notice the subtle variations as they unfold before us, too engrossed in the overall beauty. A series of photographs, however, reveals how quickly the colors evolve and change. This morning I was fortunate to quickly find a camera fitted with a wide angle lens before the fleeting scene had passed.
I prefer playing soccer on a turf (artificial) field but playing on grass does have a few advantages. Most importantly, you can slide on the ground without losing as much skin. It also results in grass and dirt stains on your uniform which provide a form of documentation of the match. This morning we played one of the top teams in the league and I sensed I was going to have a good game. Fifteen minutes into the first half, a midfielder crossed the ball from the end line. I rushed to the far post marked by a single defender. He jumped late and tried to undercut me. I soared above him, pushing down on his shoulders. I felt like I was way above the crossbar when I headed the ball down and over the keeper to put us in the lead. This was one of those goals you dream about and live for. I enjoyed the feeling for about a millisecond before gravity imposed a rather awkward return to terra firma which did not involve landing on my feet. My jersey accurately documents the landing zone I used. Fortunately, I rolled through the contact and walked away with nothing but a smile. I played nearly the entire first half until my right calf muscle tightened up and I knew I was done for the day. Regrettably, I had to sit on the sidelines and watch as our opponent scored twice in the second half to deprive us of the win. After the match, the team enjoyed a pool and barbecue party at the home of our goal keeper, where we drowned our sorrows in catsup.