From East Coast Tech to West

Rebecca Patterson '18

Daniel Foran ‘07 started working for Nest Labs in San Francisco this past May, after being at iRobot in Bedford, MA for over 4 years. Nest Labs, a company whose mission is to “take the unloved products in your home and make simple, beautiful, thoughtful things” joined Google in January 2014 . This is what he had to tell us about his experience there so far:

Why I left Boston -- shoveling my porch in Cambridge last February

Wow, that’s a big move from East to West Coast, and with a totally new company!  What prompted that move, and how do you see life in San Francisco compared to the Boston area?
I had admired what Nest was doing for a while, but hadn’t been looking at jobs out West until their recruiter reached out to me. I mentioned it to my partner, who said, casually: “I would live in San Francisco.” Several rounds of interviews and many discussions later we agreed it would be a great adventure for us.In many ways SF feels like a larger version of Cambridge with better weather. I love Boston, but am looking forward to getting to know a new city and all of the great National Parks around Northern CA.

Tell us about your new job at Nest Labs.
Nest Labs designs products for the thoughtful home. I am a Product Design Engineer, which basically means I'm a mechanical engineering generalist responsible for the design and production of the physical parts of a product.

What do you do in a typical day of work?
Work varies substantially based on the phase of the project. During early development there is a lot of iteration--design something, build it, test it, repeat. As a product matures, the focus shifts to the details of designing for mass production and qualifying the parts and processes required to put the product in a user's home. During these later phases I will typically travel to factories around the world where the parts will be produced. Throughout all phases there is frequent collaboration with other disciplines, both within engineering and the company at large.

What do you feel you are doing that's innovative?
Nest is a premier brand within home automation and I think we're really growing that market. Hopefully our products will help users reduce their energy impact and help them feel safer at home.

How have you made a difference in the world since leaving Olin?
I wouldn't say I've had a newsworthy impact yet. I have worked on products that improve customers lives in small but meaningful ways--ideally letting them focus more on what they want to be doing.

Have you worked with other Olin alumni? What's it like working with them in the real world?
Awesome. I used to work with a classmate at my last job, but not directly. I think it was nice to have some bit of the Olin community at work.

How did your time at Olin prepare you for the real world?
I think the interdisciplinary and collaborative goals of the Olin education are a good mirror for what is valuable working on real projects. I think emphasizing these attributes early gives Olin students a step up on folks with otherwise similar levels of experience.

Dressed up for (Classmate) Professor Ben “Danger” Hill’s Wedding

Do you have time for fun? What do you like to do?
Yes! Though I am still figuring that out,  with a new job in a new city. I like to be outdoors, exercising/playing sports and my current adventure is exploring San Francisco.

Advice for current students?
Olin students are rockstars, but be sure you show other people and don't just tell them--humility goes a long way toward building strong collaborative relationships at work. On real projects, most of the work is in the details. It is cool to start and finish a project in class, but to deliver a product in the real world requires focus sustained over much longer time scales.

Posted in: Alumni Speak, Olin Employers