Back
March 16, 2021

Three tenets of an exceptional engineering team

Vittorio Ziparo

Chief Technology Officer

Outrider is at the forefront of autonomous technology and innovation. We have pioneered a system that allows us to automate distribution yards, and we’re deploying this autonomous technology right now, on the ground, in pilot programs around the country. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be part of this trailblazing company and to be leading Outrider’s engineering team.

When I joined Outrider as Executive Vice President of Engineering, my first priority was to build a strong team of engineers ready to build new technology to take on today’s biggest supply chain challenges. Today, our engineering team is dynamic; the team includes people from all over the world, bringing together a wealth of cultural diversity. They also each have rich autonomy backgrounds, including military robots, consumer robots, service robots, and self-driving vehicles. Overall, the richness of thought and professional experiences that each team member possesses makes for a very vibrant environment in which to be engineering ground-breaking autonomous technology. 

To empower this high-performing team, I often turn to three evidence-based principles for guidance: 1) psychological safety, 2) accountability, and 3) motivation.  

Psychological safety

According to Dr. Amy Edmondson, the scholar and Harvard Business School professor who identified this principle, psychological safety, “is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.” We’re a team that rewards intellectual curiosity and mutual support, and we reinforce this principle with regular check-ins, discussion, and team bonding. Ultimately, establishing a team culture of psychological safety supports the development of a growth mindset — another tenet of high-performing teams. Through dedication, hard work, and a love of learning, our team members embrace resilience and iteration. Great accomplishments are built on resilient teams willing to learn and grow along the way.

Accountability

I take a data-driven approach to the second principle — accountability. Originally developed by Google engineers, the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) sprint structure is a great framework that keeps our team on track and keeps us honest in our assessment of team initiatives and goals. This goal-setting tool outlines inspiring objectives that provide direction and couples them with measurable key results that need to be achieved to fulfill the stated goal. The idea is at the end of each sprint, we spend some time assessing our actual output as compared to our estimates. This framework allows us to celebrate our wins and objectively diagnose areas for improvement.

But psychological safety and accountability aren’t enough unless you are motivated to achieve your goals, which leads me to drive. 

Motivation

Motivation (see Drive by Daniel Pink) is key to my management philosophy. Motivation is something that evolved with our brain. Our early motivation was driven by survival followed by motivation by punishment or reward (e.g. monetary incentives). In today’s society, a stronger form of motivation based on purpose, mastery, and autonomy.

To this end, Outrider’s mission is very purposeful and is, on its own, a great source of motivation for our team. The distribution of goods is to society what the circulatory system is for a human body — a fundamental tool for a healthy and performing system. Today, our distribution circulatory system is not in good shape. Our distribution yards are not resilient (as the global pandemic has thrown into stark relief), and they are not sustainable (yard trucks alone emit 3.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent to one coal-firing plant). Our distribution yards are not efficient (over-the-road trucks can wait up to four hours for their trailers), and they are not safe (there are millions of accidents each year involving people and equipment). I believe that autonomy and robotics are the right tools to improve our supply chain, and if we execute well, we have the unique opportunity to change the world in a way that really matters. 

Great accomplishments are built on resilient teams willing to learn and grow along the way.

Outrider is deploying one of the most complex production-level multi-robot systems in the world. In order to do that, we need an engineering team that thrives on innovation, curiosity, and mastery of their trade. As we continue to grow, I plan on continuing to hire the best, providing a clear vision, and motivating the team through both data-driven approaches and opportunities for individual growth.

Vittorio Ziparo, Chief Technology Officer

Vittorio leads the engineering team at Outrider overseeing software, hardware, and systems. With deep expertise in safety, self-driving, multi-robot systems, manipulation, and enterprise software, his team is responsible for turning prototypes into reliable, scalable products. Vittorio has a passion for building high-performing teams that develop autonomous robots.

You might also like

June 09, 2021

Safety is the key to successful autonomous operations

Distribution yard operations are filled with manual, repetitive tasks performed in oftentimes hazardous,... ... READ MORE

May 11, 2021

Automation has arrived. Get ready for deployment.

The supply chain is no longer a component of your business — it’s... ... READ MORE

April 22, 2021

Sustainably moving freight

On Earth Day, the world turns its attention to the environment — and,... ... READ MORE