Iain W.

Chief Scientific Officer
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Iain W.
Computer Science
Computer Science
Research Postgraduate
Goodricke
2006
United Kingdom

My employment

Chief Scientific Officer
Rovco
United Kingdom
Environment and energy
Medium-size business (50-249 employees)
2017

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A day in the life of a Chief Scientific Officer in the United Kingdom

Leading an R&D team is as much about business and people as technology. Good technology alone doesn't make a good business, you must balance technical excellence with commercial reality and the needs of all the people that will make it happen.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

Rovco are an offshore subsea robotic service provider and technology developer. We deploy subsea robotics primarily for the offshore wind industry.

What do you do?

I lead Rovco's R&D and technology development efforts. I lead teams working in AI, computer vision, deep learning, 3D imagery and online data delivery. Everything from setting R&D direction to day-to-day problem solving, creating smarter subsea robots!

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

At York I took a year out to work for BAE Systems, doing multi-platform SLAM robotics R&D. Nowadays visual SLAM is a key technology we develop - so a clear link there. Returning to York, my Master's project was on multi-robot coordination, then from there a PhD in Multi-Agent Systems at Edinburgh. After that I did a post-doc on a european robotics project at Heriot-Watt, then worked in space robotics, mostly Mars rover R&D for Scisys. The common thread is a focus on AI, specifically reasoning and robotics - and unusually applied practical robotics. This lead to me being head-hunted to join Rovco as a founder and lead the technology development, and we've kept growing since. In choosing this job the key thing for me was I could understand the business opportunity and how my work could be core to the business, and also draw on my past experience to set out a good plan for what I would do in the role. My vision of what I could do in the role chimed with the CEO's visions for the business - and as a result we've had success.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

I always knew I wanted to work in AI or robotics, but applied in the real world, not academic research. However, when I graduated there was very little real world intelligent robotics - but I could see it was coming. So the sector (offshore energy) is unexpected, but it was clear to me I'd be tackling the problems of how we make smarter machines somewhere.

Describe your most memorable day at work

When we deployed our novel 3D camera system and had it streaming live 3D models remotely. In my office in Bristol I could see live in 3D the surroundings of a robot exploring a structure in the sea - something no-one else had done before or since.

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

Leading an R&D team is as much about business and people as technology. Good technology alone doesn't make a good business, you must balance technical excellence with commercial reality and the needs of all the people that will make it happen.

What’s your work environment and culture like?

Always changing! Not many computer science jobs might see you training to escape from a helicopter underwater, or writing software in the back of a truck in a desert miles from civilisation (in a previous role). Field robotics can be very different. Currently my role is mostly office based, and whilst it has seen long hours, I've also lately been able to reduce my days to spend more time with my young family - a great advantage of a small company is it can be very employee focused.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

I was very active in the cycling and fencing clubs, holding committee positions managing money, organising budgets and planning travel. All very useful experience! Also I took a year out to work which set me on this path, and was awarded a research bursary from the Nuffield Foundation to do some academic R&D at another University before my final year.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

Speak to people about their experiences - networking is hard to do at first, but pays off. Ask people what they do and how they got there. For computer scientists - have examples of your work, even if you think it's no good! It's great to have something to discuss with an interviewer, even if you're just telling them all the ways you'd do it better next time.

Next steps...

If you like the look of Iain’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Iain a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Iain to be your mentor.

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