RobOps Masters Interview Series

In this series, we interview some expert practitioners who share their experience with robotics in general and with robot operations in particular.

Daniel Theobald

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Daniel Theobald is the Chief Innovation Officer and founder of Vecna Robotics, the autonomous mobile robot, and workflow orchestration company. Daniel has decades of experience leading research scientists and teams of engineers in developing cutting-edge technology. He has 67 issued patents and more than 30 patents pending.

Daniel has been at the forefront of robotics for more than 20 years, working closely with DARPA, DOD, NASA, NIH, USDA, and many others to advance the use of robots and AI software to improve supply chain automation. In addition to founding Vecna Robotics, Daniel also co-founded MassRobotics, a non-profit dedicated to the global advancement of the robotics industry. Daniel is dedicated to the idea that technology can be used to empower people worldwide to live more fulfilling lives.

Sarjoun Skaff

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Sarjoun Skaff is the CEO and co-founder of Bossa Nova. He has spent the last 20 years bringing robots to people’s lives, from commercializing half a million robotic toys to deploying robots that navigate retails aisles alongside shoppers. Sarjoun holds a Ph.D. and a Master’s in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the American University of Beirut. He has received awards, including being named by Business Insider as one of 10 people transforming retail (2019), the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Western Pennsylvania (2011), the FEA Distinguished Young Alumni (2011) and the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Top 50 in Tech (2010 & 2019).

Sarah Osentoski

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Sarah Osentoski is the SVP of Engineering at Iron Ox, which use robotics and AI to grow fresh, consistent, and responsibly farmed produce for everyone. Prior to that, Sarah was COO of Mayfield Robotics, where she led the team that developed a home robot called Kuri.

Buck Ward

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Buck Ward is Founder and President of Cyberclean Systems. Buck has 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur and founder of several companies across Service, Engineering, Manufacturing and Retail applications. This includes the development of 7 major autonomous mobile robot projects for labor-intensive service tasks, as well as actually running cleaning companies using robots in the real world.

Mercedes Soria

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Mercedes Soria is EVP, Chief Intelligence Officer at Knightscope, where she leads the engineering team tasked with building the company’s core software product, the Knightscope security operations center. She was a member of the founding team at Knightscope building security robots. Prior to Knightscope, she was at Deloitte.

Aaron Prather

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With nearly 25 years at FedEx, Aaron Prather has developed and deployed numerous technology applications across the FedEx enterprise. From Hub operations in Memphis, Indianapolis, and Oakland, to Courier Operations around the world, he has worked in every corner of FedEx’s day-to-day operations. In his current role as Senior Advisor, Technology Planning & Research, Prather leads efforts to find and deploy new technologies into FedEx operations, including robotics and automation. He sits on the company’s Operations Technology Council which coordinates efforts across all of the FedEx companies. Outside of FedEx, Aaron participates in developing robot standards at the RIA and UL. Through the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis, he works with universities and colleges in the development of educational programs for the next generation of technologists in logistics. Prather received an MBA from Christian Brothers University, and holds a BS from University of Memphis in Geographic Information Science and Cartography.

Cynthia Nees

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Cynthia Nees is Senior Manager, Customer Support at Locus Robotics. She has 16+ years of Operations Management experience in the Technical Support and Robotics industries. She’s led teams as small as 10, and as large as 90. Cynthia is ITIL Foundations, and HDI Manager certified. She has a strong passion to coach, develop, and promote employees to further overall business success.

Gennadiy Goldenshteyn

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Gennadiy Goldenshteyn is a Principal at First Principles, LCC, a consulting firm specialized in breaking down seemingly complex system dynamics to their foundational basics and creating implementation programs to systemically drive improvement. Gennadiy is an experienced global product development, operations, and innovation executive, with particular passion for technology improving human experience. Prior experience includes positions at McKinsey, UTC Aerospace Systems and Yum! Brands.

Michael Sayre

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Michael Sayre is Cofounder and CEO of Cognicept Systems, a human-in-the-loop error handling service and telerobotics technology company. Prior to founding Cognicept, he worked as an engineer developing and deploying robotic systems in fields like subsea, military, and ecommerce logistics. He’s co-founded 2 business, which are still in operation and has worked on freelance robotics projects.