Below is an article originally written by Chris Albrecht, Managing Editor of The Spoon, and published on February 27, 2019. The CEO of PowerToFly Partner Dishcraft Robotics is interviewed in this article. Go to Dishcraft's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Robots that cook burgers and bowl foods in restaurants may grab all the headlines, but there are actually plenty of opportunities throughout commercial kitchens for automation. Opportunities that robotics startup, Dishcraft, is looking to fill.
Linda Pouliot, Founder and CEO of Dishcraft will be providing a glimpse into the future of commercial kitchen robots when she speaks at our upcoming ArticulATE conference in San Francisco on April 16. But first, we did an email Q&A with Pouliot (edited for formatting) to get her views on the types of kitchen work robots are good at, misconceptions people have about them, and what restaurant owners need to think before they implement robots.
THE SPOON: We've seen robots cook burgers and fry up food, what are the other opportunities for robots in commercial kitchens?
POULIOT: Robots can be employed in commercial kitchens to take over some of the most repetitive, high-volume and dangerous, yet necessary tasks.
I know many people are fearful that automation may render human labor obsolete, taking away much-needed jobs, but it's important to recognize that smart use of robots in commercial kitchens actually helps women and men who make up the kitchen staff. It prevents them from having to undertake the most dangerous of kitchen tasks — and keep in mind, there are a lot of possibilities for injury in a home kitchen, let alone a commercial one! — and frees them to perform more high-value tasks. The bottom line is that thoughtful use of robots in commercial kitchens can empower human labor to have more meaningful work experiences.
That said, there are a number of opportunities where robots can be employed in this fashion, including:
Prep work, especially for produce — a high-volume task that requires ingredients to be at their freshest while also taking up valuable real estate in a kitchen. Automating chopping, dicing, slicing, and julienning produce, a fairly benign, repetitive yet tedious task, will take away the potential for injury, freeing up humans to devote their time to more creative, skills-intensive and likely more rewarding work while helping to eliminate the numbers of cuts, nicks, scrapes, and tears hands and fingers sustain during a normal meal service – how many of us have sliced a digit in addition to a tomato or onion?!
Transporting food, whether that means bringing food to diners (the work of bussers) or in the back of the house to bring ingredients from the pantry (or wares) to chefs for cooking or plating. This is fairly straightforward, repetitive work where robots can easily step in and free up women and men from the time, wear, and tear of carrying objects (especially heavy ones) to and from.
Pot washing / Warewashing. Because how many of us truly love scrubbing and washing dishes?
You get the idea. For tasks that are repetitive, that put humans in harm's way (whether through a knife or through the weight of shuttling wares to and fro), robots can pitch in and free up their human colleagues to engage in more meaningful tasks and responsibilities. Other functions where robots can readily step in include:
- Packaging (boxing up to go containers)
- Napkin folding
- Cleaning of floors, equipment, counters
- Waste management
- Sorting / Stocking of ingredients
Also, they may be able to help solve certain issues or queries that confront the industry, such as: could you alleviate the safety issues that grease traps pose to humans with robots?
What factors need to be considered when designing robots that will work alongside people in a kitchen environment?
This is a great question. Some of the key considerations I keep in mind when designing robots who will work complimentarily with humans are:
Safety. If we're going to deploy robots and automate specific tasks within commercial kitchens, first and foremost let it be in ways that help to safeguard the health of women and men.
The level of creativity and sensitivity and human interaction needed. For example, robots can't taste food, so for fine dining, this is a task better left to a human chef as he/she can adjust spices according to the characteristics of the ingredients that day.
How to employ robots to improve the kitchen environment. There are certain necessary tasks a kitchen must perform constantly and to high standards, especially if it involves sanitation. If there are ways that robots can take over these repetitive tasks and ensure a consistent, high standard, why shouldn't we automate that function and liberate human labor to perform more intricate, human-sensitive work like tasting, seasoning, or interacting with customers?
What are the noise, heat, and humidity factors in the equation? For example, electronics in a wet environment is a tough proposition for obvious reasons. When confronted with a problem where I'm considering whether employing a technology can provide a solution, I have to factor in certain environmental realities that even the best robotic solution cannot overcome. (Kind of like contemplating whether you could send the Wicked Witch of the West to steal Dorothy's ruby red slippers in the midst of a monsoon and expect her to return intact.)
Will it require completely changing a process / providing new training or a new SOP? For example, what is the level of the staff around the robot, and how much kitchen labor is Spanish-speaking? If the answer is "most" or "a lot," does the robot UX need to communicate in more than one language, and if so, how?
Regulatory requirements. Especially those related to health and sanitation. For example, is robot easy to wipe down? This is probably one of the last things most people might think of when contemplating how robots could help enhance and empower a commercial kitchen, but it's one of the first things the Department of Health will focus on!
What does a commercial kitchen manager need to know as they consider adding robots to their operations?
In order for a commercial kitchen manager to smartly deploy a robot (or robots) to their operations and reap its rewards, that individual has to factor in several considerations.
- First, and most importantly, whether they feel that they're up for the challenge of introducing a robot to their operations. As discussed, there is a multitude of ways that robots can be wonderfully beneficial to commercial kitchens, working with human labor and freeing women and men to have more meaningful work experiences. But at the end of the day, if the manager isn't open to introducing a new technology to help address the issues their kitchen faces, then it will be a hard, uphill battle.
- Costs are also something that the manager needs to bear in mind.
- Another key question is: where can a robot provide the most value to the operations? The answer will differ from one kitchen to another, based on several variables. But a key is to identify where the greatest need and greatest impacts are.
- How reliable is the robot? It goes without saying that while it's wonderful to install a robot to help improve your kitchen operations, if it breaks down, constantly stalls, and is generally unreliable, it will be more headache than help.
- How easy is it to interact with it? Change parts? Clean it? How often does it need servicing? Again, this addresses the issue of ease of operations. There's always a learning curve when you introduce new technology, practices, or ideas to any business operation and often those kinks are ironed out with training and getting used to that hardware being an integral part of your operations. But if you invest in a technology that's too time-consuming to run and maintain on a regular basis, even after training and the introductory phase of getting used to working with it, is that robot really serving your kitchen's best interests?
- How will it interact with their staff? Will it bump into staff? Is it a cobot? Is it augmenting the operations or can you leave it completely on its own without needing frequent help from humans to operate it.
What's the biggest misconception people have about commercial robots?
Many people, thanks to their exposure to the robots dreamed up by movies or television shows, expect robotic technologies like the Terminator. That helps to explain why there's a lot of misplaced anxiety over robots, as the entertainment industry tends to build them up as big, scary humanoid arms whacking knives around at a fast speed that will be dangerous. That's an image that's a good storytelling device for their plotlines, but it's a terrible relation to reality.
I've also encountered a lot of people who think the advancement and skill level of robots should be better than humans. But, the reality is that it will take a long time to design robots that have the grace and ability of humans. For example, designing a robotic arm that can manipulate a variety of vegetables requires vision, AI and articulation — a combination that is difficult to achieve. Another example is that it is very easy for a human to recognize a glass but a robot has a difficult time perceiving transparency.
What is your favorite robot from fiction?
Hands down, my most favorite fictitious robot is Rosie from the Jetsons. I remember watching that show as a kid and thinking, "Cool!" While her speedy, button-pushing prowess may be way beyond our reality, I am still enthralled by her.
💎 Are CallRail's engineering teams the right fit for you? Watch the video to the end to find out!
📼 Engineering teams at CallRail encourage collaboration, communication, and empathy. Ayana Reddick, Senior Software Engineer at CallRail, shares what they are looking for in candidates and tells you why you’ll thrive there.
📼Engineering teams want candidates who have a growth mindset, love to learn, and are really good at communication. They also value team members who are excited about solving problems and working collaboratively. If you think you have what it takes, don't hesitate to apply.
📼At CallRail, engineering teams use Ruby on Rails for their backend, Angular on their frontend, and PostgreSQL for persistent data. They also use Jira for creating and tracking tickets, GitHub for their version control, and AWS for many cloud tools. Get familiar with these resources if you want to join them!
Engineering Teams And Diversity - Company’s Culture
CallRail seeks to hire from underrepresented groups. They pride themselves in selecting from a pool of very diverse candidates. They value the work that people do over their resumes. They encourage people to take their authentic selves to work. And they strive to create a supportive and welcoming environment. For this, they have Employee Resource Groups, that give voice to, provide safe spaces for, and educate the company at large. Some of their ERGs include the Rainbow Coalition, Black and Brown, Women Circle, and more.
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining CallRail? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Ayana Reddick
If you are interested in a career at CallRail, you can connect with Ayana on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About CallRail
CallRail is here to bring complete visibility to the marketers who rely on quality inbound leads to measure success. Their customers live in a results-driven world, and giving them a clear view of their digital marketing efforts is the priority for CallRail. They see the opportunities in surfacing and connecting data from calls, forms, and beyond—helping their customers get to better outcomes.
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
“In my early twenties, I wasn’t the best at saving money. So, when I got the job at Nike and found out a financial coach was offered to me — for free! — I thought, ‘It’s time to be an adult. I should use this service to help me learn how to buy stock, tell me what I’m doing right with my money and where I can improve.’”
That’s Ashlee Bobb, Nike Media and Influencer Relations Manager, on the free, unlimited access to financial coaching offered to every U.S. Nike employee through EY Navigate™. EY coaches are trained on Nike’s benefits and programs, so Ashlee was able to work with her coach on a budget and savings plan utilizing Nike’s 401k match and Employee Stock Purchase Plan – all in one 45-minute session. She left the meeting feeling confident about what her next paycheck would look like and how her money would work for her.
“The EY coaches are really willing to come on the journey with you,” Bobb says, adding that hers was willing to work with the fact that, hey, she’s not going to give up take out, but still wants to save for the future. “The cool thing is I can see how this financial guidance could help me down the road when I decide to get married, buy a house, have a kid. Every Nike employee should take advantage.”Sound like the kind of company you want to be a part of? Check out our open roles on jobs.nike.com
Erika Morrison is a naturally passionate and encouraging leader. From leading her family in giving back to their community, to coaching adolescents in track and cheer, to managing her team at Light & Wonder during the pandemic, her experience is rich with lessons to share with up-and-coming leaders.
“I believe in motivation, positivity, inspiring, finding the good in everything, everybody,” she says. In addition to 30+ years in the tech field, Erika is a wife, a mother of two, an avid exercise lover, and has even been a small-business owner.
We sat down with Erika to hear about the experiences that have led her to her current role as a Software Engineering Manager at Light & Wonder, as well as three practical ways to lead with purpose.
Seeing Potential in Others
Erika has always been fascinated by the world of technology. Growing up, she loved cassette tapes, DVD players, phones, and whatever other gadgets she could get her hands on. When her dad brought home a PC Junior, it didn’t take long before she started programming on it. She designed her own trivia game, using what she learned in her middle school programming classes. “I was typing the questions in and programming the answers. I had a blast writing it and showing it to my family. I remember I wanted to show everyone what I made. That was my first real desire to get into programming.”
Erika followed that instinct into college where she majored in Business Administration and minored in Computer Science. The kickstart to her tech career came when she landed a computer operating job while still in school. She comments, “I was originally applying for a secretarial position at this company. But someone looked at my studies and experience and saw potential in me. I didn't think I was ready for that because I was still so young, I was still in school.”
Erika went on to work as a programmer analyst and software engineer for multiple major Casino based companies. During this time, she even started and ran a local event-planning business, which fine-tuned her skills in successful customer service.
Then, someone saw potential in Erika again. A former coworker reached out and offered her a leadership position with the company that would become Light & Wonder. Erika took on the role of Software Engineering Manager and says “it’s been opportunity after opportunity ever since.”
Managing Through the Pandemic
Erika believes that the best way to lead a team is to really get to know its members. “A lot of leading is knowing the people on your team,” she explains. “Know what each person needs — What may work for one person may not work for someone else. We have to take a little bit of who they are into consideration when attempting to motivate, to coach, to inspire because we're not all motivated by the same things.”
Prior to the pandemic, Erika and her team worked together in the office, which gave her the opportunity to do so. Once the pandemic hit, however, she had to pivot to incorporating virtual meetings to be able to generate that intimacy. She organizes bi-monthly check-ins with her team members where she intentionally asks for their individual preferences on communication and feedback.
“I have one-on-ones with each of my staff every two weeks. We go over the issues that they've had and then any questions or concerns or anything that they want to chat about. Sometimes it's business and sometimes it's personal. But, I feel like taking that extra time out just to have those conversations is extremely important.”
She also cohosts weekly remote Friday cocktail hours to cultivate her team’s relationships and check in on their mental health. “During the Friday cocktail hours, we would relax, ask some questions, or play some games. And it was nice to have that interaction again and connect with the team. It also allowed me to check in on everyone's mental health and make sure that if there was anything that we could do, we were here.”
Inspired to Encourage the Team
Erika is inspired by the example of her past and current mentors and their vision for her professional trajectory. She acknowledges that it was thanks to key people who saw her potential that she has been able to have these experiences. Erika’s own personal drive and passion for encouraging and uplifting others have led her to love her leadership position.
As a manager, Erika seeks the highest level of respect and excellence for her customers, while creating an encouraging work environment for her team. “I want to make sure that my team has everything that they need in order to succeed and get their jobs done the way they want to. I want them to have the level of success that they want.”
Erika ensures that her team members feel their significant contribution to the company and how they are serving with purpose. “We need to feel like we are part of something significant,” she says. “That’s my goal as a leader and for my team.”
3 Ways to Lead with Purpose:
Drawing from her experiences as a tech leader, business owner, coach, and community volunteer, she gives us three practical ways to lead with purpose in whatever context.
- Understand the “why”. “It’s extremely important to know the why of your company. Once you understand it from the company’s perspective, you can communicate it clearly to the team. And once you get that down, you’re able to help build a strong path for them to follow so that both “why’s” are in alignment. Knowing the why of your individual team members allows you to better manage, assist, and build a relationship with them.”
- Build consistency. “I think it’s very important that we are consistent and don't deviate from the why and the task at hand. Building consistency with others motivates and inspires people to give their best, even when we don’t feel like it. When dealing with a change or a huge transition, it’s extremely important to stick to the why’s, the steps we’re taking, and the right attitude."
- Remain positive. “You have to find positivity in everything because no matter what, it could always be worse. We can always find the negative things, but there are also always positive things. As a leader, I need to be empathetic, kind, and encouraging no matter what. It’s extremely important that I’m positive and involve my team members in the process.”