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The Intelligent Edge: Navigating the Transformative IIoT Landscape with Renee Garcia (Part 1)

Today’s world is undergoing rapid digital transformation, from the technologies that shape it, business practices and strategies shifting in response and the workforce adapting to stay up-to-date. It’s nearly impossible to predict what’s next for the IoT and IIoT industries. It’s up to the businesses shaping the landscape to know how and when to adapt through innovative technologies and processes. It’s also up to individuals in the field to recognize the value of developing diverse skill sets.

For the seventh blog in our series “The Intelligent Edge,” we sat down with Product Line Manager Renee Garcia to discuss her expertise with this adaptation and transformation, all of which she’s experienced through her roles in industry and academia.

FreeWave: Tell us a little about your background. How did you end up doing what you do today?

Renee Garcia: I started out as a mechanical engineer working in medical designs and diagnostics and learned what it took to develop and deploy products in regulated environments. I was really in the weeds addressing technical problems, but quickly realized I wanted a role with a broader impact on the world – one that I could directly participate in. So, I went back to school full time and got my MBA, concentrating on product management.

My first job following that was down the road in Loveland with a water sensor manufacturer. After 10 years, I decided to try something a little bit different, so I joined the University of Colorado Boulder’s Office of Industry Collaboration, where I focused on connecting technology and biotech businesses with the school. I eventually decided I missed industry and being involved in product development. I’ve been with FreeWave since last August.

FreeWave: Across your past roles, what’s been one of the most interesting changes you’ve seen in the IoT industry?

Renee: At that water sensor manufacturer, I supported a wastewater flow meter that was deployed into collection systems. Wireless IoT technologies were adopted early in this space to consolidate data across the wastewater system. During my five years supporting that product, I saw the IoT revolution make a large impact on capabilities that were brought to the market due to the increased prevalence of cellular communications and cloud-based software. It was fantastic from a product development standpoint to be a part of this transition showing how technology is impacting the IoT.

FreeWave: What about your time at CU Boulder? What drew you to the collaboration between universities and businesses?

Renee: CU Boulder had formed a new office to better bridge industry and the university. They were looking for program managers with product development experience who could speak both languages. I was very interested in helping fulfill that mission and to improve the industry-university relationship. It’s a two-way relationship; you have masters and PhD-level experts from the school and specialists from a company like FreeWave that can teach each other something new.

FreeWave: How exactly can that benefit each party?

Renee: Future engineers need to think outside their discipline and not follow some kind of prescribed path. Having students work with businesses grounds a lot of the theoretical classes they take and prepares them for real-world applications. So, when it comes time for them to graduate, students have already developed different skill sets and are familiar with how the industry works.

From the business perspective, it’s all about having students interact with a company’s technology. It’s great to see excitement and validation around it, like we saw with our hardware during our time at CU Boulder’s hackathon, HackCU. We received wonderful, instant feedback from this new generation of developers, scientists and engineers. Think of it this way – a beta test typically takes a month at minimum. Feedback during HackCU took only 24 hours.