I am the least mechanically inclined person in my network of colleagues, friends, family and school alumni. IKEA is NOT my friend…and never will be! Just walking into that store makes me sweat and I feel the familiar fight-or-flight response kick in at the thought of trying to decipher an instruction booklet that looks like the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. What’s worse is that even if I’m somehow able to get through the manual, I still have to put a piece of functioning furniture together, and I think, “Oh God, please help me, I’m about to faint!”
I knew by my teen years I was never going to be an engineer, a scientist, a bomb tech or a builder of anything. I was never good at creating, building or figuring out how or why “things” work. Sadly, through the years, that truth has not changed.
Fortunately, in those teen years I found my calling in life, one that stirred a passion in me and allowed me to embrace my love of people. I became an Office Manager. A manager of people and everything they need to get their work done. I know what you’re thinking…”An Office Manager? That’s your calling???” Hey…we each have our gifts and calling! Taking care of people by handling all of those tiny but critical details and making everything work together behind the scenes is like being a conductor on the Philharmonic stage. It’s a job that is mostly done in quiet and, if done right, is invisible to the audience. The only time others notice is when something goes wrong, like when the cymbalist is off on his timing or the drummer loses his sticks.
I began my career managing a large hotel and then spent 30 years after that managing law firms. I enjoyed the scale of it, the variety of people, and knowing everything there was to know about these giant industries. I would never have thought that I – at 61 years old – would end up as the Office Manager of a tech startup. “WTH???” I thought. “How and why did I land here when I know nothing about tech???”
I shared my truth with the founders of Modbot during my phone interview. I said that in the tech startup world I am considered a dinosaur since I am over 30 – and I mean I’m WAY OVER – and although I am an expert Office Manager I am not an Engineer or a coder. “So if you expect me to ever put a robot together or take one apart, you should fire me now!” We all laughed, but little did they know…I was serious as hell! Little did I know…they thought that I was the perfect fit for the job.
When I started working for Modbot, all I could think was “man these robots are sexy!” They were an understated smokey grey color with a satin finish with shiny connectors that shimmered when the robot moved. They were like one of those muscle cars from the 70’s that looked fly as hell but also had some serious power under the hood. And the way they moved was so smooth, quiet, efficient, and precise… I named one “Smooth Operator” after the Sade song because that’s what it reminded me of. I was in awe.
My family didn’t know what to think when I came home talking excitedly about all of this. “What alien has taken over Vivian??” they kept asking. But it wasn’t an alien; I had been bitten by the tech bug!
I embraced my newfound love of robotics and dove headfirst into learning about the market. I was blown away by how useful robots could be in any industry, even in the seemingly unrelated industries that I had worked in my entire life. All of a sudden, my office manager brain went into problem resolution mode! I started thinking about every project I have ever worked on, trying to figure out how a robot could help. I discovered that robots can help employees work more efficiently and effectively by aiding them in their tasks, they can improve internal processes, and they can help businesses reduce their spending. This seemed like an obvious solution to the labor shortage that our world is currently experiencing, so I looked deeper into it.
I found that there are so many jobs – many being manual labor – that people just don’t want to do anymore. They are either tedious, dangerous, or people have just aged out of being able to do them. The labor shortage will continue to get worse when my fellow baby boomers (who make up ⅓ of the workforce) retire. Industries that are already heavily affected are construction and manufacturing, including all of the trades such as plumbing, sanding, drywall, and electrical. The food and beverage industry and the farming industry are also suffering, due to a shortage of growers, pickers, cooks, servers and food delivery personnel. Health Care is another massively affected industry. There is a significant shortage of nurses, home health care aides, and doctors all at a time when these services are needed to accommodate the seismic shifts coming with the aging of the baby boomers.
There are so many things that robots can do to alleviate the coming tsunami of changes affecting world-wide industries that trickle down to affect each of us as a result. For the first time in my life I feel like yelling Homer Simpson’s line “I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords!” because I’ve come to realize in my one year of working at Modbot that the world has a serious need for robots to do all the work that people can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do.
This Martian Office Manager will be building a robot from one of our Modbot Robot Kits within the next 2 weeks and using our software to make that bad boy do what I want. Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?? And believe me, if I can do it, so can you! WOOF-WOOF!