The Swiss Institute of Technology at EPFL ranks in the Top 15 of tech institutes alongside MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Caltech, Cambridge, Oxford, ETH, and NTU. I’m excited to join this highly innovative and dynamic campus. The leadership position I’m taking on at EFPL is a newly created one that combines two equally engaging roles. I’ll get to focus on innovation, entrepreneurship, and robotics. More on my LinkedIn.
I’m thrilled to join this prominent university given how life-changing my past campus experience has been. I’ve had the honor and privilege of studying at Stanford, Columbia, UC Berkeley, and The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy. I’ve also been a fellow at MIT Solve and, in 2007-2009, co-founded/directed a new program at Harvard on next-generation humanitarian technologies. I’ve been working in Humanitarian Tech and Social Innovation ever since.
Today, robotics and autonomous systems powered by breakthroughs in AI stand to play an increasingly important role in society (understatement). At EFPL, I’ll double down on open innovation and next-generation robotics to help direct their positive impact in society. I’ll work with professors, entrepreneurs and post-docs in multiple fields and programs across EFPL and Switzerland. I’m also excited to help drive cross-sector collaboration, and learn from, support, and promote some of the leading research labs in the world. Indeed, Switzerland is home to numerous world-class robotics labs, not to mention a thriving robotics startup scene.
What’s more, I’ll get to co-create and launch a robotics association at a national scale with critical stakeholders in government, industry, academia, and the social impact sector. With an economy ranked as the most innovative in the world, this role is guaranteed to be an exciting, challenging, and instructive experience, with many insights to come; insights that may also be of value to colleagues in the drones and robotics ecosystems in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central America, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. I’ll certainly be reaching out to them for their insights. So I’m pleased that my new role includes international outreach.
Enabling and accelerating local and national-level impact in the robotics space was a high priority of mine as Co-Founder and Executive Director of WeRobotics for 7+ years. With my former colleagues, I had the privilege of co-creating and enabling new robotics hubs in 40 countries with hundreds of entrepreneurs and changemakers and key partners in the Swiss and global robotics industry. This unique network of locally-led knowledge hubs, called Flying Labs, will always be one of my proudest (collective!) achievements.
So, after working internationally for years, it’s time for me to work more locally: in the Swiss robotics ecosystem. Clearly, this ecosystem is an important enabler for the social impact sector globally as evidenced by the positive impact of Flying Labs worldwide.
I’ll also help to develop EPFL’s Masters and Ph.D. Program in Robotics, and may even get to teach again. I’d be keen to give talks on ethics and robotics and how to enable diversity, equity, and inclusion in the application of robotics in society, for example. So I’m thrilled that one of our upcoming experts’ meeting will focus on how tech and robotics can meet the needs and challenges of the blind and visually impaired.
Per the job description, this new leadership position at the Swiss Institute of Technology also requires the ability to translate to various audiences, which is a passion of mine and many translational leaders. What’s more, the role calls for significant autonomy. I’m at my best when given generous amounts of autonomy in dynamic, multidisciplinary and rapid-learning environments.
In closing, three fun facts:
- The majority of the 20+ engineers in the WeRobotics Engineering Team were EPFL graduates, including WeRobotics’ former Head of Engineering.
- EPFL colleagues and I are organizing an experts’ meeting in Bern focused on medical cargo drones, one of the critical areas I led at WeRobotics. Bern was also where WeRobotics’ Engineering Lab was based.
- I co-organized and ran the first-ever international conference on medical cargo drones back in 2016 and just celebrated this joint accomplishment in critical cargo drone logistics.
I like it when life works out this way and unexpected threads of continuity, connectedness, and meaning weave together. There’s lots of good work to be done at EPFL, with some major new developments in the pipeline that will become public later this year. More importantly, EPFL’s core values resonate deeply with me: Equality and Diversity, Respect and Sustainability. So I’m excited to shift gears and call this world-class university my new home.