Meet the Maker: Mike Fair

This blog post was originally published on 5/7/18 and has now been updated to include additional information about collaborative robots, or cobots, and how they differ from traditional, industrial manufacturing robots. So, give this podcast from Today’s Machining World with our own Mike Fair a listen and then dig into the Q&A below.

A collaborative robot from Rethink Robotics is designed with a personality in order to be more approachable than traditional, industrial robots.

How would you describe your role as a Product Manager?

At Rethink, Product Managers (or PM) are responsible for our products strategy and vision, roadmap development, feature definition, positioning and messaging, and competitive differentiation. The role involves working with cross-functional teams including engineering, marketing, sales, and support.

The PM team is passionate about customers and the specific problems they’re trying to solve. To build the best possible product, product managers advocate for customers within the organization and make sure their voice is heard. It’s all about solving customer problems and understanding the buyer to build a product that resonates in the market.

Mike Fair, Product Manager at Rethink Robotics

I hear you initially didn’t have a background in robotics or software. What sparked your interest and really, how easy is it to train one of our cobots?

I am definitely not a software guy and haven’t written a line of code. I have a mechanical engineering background. I have always been fascinated by technology and the products that surround us that make our lives easier and more productive.

My interest in robots started like most people, with the “Whoa, that’s cool!” and then got into the industry and quickly developed a passion for the solutions robots provide to help make humans lives better. Prior to Rethink, I worked at iRobot where I got my first experience working with packing robots like the PackBot, a defense and security UGV (unmanned ground vehicle).

Mike Fair with a PackBot

Sawyer is different — it is so easy to use. Our team has done a terrific job creating a user interface for an industrial robot that helps give non-robot programmers, like myself, the ability to deploy a robot in a manufacturing task.   

Mike Fair in Costa RicaFor past roles at previous companies and at Rethink Robotics, you have traveled a lot to support customers, provide technical assistance, conduct training, and perform product demonstrations. Would you say you’re a world traveler? What was one of your favorite places you’ve traveled to and why?

Yes indeed! My favorite place?  Wow, that’s a hard question to answer. I’ve been to so many amazing places it is hard to choose one favorite: whether it was standing on top of the world at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, eating a crepe under the Eiffel tower, walking along the Great Wall, being flooded by a herd of monkeys during breakfast in Costa Rica, going for a float in the Dead Sea, or sleeping on a rock in the middle of Wadi Rum in the Jordanian desert….it’s all been an awesome adventure.

Want more details on Mike’s role at Rethink or his travels around the globe? Catch up with him over on Twitter and LinkedIn! And then check out the rest of the Rethink blog here.



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