What was your career path to Polycom?
I started off in medical electronics at Stanford, designing implantable integrated circuits. From there I decided to go into semiconductors, where I continued designing integrated circuits but in a more fast paced industry. I was employed at a number of the original, big semiconductor companies.
Eventually, I ended up in strategic marketing. When that company was bought out I moved into consulting, primarily in the area of portable devices. After this, I gravitated towards developing sound cards for the PC on Windows 3.1. My wife and I developed the sound card to give those early personal computer digital audio.
After that I got a job consulting with JetStream, where I helped develop the first Voice over IP (VoIP) telephone system. When that went into production, Polycom was one of the companies interested in using the VoIP system in their phones. This is where I met Jeff Rodman, Co-Founder of Polycom. The company I was working for at the time was later acquired by Polycom. I consulted for Polycom for a few years before joining the team full time in 2003.
What are your main areas of expertise?
My main areas of expertise are in audio and analog circuits, as well as the general area of acoustics and mechanics. Most recently, I used these skills in creating Polycom RealPresence Trio. My favorite device I’ve helped create was the Polycom CX100, a very small audio Skype conferencing device. Both of these devices were a challenge to build because when you are designing a device you are constrained by the size of the device, cost of device and more.
What is the importance of quality audio?
Audio is important because it speeds up the process of communicating versus email or traditional mail and it can be done in real-time. Quality audio is important because when you’re talking to someone, if you can’t hear them clearly then the productivity of the conversation is reduced. It also helps when you’re speaking with someone who has a foreign accent; quality means clearer audio, which is important to help you understand the far-end.
The key is to create a solution whose audio quality lasts throughout the lifetime of the product. Just like the hardware, the software must withstand years of use. Most of our products are still used after ten years.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
I think one of the biggest highlights of my career, as far as product releases, hasn’t happened yet. There is a solution we’re working on that I believe is a significant accomplishment. I also worked on the first Polycom SoundStation VTX1000 conference phone wideband audio non-VoIP phone, which has been a leader in the industry since it was first released.
What inspires your work?
I don’t want to do the same old same old; I want to improve on the basic concept of communication and I like a good challenge. The complexity of hardware plus software, and making those things work together with various size and cost constraints, makes what I do exciting. It can take more than 100 engineers to design a new phone, I like being part of that.
What do you like to do in your free time?
One of my favorite things to do when I’m not working is to do research on things that seem impossible, but are actually close to reality thanks to modern science and technology. One of these things is called cloaking, once considered science fiction, but in reality has been produced in various forms using MetaMaterials. While it has far to go before it is perfected, the science of it fascinates me.
I am also looking into starting a museum focused on communications. The museum will hold communications technologies from the telegraph to the first transistor radio. My hope is that it will inspire kids from grades kindergarten through 12th grade to be interested in technology and engineering by showing them just how simple some of our greatest inventions have been. I have two children and I’d also like them to help with the museum to allow them to socialize with new groups of people, learn more about technology and grow.