A day in the life: Aardra

Meet Aardra Kannan Ambili, CTO at RIoT Solutions. One of the first to come in and last to leave, her day appears to be a collage of hardware, software, people, vendors and production. We caught up with her to see what her day’s like! 

6am

Wake up and head to the gym where I spend an hour on the treadmill in preparation for my first half-marathon.

7am

Back home. A cup of coffee and a breakfast of oatmeal!  

I know my Inbox is already filling up. I can almost hear the hum of the mails arriving, the messages on my phone, on Slack. These days, now that we’ve started shipping raybaby, it’s almost like preparing for war every morning. I got to get my thick skin on!

I walk to work. One of the best things about staying close to the office is the daily walk up and down; at least commute is one stress I don’t have to worry about!

9.30am

I scroll through my Inbox. At the moment, customer emails take precedence over everything else. Where are the bugs and how can we resolve them quickly is priority. I check with the Customer Support team and go over the mails that have very specific tech problems. Today, there’s trouble brewing with the iOS app and we get into it quickly. I take these to my app and backend team and we go over all the things we need to do.

10.00am

Production calls! This is the most painful part of my job. raybaby needs about 130 electronic parts from capacitors and resistors to camera, speakers, sensors. There are parts that need fabricating, parts that need sourcing and vendors are not the easiest people to deal with. I sit with my Purchase Manager. To ramp up production, we are adding a second factory and looking for a third. There are teething issues but it seems under control. A lot of training goes in at the factories – we do 200% testing, at the PCB level and after the assembly. Today, we talk about the looming problem of the global shortage of MLCC capacitors. The latest is that there’s going to be a 52 weeks-lead time! We need to stock up but it’s a very heavy investment. I return to my laptop and mail our advisors and investors. The only way we can avoid hitting a roadblock is to find someone in the business and has a stock of MLCC capacitors they no longer need. Thank god for our investors – they are absolutely supportive and resourceful!

Mid-morning

I do a quick catch up with the hardware team. They’ve had an incredibly busy year and at this point, looking at improvements to the hardware. Not much for me there today.   

I get on a call with our Product Manager – her 5-month old naps around now and her 3 year old is at playschool, so I get a whole hour with her. I fill her in on feedback from customers on the app, and we talk about how to improve the customer experience.

I get off the call to more production hassles. One shipment that was expected hasn’t arrived. I call the vendor who just says, “I found a problem in them so we are redoing it. I didn’t ship it!”

“Why wasn’t I informed?” I asked. He mumbles something – he knows we need them and can’t afford to antagonise them!

I return to look at the production plan and how this will set back the time lines. Very, very worrying. I make a note to call him everyday until we receive the shipment!

Lunch

Working lunch. Two tables away, Ranjana, co-founder and CEO is also eating at her desk. We exchange news about the Kerala floods – both of us come from there and our families live there. So it’s a very distressing time for us. We feel helpless reading about the extent of damage. The team has gotten together to collect supplies over the weekend and we’ve dropped them off with the relief workers.

I read the email from the AI researcher who’s assisting me for a paper I am working on. This is my favorite part of the day – to forget about everything and focus on the tech – Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing were my subjects and I hope to return to them someday but now, AI and all its possibilities excites me! More emails exchanged with her! It means I’ll make more progress on my paper this weekend.   

2.00pm

At the hospital where clinical trials for raybaby are underway. I meet the neonatologist and I spend some time watching all the work that’s going on. It’s quite obvious that we are monitoring one of the most important vitals – respiration rate, and with a product that’s completely safe and completely non-contact. In the hospital’s NICU, I can actually see how it can transform medical care. Imagine not having to attach more wires on a newborn or a premie to monitor their breathing! All the hard work is well worth it!

4.30pm

Back at the office. Make myself a large mug of coffee and read the daily email on news from the Quartz.

Then it’s time to catch up with my AI & DSP team. They are the oldest team at raybaby and are now working on our next product, this time for seniors! They are busy with data collection and creating the AI algorithms. Today, we are looking all the naptime data and analyzing it. Do baby boys nap longer than baby girls is a question that’s come up. We are also looking at how the baby’s weight affects how they breathe. This is my favorite part of development and we spend a lot of time with the data. Some of the customers who’ve started using raybaby are asking if they can create custom nap cycles, so the work’s only just begun.

6pm

Everyone’s winding down for the day. I’m still replying to mails – we have customers, vendors, investors across cities, countries, time zones!

There’s another customer query – why haven’t we shipped to them yet, I’m asked! “Try and explain why,” I tell my colleague in Customer Support. “And if they can’t wait any longer, apologize and offer a refund,” I add, too exhausted to go back and forth. The customer writes back immediately: “I don’t want a refund, I want raybaby!” 

That’s all it takes to make my day – one email that’s encouraging and understanding of this innovative product we have put two years into.

I catch up with Ranjana – we exchange notes on the day’s developments. We talk about how far we’ve come from having an idea for raybaby and taking it to investors. Ranjana’s been meeting investors for the next round and we can do pitches in our sleep now! We talk about our first pitch, that call from HAX, the first day of Kickstarter… of having a company that employs a team of 25…of knowing that there are homes now where raybaby is on the job!

7:30pm

I call it a day. There was a time when I found it hard to stop but now I know that I need to get some rest and sleep to be more productive. I walk back home, listening to Kyla La Grange’s Ashes! She’s a regular on my playlist now, along with Maggie Rogers’ Zoya.

Back home,

Over dinner, I FaceTime with my folks – my father and I talk shop but my mom and I catch up on news about my brother and the dogs and what I ate and if I’m taking care of myself. Our German Shepherd, Meenu, comes on the screen and I talk to her – it’s the next best thing to actually having her around! By 10pm, it’s lights out. Tomorrow’s going to be another busy day at raybaby!

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