Profiles in Design: Al Eisaian
I first heard of Al Eisaian accidentally, actually. I was watching a TED Talk, and when it was over, Al’s began automatically. Within seconds, I had dropped what I was doing and listened intently to his story. Al’s tale is one of enthusiasm, open-mindedness, gutsy determination, and innovation. Many times companies claim a commitment to innovation, but what they really want to do is innovate new ways to make money. Oftentimes, for those doing the work, that is hardly inspiring. Al has a clear idea of what encourages innovation and where we can find opportunities, so I asked him to join us at DesignCon 2016 to share his ideas.
Every year, in the spring, I meet in person with the DesignCon Technical Program Committee to talk about what we want the next DesignCon to look like. This past spring, I had several members come up to me and say, “Find us someone who can talk about innovation – from an engineer’s standpoint.” Enter Al Eisaian, our opening keynote speaker on Tuesday January 19.
Al’s career began as a hardware test engineer. Today, he is the co-founder and CEO of IntelinAir, Inc. an aerial information analytics company. This is actually the fifth company that Al has co-founded. Previously he was the co-founder and CEO of IconApps, Inc. a mobile analytics company that was acquired by Science, Inc. in 2014. Prior to IconApps, Al was the global head of product for Opera Solutions, a data analytics and insights company. From 2005-2010 Al was executive chairman, co-founder and CEO of Integrien Corporation, a leading provider of performance management analytics software, which was acquired by VMware. And before that, he co-founded CreationPoint Systems. Al earned an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University with emphasis on entrepreneurship and ethics and a BSEE from Oklahoma State University, and he did some work towards an MSEE focused on digital signal processing.
Al agreed to talk to me before DesignCon to share some of his thoughts on innovation.
EDN: How did you get into engineering?
Al Eisaian: I always had a love for mathematics and in how things worked. It was never a question of what I would major in.
EDN: What has surprised you over the years in terms of technology?
Eisaian: The simultaneous advances in the complexity within, and the simplicity and user-friendliness on the outside. And, of course, the explosion and convergence of exponential technologies driving towards singularity!
EDN: What did you think we’d be able to do now that we still can’t?
Eisaian: I thought we would have leveraged technology to solve a lot of our global problems such as hunger, poverty, wars, etc. by now.
EDN: Can you give us a preview of what you will be talking about at your DesignCon keynote?
Eisaian:When all the technical parts of creation are in place (and accessible and affordable) what are the "missing pieces” of creating exciting new products, projects and companies?
EDN: What are the biggest misconceptions about inspiring innovation?/How do companies and individuals most commonly bungle it?
Eisaian: The biggest misconception that I have witnessed about inspiring innovation is assign a highly-paid “head” of innovation as the starting point. The starting point has to be a culture of celebrating innovation. We need to publicly celebrate not only innovation achievements but also failures, so people can see in tangible ways that the organization is encouraging experimentation and that failure is an option but fear of trying is NOT an option!
EDN: What’s next for you/the industry?
Eisaian: I am building IntelinAir for the foreseeable future and very excited by it. As for the industry I am in, we are very early in the cycle of how to use drones for good in commercial applications. It is an explosive and exponential market.
EDN: Any advice for new engineers?
- KEEP TINKERING!
- Speak up early and often!
- Don’t be afraid of failure, be afraid of NOT trying!
- Build a community around you!
- Ask for a meeting from the top 5 executives in your company and really understand the corporate strategy and how you can help.
- Actively schedule time with folks in other departments of your company… get out of the silo-mode…
- Pace yourself
EDN: What do you do to recharge/have fun?
Eisaian:Run/exercise, meditate, spend quality time with family and friends. And get off the grid for a couple of days every 2-3 weeks.
Al’s keynote talk will take place at DesignCon 2016 on Tuesday January 19th at noon. (Advanced discount pricing ends on January 8, 2016.)
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Want to learn more? Attend DesignCon 2016, the premier conference for chip, board, and systems design engineers. Taking place January 19-21, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, DesignCon will feature technical paper sessions, tutorials, industry panels, product demos, and exhibits. Register here.
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