Women in Robotics

In this blog, we’ve interviewed Ivy Vasquez Sandoval, Lisa O'Briant, and Lydia Unterreiner to understand their journey into the robotics space and what they do at Plus One Robotics. By highlighting their stories, we hope to give more visibility to women in robotics to encourage more girls and women to enter into STEM careers.

Ivy Vasquez Sandoval - Developer, Robotics in Product

What do you do at POR and how long have you worked here?

I have worked at POR for a little over a year in multiple different capacities. I started as an intern for Perception, where I had the opportunity to implement tests for the vision side of our software. From there, I became an SDET for QA, where I refactored the entire automated testing suite for our web application, Yonder. Later, I interviewed and successfully landed the role of Robotic Software Engineer in Perception, where I worked on multi-picking problems and led a small team to productize our preliminary AI Segmentation implementation. After some time in that role, it was decided that I could best be utilized in Autonomy, which was essentially our R&D department. There, I worked on projects such as proving that the Single-Annotation Paradigm approach to training AI models works and generated results for talks at The Vision Show and ProMat. Lastly, I was selected to transfer to the hand-picked Induction team working on POR's next big project since our original Induction system.

What led you to your career in robotics?

I have always been fascinated by science fiction, where anything is possible through human ingenuity and imagination applied to technology. From Terminators and Blade Runner's replicants to the dystopian empire of the Star Wars universe, I was never scared away from imagining a future where technology could be used for the betterment of mankind. Robotics and automation play a huge part in relieving humanity from menial and back-breaking work, allowing us to pursue careers that fill us with value and purpose while keeping our bodies healthy.

I first heard of POR through a program called Students + Startups. Although I was initially disappointed to learn that the intern position had been filled just before the event, the exposure I got to the company was an invaluable experience. It solidified my belief that I was meant for a career in robotics. Later on, I had another opportunity to speak with POR at a career day event at UTSA. To my surprise, POR was one of the companies represented there, and I ended up having a great conversation with Shaun Edwards about internship opportunities.  The rest, as they say, is history.


What do you like most about working in the robotics space?

What I like most about working in the robotics space is the constant opportunity to innovate and push boundaries. Every day, there are new challenges to solve and new technologies to explore. It's incredibly rewarding to see our work directly impacting people's lives, whether it's by making their jobs easier or improving their quality of life. There's also a great sense of camaraderie and collaboration in the robotics industry. We're all working towards a common goal of creating a better future, and it's inspiring to be a part of that community.

Lisa O’Briant - Project Manager II in Marketing

What do you do at POR and how long have you worked here?

Currently, I am a Project Manager in our Marketing team. That entails a variety of things, including managing our trade show program both domestic and abroad, our Customer Experience Centers in the US and EU, and managing demo projects at client and integrator sites. I’ve worked at Plus One for 4.5 years.

What led you to your career in robotics?

Opportunity is what led to my career in robotics. While I never ruled out a career in robotics, it’s not an industry I was ever introduced to before. Like many people, I had jumped from one career and/or industry to another either because a better opportunity presented itself, or in an effort to find a better fit for myself.  

Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of experience across different business sectors and internal departments: I started as an intern supporting attorneys in the Municipal Court system; I spent seven years at The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce where I supported economic development initiatives on behalf of business, while working with government and military representatives; I left to pursue a career in HR with a small family-run business where I helped grow their efforts from one office in Texas to multiple offices in two states; I then moved on to a non-profit lender that specifically supported entrepreneurs, where I was given nothing more than a budget and the autonomy to stand-up the first co-working space for the organization—I felt like I was starting my own small business in a lot of ways.  I started by managing building contractors on a daily basis; I was creating my own flyers, ad campaigns, and social media pages; I worked with attorneys to establish our contracts and insurance requirements; I became more involved in the local entrepreneurship scene for recruitment and started to fill up the space; I created secondary sources of revenue by bringing in local artists and food trucks; and I started hosting social events and entrepreneurship themed trainings.  

After a year, I took on a co-working space as well and was splitting my time between the two locations with the support of a small team of two. All this to say—I WORE A LOT OF HATS! I loved the variety, autonomy, and serving what I considered to be my clients. I met Plus One during this time and they became a tenant of mine. They had nine people, one robot, and they were the coolest client in my portfolio. Even after they outgrew my space, we kept in touch and on occasion worked out ancillary co-working space deals as necessary. Plus One had often talked about recruiting me, and when they learned I had HR experience with a certification that made me a more valuable candidate. HR was not a career I ever planned to return to, but I wouldn’t have been brought to the table without that skillset under my belt.  

Funny how experiences from our past matter in different ways at different points later in life. I agreed to work for Plus One after sharing with them that my goal was to officially become a Project Manager, and they agreed to support me with that goal if I supported them with their immediate HR needs. I was brought on as the company’s first HR Director and Office Manager (employee #16) where I established a lot of processes and documentation to keep our growing company safe and compliant, and preserve the board’s confidence in us. After 1.5 years, Plus One made good on their promise and I made the transition while also earning my PMP. Similar to the co-working spaces, I have a lot of variety and autonomy in my job, and I enjoy serving our clients.

What do you like most about working in the robotics space?

There’s a ton of things I like about working in this robotics space. I like the start-up feel in an up-and-coming industry— pervasive optimism around exponential potential.  This robotics space is where Silicon Valley’s leading-edge technology meets the manufacturing muscle of the Midwest, white collar meets blue collar, new meets old—I think it’s just so cool. And lastly, as someone who did not eagerly embrace automation prior to meeting Plus One, I think the business case for automation in logistics is fascinating, and it’s exciting to be a part of this while watching the rest of the world make this realization as well.

Lydia Unterreiner - Customer Service Engineer

What do you do at POR and how long have you worked here?

I have worked at Plus One for almost two years now. For the first nine months, I worked as a contractor until I was hired full-time. Currently, I am a support engineer on the Technical Operations Team. In this role, I'm mostly running diagnostics and troubleshooting any system (software or hardware) issues that may pop up in the field at a customer site.

What led you to your career in robotics?

I wouldn't say I chose robotics, more like I fell into it. I graduated from UTSA with a BBA focused in cyber and information systems. I learned a lot of cool things about computers, security systems, diagnosing security breaches, and how to take preventative measures. It's an industry that is taken more seriously now which is great to see given the financial repercussions that come with security breaches. I also learned how to manage my own finances much better since the degree was through the school of business.

Before graduating I was working full-time as a waitress at Tycoon Flats down on Saint Mary's. Being a waitress was a great experience and allowed me the flexibility I needed to attend school while earning just enough to pay the bills. As I reached my sixth year in the industry, I was ready for a new challenge and started putting out applications for work more closely related to the industry I was studying.

Two weeks later Gabe Garza reached out to me, at the time he was the CEO of Reckon Point Inc, an engineering firm. I was honest and told him I knew nothing but that I was willing to learn. Gabe and I subsquently joined the Plus One team, and the rest is history. Four years later and I'm more in love with the robotics industry than ever, and am in the process of completing a second degree, a bachelor’s in computer science, to fill in the gaps of lacking foundational knowledge. I've met amazing people along the way and am excited for what the future holds.

What do you like most about working in the robotics space?

This is a field where you never stop learning. Whether it be on your own or from others. There are so many unique challenges that arise in this industry because it is so new and evolving. It makes problem-solving more daunting but equally exciting.

I also love hearing all the different opinions and thought processes from other professionals in the industry. Plus One has many employees who have been in the robotics space a long time, and it’s great to be able to take advantage of that on a daily basis. And lastly, I really enjoy learning how things work "under the hood," and this is an industry where I get to do that every day.