Meet Chen Guo, Fledging’s Head of Research and Development.
Beijing native. Ohio transplant and Buckeye for life. Wizard with electrical systems. Connoisseur of all things Product. Take a few minutes and get to know Chen Guo.
Tell us a little about who you are
I became interested in electrical engineering when I was ten years old, because of my uncle. My family was living in Beijing at the time. We relocated to Ohio when I was in high school, and I decided to attend The Ohio State University to study electrical engineering. After that, I studied EE again at Georgia Tech where I narrowed my interest to electric cars. I went to work for General Motors after that to work on electrical propulsion systems. I stayed there for about three and a half years.
Personally, I really enjoy products and product development, bringing them to production and seeing how customers like them.
I love using products. I love well built, well designed products that just bring joy.
What’s your favorite product right now?
Definitely the Nintendo Switch. There’s so much joy out of that console. I love the way it can be a gaming console on the go while also being a gaming console in the living room projected to a TV.
What are products that frustrate you?
Doors in buildings. It’s the simplest example. You see doors where you push them but they have a handle making you think you should pull them. I get frustrated by design like that. A door is supposed to work intuitively. If you’re supposed to push it then there should be nothing, maybe just a metal plate to push on. I really dislike products that confuse people. I hate bad design but those products are amazingly everywhere.
What were the most interesting things you learned while building electrical propulsion systems at GM?
I learned how hard it is to bring a car into mass production and how a product is brought to production by thousands of people working at the same time.
I brought over the Change Log concept from GM to Fledging because it’s impossible to manage these changes without a change management process with very specific documentation. A good example is when I was at GM, someone else changed the interface that my component connected to without telling me. We almost went to production with that mistake. I caught that mistake in the pre-production vehicles and then it became a whole debacle about how to make the change to my component to account for the mistake they had made.
Why did you leave GM for Fledging?
I like the freedom here at Fledging in terms of work schedules and work projects. I have more control over what I do. At GM, I’m one of 3000. Here I’m one of ten, so I can have more influence today at Fledging based on what I know.
What does the Head of R&D play at a growing hardware startup?
It’s very abstract. R&D can be as simple as using the latest gadgets and coming up with new ideas for the next few years, or it can involve searching through hundreds of tech reviews and academic papers on technology trends. That translates to keeping up with a very quickly changing industry. I have to figure out what people want and what people hate, ideally before they even know.
You’re headed to Shenzhen on assignment for Fledging. Why?
Shenzhen is the hardware capital of the world. Fledging is a small team. We need to continue developing our supply chain relationships in Shenzhen and get closer to a bigger population of people who are interested in developing the best possible products over the next few years.
What’s the most interesting thing about working at Fledging?
We can literally point our finger at anybody, tell them they made a mistake and that you think they didn’t do a good job, and our culture supports sharing that kind of feedback and learning from it. It’s not hostile at all. We just want to be better.
What’s the most challenging thing about working at Fledging?
The intensity. We’re challenged from so many different angles, small to big, but they all come to us at the same time. It’s really a huge challenge to our time management and priority management skills.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I like to cook weird food. It can be anything from some kind of weird Asian cuisine or something that I learned on YouTube. I like to mix all the leftovers with flavor and grace.
Want to learn more about Chen, R&D, Product, or Fledging? Ask them at [email protected]
Interested in joining the team?