Scott Nelson is the CTO of Logic PD, a Minneapolis product design and development firm focused on IoT and digital health.
How long have you been working in technology for and what is your background?
I have worked in technology for 25 years in both R&D and product development. I am a solid state physicist by training but have worked as a systems person during most of my development years. For the past 15 years or so I have worked as both a business leader and technology leader.
What are you focused on right now?
As an organization, we are focused on helping our customers create value with connected solutions and added revenue opportunities. My role in that is to help our customers develop and leverage the right technology to support that focus from sensors and cloud solutions to the end application.
What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?
As a product development company and more recently an IoT system integrator and developer Logic PD works across a broad range of technologies. We are working with a lot of sensors and networks, primarily wireless, recently. We are applying software technologies in the form of everything from data protocols, to APIs, to cloud solution deployment and operation. However, most of our focus is on creating “value is at the edges”. This means we focus at the beginning where the sensor connects to the real world subject of the application and then at the end or user experience level where that data becomes valuable, actionable information or instruction.
How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?
As a complete product lifecycle company we are fully integrated across all functions of our business. This is key to what makes us unique in the market and helps us ensure that at every stage of development we are meeting our goals and objectives to set our customers up for success. We do not succeed unless our customers do.
What is the size of your department (headcount) and how is it organized/managed?
We are a matrixed organization with over 75 engineers across multiple disciplines including electrical, software, mechanical, and systems. This structure allows us to use our resources efficiently and better coordinate projects across all functional departments from design through engineering, account and program management, manufacturing, aftermarket support, and connected device management.
How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions in an increasingly competitive market?
This is a good question and one that should almost be a trade secret these days. Logic PD’s approach to recruiting is finding the best and the brightest team and this is led by networking through our existing staff and augmented with professional recruiting agencies. We recruit at local universities and are stepping up our efforts in that regard over a wider range.
Our advantage in recruiting is that we are a fast-paced, many project organization. Engineers and designers who come work for Logic PD have the opportunity to work on a lot of different technologies and many different products. We never suffer boredom working on the same thing too long. We also stay at the leading edge of technology deployment because we are always working on new products for our customers.
How do you personally keep up with the ever changing technology landscape?
I stay close to the team working on projects here at Logic PD and I read a lot. I am on the advisory boards of five companies, four of them startups, and this keeps me fresh on both the technology and its use. I am also a mentor in a Silicon Valley accelerator called Alchemist and attend a series of networking events called the Influencer Series. Finally, I do a lot of blogging and speaking which creates continuous dialogue with others working in the space. That dialogue is great for learning fast and keeping up.
What excites you about where technology is heading?
The IoT is very exciting. I actually first worked on offerings that would today be called IoT back in the early 1990s. But today the technology and the Internet ecosystem makes the application much more cost effective and easy to deploy. As such, I am very excited about digital health and worker productivity. Not worker replacement, although robotics is very interesting, but actual productivity improvement through better knowledge access and faster training. I believe these things are going dramatically change our world and our economy.
What concerns you about where technology is heading?
The abstraction. Very complicated offerings are being abstracted to a level where developing new things, valuable things, is easy but not vertically understood. For example, I learned to program machines in binary. Today software engineers learn to program in things like Groovy and create highly valuable analytics with tools like Hadoop. This is great, but there is so much technology underneath the value proposition that I sometimes worry that we could forget how to build things from the ground up.
Economically, technology is leveling the playing field for underdeveloped and underprivileged countries for maybe the first time. In the world of IoT, wired infrastructure can actually be a burden so we are seeing creative digital solutions deployed much earlier and more rapidly than expected in less developed countries.
What are you into outside of technology?
Everything starts with family. We just welcomed our first grandchild, a grandson. After family I like to make and build things. I build furniture. I bake artisan bread. I love to fly fish and tie flies. I do triathlons in the summer, run and cross country ski in the winter. This year I will get back to ice fishing at our new cabin.
What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry?
Our tech industry has great roots. We can trace back to companies like Honeywell, Medtronic, 3M, Control Data, Cray, and General Mills. But we are slow and tentative compared to Silicon Valley.
The aggressive use of investment and confidence in the technology culture out there is intimidating. I mentor twenty-something CEO’s and while my business experience is helpful to them, the speed and confidence with which they move within the ecosystem is amazing. We have great entrepreneurs and startups here, but it is not the same. We are doing a lot of things to get better, but in my experience we have a ways to go.