lake como, Italy

How I started an Augmented and Virtual Reality group at Tesla

INTRO

What if you could start an augmented and virtual reality department at any company? What if you could start it at your company? What barriers would you face? I stated the AR/VR group at Tesla from the role of a Software Developer. I’ll show you how you can start an Augmented and Virtual Reality department or group at any company from any seat in the business.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN

I’m going to share with you how I started the Augmented and Virtual Reality group at Tesla. Through that, I will show you how you too can start a group exactly as I did at any company from any position.

STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM

In 2015, I had no clue about Augmented and Virtual Reality. In that same year, I started a business that would “disrupt the home services industry”. HA! Damn, I hear people say that too often. I know a few VCs that complain about hearing that too often as well. Stop worrying about “disrupting”… stop using that word. PLEASE. You’re not doing shit if you’re saying that you are “disrupting” anything. Just focus on the fundamentals. Who is your target market, what segments are you serving, what does your business model need to look like to add the most value for your customers, how will you price your offering, and how do you communicate effectively with your target market.

In late 2015, a close friend of mine, Micah Tinklepaugh and I had just finished up some contract work we did on the side for a company called AREA, Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance. Micah had been getting involved with Augmented reality for the previous 4 years and wanted to work together to learn more about the technology and figure out how to use it. It felt exciting, it was like a massive set of waves was heading our way. If you’ve ever been surfing, that’s the whole reason you’re out there on the water past the breakers. You’re waiting for a good set of waves to come in so you can ride. It felt like the tide was coming in quick for AR and VR so I would need to work hard to gather enough momentum for this set – I was going to ride this massive wave. I sold the business I was working on and started paddling hard. I WOULD NOT miss this set. [Note]: If you are considering catching this wave of technology, it’s pretty still early. PADDLE HARD! [End of Note]

DAILY HABITS ADD UP

I taught myself how to program while I was in college. I started teaching myself this skill because I started a small company while in my business classes and I needed a website. As a broke college student just starting a business… I had no cash to pay someone else to do it. I just said fuck it – I’ll do it myself. Every single day I worked on that damn website. Every week I found bigger and more challenging problems to solve with software. I enjoy programming to solve tough business problems, always have.

Aggressively pursuing my daily habits, I coded on the weekends, evenings, and whenever I had a chance. I didn’t stop building the website. I went on to pick up programming jobs here and there so I could be paid while I learned to program. Every day for five years, I programmed, completing coding challenges, taking classes through Udemy, working on my businesses software, and the website. Every second I had an opportunity, I was programming.

This, single, daily habit lead to a number of interesting opportunities including the opportunity to start a business in early 2016 creating Augmented Reality for rLoop, a Hyperloop company that was competing in the first ever, SpaceX Hyperloop Competition. The project we did for rLoop was intended to allow a remote operator using augmented reality to view the logs, position, map, telemetry, and battery statistics while a pod was in flight. Again every day, programming. One of the biggest challenges here for us while building the AR app for Hyperloop, was that there were no good SDKs available for tracking or pinning objects to points in the real world. Software Development Kits for tracking were just then becoming available and being announced. We didn’t use one in any case. We eventually just implemented an interaction for resetting the position of the virtual elements in the real world to solve a minor issue we were having with drift.

Speaking of which, in the beginning, I had a meeting with Ryan Fink, the VP of Business Development at the time at Atheer, his question for me was, “how are you dealing with drift? …” I had no fucking clue what he was talking about, so I had to ask, “What is that? What is Drift?”. It came about that they couldn’t find any other company or SDK dealing with drift very well either so they too had created their own solution for their projects as well.

That reminds me of another time I had to ask for the definition of a simple thing I didn’t know about. I was on the phone one day with David Oh, Head of Games and Developer Relations at LEAP motion, and he brought up a word that I hadn’t heard used in the context of AR or VR before, “Reticle”. I didn’t know the term but we were using a reticle in our own application for rLoop to provide a method of interaction. When he referred to the one we were using in our app, I didn’t know the term so again I had to ask, “What is a reticle?”. [Note]: Never be scared to ask questions. Never be afraid to do something you don’t know how to do. No one will ever tell you that you have reached a certain level and that you’re ready to go on to do something big.[End of Note]

During the hyperloop AR interface project, I learned that rLoop needed help with their ground station. The ground station was a tool that was required for the team to actually enter the competition. They would use it for safety tests, to control the pod remotely, and receive all of the values remotely from the pod while in flight. Coincidentally, the ground station would also be the one to relay data to the AR interface we built. I chose to help them with it. Eventually, we, on the software team, were running 24 hour long sprints. The software team consisted of people living in Australia, Sweden, London, and the US. We had people writing code around the clock. The application was always being worked on, 24 hours a day. I eventually had the opportunity to operate as the software team lead but it only lasted a few months because I was still running my business and I had started a new job at Tesla. I needed to focus on just a few things and do them well, so I left that role.

OVERTHINKING

I almost didn’t start the AR/VR group at Tesla, because I would sike myself out by thinking about what could go wrong and what others might think of me. I was afraid of what people might say. Was I overstepping my bounds? Was I good enough? Would people doubt the success of a group like this? What if I fail?! Well… Fuck ‘em.

Overthinking about the shit that scares you will kill your dreams. The way I put those fears to rest is two parts. First, is that when I think about the parts that scare me, I turn that around and think about the things that excited me. “Turn your excuses into reasons.” This comes from a daily habit I have. Every day, I read my goals aloud. My goals include some self-affirming parts as well. Shit like, “I am confident as hell”, “I am excited to fail to get what I want in life”, and “I achieve this through emotional exercise and by doing things I am afraid to do”. When you have this kind of information penetrating and molding your subconscious like I have daily, your mindset changes. These positive thoughts start coming about when you are feeling the opposite of what your mind believes is the truth. The information your subconscious is exposed to on a regular basis will mold your thinking and your future over time. The second part that pushed me along while I was afraid and overthinking was accountability. I’ll go over that in a minute.

TAKING ACTION

I just started doing shit. Talking to people, asking questions, putting together marketing, organizing, planning, and executing meetings and projects. Through asking questions I found ways to add value, massive value. I listened to how people were feeling about the challenges they were facing. I engaged various departments around the company to see if a solution we were considering would also be helpful to them as well. By being available and allowing people to know what I was working on, others now realized the resource they had available to them. They started connecting with me directly through various forums and asking me questions and volunteering information. Some people wanted to be apart of the founding team. Others wanted their problems fixed by this brilliant team I was building within the company.

One of the most valuable piece of information I gained through the connections I was making at Tesla came from a colleague of mine, one of Tesla’s Sr. Council. He agreed with my sentiment that augmented and virtual reality must become a key internal strength for our company. His position on it was that he had seen companies outside of Tesla neglect to implement a certain technology which eventually became a key business advantage for their competition. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars early on to become competent in the advancements, they ended up spending millions of dollars to catch up later. He and I both would work our asses off to position Tesla well with respect to the successful implementation of enterprise augmented and virtual reality.

WORK HARD

Doing everything, at first on my own, was difficult while maintaining my regular full-time responsibilities. It was hard, tiring, and exhilarating all at the same time. I put together regular meetings for the group I was building, which over just a few short months became larger than 90 people. put together stakeholder meetings and client meetings. I put together meetings with external 3rd party companies for strategic relationships. On top of this, I was still running my business outside of Tesla, doing public speaking engagements, and working my full-time role there as a software developer. There was no way I would do all of that on my own for the long pull. I looked within the team we had and identified the key performers who were constantly contributing to the meetings, conversations, and projects we were building. There were three or four that met the criteria I was looking for. One previously from Atheer who had worked in AR for the previous four years, a Navy nuke guy from Tesla Solar whom I worked the most with, and another dedicated AR designer/developer from Tesla’s autopilot team, she was previously a part of the Google Daydream team. I’m not going to mention their names here to protect their privacy, although they each deserve a ton of gratitude because they were massive contributors to the success of the group.

ACCOUNTABILITY

I became accountable to my boss, my peers, and the people in the group because they all knew what I was doing. My boss one time said there was absolutely no value in what I was doing. Fuck him for saying that. If you’re listening to this right now, this is lasting value. If you ever have someone feeding you some bullshit like that, tell them to go fuck themselves. They have limited to no vision and they are selfish, miserable, pieces of shit. You gotta forget about what they say and keep looking forward because you control your future and you understand the lasting value you are building. YOU HAVE VISION.

The idea to take away here is that you need to tell everyone about what you are working on regardless of how they feel about it. You will have people that love what you’re doing and others that have bullshit they’d like to pull you down with. Tell everyone, become accountable to the max. If you don’t you are planning to fail. If you do, you are planning to win and create the life you deserve.

Accountability is what forced me past my fears and pushed me to fully succeed in what I set out to do. If you have other’s watching what you are doing and waiting for you to fail, it adds a shit ton of motivation to execute to the maximum extent. Take Elon for example. He tells the world that he is going to Mars. He is going to build self-landing rockets. He’s going to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy (Tesla’s mission statement). He is going to dig tunnels faster than anyone else to put highways underground… Massive goals, massive accountability. Even if you do not achieve 100% of your goals but just 60% or if you accomplish them late, it doesn’t matter. You are accelerating and moving fucking mountains. Take action, set huge goals, get serious about accountability.

WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED

I just gave you the keys to the kingdom to start your own group or department, the only thing holding you back now is yourself. What will you do now that you have this information? If you are like most people, you will click on the next podcast or find something else to listen to. If you want to live extraordinarily though and become the founder of an Augmented and Virtual reality group or department at your company, take action now. Following this podcast I have instructions that will lead you to my FREE TRAINING – I urge you to listen to those and take action immediately. Taking immediate action is one of the biggest keys to success. Forget overthinking it, just do. It does not matter which company you work for, nor does it matter where you are starting from. The truth is that you are a free person to do what the fuck you want with your life. You can and you should start a department at your company. The more you think about it, the more you will sike yourself out about it. Trust me on that – I almost did it too while I was at Tesla. No regrets.
 

If you’re ready – start with my free training.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *