FISITA PLUS 2020 – Bryan Salesky: Career advice to make the most of the opportunities presented by self-driving technology



September 2020

Bryan Salesky, Co-Founder & CEO, Argo AI, took part in the Leadership Interview hosted by Paul Mascarenas OBE, at FISITA PLUS on Thursday 23 July. This is the fourth of four excerpts.


I like to finish these interview talking to our audience, some are still students, some young engineers starting out their careers and other more experienced engineers, thinking about technology development and how they may need to pivot their careers to move more into that space. Could you share some advice? Let’s start with the students and young engineers – how do they get into the development of self-driving technology if they’re interested in in doing that?

Take every opportunity you can to learn as much as possible about software, computer science and electronics. The beautiful thing about self-driving vehicles is that it literally brings together disciplines from all over, it’s not just a software problem. It also brings into view really complex mechanical engineering problems, electrical engineering problems - it’s everything. So, anything in science, technology, math there is some relevancy to what you’re learning and what you’re doing.

What I would advise is to get involved in any sort of local robotics programmes that you have and if you don’t have those take opportunities to do programming courses or even hands-on experience in the more traditional kind of electronics areas that may be available. All of those experiences are helpful in some shape or form in getting involved in the autonomous vehicle world.

Are you looking for computer science graduates particularly if they are from a broader array of educational backgrounds?

We hire from all different backgrounds and if you want to build and develop in the core of the system and how the robots are able to see and understand the world then yes, you’re going to need a computer science degree and hopefully some robotics education as well, which you can get through online courses through a growing number of universities.

What advice might you have for mid-career engineers who are dealing with a lot of changes in automotive technology and technical disciplines, where they may not have the sort of knowledge and experience that would make them comfortable. How do you think we can go about building an all-inclusive engineering community and helping people make that transition from the more traditional technologies to sort of areas we’ve been talking about?

Well I’ll try to give maybe a different answer than what probably most would say. Certainly, there’s training opportunities and getting involved learning as much as you can, but I think something that that maybe doesn’t get valued as much as it should is having really tight ties with academic institutions and leaders in the kind of autonomy, robotics and computer vision field.

I think academia is used oftentimes in the wrong way by industry and having now worked in both sides of it I can I think I could say that. Academia often times is looked down upon through industry as they just write papers or that they create ideas but ideas that are not practical and I just don’t think that’s accurate at all.

In fact, I think if you really want to learn about the technology and get up to speed quickly and really accelerate your learning on what’s feasible now, near and far I think it’s really important that you lean on an academic institution and find a faculty that you resonate with who can really help you understand that.

To me that’s one of the best ways to learn and in exchange academia learns about the types of problems and more about the business from you as to what’s practical. Those ties are more important than ever I think going forward.

FISITA PLUS sessions were held every Thursday throughout July. Replays of all are available as follows: