Blending Customer Ideas and StretchSense Tech with Llewellyn Sims Johns
Our ability to integrate sensing systems into customer ideas comes down to our expert Systems Integration team, and leading that team is Llewellyn Sims Johns.
Llew is one of our old hands at StretchSense, having been here for almost four of the five years we’ve been around. Whether integrating stretch sensors into customers’ ideas or flinging frisbees with the company team, he’s enjoyed a lot of variety in his time with us.
What was your background before starting at StretchSense?
I studied mechatronics at University of Auckland and was involved in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) where this all began. I actually worked with our co-founders Ben and Todd at the ABI before they started StretchSense, helping them with the conductive silicone that went into artificial muscles. After working with another company for around a year, the opportunity to join StretchSense came up and I haven’t looked back.
How many roles have you had here?
Oh, there’s been a few! I started out as a project engineer making stretch sensors, then was electronics engineer making circuits. After that, I decided to use my knowledge of the entire company to move into systems integration which involves how our sensing systems are used and what they do in their entirety. I was also the go-to IT guy for about two years, but that was sort of a side thing.
What does an average workday look like for you?
There’s a lot of talking to people about projects. A typical systems integration project involves a customer interested in using our technology — they have an idea, we put stretch sensors on it. I still really like to be technically involved, so one of my main contributions is helping to meet the technical challenges of people’s ideas.
What’s your favorite thing about working here?
It’s the people and the attitude. No one’s afraid to reach out when they need help — it’s a real teamwork atmosphere, but not necessarily within departmental teams. Everyone just helps, regardless of what part of the company they’re from.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned at StretchSense?
I really appreciate when something’s done and out the door. You should always be trying to make something the best it can possibly be, but you also have to ship the product. It’s a real balancing act.
How do you think your work has an impact on our customer experience?
I like imagining that I’m a customer figuring out how to use things. It’s part of why I got into the systems integration team, talking to customers about what they really want to make and why.
I really try and focus on getting something into the customer’s hands — it’s too easy to just make something work on a technical level without thinking about how people are actually going to use it.
If you weren’t doing your current job for a living, what would you be doing instead?
I’d probably still be making things. I hadn’t previously considered doing something on my own, but working at StretchSense has inspired me to think about starting a business one day. It wouldn’t be easy, but I’m learning how you can do it and how rewarding it is to bring other people on board with your vision.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
I’ve become really interested in coffee, and I’ve been trying to do my own roasting at home which is an interesting experimental thing. I have a habit of starting vaguely ambitious projects, none of them really ever taken to conclusion but that’s not what it’s about. I also do a lot of social sports — I’m on the company frisbee team and play social netball.
What advice would you give someone wanting to develop a product?
A lot of products that you buy these days feel like something that you can never achieve, but you need to realize that it’s just people who make things — all the products around you are not made by some otherworldly force. They’re just people like you; maybe they’ve been doing it for longer or have better processes, but you can really achieve something if you figure out how and give it a try.
Find out more about how we develop the technology behind our customer applications in our previous Spotlight on Staff with Felix Lun.