Engineering and Product
Colin Godby, Chief Product Officer at UBCO
From childhood dreams of working as a Formula 1 engineer, to helping lead the development of a more sustainable means of transportation, Colin Godby, Chief Product Officer at UBCO has had quite the career to date.
We caught up with Colin to learn more about his career journey into tech, what attracted him to working at UBCO and why he is excited for the future of what they are building.
Colin also shares some great nuggets of wisdom around the importance of learning by doing, as well as an enthusiasm for the humble but mighty cast-iron pan which the team at Matchstiq share in equal measure. If you know, you know. Thanks for sharing your story, Colin.
“I help to build teams of awesome people that can solve really hard problems..”
Firstly, how would you explain to a five year old what it is you do?
I help to build teams of awesome people that can solve really hard problems, so that we can build really cool products.
And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?
I work to organise cross-functional engineering and design teams focused on developing advanced technology platforms.
Whether in my past in consumer products, or current days with Utility Electric Vehicles, I have always been drawn to creating experiences that delight and inspire, and are clearly more than the sum of their parts.
What are some of the common misconceptions about working in an early-stage company?
That everything is all about fundraising and particular actions to make the investors happy.
Ultimately, the most successful startups are the ones focused on solving real problems (or acting on unique opportunities) for actual customers, and in turn, creating meaningful value for all stakeholders.
The fundraising and valuations are a by-product of the impact that a company might have, and so if you are looking to help shape the future, then startups are a great place.
Don’t become jaded by the focus on money, as all it is there to do is try to amplify the positive outcome.
“Initially, I really wanted to be an engineer in motorsports, like World Rally or Formula 1.”
Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
The tech industry was actually not something really on my radar. I am part of the first generation to grow up with computers in school, and smart mobile devices as soon as we entered adulthood, but I have never been enamored with tech for the sake of tech.
Initially, I really wanted to be an engineer in motorsports, like World Rally or Formula 1. I thought that engineering systems that break through perceived physical limitations was really cool.
Ultimately though, I have always been most interested in the unique ways that we can make our lives better.
Sometimes that means a really thoughtfully crafted “dumb” object that lasts for generations (like an awesome cast-iron pan!) or a high-tech connected device that shares its data in order to steadily improve itself.
“... it opened my eyes to the awesomeness of New Zealand!”
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Ubco?
I started out my career as a Mechanical Engineer in California, working for an engineering and prototyping consultancy focused on advanced vehicle technology, including EVs and autonomous drive.
It just so happened to be helmed by a Kiwi, former rally racer, Rod Millen, and it opened my eyes to the awesomeness of New Zealand!
I loved working on those projects but wanted to see my work launch as real products, rather than stay in the prototype space, so I moved into more consumer focused spaces.
I developed my skills in mass production, overseas manufacturing, safety-critical designs, and smart technology integration.
I did this by working for companies such as Skullcandy (headphones), Walt Disney Imagineering (Disney rides!), Sphero (educational robots), and lastly Glowforge (consumer desktop laser cutters).
All along the way, I picked up many tools for my toolkit, by failing lots, and also helping build awesome teams that accomplished great things.
As I progressed, I realised that I really loved the organisational development side of things, and product strategy and that’s the path I decided to focus on until I ultimately landed at UBCO.
I had actually connected with Tim Allan, CEO of UBCO, while he was still leading Locus Research, about 7 years ago while I was evaluating my next career moves.
We stayed in touch, and I had made it clear that if there was ever good timing to try to come together, I would love the chance to apply my love for vehicle development in a growing organisation, where I have lots of experience.
It just so happened that the window opened up late last year!
“The best way to develop your skills is to learn by doing.”
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
The best way to develop your skills is to learn by doing. This was in the form of a professor at university telling me that it is not a bad thing to go start my career, and then assess whether or not it makes sense to head back into academia.
Time after time, I have been reminded that the only real way to learn is to get out of the books (or youtube) and just get your hands dirty. This involves failing lots, as the real world is quite a bit more complex than the theoretical one filled with assumptions.
Those failures should not be seen as a negative, but rather the standard process of developing the best result.
What do you love about working at Ubco?
I love that we are a small, humble company, helping accelerate the transition towards more efficient means of transportation. We are developing products that make our user’s lives better, while still being a whole lot of fun to use, by applying advanced technologies.
There is just so much excitement for the future and the role that our platform could play in it amongst the staff.
“Finally, being motivated to build the future, while maintaining the amazing things that already exist.”
Lastly, Ubco continues to grow and evolve, what are the key traits and characteristics of people that will be well placed to work there?
I think about this a lot as I am constantly interviewing awesome people. So here is my shortlist:
- Being self-aware. The ability to acknowledge your own strengths and shortcomings, and how they manifest into biases, is incredibly important when working with such a strong team from a variety of backgrounds.
- Being growth-minded. If there is anything about working at a startup that is true, it is that it is always changing, and new challenges are headed your way on a daily basis. You needed to be geared to want to evolve, improve and learn so that we can try to stay one step ahead.
- Being curious. When it comes to developing the best products, I believe that the answers are in front of us, in the form of user behavoior (data), technical limitations, or competitive landscape. It is up to us to be driven to understand the playing field at a deep level, to generate meaningful insights that ultimately create a customer value-oriented company.
- Being open and candid. Progress is built on relationships, and the most durable relationships are built on trust.
- Finally, being motivated to build the future, while maintaining the amazing things that already exist. Progress at the expense of over-consumption is not the path to success, and I strongly believe that while we will make a difference by developing the best products possible, it is also our responsibility to ensure our previous products endure for many years and on into their second or third lives.