07.19.17 Kespry

People Behind the Kespry Products: Jordan Croom

Today I’m excited to speak with Jordan Croom, who is the lead mechanical engineer at Kespry.

Thanks so much for joining me today, Jordan.

Thanks for having me.

To start off our chat, could maybe share a few of the exciting things that you’re focused on at Kespry?

Originally, I was focused on creating the Drone 2 system. It was really interesting to build a drone system from the ground up. Now I’m focused on improvements to performance and scaling up our production capacity.

Kespry’s CEO recently met with President Trump at the White House and presented him with the Kespry Drone 2. This was the first time a drone has ever been inside the White House. As someone who was very involved with the creation of Drone 2, what are your thoughts on this amazing moment?

When we designed Drone 2, we had a much smaller hardware team. I was responsible for all aspects of the mechanical design, configuration, and aesthetics. Our CTO, Parker Clark, was responsible for the electronics and early design trades. Drone 2 was my first ever design for aesthetics, so you can imagine how proud I was to see my design displayed on a national scale. It’s been very successful in the market since its inception, and this was a great acknowledgment of that success. I definitely won’t forget it anytime soon!

Kespry builds both the hardware and the software. In what ways does that make for a unique work environment?

In my previous jobs, I was focused mainly on the hardware. Building the structures and occasionally working with electrical engineers to do packaging. It’s very collaborative at Kespry. I work closely with our electrical engineers on a daily basis; it’s a very tightly integrated system, so that’s a requirement. I also work with our software engineers, we discuss how the drones should behave in flight, in collaboration with our product team. I even get a chance to write some software every so often, just for fun on slack.

You manage several engineers – how do you empower your team?

My main focus when hiring is finding people that are highly motivated and competent. I try to empower them by essentially getting out of their way and letting them excel at what they want to do and what they’re interested in, as long as it fits with the direction that our products are moving in. I try to be open with what our goals are, what are we trying to accomplish in the next week, month, year and get them to buy into those goals. As long as everybody’s on the same page, they’re kind of open to pursue what they think is right and keep me updated. I think everybody is pretty happy with that level of independence.

You’ve been part of the team at Kespry for almost two years – what do you love most about working at Kespry?

I really like the people here. They’re all incredibly smart and very friendly. Everybody is success oriented. It’s a fun place to work. We don’t take ourselves too seriously; we take plenty of time to relax and have fun, whether it’s happy hours or company parties.

There are a lot of drone companies out there who might offer hardware or software. What makes Kespry unique?

I think it’s really neat to have a company that focuses on doing everything. We’re not looking at just building a drone or only building drone software; we’re focused on getting customers the information they need. Whatever is required from us to do that is what we’re focused on. In our case, we thought the best way to do that was to make a completely automated drone system that’s easy to use and doesn’t require expert training. A solution that seamlessly delivers the data that’s captured by the Kespry Drone to the Kespry Cloud, where it’s automatically processed into the actionable insights that our customers care about. Offering a product that’s seamless from the moment you open the box to delivering the data you need is what we’re focused on.

Where did you grow up?

Outside of Atlanta, Georgia. My family and I were born and raised there. I didn’t leave until I went to undergrad.

What were some of your interests growing up in Atlanta?

I was kind of a country club kid. We lived on a golf course outside of Atlanta, so I grew up playing a lot of golf and tennis. I was also really interested in math, science and web design.

You graduated with degrees in both mechanical engineering and space engineering. What inspired you to pursue mechanical engineering?

It’s a question I get asked a lot, and I think that I have a kind of a nontraditional answer. When I was in high school, I was really into math and science, but I didn’t have a lot of people around me that I could look to and say that’s what an engineer does and that’s what I want to be. I knew that I liked making things whether it was learning to do web design or putting together IKEA furniture. I loved making things. I had kind of a hunch that I would be good at mechanical engineering; it was something that made sense to me. I didn’t have an opportunity to test that out until I went to college. When I arrived at Vanderbilt University, I kind of dove in and joined the Motorsports team. It’s a student club focused on building an open-wheel race car that is raced at the end of the year. Our team competed against students from all over the country. I also worked in a medical robotics lab on a robot mechanism designed for surgical robots.

What made you decide to pursue space engineering?

When I was in undergrad, I was interested in composites and lightweight design. Aerospace is an industry, where for better or worse, cost is often not an object. They’re focused making a structure with the highest performance possible. The constant focus on trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible really attracted me. I also had an advisor for my senior design project who was an alumnus of Caltech, who was an aerospace guy, and he convinced me that’s where I wanted to be.

He was definitely right. I loved getting to work with people at JPL and NASA on challenging space projects. Fascinating applications like earth observation, communication satellites, and planetary exploration.

For Mechanical Engineers who are considering joining the commercial drone industry – what advice do you have for them?

It’s critical to make sure that you hitch yourself to the right wagon. It’s a new blossoming industry. There are a ton of different directions you can go, but I think the biggest thing, especially for new engineers, is making sure that you work with a good team. The most valuable experience I had wasn’t necessarily on the most complicated project but working with the most qualified teammates. Getting great experience and mentorship is critical early in your career. It’s also important to join a company that has a solid business plan. It’s fun to think about really cool applications, but if they’re not going to scale, then you’re not going to get the experience you want.

When you’re not at Kespry – what do you like to do for fun?

I have a couple of hobbies. I’m interested in software and learning more about it. It has been great for me to be around our talented software team. I’ve run some ideas by them as I’m trying to learn things. I’m working on a project right now to replicate this robot that I saw on IEEE Spectrum a couple of years ago called Cubli. It’s a self-balancing cube that has three reaction wheels inside. When I’m not doing that, I like to go skiing, so I really enjoy driving out to Lake Tahoe a number of times throughout the year.

Jordan, it has been so great to chat with you today. Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you.