When people think of Salt Spring Island, they typically conjure up images of a cottage industries; artisans; cheeses, wines, and other quality foods; great B&Bs; and a bustling little retail sector. So, it was surprising to hear that Salt Spring’s tech jobs have more than tripled within the last year.
And most of those jobs have been created at one company―InDro Robotics. Founded by Philip Reece in 2013, InDro Robotics creates unmanned aerial and surface vehicles and provides related services and supports to clients and partners on Salt Spring and around the world.
Currently, InDro Robotics is inconspicuously housed in the Merchant Mews. You might never know that while you’re buying meat pies at Jana’s Bakery, a 12-member staff is designing, fabricating, building, and developing drones and other unmanned vehicles right next door.
But a couple of weeks ago, InDro advertised that it wants to rent a new office and work space. Could it be growing? On its website, the “Join Our Team!” button is top right and prominent. And, yes, InDro is inviting anyone with previous UAV piloting, robotics engineering (mechatronics and/or software), remote sensing, or GIS experience to contact the office. And InDro is currently looking for a software engineer.
Curious about the move and the business’s growth, I called for an interview. I met with Geoff Mullins, PhD, who is one of InDro’s systems engineers. He attributes company growth to taking advantage of opportunities and expanding into new areas. For example, last April, InDro didn’t have a marine robotics division and now three to four people work on autonomous surface vessels.
Geoff, who said it’s the best job he’s ever had, described the work environment as “very positive” and added, “With an open-concept office, there’s often a lot of cross-pollination between people with different backgrounds. Someone will say something and someone else will hear it and say, ‘I have an idea. Why don’t we try apply that to the problem?’”
He said, “We can learn from everyone else. We all have unique qualifications and experiences with training.”
Apparently, the collaborative rather than top-down approach has much to do with the company’s success. Geoff described the employee engagement: “We all take a lot of pride in the projects we’re involved in, and there’s a real feeling of reward when things work and when we get to the point that we’re sending off a brand new UAV product to someone with a piece of technology that we’ve developed and built in house and that you can’t buy anywhere else in the world.”
For clients and partners, this pride translates to exceptional products. Geoff said, “We work very closely with our end users to develop exactly what they need, and it’s been helpful for us because it gives us a sense of what the market is and what the need is. And in a lot cases, there’s also the reward of making life safer for people who put their life in the line of fire everyday.”
Although Salt Spring is the main office, employment opportunities also open up offsite and in the company’s other office in Calgary.