Mechanical engineering alumna DeAnna Robear ’15, a partner enablement engineer at PTC, has been named as one of the 10 Pioneers 2018 by Connected World magazine. As Connected World describes this honor, the recipients are trailblazers, innovators, and pioneers representing “10 technology leaders under 40 who help pave the way for a more connected society.” Robear’s interest in industrial consumer products such as cars and airplanes evolved into a mechanical engineering degree and, eventually, a career in the Internet of Things, all fueled by a weekend wearable electronics tutorial offered by Professor David McLaughlin of our Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.
As Connected World says about its Pioneers 2018: “These are the people others look to for inspiration, direction, and motivation. When it comes to the ways Internet of Things technology can revolutionize life and business, pioneers look not only at the here and now but also to the future. These individuals…think outside of the box, they don’t take “no” for an answer, they look for novel ways to solve age-old dilemmas, and they anticipate what’s coming next. In this way, they stay a step (or two, or 10) ahead of the rest. By being ahead of the game, pioneers help bring about the next generation of technology solutions.”
Robear’s current role as a partner enablement engineer allows her to work side by side with PTC’s partners such as Samsung, helping them develop real-world Internet of Things solutions.
The Connected World profile of Robear reports that she first got a taste of her own future when her electrical engineering professor, McLaughlin, offered a wearable electronics tutorial on the weekends, which inspired her obsession with creating new wearables and autonomous vehicles.
“I became engrossed with circuit design/analysis and Arduino programming, making the need for cross-disciplinary education apparent,” Robear explains. She subsequently helped form a student-run innovation lab at UMass Amherst before launching into a career at PTC as an application engineer.
According to Connected World, Robear’s experience so far has confirmed her belief that the physical and digital worlds have converged. “I see our partners changing the way they design, manufacture, and service products firsthand,” she says. “We’ve become a leader in driving this transformation by offering a variety of tools and solutions in the application enablement, augmented reality, and machine learning spaces. I see PTC continuing to make transformative changes that fundamentally improve the way we create and interact with our world.”
Robear, as her profile notes, is beginning to form her own legacy in part by simply saying “yes” to leadership roles on available projects on her team. For instance, Robear recently led a proof of concept program with Samsung and loved being able to drive the outcome to fit her vision.
“I design solutions that help people and products operate in a way previously inconceivable,” she says. For example, Robear develops solutions that revolutionize the way companies service home appliances and other machines using remote monitoring, machine learning, anomaly detection, and augmented reality technologies.
“I think the key to being transformative in this space is to be a great listener,” Robear adds. “Talking with partners, taking their feedback, and being open-minded allows me to understand their challenges and subsequently use my knowledge, skills, and creativity to solve problems in new and unique ways.”
Robear’s path has not been without hurdles. “One of the obstacles I constantly face stems from not having been officially trained in the software space; this is especially difficult when coupled with the fact that I’m a young woman in a male-dominated field,” she says in her profile. “When I first meet with a partner/customer, my credentials are often challenged; sometimes not using the right language or having the right experience has made people question my capabilities. I’ve been able to tackle this with the support of my amazing teammates/managers who consistently take time out of their day to coach me and answer all my questions—even the stupid ones.”
The profile concludes that, by being persistent, confident, and analytical in her work, Robear has started down a path of influence in her current sphere that will only grow with time and experience. “Being an engineer has taught me to understand how ‘things’ work and has allowed me to solve problems in virtually every aspect of life,” she says. “It has also taught me to derive motivation from the challenges I face.” (March 2018)