February 10, 2019
When we don’t know something, we ferret out the answer. When we need advice, we go to the source, and we get the answers we need. We experiment and sketch; we brainstorm and argue it out. We swarm on a problem, and we solve it. By solving it, we evolve into a better team and we evolve our understanding to make a better product.
This week we met with Dick, and he not only gave us contact information for the EPA (and we put in a call to them), but he also gave us Peter Kevan’s information, and thinks Peter would be more than happy to meet with us. We are so excited to speak with him. Early on when Joe started his dive into the world of varroa-fighting, he encountered Peter’s research. Peter has been studying pollinators and their problems for decades, and his research into the effect of essential oils on tracheal mites was groundbreaking (for the scientific community, and for us).
We also started looking into plastics companies this week. Initially, plastic seemed like the best choice for manufacture — it’s light and durable; it’s budget friendly. But the more we look into it, the less comfortable we feel about making a product expressly created to benefit the environment out of a material so...unfriendly to the environment.
But something really interesting came out of our conversation with a plastics fabricator.
“Can you make this?”
“Of course! How wide do you want the flobber-wobble?”
We have initial ideas, and those ideas definitely have legs, but we don’t have details yet on how the mechanism will work. It’s one thing to say honey bees should be coated by oil, but the “how” is still obscured. Also, what is it made out of if not plastic? What is the design? Who manufactures the parts? What about packaging and assembly? Oh, and storage? Give us a minute and we’ll have ten more panic-inducing, do-we-need-to-have-millions-of dollars-to-save-the-bees questions. We can’t specify a mechanism of action, because we don’t know the best way to do this.
At some point the plastics rep told us to get these details from our product engineer and...wait. Our what?
So, apparently there’s something called a Product Engineer.
And we need one. These details are something we need to determine ourselves, and retaining an engineer means we control the process from beginning to end.
We’re swarming on the problem. In a way we’re retreating into what we know, using software and research and iterative experiments to determine the best course of action. That’s a process we use every day, as familiar as breathing, only we’re applying it to this very unfamiliar problem.
We exhaustively researched what a product engineer was, and what they did and did not do. We scoured the internet and compared dozens of product engineer job posts. We had meetings to review and rewrite ours. And then we took the leap and posted our Help Wanted sign for saving the bees, posted it on Upwork, and are very impatiently awaiting responses.
Without a Product Engineer, we can’t move forward. So this is the big blocker that we can’t overcome ourselves. It’s a tenuous, nerve-racking position to be in, when our passion and velocity urge us forward but the reality of the situation says “hurry up and wait.”