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  • Tim Kannegieter

What Finska and electronics engineering have in common

Updated: Feb 2

Staff Profile: Damien Landais – Co-CEO

 

Q: What is your role at Genesys?

A: I am the Co-CEO of Genesys and the Hardware Engineering Manager. I share CEO responsibilities with George Bou-Rizk who is also the Software Engineering Manager, so it’s a neat division of operational responsibilities.

On the hardware side I am responsible for all technical activities, primarily leading the hardware engineers we have at Genesys, as well as reviewing and approving their work.

On the CEO side, my role is primarily about ensuring the processes and procedures we have in place are fit for purpose and continually improving them, in accordance with our ISO 13485 quality management system. Probably the most important process is our customer relationship management and I oversee everything from initial contact through to post project reviews to ensure customers are satisfied.


Q: What does a typical day look like?

A: Every morning starts with going through the backlog of emails from the previous day to make sure I have not missed anything, capturing tasks and prioritising any important and urgent customer facing tasks. I also ensure all tasks are adequately resourced with the staff we have.

Much of rest of the day is spent meeting with clients, going from desk to desk making sure everything is on track and reviewing work outputs. I’m constantly checking to make sure assigned tasks are a good match for the skills and interests of each staff member. I believe that if people are interested in what they are doing, they will do a better job.

I do schedule some time every day to improve our processes and procedures. When George and I took over as Co-CEOs about 6 months ago we conducted a deep dive analysis of everything we do and developed a multi-year business plan to take us to a new level. Each element of that plan has a JIRA ticket at a high level. So, each day I will pick one area, work through the detail of how we can improve that areas, then identify at least one small thing we can do to optimise that process and improve our efficiency.  It’s all about delivering the best value we can for our customers.

 

Q: What is the most common question you get asked at work? 

A: The most frequent question I get is some variation of asking what we can deliver for the budget our clients have. At the start of each project, clients will give us high-level requirements and the project is a continual refinement of requirements down to tangible outputs and deliverables. So, staff are always asking me what options I think our clients would prefer and how best to facilitate the negotiation of deliverables to make sure the final product matches their need.

On the technical side of things, staff are often asking me double check their measurement setup is correct. I tell them, it’s all about knowing what to expect.  If they have a good grip on what they are expecting to see when they connect an oscilloscope or some other analyser, then you are on the right track to verify the device is functioning as expected.


Representing Australia in the World Finska Championships

 

Q: What is the biggest strength you bring to Genesys?

A: I have a lot of international experience in design for manufacturing, having worked for 14 years now on products that have been manufactured all over the world, gaining in-depth understanding of how different manufacturers work.

What I bring is a strong focus on ensuring our designs are aligned to deliver products that can be easily manufactured and marketed. It’s about knowing how our design will work with everything downstream of us.


Q: Please describe what you did in previous roles.

A: I worked for a company called Convergens in Finland. a company very similar to Genesys. I worked on a lot of different products there, working my way up through the ranks to become Operations Manager. The most interesting project was a sleep tracker called Beddit, which started out as an embedded Linux box but, as smartphones grew more powerful, the data processing could be done on the phone and the product could be redesigned to be lower cost based on Bluetooth.

This was a high-volume consumer product which had to be delivered profitably at low cost. We were part of both the design and manufacturing processing for that. With a production of about 100,000 units per year, every dollar saved in the manufacturing process counted.  

This company was bought by Apple in 2016, and I was part of the transition to ensure all the production processes, including production test jigs, were acceptable and validated by Apple. That was a great learning process and achievement.

 

Q: What is the most important part of your work?

A: Being aware of what new things are available. We need to be at the cutting edge so when a client comes to us, we are aware of all the options and can advise them what is possible.

There are new sensors, communication options and chipsets coming out all the time. For example, we have based many of our designs around the Nordic nRF52 family of microcontrollers, but they have recently released the nRF54 family. We need to intimately understand the capability of these new chips and each variant such as the L and H series.  

In addition, the compliance regime in highly regulated industries like medical devices is changing all the time. The standards bodies such as ISO and IEC are always updating the standards that electronic products must comply with and regulatory authorities like the FDA regularly release important guidelines such as the new one on cybersecurity that we must be intimately familiar with.

Beyond the technical, the most important part of my role is networking, being part of the ecosystem and getting to know all the major players. We never work in isolation and every project usually involves multiple suppliers or partners to our client. It’s important that we get to know the capabilities of everyone in the ecosystem so we can recommend other project participants.

 

Q: What is the most enjoyable part of your work?

A: The most enjoyable is having a great team to work with. We are all mostly engineers and we love working with new technologies and new applications, with a huge array of tech on every available shelf space. We have a great vibe in the office and the lunch time banter over the lunch table is highly interesting and educational. After the end of Covid restrictions, we never had to enforce anyone coming back to the office as everyone wanted to be here. I think this great culture leads to better performance as everyone loves what they are doing. Every week we have new projects coming in the door, new boards being delivered that we have to bring up, and delivering the first working prototype to customers is always a highlight.  


Q: What is your best tip for customers wanting to design electronic products?

A: The most valuable thing you can do in any project is to spend more time upfront in defining and locking down your requirements. The most damaging thing is to allow in scope creep, to keep adding one more thing you didn’t think of earlier but is suddenly critically important. Any change in scope inevitably increases the cost and blows out the timeframe for delivery.

A successfully project starts with not only deeply understanding the market but writing that down in a structured way that defines what must be done, not how, and then testing your assumptions with end users early. If all that is done before we start designing the product and there are minimal changes, then the project is much more likely to go smoothly with no surprises.


Q: What is the most important reason product developers should choose Genesys? What do you find most impressive about its systems and procedures?

A: Genesys has over thirty years of experience in both hardware and software design, but what is most impressive is how we have embedded our knowledge into our systems and procedures.

From a hardware and software, perspective we have a large library of modules that we can plug and play into new designs. Each of those modules have been verified and validated, under our quality management systems. This really increases the reliability of anything we deliver. So, if companies are developing a product that has an absolute requirement for high reliability, they should come to Genesys.

From a quality perspective, every process and procedure we do is documented and we are constantly reviewing them to see how they can be improved. The ISO 13485 quality system we maintain is a lot of work but absolutely worth it to provide that assurance of reliability and safety.



Q: Where did you grow up in school and how did you get into this field.

Receiving Australian citizenship

A: I grew up in the north west of France in the Bretagne region. From a young age I loved mathematics and science. I was interested in being able to fix things, like broken toys, or getting new things we brought to work. I eventually chose engineering at my local university. Initially, I enrolled to be a mechanical engineer but during the first two years of common education, I really enjoyed the electronics classes. I was attracted to the hands-on nature of building a device, getting it working, and seeing it evolve as a device throughout my course. So, I switched and ended up completing a five-year Master of Electronics Engineering. As part of that course, I was allowed to do an exchange with another European company and did two semesters at a university in Helsinki, Finland, which is how I ended up working in that country. I moved to Australia in 2018 and have just recently received Australian citizenship.

 

Q: What are your favourite activities outside of work?

A: I do quite a lot of sports and games, in particular Finska. Many people will know this as a simple social game in parks or at BBQs, where people throw a wooden log at a bunch of numbered standing pins and try to knock them down to collect exactly 50 points. However, there is quite a vibrant international competitive community and I go to the world championships every year. My best results were 2nd in 2017 and 4th in 2019. I am currently the president of the International Mölkky Organisation, which is the other name under which Finska is known worldwide.


Q: What do Finska and electronics engineering have in common?

A: In Finska it is important to have a strategy and to plan ahead. You have to decide what pin numbers to go for in what order. You are constantly adjusting your strategy depending on what pins you knock down and doing the maths to recalculate what to go for next. Electronics design is very similar. For example, before starting an electronic circuit design, you need to have thought through the optimal circuit schematics and before that you need to have a well defined system architecture that meets the requirements. Of course, there is a lot of maths involved, making sure you have the right values for components and analogue filter design involves juggling a lot of mathematical factors. 

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