Getting to Know Project Wayfinder Head of Infrastructure, Romain Komorn
How has your past experience as an educator influenced your approach working as the Head of Infrastructure at Wayfinder?
It’s definitely influenced my work from a management perspective. As an educator watching someone learn and grow, I became fascinated by each student’s process. It’s helped me become more accepting of the things our team members do and how they tackle different tasks. I’ve become more open, because I know that as they grow, they’re going to learn things I don’t know, and bring new perspectives I hadn’t considered. My experience as an educator also makes me more receptive to people who don’t have the exact same technical or educational background as I do. Everyone comes from a unique place, and that’s what enriches and advances the work we’re doing here at Wayfinder, creating autonomous flight and machine learning solutions for self-flying planes.
What’s the most exciting challenge you’re working on at Wayfinder?
Data is a crucial aspect for us in terms of both being able to train our algorithms, and being able to validate that our systems function properly in a variety of scenarios. The most exciting challenge we’re working on to date is massively scaling up our data collection through the flight campaign we’ve kicked off with our Wayfinder Flight Test Lab. To handle the increasing influx, we’ve grown our storage and computing capacity to handle it (something infrastructure engineers always like to do), and I’m even more excited about the work we’re doing to automate our data labeling processes. We’re investing a lot of effort in our hardware and software infrastructure to ensure that ingesting large amounts of data, validating its usefulness and making it available to a distributed team doesn’t become a burden on our project.
What would you say to a systems engineer who is thinking about gravitating toward the autonomous tech industry?
I would tell them to just do it! I moved into the industry after years of doing infrastructure engineering for social media. Anything’s possible! But in all honesty, it’s all about planning further out and thinking ahead of where you are now, because the people that are going to put demands on your system don’t necessarily know how the system is going to grow, nor do they know the scale they’ll need to be operating in. I think the main thing is: talk to people, get their requirements, and then extrapolate.
I see that aside from an accomplished career in infrastructure engineering, you also have an extensive culinary background—tell us more about that!
I’m actually more passionate about hospitality than the culinary work itself. My goal when I went to culinary school was to eventually open my own restaurant. I didn’t want to be the chef but I wanted to know enough about cooking to hire a good one, and to be able to help them. When I worked in restaurants, I specifically chose places that had open kitchens, so that I had the opportunity to see people enjoy their food. It made me more aware and interested in their dining experiences. Working in restaurant kitchens also piqued my interest in workplace culture, including how people talk and interact with one another.
When we asked Romain what he was making for dinner, he told us he’d be cooking up handmade pappardelle with bolognese sauce, featuring hand-cut meat. For dessert? A puff pastry tart with almond filling called a galette des rois. Now, who else is hungry?!