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Black in Robotics ‘Meet The Members’ collection: Vuyo Makhuvha

Earlier than droves of individuals descend on a conference heart for a commerce present or convention, the corridor have to be fastidiously divided as much as accommodate company present cubicles, walkways for attendees, areas for directors/safety and rather more. The method of defining the structure and marking it up for building crews is commonly performed with people laboriously measuring and marking distances, however Lionel can do all of this for you. As soon as given a plan, it zooms alongside empty conference halls whereas exactly marking the entire dimensions for the schematics that you’ve got in thoughts.

Lionel, the floor-marking robotic, was made particularly for the organizers of commerce exhibits and conferences.

Lionel isn’t a robotic that you simply’d usually consider while you think about new purposes of expertise, nevertheless it fills a distinct segment that there’s robust demand for. Figuring out use instances like Lionel’s and exhibiting that there’s a robotic answer for them is a part of the accountability of enterprise technique managers like Vuyo Makhuvha.

Vuyo works in constructing August Robotics cell robotics portfolio which in the mean time includes 2 robots. Their newest robotic Diego, Disinfection on the Go! Is a cell UV-C robotic design which was launched in March 2021. Diego supplies hospital-grade disinfection for resort rooms and public areas in a means that’s protected and straightforward to make use of and permits institutions to extend security and differentiate their hygiene programmes.

Figuring out use instances like Lionel’s or Diego’s, and exhibiting that there’s a robotic answer for them is a part of the accountability of enterprise technique managers like Vuyo Makhuvha. Hold studying to see her clarification of how a non-engineer can have a major influence on robotic design, how she managed the expertise of leaving her dwelling in South Africa for her new dwelling of Hong Kong, and rather more.

Vuyo’s trajectory

Vuyo is a vibrant mathematical thoughts from South Africa that had narrowed down her space of research to 2 topics when making ready to enter the College of Cape City (UCT): Engineering and Actuarial Science. In what felt like a gut-wrenching resolution, she selected to review Actuarial Science. Unbeknownst to her, she would ultimately return to working with engineers in good time.

Vuyo excelled at UCT, ultimately incomes each a Bachelor’s diploma and a Grasp’s Diploma (with a Grasp’s Thesis)! All of the whereas, her schooling was enriched by the distinguished Allan Grey Orbis Fellowship, which she had been awarded after graduating highschool. The fellowship not solely lined her tuition, but additionally taught her about entrepreneurial pondering in addition to positioned her amongst a group of like-minded people.

And the Fellowship’s help doesn’t finish there! “After these 4 years [with the Allan Gray Orbis Fellowship] you possibly can faucet into extra help. For instance, if you wish to be an entrepreneur, you principally say ‘Hey I need to begin a enterprise; Are you able to assist me?” They usually’ll have completely different applications [to support you].’ “

“It’s superb. It’s one of many experiences that I’ve had that has actually inspired me.”

Whereas getting her Grasp’s Diploma, Vuyo had gotten a style of the broader world outdoors of Actuarial Science and determined that she wished to see extra of it by working for a consulting firm after she graduated: McKinsey & Firm. There, her intention was to “achieve publicity to [the] questions that companies are answering for themselves” and McKinsey was capable of give her that publicity. She was positioned onto groups the place they established “methods that may develop their income by X [or something similarly] for large title firms that you simply’ve heard of your whole life” or “made sure {that a} merger went [the way it should have].” This numerous set of experiences was useful for narrowing down her pursuits and for rising her confidence.

“.. What I actually took away from [all of that] was that I can do something. There are a whole lot of specialised fields … however I may be fairly concerned in them by answering questions like ‘How can we commercialize this?’ or ‘What options do we’d like?’”

Her bolstered confidence and fervour for commercialization would then carry her throughout a continent and into her present function at August Robotics. After 2 years at McKinsey, one in all which was spent as a marketing consultant in Asia, Vuyo determined she wished to expertise working at an early stage start-up in rising tech and she or he occurred to discover a function on the Alumni community job board.

At that startup, August Robotics, she ended up turning into a Enterprise Technique Supervisor, working with a crew of highly-experienced engineers and scientists to develop new robotics-based options. To explain her function merely, Vuyo explains that “My job each day is to make it possible for we’re designing a robotic that fulfills our purchasers’ wants.” This will result in stress at instances, as Vuyo challenges skilled technical consultants of their fields.

“I all the time say that my job as a business particular person is to dream actually, actually large. Your job as an engineering crew is to inform me ‘Woah! Decelerate. That is what we will do.’

And if we’re not having that sort of stress, then I’m not doing my job proper. As a result of I have to be the one that can think about this superb product for our prospects, particularly within the first couple of weeks once we’re coming along with the idea.

You’re speculated to say “Woah! We are able to’t do that proper now, let’s pull it again and do that” “Do you really want that function proper now. Isn’t that one thing we will do far later sooner or later?”

It’s your job to carry me again.

In any other case, we’re not going to have the ability to make new issues that our prospects by no means considered. The strain is there, nevertheless it’s a vital stress. And so long as it’s performed in a means that’s skilled and respectful, I feel it’s good.”

August Robotics has fostered a tradition the place this stress may be expressed in such knowledgeable and respectful means. It’s one of many causes that Vuyo loves it there and recommends extra passionate Black roboticists be a part of her at August, if potential.

She plans to remain there so long as the tradition stays one wherein she will be able to freely discover and problem her friends and herself as they proceed to hunt out the distinctive use instances that solely a robotic can remedy on this planet. The decision of entrepreneurship nonetheless lingers in her ear, nevertheless, and she or he plans to sooner or later use the teachings she has realized as an Allan Grey Orbis Fellow to make an impactful enterprise.

Vuyo’s challenges

Whereas she remains to be comparatively new in her present function at August Robotics, Vuyo has overcome a number of challenges that she thinks others might study from. Her transition from McKinsey and Firm to August Robotics required a transition from her native Africa to Hong Kong. There she went from being in a majority South African context to being in a majority Asian context.

“I feel being a Black particular person in anyplace that’s not predominantly black is all the time going to be completely different. Particularly in a spot like Asia, the place there’s so few of us. Yeah, I get stared at [but] it’s not a malicious factor more often than not. I feel that more often than not it’s similar to: ‘Hm. Why are you right here?’”

To beat the problem of feeling remoted, she realized to embrace the sensation of benign curiosity coming from her new neighbors. The sensation impressed Vuyo to make an unwritten rule: “Each time I see a black particular person, I all the time say hello to them…. I can undergo an entire day with out seeing one other black particular person. It’s bizarre. So, [I] simply must acknowledge that we’re each on this at any time when I see them.”

Vuyo’s phrases of knowledge

Vuyo repeatedly expressed how precious it’s to work in an setting as supportive because the one which she has present in August Robotics and recommends that you simply search for:

“[a place] the place you belief the folks that you simply work with, you are feeling like folks respect and belief you, and … you by no means really feel bizarre about not figuring out one thing. As a result of then you definitely function from a spot of stability or consolation. In fact, I’m going to work actually actually arduous; I don’t need to do something fallacious and I’m going to be actually actually cautious.

I do it not as a result of I’m in worry about what the repercussions shall be. I do it as a result of I’m comfy sufficient that I can contribute to what our crew is doing, and that I really feel that accountability to contribute and to make our crew profitable. And so I don’t spend time worrying about issues that I don’t have to be worrying about. I spend time worrying in regards to the [robotics] issues that now we have.”

Discovering and contributing to an setting like that’s what has allowed Vuyo to thrive and is what she plans to foster in each group she works at (or begins!) sooner or later.

Lastly, Vuyo’s recommendation to younger folks fascinated by robotics (from the business aspect or not) is:

“To proceed to be pushed by what [you] assume is fascinating and thrilling and stimulating, and to not for a second assume that [you’re] not succesful or unfit.

As a result of [you] must attempt stuff and never get in your individual means. Simply consider that you simply’re good. That you’ve got inventive and thrilling concepts after which go and apply that creativity to issues that you simply discover fascinating and thrilling.”

Extra from Vuyo

Be happy to comply with August Robotics to search out out extra in regards to the merchandise Vuyo helps to launch!

Be happy to connect with Vuyo through LinkedIn.


Drafts of this text had been corrected and improved by Vuyo Makhuvha, Sophia Williams, and Nailah Seale. All present errors are the fault of Kwesi Rutledge. Please attain out to him when you spot any!

Black In Robotics
addresses the systemic inequities present in our robotics group by specializing in three major pillars – group, advocacy, and accountability.

Black In Robotics
addresses the systemic inequities present in our robotics group by specializing in three major pillars – group, advocacy, and accountability.



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