1. Name and role at Wrightspeed?
Arlan Purdy, Product Manager
2. What were you doing before joining Wrightspeed?
After graduating from Binghamton University with a degree in literature, I had the opportunity to apply my analytical skills as an Operations Analyst at Ingersoll Rand. I learned a lot about modern manufacturing – the basics of value stream mapping, visual process control, and distinguishing value-add activity from waste.
From there, I joined the Raymond Corporation as a Market Research Analyst, where I applied my analytical experience to the marketing side of business. I learned more about pricing strategies, market segmentation, business cycles, and the dramatic effect that compensation plans can have on employee behavior. Then, as, Product Manager, I led the exploration of new battery technologies in lift trucks.
One of the most important lessons I learned in the earlier part of my career is that you don’t need to be the expert in the world if you are the expert in the room. It’s a reminder to myself that being willing to try is often a much faster and more valuable way to solve problems than spending time looking for an expert somewhere else who can feed you answers. That’s an attitude that helps everywhere, but is especially important at a start-up.
3. What brought you to Wrightspeed?
I was attending a battery trade show, where I sat next to Wrightspeed founder and CEO, Ian Wright, and struck up a conversation with him. We talked about what aspects of battery technology actually make a difference in the lift truck industry and which do not. That principle of being very clear and specific about the problem to be solved is one of Ian’s core values, so we hit it off pretty well.
4. What is your current role at Wrightspeed?
The classic Product Manager role typically is a kind of ambassador between engineering, operations, and sales and marketing; it’s that tie-it-all-together aspect that attracted me to the job. Here at Wrightspeed it’s even more expansive, and I find myself working in whatever part of the business needs some extra help: sales, international logistics, recruiting. Anything from designing a print brochure to entertaining executives from multinational corporations to pulling parts from the stockroom for the next build. I love the variety, and the ability to shift my focus to where it’s needed most.
5. What have you enjoyed most since joining Wrightspeed?
When you’re working at a company of this size, the best part is the opportunity to be involved in every aspect of the business. At Wrightspeed, you really can get a sense of what is happening throughout the company because it’s all hands-on-deck to implement our technology. On a given day, I could be working with our CEO to build a relationship with a major truck manufacturer, working with our supply chain team to bring on a world-class equipment supplier, or working with our team around the world in New Zealand to put a bus on the road. At Wrightspeed, there is the opportunity to get to know what is happening at all parts of the business and be involved in different operations.
6. How does ‘Asking the Right Questions’ make a difference to you?
For me, I did not just want to be in a trendy tech sector, but wanted to work with a company aiming to deliver practical value. Wrightspeed is pioneering a new heavy duty transportation technology, but it’s based on combining practical, proven technology in a new way that is simply better suited for the hard work our customers do every day. Electric motors are phenomenal at getting vehicles moving and recovering energy during braking, two areas where conventional engines are pretty inefficient. But even today’s batteries have about 100X less energy than fossil fuel, so for some demanding jobs fuel still makes the most sense.
That enthusiastic fusion of new technology with a practical adaptation of traditional, proven solutions is very important to me. In my career I’ve seen the drawbacks of being too reluctant to change and also of being too quick to discard the tried-and-true. I think it’s important in technology and in all aspects of life to be open to new approaches while respecting hard-won knowledge from past experience.
It would have been a lot easier for Wrightspeed to put together a range-extended EV with a piston combustion engine. But when you ask the question, “What is the best technology today for mobile on-board power generation?”, a piston engine is not the answer. They’re heavy. A turbine generator gets the same power with far less weight, so it’s the right thing to do. It makes our job here a lot more challenging at the beginning, but it’s the best solution out on the road where our customers work.