Name: Peter McNulty
Hometown: Walpole, MA
Education: BS Mechanical Engineering / Northeastern University / Boston, MA
Work Experience: Digital Lumens / Santa Cruz Bicycles / Philips Color Kinetics
Team: Engineering Development
Before coming to Essential, you worked for Digital Lumens. Tell us about that experience. What stands out?
Yes, in previous lives, I designed sensor-driven and networked LED lights, or “luminaires” as we referred to them, for industrial spaces. We were doing internet-of-things type devices before it was cool – just because you can harvest data from your trashcan doesn’t mean you should!
I helped to design high-bay luminaires that put out 50,000 lumens. For reference, a set of car headlights is likely outputting less than 4,000 lumens. These luminaires went into all sorts of interesting places around the world — once I found myself in a warehouse filled with oil drums of ice cream as far as the eye could see and cooled well below 0°F.
So, you’re a senior engineer on our team. What attracted you to the engineering discipline as well as the product development space?
Designing lights for huge ice cream freezers is a good anecdote for what engineering is for me. It isn’t just rockets and robots that need deep technical knowledge and process to execute well – everything around us can benefit from a well-engineered solution.
Technical challenges and difficult to solve problems emerge in the most obscure places. Working at Essential has made that even more clear to me. We solve difficult problems here by drawing upon knowledge developed through work across many industries. We also have the luxury, as engineers, to work alongside some fantastic designers and researchers that allow us to drive more cohesive solutions for our clients.
When you moved to Seattle from Boston in 2019 you became the first remotely working Essential employee. Having worked this way now for over a year what advice can you pass along to people new to the WFH experience?
I guess I am a WFH veteran to some degree! I relocated to the Pacific Northwest a bit over a year before the Covid-19 situation arose in the U.S. and I have been WFH since. It has been great to be able to continue to collaborate with our vibrant and talented team at Essential.
Although it requires an additional layer of discipline, I find working from home to be very productive. I have a garage space adjacent to my office with room for prototyping. And I have a few picks of direct flights to get back to Boston when duty calls.
I think one of the most important things to keep in mind while working from home is to try to keep your “work” and “life” spaces separate. Without a commute to break up the day, I need to find different ways to mentally transition in and out of work. Getting outside every day is key.
Pete exploring the “other” coast – Second Beach on the Olympic Peninsula, WA
What types of challenges do you often see clients facing in your work?
One of the most enjoyable parts of being an engineer is finding ways to efficiently build function and form into products while working within a myriad of constraints – cost, risk, manufacturing methodology, regulatory, etc.
In the product development world, it is often the responsibility of the engineer to balance these constraints and communicate them in all directions – to the client, to the industrial designers, to other key stakeholders. This is part of the challenge as an engineer in the product development process, but also what it makes it so rewarding.
What product/experience would you love to redesign?
I feel there is an opportunity to re-think the functionality of the automobile — how can they be better leveraged as a multipurpose tool.
With alternative means of transport like public transport, e-bikes, scooters, and car sharing gaining more and more traction, especially in urban areas, along with advances in electric vehicle technology, we can relieve automobiles from their job as purely a means of getting to and from the office.
I recently checked out an episode of the show “Home” on Apple TV+ that focused on the compelling, multifunctional apartment that architect Gary Chang designed and now lives in. The apartment is a mere 344 square feet, but the space can easily be transformed to serve many purposes by using a modular and creative layout. Maybe a similar strategy could be implemented in automobiles to boost functionality for both recreational and practical purposes.
There seems to be a mountain biking theme among other Essential team members. Does that apply to you do as well?
Indeed! Mountain biking has been a pretty big part of my life. I started racing mountain bikes way back in middle school and, in many ways, it sparked my interest in mechanical engineering. Wrenching on bikes, rebuilding suspension, and building trails are all very engineering-minded activities. Maybe the two inherently go hand and hand.
Anyways, mountain biking has introduced me to some great friends, brought me to some amazing places, and even provided me with some fantastic work experience at Santa Cruz Bicycles. I am now fortunate enough to be in the “PNW” where I frequently ride some world-class trails and enjoy fantastic snowboarding and hiking.
Pete racing enduro in Killington, VT – as you can see, he is most happy while on his bike.
Interested in Engineering Development at Essential?