The Lady and her Robots
The same adventurous spirit prevails at iRobot's Burlington, Mass., headquarters, a veritable tinkerers' paradise. "The culture of 'yes we can' is very important here," says Greiner. Indeed, the lab resembles nothing so much as Santa's workshop, with young engineers in jeans and T-shirts screwing in bolts, threading wires, soldering metal, and punching keyboards. In a corner, two technologists are coating floor samples with A-1 sauce to test the efficacy of the Scooba, a robotic floor mopper due out next year.
Greiner encourages workers to experiment and expects them to make mistakes. "It's all about teamwork here and listening to ideas because the next great product could come from any employee," she says. She herself spends less time in the workshop today and more doing things like talking to investors, but invention remains her first love. "I like doing the next new thing," she says. "I like the 'what's next?' "
Imagine: robots to rake your leaves and wash your windows; robots to help care for sick people; robots that can roam your house and watch for intruders; robots that sniff out weeds so all farms can be organic. And how about a robot throwing out the first ball at the Red Sox season opener? Greiner can hardly contain her enthusiasm. Maybe that's why she finds nothing inconsistent or unreasonable in the company's ambitious motto, which is posted throughout the building. "Build cool stuff," it reads. "Have fun. Change the world."
BORN: Dec. 6, 1967. EDUCATION: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, B.S. in mechanical engineering; M.S. in computer science. FAMILY: Single. ADVICE: "Listen--to colleagues, to customers, to everyone around you." HOBBIES: Snowboarding, kayaking, rock climbing, and paintball. DIRTY LITTLE SECRET: "I'm not a morning person. And I need eight hours of sleep."