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A photo of Ralph Gnauck smiling and holding a moscow mule.

Ralph Gnauck: Robotics Software Engineer

Personal motto or mantra: “Do it right the first time, If you don’t you will end up doing things over and over and that gets boring really fast.”

Ralph Gnauck has been a Robotics Software Engineer at OLogic for almost 8 years, but he has over 35 years of experience in the Electronics & Information Technology industries. 

Ralph has been interested in computers and electronics since he was young. In Ralph’s words, “It all started when I was given a ‘Radio Shack electronics learning lab kit’ for my 10th or 11th birthday. I became hooked on learning about electronics and started building microprocessor projects by age 15.”

In 1989, he then went on to attend the Canberra College of Advanced Education in Canberra (Now University of Canberra) in Australia, where he’s from. He began his college career by enrolling in an Electrical Engineering program, but after his first year, he decided to switch to the new Computer Science program as it allowed him to study both the electronics and software aspects in engineering. During his final year at university, he began working for a small electronics consultancy that was similar to OLogic, and did firmware and electronics design.

After his time at the small electronics consultancy, Ralph and a friend started a company that worked to write programs for the new Amiga computers that were popular at that time. In order to make a living while the company was in its early stages, they began offering their own consulting services on electronics projects.

While working as an independent consultant, Ralph worked with various clients and eventually began working for Computer Power with their office in the US. He worked there for 12 months, which led him to decide to stay full-time in the US by transferring to their US office, which is now part of Spherion.

Ralph was working at Pacific Bell through Spherion during the Dot Com boom, which is when he decided to work for Pacific Bell full-time. He remained with the company for about 15 years and stayed with them as they transitioned through a series of mergers to become AT&T.

The work there was exciting as it was right as the internet was beginning to grow and we were doing all of the network capacity management to allow the company to build out the infrastructure to support the rapidly expanding network. We even got some patents for the tools we built to manage the Fiber Network and user DSL equipment used to access the internet at that time.

This is the time when Ralph’s interest in robotics began growing as well, so he decided to make a career change and began working at Intuitive Surgical with their vision team working on an incredible medical robot. Soon after, he was introduced to Ted Larson, CEO at OLogic, at the Home Brew Robotics club and after seeing a few cool presentations, the rest was history. Ralph has now been with us for almost 8 years!

When asked about what originally drew him to Software Engineering, Ralph replied, “I think I’ve always been interested in electronics – and most electronics these days include microprocessors, so learning to program these is pretty much par for the course.  It’s mostly been what’s pulled me away from Electronics rather than towards software, to be honest for most of my career software jobs were just easier to find.”

He also loves to ‘make stuff come alive’ as it feels really good to work on something and then when it’s turned on, see it actually work like seeing the motors move, the lights blink, and see the devices talk to each other. As Ralph said, “every time a new Robot drives for the first time you feel like a new parent”.

As an engineer with so much experience, he has learned a lot throughout his career, but the biggest lesson he has learned is, “Don’t underestimate how good all the other people you are working with are, they all have something to contribute and you should always be prepared to listen and learn from them”. Great advice!

At OLogic, Ralph is a Senior Software Engineer, specializing in embedded firmware and mechatronics motion control, but does higher-level ROS robotics software as well. His favorite part about working at OLogic is the many opportunities he has to work on a wide variety of projects. Also, how when one project is done there is always a new cool and interesting project to work on. It keeps his workday interesting and fun!

For those who are interested in joining the OLogic team, Ralph had this advice to share:

No matter if you think of yourself as an Electrical Engineer, Software Engineer, or Mechanical Engineer, to be successful in a modern tech company you really have to be a bit of all three. The projects you will work on at OLogic will always require skills and an understanding of all three disciplines so the more you can bring to the table in all areas the better you will be able to find the right solutions for customers.

Moving on to more about Ralph’s hobbies and interests, his main hobby has been robotics for quite a while now. As a member of the Home Brew Robotics Club, he built robots to participate in their club challenges like the balance bot, table bot and floor bot competitions.

He has also worked with groups from the club to participate in some competitions like the Microsoft Kinekt Challenge at IROS in 2014 that they won and the NASA Sample return Challenge in 2015, and 2016. The team got to the finals in 2016.

If Ralph wasn’t working in robotics, he would probably be working in aeronautical engineering.

As a kid, I was always interested in aviation, my uncle was a pilot, so we would go to the airport to meet him when he came to town. We spent time watching  the planes and I was fascinated by them,  so I think I may have been drawn into aeronautical engineering if I had not discovered computers.

For fun and entertainment, Ralph is a big fan of live music, always looking for local concerts to attend. Jazz and Blues are his favorites. For sports, he follows F1 racing, backing the Aussies whenever they compete. Ralph was also thrilled when Australia won the Dubai Sail Grand Prix series with an amazing comeback by driver Tom Slingsby and the rest of the Aussie crew – he followed the GP sailing series faithfully.

If there is one food Ralph cannot resist it is ginger in any form: Ginger Beer, Ginger Cookies, Chocolate Ginger- he can’t resist any of it.

When asked where his favorite place in the world is, Ralph instantly responded with,“Perth Western Australia. We lived there when I was 5 or 6 and have loved it ever since. My family in Australia still live there now so we have been lucky enough to visit often.”

Ralph made the move from Australia to the United States when he worked for  a company that opened a San Francisco Office. He wanted to travel and work overseas and when they offered him a job in San Francisco for 6 Months, he accepted. Six months quickly grew to 12 Months and by then he knew he wanted to stay and has now been here for over 26 years.

Lucky for OLogic that Ralph decided to stay in the US. We depend on him to be the lead on some of our most complicated software engineering challenges, always identifying creative solutions for our client projects. He is an important part of our OLogic team!

See some of our other Employee Spotlight features and Blog Posts on our OLogic blog!