Few people know how to handle the written word as well as Cynthia Geno. As Information Development Manager for Velo3D, Cynthia oversees and develops critical documents that help guide customers on how to fully utilize Velo3D’s end-to-end solution.
We recently chatted with Cynthia to talk about her previous experiences in the technology industry, the challenges she faces as an Information Development Manager, and what makes Velo3D’s company culture unique.
Hi Cynthia, give us an overview of your professional background
I graduated from Cornell University, but my degree was not in something engineering related, although that was sort of how I got my feet wet with the engineering and computing environment. Cornell was deeply involved in developing things like computer vision, which is now extremely valuable in self driving automobiles and things like that, so it was all around me at the time.
What was your first tech-orientated job?
My first very tech-oriented job was a plasma strip and etch equipment company in Richmond, California. It was a great experience.
What made that job such a great experience?
It was a small company that made me love small companies. It taught me that you can make a difference and whatever work you want to take on is appreciated. It also taught me that your contributions will be obvious to people who can help you with whatever you want to make of your career and whatever you want to do.
What was the journey like from your past roles to your current role as Information Development Manager?
At the plasma stripping company, I started coordinating the activities of field service and helping to direct and step in for field service engineers and managers as their relief. At that time, I also got heavily involved in writing the customer facing documentation, such as how to repair, use, and perform preventive maintenance on the equipment.
After becoming the technical publications manager there, the company was bought, and I ended up in a company that made chemical vapor deposition equipment; it is very toxic, dangerous equipment, so you have to tell people how to use and repair it safely. Things like “don’t stare into the plasma” and other extensive, heavily regulated safety instructions.
In those two companies, I got my chops working with SEMI S2 standards, which are the semiconductor equipment industry standards for safety warnings and how to protect customers from harming themselves or the equipment though engineering controls. So that’s where I got my start, and after that, I kept finding other interesting smaller semiconductor equipment manufacturing companies to work at.
What brought you to Velo3D and how many years have you been with the company?
I’ve been at Velo3D for four years now. Well, a little bit longer because I started as a contractor. And what brought me here was after my job at Solyndra and my next job in renewable energy, which was for a micro inverter company, I thought that it would be nice to go work for a while in the software sector where manufacturing was not an issue. So, I went to work for Symantec, where I learned how large enterprise software companies develop software. While I was working there, I also managed a team of writers, but I did a lot of writing myself. And one of the people I worked with at Solyndra said “I’m working for a really interesting company, by any chance, are you looking for something new?” And it turned out that after five years at Symantec I was, so here I am.
What does your day-to-day look like at Velo3D?
I work with George Grenley, who does the internal documentation, so that would be all the field service procedures, which are procedures that are used to help us install and upgrade certain parts of the machines. George also produces customer documents like the Site Planning Guide and the Installation checklist. Katherine Weill, another writer in our group, works on the Flow™ (pre-print software) documentation. I work on the user-facing documents, such as the Sapphire® Operator’s and Owner Maintenance manuals, as well as Print Software release notes.
What I do in relation to all that is to try and keep us focused on our priorities; the promises we made about the content we need to get done, the new items that have come in, and keep us apprised of each other’s progress. A big part of my job is understanding how we can help each other as we are marching towards a bunch of goals that seem kind of disparate but do fit together.
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your job?
It’s remembering things and understanding the net effect of a small change. I spend a lot of time thinking about if we agree to do this what other documents does that affect? Also, what do we have to release when we need to update new procedures or information to customers?
Switching gears, how would you describe the culture at Velo3D?
Wonderful in the sense that people still look out for each other and care about each other. We’re growing, and it’s getting the point where we don’t necessarily recognize everybody, but we feel a responsibility for each other, even though we may not have met each other yet.
I also think there’s a very genuine, welcoming, response to people. People are extremely willing to help you or point you to someone who can. It just speaks well to the way that we’ve preserved our identity as a company from the very beginning.
What motivates you to wake up and go to work?
I would have to say information design, presentation of data with clarity, and a touch of artistry, and being able to make something more helpful out of a piece of content, for whatever I’m writing. User experience is absolutely my motivation. I really enjoyed putting together the [Sapphire® Printer] operator’s manual, which basically explains what an operator must do to go from having no build plates to starting to build, keeping the build printing, removing the build, and cleaning the powder from the system. It was a lot of fun! I got to interview a lot of people, and I got to play with several lab machines myself.
What in your opinion differentiates Velo3D from other additive manufacturing solutions?
I really think it’s the way we handle designs. And that’s very much balled up in the pre-print software package [Flow™] and our ability to leverage information about a CAD design that gets discarded by surface mesh-based printers, that really does make a difference. And that makes a significant difference to people who are trying desperately to figure out how they can get their design printed. I think that’s really where we stand out. I mean, it’s a snazzy printer, too; it is a colossus that stands above multiple engineering disciplines. But I think people should give more credit to the pre-print software.
What has been your favorite project so far?
Other than the operator’s manual? I really loved working on the Flow™ user guide. Unlike a manual, which tells you what to do, a user guide tells you here are the possibilities with the capabilities of this design tool or application, but it’s up to you to decide what to do.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
In addition to being a writer for practical purposes here at Velo3D, I’m also a developmental editor in the fiction and science fiction market. A developmental editor takes something someone’s written that might not be ready to publish yet and provides some guidance to get it across the line. So, I try to see the virtue in this document, whatever it is. It may not even be something that’s to my taste, but I try to make it into something that’s satisfying to read and that someone might want to publish.
What do you like to do for fun? Any interesting hobbies?
Yes, I have a garden. During the pandemic I went nuts terraforming my boyfriend’s backyard, because it was just a jungle back there. I added lotus, an iris garden with statues, and I built some flower beds. I grow vegetables and irises and dahlias. I also like pickling things, you know, fermenting vegetables.
Thank you for chatting with us today, Cynthia!
You’re very welcome.