Larry Prince is the Vice President of Engineering at Q-Net Security. He manages a team of engineers and assists with product management tasks such as mapping out the product development strategy for Q-Net devices.
A chemical engineer by training, Larry has spent his career working on thorny tech problems ranging from satellite battery technology, to smart grid devices, now to cyber security.
Larry is especially passionate about systems engineering, with his coworker Andrew Quirin describing him as an “evangelist” for the field. With Systems Engineer Day coming up on Friday November 25, Larry shared his perspective on systems engineering.
First of all, I manage engineers: hardware engineers, software engineers, and test engineers. There’s also a lot of project management and process design, as well as product marketing where I'm involved with laying out strategy and roadmaps for our products.
I come from a product development background in tech, where I've been involved in almost every phase of product development. From R&D to testing products for the Smart Grid space where we were selling millions of units. I apply all of that background here to help get Q-Net Security ready for the next step.
We are a growing company, and it’s important that we are prepared for that growth. For example, we recently stood up a system that can simulate tens of thousands of Q-Boxes. We want to look ahead and see exactly how the system will perform as we scale up. We are also very focused on building longevity and supportability into the product by performing design testing, manufacturing testing, and employing modeling and analysis tools to ensure we meet the long-term needs of our customers.
Finally, I was originally in charge of systems and testing here, so I’m still involved in our product testing, pretty much on a daily basis.
I like working with smart people, and on something that’s very challenging and technically complex. And there are a lot of very smart people here at Q-Net Security – that makes it fun.
The simplest way to explain it is that systems engineers distill customer needs into a usable product. There’s a lot of complexity in doing that – turning the marketing requirements into technical requirements, looking at the entire system and how everything integrates together.
It’s important because a lot of people don’t see the big picture, and that’s what systems engineering provides. Engineering can be very compartmentalized if there aren’t systems engineers there to put it all together.
Every day we have discussions about what the customer needs in a product, and then we build that. Good systems engineering makes sure you’re solving the problems that need to be solved.
Early involvement is key. There has to be a tight relationship between engineering and product marketing. So the people who design the product – and who map out where the product is going several years down the road – need to be on the same page with the people who are defining what the customer wants the product to do. Systems people are responsible for those relationships.
And it’s not only important to make sure you’re building the right thing. Staffing needs are crucial, too – making sure you have the right people on your team.
The result would be a product that just doesn’t meet the customers needs – when you design and develop the wrong thing. Systems people have to be very technical and very competent. They have to understand the product requirements and translate those into technical requirements. If that doesn’t happen, the product will suffer.
I think the hardware and software engineers here at Q-Net Security really wanted to make a good product. They wanted to make the thing that customers wanted. They didn’t sit there and think, “We know better.” When we, from a systems perspective, pointed out some of the weaknesses in the product, they didn’t really question it; they just went out and fixed it.
I don’t have any specific resources in mind, but I Google things a lot. I research everything - whenever anything new comes up, I go out and research it. If I want to know trends in project management and product strategy, I just Google it.
I don’t believe there’s a ‘right’ in engineering (at least most of the time), but I believe there’s a “better.” You’ll seldom get it ‘right’ because things are changing so fast. You have to stay up to date with how things are being done better. When you take this approach you’re never resting on your laurels, you’re looking at the solution after next.
My measuring stick for a good fit is some place where I can add a lot of value and I think that applies here. I also have a strong bent toward quality, and I think Q-Net’s Q-Defender is one of the best quality products that I’ve ever worked on. It does what it says it will do. Admittedly, we tested the hell out of it!
You’ll have to ask them that!
I think they’d say they appreciate my experience. I have worked in almost every part of product development, from R&D to testing and systems. I have a lot of experience in that area because I have been around for so long.
I have a couple of patents and have been given some company wide awards. But honestly? I’m probably proudest of my ability to learn and understand complex battery systems. It was my first career path out of college and I was able to get in at Hughes Aircraft and work with some leaders in the field. People don’t understand how complicated batteries are. They are unbelievably complicated and challenging to develop and design.
I play pickleball – not well, but I play it.
I research and collect bourbon. It’s very big here [in St Louis, MO]. I’ve been doing it for many years, long before it was popular. Funny thing is I don’t drink that much of it, I just want it to be good when I do.
I used to be a hockey goalie, which I loved, but my back took me out of that several years ago.
Most of the bourbon I get isn’t widely available, you have to hunt for it. But Four Roses Single Barrel is a good one. It’s reasonably priced and reliably good.
I’m old, I’d sleep! Maybe I’d play pickleball.
This might be surprising because we’ve been talking about managing people and maintaining relationships across divisions at work, but I’m introverted. I don’t like to be around a lot of people.
[Editorial note: There was a long, thoughtful pause here.]
I also overthink almost everything.
Thanks so much to Larry for speaking with us about your role as Chief Architect at Q-Net Security. To learn more about the Q-Net Team, visit our About page.