There is a huge push towards the “Smart Home” right now and automation — and Google and Amazon are competing to manage the family household. The system is in its infancy right now, but there are some emerging technologies shining through. COVID is just speeding up the process right now given that parents are at a loss for how to manage the post-COVID household.
For example, IFTTT (If This Then That) is an app on both GE Smart Appliances and Bosch. It’s an integration platform that connects any two systems that can talk to each other. It’s mostly used for integrating software systems and is used for connecting smart devices. This app can help you basically make it so that every device/connected appliance in your home talks to each other and can perform a task.
Secondly, you can now program Alexa to create a chore list using the Alexa Chore Blueprint. But again here, the parent would have to set it up manually. With Alexa parents can also automate kid’s homework assignment times, create an automated toothbrushing routine
Thirdly, Google has “Assignable Reminders” where parents can assign chores to your kids where they get a notification and when the chore needs to be done.
As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Priya Rajendran, CEO & Co-Founder of S’moresUp
Priya Rajendran is the CEO and Co-Founder of S’moresUp. She’s an engineer and industry veteran who’s worked at PayPal and Ford’s Connected Experiences team.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I am a software engineer whose career has taken several diversions in the past 20 years from developer to product lead to entrepreneur. In the last decade, I have worked as a product lead at Paypal, and as the head of product at Target’s innovation lab, and recently at Ford, where I lead the product and innovation strategy for the digital experiences in our connected vehicles.
Year 2017 was an eventful year for me. I went through a career setback when Target decided to cancel the innovation project that we worked on for a year and was ready to launch. At the same time in my personal life, I was going through a divorce. I turned into my family’s single provider, putting in well over 60 hours of work each week, and undertaking massive business travel — all while being a mom to a sixth grader and being unable to tap into my family network because they live thousands of miles away in India.
Though I was working in technology that was solving people’s everyday problems, these tools offered nothing to help the most critical parenting problems: working 40 plus hours away from the home, and then having to coordinate your children’s day to day lives and keeping your home life healthy, stable, and happy.
My startup, S’moresUp, was created out of this disconnect. It’s a solution that manages the household — and creates a smart home to make parenting better and your family happier,
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story of my career has to be S’moresUp. It was not intentional, it was not planned and it was something that I never would have even thought of undertaking.
I never in my wildest dreams thought about being an entrepreneur. I met my co-founder Reeves during my time at PayPal through a leadership program that we attended together. Even after our time at PayPal, (and after PayPal at different companies), we kept in touch. In 2017, while I was going through some rough times, I reached out to some of my friends for support and Reeves was one of them. As I was talking through the hardships of being a single mom, managing family and work calendars, travel and having consistency for my daughter back at home, maintaining similar activities for her across two homes, and the lack of tools/technologies to support me, Reeves asked a simple question; Do you want to solve these issues for others who are struggling just like you? It was that one simple question that led us on this three-year journey.
The most challenging year in my life 2017 also turned out to be the most impactful one for my personal as well as work life.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I have had several tipping points in my career. The most important one came while I was working at PayPal. I was selected for a Technology Leadership Program as part of their first cohort. The 2 year program was aimed at creating the next generation of technology leaders in PayPal. TLP is a prestigious program offered annually to top 10 technologists out of the 3000+ in the company. Participants experience 4 rotations (6 months each) in different areas of the company, each that challenges them to deliver results, lead, and learn.
I worked in areas that were completely out of my comfort zone. Going into the program, I was a portfolio manager. I took roles on Product Strategy, Architecture, Network Operations and Solution development. These areas were completely new to me. With guidance, willingness to learn, I was able to complete the assignments with great success and landed in one of the most important and interesting jobs in my career.
The biggest takeaways from that experience were the following:
- Don’t get in your own way; Take risks and challenges and get accustomed to stepping out of your comfort zone.
- An empathetic approach to people and problems will connect you with the right people and solutions.
- Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back. You are capable of more than what you think.
When someone says that you can do it, believe them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Absolutely. I have several people in my life who helped shape my career. The first manager who actually made me believe in my capabilities and that I am capable of more than I know was my manager at Risk Management Solutions, Marion Szefler. I was a first time manager when I was under him and he taught me how to manage people with empathy and how to lead a high performing team. We used to have our 1–1 meetings on Tuesdays, which I used to refer to him as my ‘Tuesdays with Marion’. When he left the company and retired, he gave me a copy of ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ that I still have with me as a reminder to my 1–1s with him.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
There are so many books, documentaries and talks that have impacted me that it’s hard to pick just one.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely made me pause and think about the decisions that I make on a day to day basis. I have probably read this book a few times. It is a fascinating read. I revisit the number of coffees I drink everyday with this book in the back of my mind 🙂
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future.
- Parents are now spending an additional 27 hours per week on household chores, childcare, and managing online learning — an entire additional full time job.
- If this persists, there’s no doubt in my mind that many parents — most likely mothers — will drop out of the work force altogether.
- As a result, we teamed up with Bosch appliance/Home Connect to create a new integration that might help ease the burden that COVID is having on families by building the “Smart Home of the Future”
- SmoresUp’s new integration with Bosch appliance/Home Connect creates tasks to help keep the house clean. Parents can download the app and when the dishwasher is ready, the appliance will help assign unloading dishes to your kids — or assign them to help with the laundry and much more.
There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?
- Sure. I can talk particularly about how the new Smart Home is seeking to help parents. There is a huge push towards the “Smart Home” right now and automation — and Google and Amazon are competing to manage the family household. The system is in its infancy right now, but there are some emerging technologies shining through. COVID is just speeding up the process right now given that parents are at a loss for how to manage the post-COVID household.
- For example, IFTTT (If This Then That) is an app on both GE Smart Appliances and Bosch. It’s an integration platform that connects any two systems that can talk to each other. It’s mostly used for integrating software systems and is used for connecting smart devices. This app can help you basically make it so that every device/connected appliance in your home talks to each other and can perform a task.
- Secondly, you can now program Alexa to create a chore list using the Alexa Chore Blueprint. But again here, the parent would have to set it up manually. With Alexa parents can also automate kid’s homework assignment times, create an automated toothbrushing routine
- Thirdly, Google has “Assignable Reminders” where parents can assign chores to your kids where they get a notification and when the chore needs to be done.
- With the S’moresUp and Bosch Home Connect partnership, we are the first team that has “translated” what a smart device says into something meaningful for families. By translate I mean, not just saying hey the washing is complete or your dishwasher is done, but by saying “Hey it is time to help put your mom put the dishes away” or “It’s time to do your part as a family member!”.
How can our readers follow you online?
Please check out my community at Smoresup.com please!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!