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Music to Our Ears: An Interview With Singer And QA Director Stewart Wilson-Turner

If genuineness had a face, it would be Stewart Wilson-Turner’s. Our very own Ozobot Quality Assurance Director, Stewart, is one of the nicest, warmest people out there. This is a man who brings roses to all of us at Ozobot HQ on Valentine’s Day every year. Not only are we thrilled that he is a part of our team, but we are excited to share his unique story with you!

Not many people are aware of what exactly Quality Assurance is, so let us offer some insight. Here at Ozobot, we want to make sure that we are giving our customers the best experience possible. In order to do this, we need to test everything multiple times before putting it out for the world to enjoy. This is where Stewart comes in. He heads up all of this testing, which is a lot more complicated than it seems, and also puts together our teams of engineers to make it all happen. 

As much as he enjoys his work here at Ozobot, he also very much loves music. In his perfect world, Stewart is playing with his bandmates in regular, weekly gigs in Los Angeles while simultaneously flexing his left brain muscles with QA. And that is exactly what he is doing! We sat down with him to dig deeper into his life story. 

What did you do before you worked at Ozobot?

The immediate precursor to Ozobot was, I was the QA lead for a company called PGI, which is a global video conferencing company. I was the lead of a team of about 16 QA Analysts. That job was basically 24 hours a day because we had people overseas as well. 

I also helped start a company called VoiceBank, which is the first entertainment company to actually put auditions online for producers to review and for voiceover. In the past, you would record your actors, put it in FedEx, and then the next day the producers would get the tape and have to go through it. 

We put most of the major talent agencies around the U.S. online and taught them hard-disk recording and we enabled them to upload their auditions right away to the site.

There was also acting, broadway, and I’ve had a band for the last 25 years that plays around LA.

What brought you to Ozobot? 

I have been friends with Nader (our CEO) for a while and he mentioned how Ozobot was really starting to ramp up and they needed to start looking into quality and testing and things like that. He asked me and I jumped ship from PGI like that! That’s how I came on board. I always loved what the company was doing, but I was perfectly happy doing what I was already doing. I was working remotely, from home, but what we are doing here is just so ridiculously cool and beneficial. 

How can you not enjoy being in technology when it benefits kids?!

What are some projects you are currently working on?

Currently, we are working on Ozobot Classroom—getting it tested and verified so that we can release it—as well as the multi-bot Classroom Kit which is really incredibly exciting. The amount of work that has been done on that, especially by Bob, enabling us to connect to multiple bots in one room and get that information back is a game-changer. Those are the two things that are the priority now.

We need to make sure that we have everything documented, so that’s what I am doing right now. I am writing test cases and acceptance criteria so that we can always go back and say “this is how it works now” and “this is what we have to test to make sure it works.”

Musically, we did a gig this Saturday for a birthday party and it was great. We’ve been playing every now and then. I have turned down gigs if it doesn’t work with my weekend schedule with family. But I miss playing with my crew. I miss jamming and jumping around and dancing with everybody. 

One of the things I want to start working on is a local gig in the LA area that we can play once a month and invite friends and co-workers to come down to party with us. Just people coming to have a good time, with no rules or pressure.

Tell us about your background in music! What are some current musical projects you are working on?

My grandfather was a violin maker from Scotland and he introduced me to music when I was very little. He made my first violin. I played for 14 years, partially because of my grandfather making it for me. 

The other big musical influence was on my mother’s side. My uncle Claude, back in the late ‘60’s early ‘70’s, was the bandleader for The Mighty Sparrow. The Sparrow was considered the greatest Calypsonian singer in the entire world. 

My uncle would give me his steel drum. Even when I was little, I would bang on the different notes on the steel drum and I think that’s what started my interest in music. 

I was also always blessed to be able to sing on key. First of all, I think everybody can sing and everybody SHOULD sing. I don’t care what you sound like, but of course we have a requirement that if you want to listen to someone, they have to sound a certain way. I have always had a good voice without having taken lessons. 

After I finished playing violin, I went to guitar without having taken lessons. So, I started playing guitar and singing.

What motivated you to be in QA and also practice the art of music? Did the education system nurture that interest, or did you have to take matters into your own hands?

I started off singing and acting while I was in school and I found that it wasn’t fulfilling me completely because I was only using the right side of my brain. There was still the intellectual side of me that wanted to sit down and think about things. Music is part of that, since music is very math-oriented but even then, it still wasn’t fulfilling me. 

That’s when I started to get into directing and voice-over directing which is what lead me on to VoiceBank. My buddy asked me if I could come over and help build that company. That’s when I began to see that the technical side of it was really cool. My interest in QA stemmed from that. 

Now, I can’t code. But part of my job is to build a team and be the manager and find the right people to say hey come on and do this and make sure it works. That is where my training for QA came from. 

With music, there is no better way to improve than by having a regular gig. For years, we played at Nick’s in Beverly Hills every week.

Did you think that you’d be able to pursue both career paths, or did you feel like you had to make a distinct choice?

I NEEDED to do both. I have enough friends who are musicians that are successful and still working on it to know that’s not the life that I want. If I am happy then I am driven to do what I want to do. What made me happy was the ability to sing in front of people every week. 

When people started asking me to do demos, I didn’t like that. Even though demos are a great way to expand your career, I had no interest in singing into a microphone. I wanted to connect with people. That’s what jazzed me. So, for me, it was really about keeping music where it is at so that it feeds me and I still love it and enjoy it for what it is, but make sure that the technical side was also satisfied.

I think, unlike our parents, who were brought up to just do one thing for their whole life, which worked back then, now millennials and those of us that identify as a millennial state of mind know that we are multi-faceted with many interests. So, we’re going to do a lot of things and we will balance it so we enjoy and are successful in all.

How important is collaboration to your work? Who have you collaborated with recently?

Part of the great thing about QA is that I collaborate with everyone. My personality is more of a collaborator. I am usually the person who encourages others to help develop, expand, and move ideas forward. I work with every department because everything that is done in the company flows through QA so that it can be presented to the customer. 

If I have a chance to help, that’s what I do. 

What is something you hope people take away from your music? 

Joy, happiness, and fun times. It doesn’t have to be life changing. I don’t need them to come and say “this was transformational, I’ve never looked at music this way.” I am cool with people just saying “wow we saw this band last night and they were great and we had a good time!” and if they don’t think about me for a week? Cool. If they want to see me again, I’m cool with that. 

Stewart embodies everything we stand for here at Ozobot. His excitement about making cool robots for kids and humbleness about his killer set of pipes (trust us, he’s fantastic!) inspires us all.

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