Published: Aug. 9, 2019
By Sarah Reckard, Resideo communications
During the course of her career, Keri Waters
has started three Silicon Valley companies. Her most recent venture, Buoy Labs, was acquired by Resideo in March 2019.
I sat down with her to learn more about her engineering career, why she focuses on building a mission-driven team and how her mentors and childhood helped shape those decisions.
1. First off – I have to know … why do you hang a pirate flag in your office?
That’s not a coincidence! Over the course of my career I’ve built three companies. At each one, I learned the importance of building high performance teams, and to build a culture where people are driven in a way so that they can thrive. Starting a company is similar in some ways to navigating uncharted waters. And since water is my business … well, the pirate flag is a fun reminder of our shared mission and passion to explore and shape the unknown.
2. What best prepared you for your career in engineering?
I think my general curiosity was a solid foundation. But the best mentor I ever had was my dad, who was a Marine Corps fighter pilot. His job gave me a great perspective. We were exposed to a variety of new environments and met many new people. I learned that I could start new anywhere and jump into anything.
That’s exactly what you need to do when engineering – look at the situation and identify patterns that have helped you in the past. Plan, adapt and execute.
3. What has surprised you the most about the engineering field over the last couple of decades?
I’ve really enjoyed watching how far engineering has come in terms of design. When I graduated from MIT in the 1990s, websites were ugly, and it was complex to make product prototypes. Now, we can easily build rich, beautiful software and hardware experiences that weren’t possible 15 years ago.
My Resideo team and I get a charge out of seeing our products mocked up on a 3D printer or stamped off a factory line. We’re creating an entirely new smart-home category for home water management and leak detection, and we’re dedicated to helping homeowners understand their water use and conserve it so together we can become part of the solution to a global water crisis.
4. The start-up life isn’t easy. What motivates you?
Self-sufficiency motivates me in a couple of ways. First, I’m generally an optimist, and I believe that human beings are capable of great things. Growing up in a military family, my dad instilled a work ethic in me to succeed. We were taught to excel, and to be independent.
Second, I think it’s crazy that in the 21st century homeowners have almost no control or knowledge about their water usage. Yes, water is basic. But in states where there are tiered-water rates, homeowners have whiplash: One week we have water in abundance, the next we’re being asked to give our kids sponge baths. If we’re using our water more efficiently – if we truly know how we’re using our water – we can become more self-sufficient with our natural resources. It’s time to rethink the fundamentals of household water: What we need, where we use it and the best ways to get water to people.
5. What advice would you offer other entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Starting a company is all consuming. And don’t get me wrong, I love that! For me, work and life are not separate.
If you can enjoy working on something that you are deeply passionate about and that makes an impact – then you’re on the right path. Also, don’t underestimate the team. Build a knowledgeable and confident team that is driven by facts, has a huge team spirit and one that offers mutual support. The spirit of the team shouldn’t be constrained to conventional wisdom; rather, it’s a team that serves each other to get the best end result.