Radiant at 30 Staff Stories: Around the World
Gary Pedeville is on the Engineering team at Radiant. He joined the company in July 2000 as one of the earliest employees of the company. Later he became Radiant’s first employee working in China, as our customer base expanded. He has been based in Shanghai, China since 2006. In his time at Radiant he has co-developed three US Patents.
When I started at Radiant there were about eight people, with just four people in the first Duvall, WA office. There was also an office in North Carolina with three or four people, including a salesperson and Rick Albrecht.
Rick was our lead optical designer and mechanical engineer at the time, he designed the SIGs [Source Imaging Goniometer® systems]. The very first SIG was built in his basement in North Carolina—it was destined for a customer in the Netherlands. I was working for an automotive lighting company and we were in the market for a goniometer and a color photometer. I was the first customer to buy a Radiant color camera.
Now we have Application Engineers who go out to do customer installations, but back then it was just Ron [Rykowski]—he was CEO and software developer and installer all in one. While he was installing the colorimeter at the company I worked for and did two days of training.
I was asking a lot of questions, partly to show off my knowledge a little but, but also because I was really interested in the topic. We chatted afterwards and a month later he offered me a job. It was a risk, leaving a large, stable company to work for a small startup, but I was ready for a change and just packed my bags and drove to Seattle.
Early Days of LCD Displays
It turned out to be the right decision. Doug [Kreysar, current CEO] and I both came from the automotive lighting industry, which had a downturn around 2000—the same time we came on board at Radiant. Then Radiant began grow with the emergence of flat-panel displays and LCDs. When I started, we all had big CRT displays on our desks.
As FPDs started to take off, Radiant was the only company with an imaging colorimeter so that gave us the edge and allowed us to get some customers in Asia. Other companies quickly copied the idea of an imaging colorimeter—including Konica Minolta, who was our competitor back then.
Most of the FPD display development was taking place in Asia—initially in Japan, the Taiwan area, and Korea. I spent many years doing trips around Asia. China became a big source of customers, especially in the Suzhou and Shanghai areas. By 2006 I was spending so much time there I said to Ron and Doug “I think I should just go to Shanghai.” So, I moved to China.
Life In Shanghai
Suzhou is a satellite city to Shanghai, some people commute back and forth, although Suzhou has a larger population than New York City. But back then it was different—it was challenging to go to Suzhou for our first factory installation there. It was fun but challenging.
Now you can get there from Shanghai in 20 minutes on the high-speed train. I’ve seen so much growth here in a short period of time. I remember in Suzhou in 2006: they had built these enormously wide roads, but there were so few cars. Now you drive to Suzhou and it’s a traffic jam.
Living in Shanghai, I still struggle with speaking Chinese—it’s a difficult language. Luckily, I have Li [Sun, China Engineering Director] and friends who help me. I even managed to buy a house here! But now the translation tools have gotten so good. I tell people to just send me a message in Chinese, then I use WeChat to translate it.
About a month after I arrived at Radiant [in Duvall, WA] there was a big earthquake in Seattle [The 2001 Nisqually quake]. Ron and Steve were both from Southern California, but I’m from the East Coast so I had no experience with earthquakes. I remember I was at the whiteboard in my office with Ron and the building started to shake hard. It was a small wooden building with three floors—I honestly thought the building was going to fall down so I just ran out. I didn’t even say anything to Ron. I just ran.
I got to the parking lot and waited with a few other Radiant employees. A full minute or two later, Ron comes out the front door—not in a hurry, just sauntering. In the parking lot it was like standing on a waterbed. The ground was rolling and the cars were shaking and going up and down—including Ron’s red sports car.
Once I was outside, I wasn’t afraid—I had studied a bit of geology, so it was actually an interesting experience. It was just funny the difference in Ron’s reaction as a Southern California guy: “Just another earthquake.”
Scott Harrison [former employee] and I had a competition to see who travelled the farthest for Radiant. He made a trip to Siberia for an installation so for a while he had the record. Then Radiant got a customer in Cape Town, South Africa.
I looked at my globe and if you find the place directly opposite Seattle on the other side of the world, it’s not Cape Town—it’s actually somewhere around the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa—but it’s close. Scott and I agreed that we weren’t likely to ever get a customer in Madagascar, so now I am the permanent long-distance record holder at Radiant.
Madagascar (in pink) – the antipode (opposite global location) to Radiant’s Redmond headquarters.
Normally when I’m traveling, I don’t have a lot of down time—I’ve never even been to the Great Wall in China. But in South Africa, it turned out I was there over a national holiday, so I had two free days. The customer arranged for me to go on a game drive, which is like a mini safari where you drive out in an SUV. That was fantastic—we had lions walking right up to the vehicle! It’s a highlight of my Radiant experiences.