Published May 26, 2022

Customer-focused Engineering: Meet Director of Hardware Nick Spada

Ever wondered about the cross-section of mechanical engineering and pizza production? Nick Spada has.

As Picnic’s Director of Hardware, Nick’s responsibilities are a particularly unique combination of electro-mechanical engineering, dealing with mechanical systems, and designing the hardware for the Picnic Pizza Station. No two days are the same for Nick, and as one of Picnic’s longest-standing employees, he’s seen his fair share of exciting engineering.

“The first thing I designed at Picnic was a linear actuator, which was a system that moves back and forth with sensors and motors”, Nick shared, smiling. He’s come a long way since joining the company in 2018. “My role now is more focused on designing all the hardware and managing the core building blocks and functions. We design every physical component you see on the system.”

Engineering for supply chain efficiency

2022 is an exciting and busy time forNick and his team. “We’ve reached the point where we’re mass producing our commercially available product. The team is focusing on drawings for production to allow our supply chain to function more efficiently. We’re also building up a solid research and development practice based on previous learning to expand our ingredient capabilities,” he says.

But it hasn’t always been pizza and leading teams for Nick.

“After getting my BS in MechanicalEngineering at Seattle University, my career started in the aerospace industry.I worked my way up over eight years to become the lead support manager on-site at Boeing, working on hundred million dollar projects and doing 24/7 support.”

It wasn’t long before the 2am phone calls from VPs asking him to drive onsite grew tiresome. Nick says, “I started to feel like the aerospace industry had mostly been designed already, and a lot of what we were doing was making things more precise or shrinking things down.After eight years, I kinda lost interest, and that’s why I joined Picnic, where it’s more undefined, creative, and inventive.”

Nick says, “After I joined Picnic, I was immediately asked, “Hey, we need you to design a food mechanism that handles olives, green peppers, and onions.” You don’t get requests like that at large-scale manufacturing sites.”

Nick swiftly moved through the ranks atPicnic, starting as an individual contributor and mechanical engineer to leading a team of five mechanical engineers and an electrical engineer. “A year ago, we were a team of 15, and now we’re over 50 people,” Nick says. “Picnic has evolved from everybody wearing lots of different hats to more defined roles and sharing the load.”

It’s the collaboration at Picnic that gets Nick excited about the future. “We’re so customer-focused, and there’s a lot of cross-functional collaboration. We have customer success, marketing, design, and product at our engineering meetings to get different voices and opinions into the mix, which I really enjoy.”

An essential piece of the puzzle

A typical day for Nick involves working on new product initiatives, hosting cross-departmental kickoff meetings, drawing, and visualizing the future product. “We want to automate the more burdensome tasks for the customer so that they can focus on other areas of their business.” And that’s another part of his role that Nick loves the most.“When people see our tech, a lightbulb moment happens when they realize what the pizza station is and what it can do for them. That’s always such an interesting moment to watch.”

Nick wraps up our conversation by saying, “At Picnic, we’re all in this together, none of us has the whole solution, and we can’t solve problems alone. We need all of the puzzle pieces to create our functional company.”

Looking for an opportunity to take food automation to the next level and join a whip-smart team of cool pizza lovers? Have a look at our open roles.