Career Profiles: Kevin O’Neill

What is your name?

Kevin O’Neill


Company Information

 Name of Company/Organisation you work for:


 What is your position in the company/organisation?

Chief Executive Officer

Tell us a little about the company you work for and how it’s involved in the space sector.

PixQuanta is a optical sensor company that designs sensor for the 2D and 3D imaging markets. By 2D we mean traditional images like the ones the camera in your phone takes, however our technology can be used at infra-red wavelengths as well as in the optical range. By 3D imaging we mean the kind of 3D-cloud images that show objects in the proximity of the camera – such imaging is now beginning to become more and more commonplace in consumer and automotive applications. Our approach is special because we have designed our sensors from the ground-up to be  mass-manufacturable – we use the same manufacturing processes that the silicon semiconductor industry uses to make billions of chips every year. Because the space industry is becoming more and more reliant on low cost parts, our sensors are of great interest to the space industry for low cost satellites in imaging and navigation applications. Furthermore, space organisations, such as the European Space Agency, understand that the space market alone is not large enough to sustain technology providers like PixQuanta. This is why PixQuanta’s technology development is supported by ESA to feed into both space and non-space markets. This helps ensure continuity of supply to the space sector.


Questions about your current Job

How did you get your current job?

I decided to start the company about 6 years ago after I stopped working for my previous employer.

Describe a typical day.

Every day is different: on one day I might be simulating the optical characteristics of PixQuanta’s devices, on another I might be in a discussion with a customer about a project, on another I might be presenting PixQuanta’s technology to a non-technical audience.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

While I don’t drive a fancy car or have a huge house, I get immense personal satisfaction from running PixQuanta. Having a stake in the technology is one of the main reasons I decided to start the company.

What’s the coolest part of your job?

The coolest part of my job is when I get to witness how a potential customer becomes convinced about the value of PixQuanta’s technology. This typically follows a long period of discussions where I am the one doing the convincing: explaining why PixQuanta’s technology would benefit them. This moment is definitely one of the coolest things to experience.

Are there any elements of your job that you dislike?

There is one thing that I think every entrepreneur has to deal with and that is the uncertainty around starting a company. You get used to it.


Questions about education and training

What subjects did you take in school/college and how have these influenced your career path?

I took physics and math when I was in school and then continued with physics at 3rd level. Since I had an affinity to both math and physics I had no problem progressing through to PhD level, and even very nearly ended up on an academic path. However I knew by the time I was on a track to becoming a professor that I was not going to be very happy in academia, so I dived into the world of high-tech startups.

What non-technical skills are necessary for your job?

It’s crucial to understand things from other people’s point of view if you are going to start a company: this could be an investor, or a supplier, or a customer, or an employee. In each case, there is a human being across the table who may have a completely different point of view than you do. So you have to listen to them and discuss with them to figure out where you can do business together. These ‘soft skills’ are crucial for getting the right relationships to develop a business.

 How did you develop those 21st Century Skills?

By forcing myself to get out of the lab and throwing myself in at the deep end.


Questions about yourself

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

The most rewarding events have definitely been the ones where customers have given great feedback – this has helped me understand how my work has a direct impact on the sensor device market.

What is your dream job?

The one I have working for PixQuanta!


Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice

What advice would you give to someone considering this job? Are there important personal characteristics, or good work experience they can undertake for example.

I heard someone in my PhD programme say once that if you want to win a Nobel Prize you should go and surround yourself with Nobel Prize winners. I think same is true for anything: if you want to start a company, go and surround yourself with successful entrepreneurs. If you want to become a concert pianist, surround yourself with top piano players. Whatever it is that you are into, there will be others who are really good at it and who aren’t bashful about sharing. The main personal characteristics that will see you through will be tenacity and discipline. If you are particularly inspired by someone go and ask them if you can work for them.