Our “Meet the Team” series profiles the creative and curious people of First Mode. We are driven to find purposeful technology solutions to the world’s most important challenges. We take our work seriously but ourselves not too seriously. Want to work with us? View our open positions here.

What drew you to First Mode?

This seemed like a group doing a lot of interesting work across a variety of industries. First Mode has very intentionally created something that allows us to work on cool problems today while retaining 100 percent control when it comes to choosing the opportunities in front of us. It seemed like a singular opportunity.

Why is your work important?

It is important for groups like ours to be pushing clean technology and other ways to help the world.

It’s awesome to work alongside some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. My role is to coordinate many of the various supporting elements they need to be successful—facilities, IT, safety—and to help guide the growth of the company through business development and government engagement. I hope to be the “wind beneath their wings.”

How did your passion for engineering and technology begin?

Even before high school when I was a computer and physics geek. My high school professor was inspiring, distilling physics into tangible, relatable examples and analogues. He could articulate something complicated clearly. It was great to begin to understand the mechanisms of what drives the world.

Could you point to project that you are proud of?

In response to the need for ventilators at the start of the pandemic, First Mode designed and built VentView, to help provide emergency respiratory care. I am still proud of how the team approached another new industry, worked to see health care providers’ problems, and creatively collaborated to solve a critical need. We designed and built VentView by sheer force of will and determination to create something useful for the world.

Tristan Helms with dog

What do you think is the most significant discovery or human endeavor of the last few years?

The Paris Agreement. Humanity working together to combat climate change is remarkable.

Why does it matter that we keep inventing, testing, creating?

Because there are tons of problems that haven’t been fixed or appropriately fixed and need to be addressed.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My dogs. But really, I’m a morning person. I’m excited to get up, see where we’re going next, and where we’ll take this business. It’s exciting to go from 14 to 55 people in one year. Now we’re about 150. This kind of growth is very cool to see.

Do you have a mantra?

Hakuna matata. I can get anxious and try to control everything. Hakuna matata reminds me I can stop worrying. Just do what you can and let yourself relax.

What does your typical day look like?

There is no such thing! A day can include writing government proposals, or it could be a day of Zoom calls, or working on an R&D project with a client. My days used to include traveling to meet customers.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

I’m pretty into Dungeons & Dragons; as a Dungeon Master I run a game once or twice a month with friends spread throughout the country. It is the most fun you can have with your brain. I also love my two dogs, and my wife and I are big movie geeks. We’re also pretty obsessed with dinosaurs—they’re on my wedding band.

Tristan Helms D&D