Looking back at my career over the last 20 or so years, it’s immediately apparent that it’s always been a bit geo. Geophysical seismic survey processing for natural resources (OK, mostly for oil and gas) for Digicon … geo. Setting up operations for ERS-1, the European Space Agency’s first remote sensing synthetic aperture radar satellite … geo and rocket science. Short wave radio frequency planning to enable the BBC World Service to get transmissions into countries who would much prefer the BBC didn’t broadcast there … geo. Deploying the first geo-targeted ad system and rolling out a global place based view of the world internally and to the external developer community for Yahoo! … totally geo. Granted, there were other roles which had no geo context whatsoever but I always seem to keep coming back to this vague and nebulous mixture of place, location, maps and geography that we term geo.
Some 4 years ago (actually 3 years and 10 months but let’s round up for the sake of convenience) I wasn’t really looking for a new role, but the opportunity arose to come and lead and engineering team for Yahoo! Now, four years later, it’s time to move onto another role, but more of that in a moment.
When I announced that I was leaving Yahoo! Geo I was taken aback at the reaction that it generated. Let’s rephrase that … I was taken aback, shocked, stunned and very deeply chuffed into the bargain. Techcrunch’s MG Siegler wrote about it under the brilliant headline Yahoo’s Director Of Geo Engineering Locates The Exit. Numerous friends, colleagues and geo-acquaintances offered congratulations and asked where next on Twitter, on Facebook, in blog posts and by the more old fashioned method of email. I didn’t expect any of this reaction, but it’s that reaction that, at least in part, prompted this blog post.
By the way, you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the media about working at Yahoo! It’s been an amazing experience and one I would willingly repeat if I had the opportunity to go back and do it all again. Before I joined Yahoo! I thought I had a pretty good handle on how the internet worked and how web applications and APIs worked. I didn’t but I did learn an awfully large amount from people do.
Outside of the company, there’s also a popular misconception that there’s an uneasy cold war going on between Yahoo! and, in the geo space at least, their immediate competitors; Microsoft, Google, Mapquest and so on. True, there’s some major cultural differences between the organisations but there’s also much mutual respect for what each of our geo neighbours gets up to.
So how were the last 4 years? They went something like this …
- People leaving the company as a result of the Microsoft bid; the unsuccessful Microsoft bid, something that never actually happened.
- Reorganisations and new VPs; far too many of them. Six reorganisations in the space of twelve months and six VPs in the space of four years is too many by my reckoning and meant you spent more time rewriting your strategy than you do actually delivering and shipping product.
- Teams that ship successful products in spite of the company not because of the company
- Appearing on the once mighty ValleyWag as the result of a tweet about a wifi point called ‘valleywag’ at a Yahoo! All Hands meeting at the Sunnyvale based Yahoo! mothership.
I might have already mentioned the people at Yahoo! I met and worked with. Now would be a suitable point to mention them by name …
The Geo Technologies team, past and present: Bob Upham, Martin Barnes, Walter Andrag, Mike Dickson, Holger Dürer, Bob Craig, Roman Kirillov, Eddie Babcock, Samira Swarnkar, Rob Halliday, Rob Tyler, Chris Gent, Steve May, Ali Abtoy, Andrei Bychay, Chiho Kitahara
The YDN team: Sophie Davies-Patrick, Chris Heilmann, Anil Patel, Havi Hoffman & Stacy Millman
The Yahoo! alumni: Tyler Bell and Mark Law (ex Geo), Aaron Cope (ex Flickr), Tom Coates and Seth Fitzsimmonds (ex Brickhouse, Fire Eagle and Geo)
But now the Yahoo! years are behind me and after taking this week off to rest and do family stuff over the course of the UK Half Term school break I’ll be ready to join my new team and start to get to grips with my new role as Director of Ovi Places with Nokia.
Although it would be very tempting to think that my move to Nokia is in some way a result of the recently announced partnership between Yahoo! and Nokia that’s not the case. Nokia and I started the long conversation which ended with this blog post at the beginning on 2009; it took a while to get to this place.
So whilst I’m going to Nokia, I’ll continue to use my core set of Yahoo! products, tools and APIs … YQL, Placemaker, GeoPlanet, WOEIDs, YUI, Flickr and Delicious. Not because I used to work for Yahoo! but because they’re superb products.
Here’s looking forward to the rest of 2010; it could be geotastic.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)