Locating The Next Role; The Yahoo! Years

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.

this is who I am, who are you?

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.

MacBook Pro and BlackBerry

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 …

The Highs

The Lows

  • 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)

No Coffee Today

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)

Written by Gary

Husband, Father, geotechnologist, map geek, coffee addict, Sci-fi fan, UNIX and Mac user.



Good luck Gary – look forward to seeing your next wave of geotasticness unfold. See you soon at W3Gconf if not before. Best wishes, Thierry.


Don’t worry Shivku … the “Totally Geo” Tweets will still be there as I’m staying in the Geo industry. Why would I want to get out now just as it’s getting interesting? (grins).

Avinash K P

I’ll miss all the super swift and enthusiastic responses to Geo questions.
All the very best. You would still work out of London?


@Avinash : London and Berlin; initially heavy on the Berlin side but evening out after I’m settled.


Hey Gary

I can’t say I saw this one coming. That’s a big loss for Yahoo!. All the best at Nokia.


James C

All is revealed – good luck with that Gary and enjoy the half term. To think I had money on somewhere else!

Nila Matthews

Good luck Gary, have fun & thanks for all the help you gave me and european maps when I was there!! Geo behind me but if you want video – I’m yer girl!


Wondered what was going on with Ovi Maps. May have been just me, but I felt their presentation and presence at Where 2.0 this year was toned down quite a bit from 2009. If you’re interested in auto-generation of 3d content or anything else we can help you with, give me a shout. And good luck!

Chris Sun

Hi Gary,

I previously worked at Yahoo and got a chance to meet you in 2007 when a few Sunnyvale employees went to London for a Geotargeting conference. It was nice meeting you, and Bruce Campbell, David Overton, and a bunch of other folks. The WOEID targeting and granularity is some of the best (if not the best) in the business.

Congratulations on your new job. I’m sure Nokia is excited to gain your expertise on Geo stuff.


Aden Davies


All the best for the new role with Nokia. I think they will benefit from your knowledge and passion. Hopefully our paths will cross again at some conference where you are giving interesting talks. That reminds me I might have an invite for you to just such a conference 😉


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