Once again, time for another GeoGeek rapid fire, this time I have Gary Gale, formerly of The Ordnance Survey and now of What3Words fame! A self-professed map addict, Gary has worked in the mapping and location space for over 20 years through a combination of luck and occasional good judgement. He is CTO of what3words, one of London’s hottest startups, on a mission to revolutionise the world’s address systems. A Fellow of the RGS, he tweets about maps, writes about them and even makes them.
– PC or MAC?
Mac. I’ve managed to avoid using Windows for over 10 years, apart from the occasional time when I need a copy of Windows running in a virtual machine for some intranet tool that will only work with a particular, ancient, version of Internet Explorer. A Mac is basically a UNIX box with a nice user interface on top of it. Which means I can fire up a terminal session and be happy hacking away on the command line. The added bonus is Homebrew, which means what doesn’t come as standard on a Mac can be installed with a single command.
– Coffee or Tea & Beer or wine?
Definitely coffee. The tech industry in general, and especially the geo-tech industry seems to run on drinks which are espresso based. I want to like tea. I really do. But every time I do, it just tastes like dried leaves in water. Beer or wine is more difficult. I’m a big fan of proper British ale (though the US and Canada do some fine ones too). Can I say beer or wine, depending on the situation?
– ArcGIS or QGIS (or other)?
For conventional GIS needs, I’ve yet to find something that QGIS plus an existing plugin can’t handle. For everything else, a bit of custom code does the trick. I’ve nothing against Uncle Jack’s fine suite of GIS tools, but I just don’t seem to have the need for one of them. Yet.
– iOS or Android?
iOS, mainly because I’ve had an iPhone since the iPhone 3 came out and they work nicely together with my Macs. I figure Apple knows enough about me but Google knows way more and I don’t really want to add my mobile usage habits into that pot of personal data. I actually quite like Windows Phone, or whatever it’s called these days and used it a lot during my time working for Nokia and HERE; it’s a shame it’s never seen the take-up it probably deserved.
– ESRIUC or FOSS4G?
FOSS4G; it’s full of people in the industry I know and people I probably should know. The sheer range and depth of what you see at FOSS4G is mind blowing, from 1 person startups to big established multinationals and all points in between.
– If I was to look on your bed table or coffee table, what are you currently reading?
I tend to have multiple books on the go at any one time. At the moment you’ll find Jerry Brotton’s Great Maps on my bedside table in hardback and I’m half way through John Scalzi’s Lock In on my Kindle. What is there not to like about the magic combination of maps and sci-fi?
– On the job front, is your company hiring or have you recently made a hire? Also, are there any challenges you face in hiring Geotech talent?
I’ve only just been hired but that probably doesn’t count. But yes, we’re hiring, see http://what3words.com/jobs/ for all the details. Hiring in geo-tech is always a challenge. The sweet spot of highly technically proficient, with good product smarts is difficult enough. To get someone with those abilities plus geo experience is really hard. You’ve got to be pragmatic in hiring. If you find someone with great geo experience and who you think can have their game upped with some on the job mentoring in technology or product, or vice versa, then sometimes that’s the best way to grow your talent.
– I’m a College student wanting a career in “GIS” what words of wisdom can you give me? Also, I often get people asking what courses or prof. development can I suggest. Is there a short course through Coursera or code academy etc… that you would suggest for a geogeek?
– I’m a bit of a skeptic regarding the economy at the moment and don’t view things as being completely rosy. How do you see the current business climate unfolding?
I’d agree it’s not completely rosy, but then again, when is it? But it’s a whole lot better than it was. Companies are coming out of self imposed hibernation and there’s capital available for the right people with the right idea. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is the the death of capitalism and 10 is VC’s roaming the streets handing out bundles of £50.00 notes to anyone and everyone, I’d say we’re about 7.5. The impending bubble and so called unicorn startups don’t count.
– Can you share a snippet of what’s exciting and/or on the horizon for you or your company?
For me, the most exciting thing is being part of a team who have a truly unique, global product (that’s what3words in case you hadn’t picked up on that yet) and a product that can make a significant difference to people and to businesses whether you’re in the heart of London, on the plains of Africa or pretty much anywhere else. So many geo products I see are most definitely targeted at the developed economies, trying to solved developed economy problems. It’s a great challenge and opportunity to work with a group of people who are addressing the world, the whole world, no matter where you are or who you are.
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