We began our series of staff spotlights with these words: “We’re leading the industry in field data collection because of the amazing people behind Fulcrum.” That statement holds true for everyone on the Spatial Networks team, even as it grows apace.
But it especially applies to a handful of people who came in on the ground floor, and this one in particular. Without this guy, Fulcrum wouldn’t exist — certainly not as we know it today.
So without further ado, meet Coleman, Spatial Networks’ Vice President of Product.
Tell us how you got into this industry and came to Spatial Networks.
I’ve always been a map obsessive and collector even from when I was a kid. I tore through geography and history classes in middle and high school with more interest than anything else (besides geometry, which I also loved). When I got to college I started out pursuing civil engineering. Before I even made it through the initial courses though, I changed my tack to geography, to do something with mapping / cartography / surveying, but didn’t have a strong understanding of what a career in that space looked like. My initial vision was something like a National Geographic hybrid cartographer and artist. GIS technology was taking off around this time, so when I discovered that there was a way to combine my knack for computers and software with something related to maps, I was sold. About a year in I was convinced there was real career potential, but nothing like what there is today in the market with technical and mapping skills combined.
After that I worked for several years in, oddly enough, a civil engineering firm managing IT systems and working GIS projects to support a transportation design business. Then back in 2009 I met Tony (Quartararo, the founder and CEO of Spatial Networks) through a mutual acquaintance who only knew “we both like geography” and we hit it off from there. I joined SNI initially to support our data business, managing projects and creating the beginnings of our internal geospatial content system.
What does your job entail?
As VP of Products, my core mission is to lead our product development efforts and make sure that we’re bringing to market technology that connects directly to customer challenges — whether it’s Fulcrum for businesses struggling with field data collection and its impacts, or Foresight, creating data products to support analysts in answering questions about complex and changing problem sets around the world. My day-to-day work involves laying out the roadmaps for everything we’re working on, then coordinating between sales, marketing, customer success, design, and engineering to make sure we’re all aligned toward the right objective. Product management is often referred to as the “glue” between aspects of a product company. So I try to be more like glue and less like a barrier or point of friction between people.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The thing that’s always kept me interested in product is that I love building something that solves a real, concrete problem for someone. It gets me excited to work hard on thinking through a solution to a problem using the tactics we know, the people we have, and our understanding of a customer’s problem. Then the denouement is when you see your creation being used in the real world to change someone’s work for the better. That’s exciting. That challenge of connecting these discrete pieces (that sometimes don’t seem related) to create something that’s so valuable that a company will gladly pay you money and keep coming back — that’s great stuff.
What’s something you’re excited about right now?
A couple of interesting things are going to change our industry dramatically. The first is the evolution of drone capabilities from an experimental thing to a real, scalable business tool. Some industries have been using drone tech for many years, but the lower barriers to entry and improved automation are going to create a new platform for wider, more frequent information streams. I think in 10 years you’ll see every industry with activity in the field deploying drones or at least applying drone-based data to their problems. The other fascinating area is the high-grade localized mapping being done, mostly in service of the vehicle automation space. Companies are now combining traditional GIS data with computer vision systems and LiDAR to make extremely detailed maps of physical space. The data will end up changing many more things than just the transportation market — I see it feeding how we design urban space, repurpose obsolete features, and optimize what we build in cities to support how people get around.
From a company perspective, I’m excited about what’s coming down the pipe for Fulcrum going forward. We’re looking at ways to go deeper on the workflow with our common use cases — asset management, auditing, inspections, and the like — and also reworking some of our backend architecture to prepare for future scale.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The short answer is my 2-year-old waking me up too early, but next would be getting to work with a product team that’s making something interesting in a space I’ve always enjoyed. We also have a base of customers that are a pleasure to work with, from all over the world. It’s exciting to get to talk to someone from New Zealand in the morning, locally in Florida for a lunch meeting, then in Northern California in the afternoon. It’s really incredible what you can build with the internet and global commerce these days.
What do you do outside of work?
My first hobby is spending time with the kids during the downtime. I’ve got a busy 2-year-old and 6-month-old. With my own personal time I read tons of books, listen to podcasts, and watch too much basketball, soccer, and cycling. I’m also trying to run as often as I can.
What is something you’d like people to know about you?
I have over 7,000 edits on OpenStreetMap, which I’ve been contributing to since 2009. I haven’t been too active lately, but I’m personally responsible for a huge amount of roads, parks, schools, and points of interest added in the Tampa Bay area.
Are you passionate about geography or software development? Join us! Check out our available positions and apply today.