An Interview with Jeff Kerridge, Senior Vice President of International and Defense Sales for DigitalGlobe

By Nora Parker

Kerridge Nora Parker (NP): What initially drew you into the field of GIS, and how did you get your start in it?

Jeff Kerridge (JK): While attending the University of Colorado, I took a remote sensing class within the Geography Department and found that I really liked it, enough so that I ended up changing my major from engineering to geography.I also did an internship with the US Forest Service at the Denver Federal Center during my senior year where I updated base maps using aerial photography, which was a fantastic experience.When I transitioned out of engineering into geography, my employment research revealed that the CIA was hiring people with remote sensing / geography backgrounds into their office that was doing satellite imagery analysis so I applied and was accepted.

NP: What's your educational background? Professional affiliations?

JK: My degree is in geography (CU 1984) and I am currently a member of ASPRS, ISPRS, and NDIA.

NP: What can you tell us about your experience with the CIA? What did you do? What did you like about it? What were some of the projects you worked on? What made you want to move on in your career?

JK: I'm not really at liberty to discuss much about my experience with the CIA except to say that I worked in the satellite reconnaissance field in a variety of capacities during the twelve years I worked there.I was an analyst, division level manager, program manager, and strategic planner during my career.The part that I enjoyed the most was working with some incredibly talented, dedicated professionals while having access to the world's best technology.During major world events like natural disasters and wars (desert shield/desert storm), our organization was providing invaluable information to the policymakers and intelligence officers on a daily basis.It was a real sense of pride working for such an esteemed organization.

I decided to move on when the US government started licensing private companies to operate high resolution imaging satellites.It was truly a revolutionary move by the government to recognize that the global remote sensing industry was changing and we could either lead or follow.The Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1994 really laid the policy foundation for ensuring that the US companies would be allowed to lead the development and operation of the world's best high resolution imaging satellites instead of allowing others countries, such as France, Israel, Russia, Taiwan, or Korea, to get into the forefront. And I knew that once the private sector started operating these satellites, it would be a real chance to change the world, which I genuinely believe -- and I wanted to be a part of it early on.There are so many new, exciting applications being rolled out monthly by us and our partners for the use of high resolution imagery.In addition, it just so happened that a couple of companies were based in Colorado so I was able to combine my geographical aspirations with my professional aspirations and return to Colorado.

NP: What are your job responsibilities at DigitalGlobe, and what do they entail? What do you really, actually do on a daily basis?

JK: As Senior Vice President of International and Defense Sales, I manage a fairly large sales and marketing staff responsible for sales of our products and services to the US Defense and Intelligence customers, foreign government customers, and our international distribution channel, which includes about 50 master distributors and resellers around the globe.I have offices in Longmont, Washington DC, and Singapore. My job is simple: make money for the company.Our team is busy writing and submitting proposals for a wide range of products and services we offer, from small mapping projects to full blown satellite programs.I actually spend about half of my time on airplanes traveling around the world to meet with customers and resellers.I am one of United Airlines favorite customers...

NP: What plans do you have for the future in your career? If you could have your dream job, what would it be?

JK: Since I've not found anyone to pay me to ride around on my Harley, this is the next best thing.I am extremely happy doing what I do now.This is actually my dream job and takes full advantage of what I enjoy and what I think I do best, which is to be passionate about my company and my industry. We won a very large contract (half a billion dollars) from the US government last fall to build and launch our next generation satellite, known as WorldView. My job will only get better once we launch this next satellite next year because it is substantially more capable than anything on orbit today -- and will dramatically change our business in a very positive way.

NP: What's DigitalGlobe like to work for?

JK: I have been with the company for over eight years now, which is an eternity by DigitalGlobe standards.There are only a handful of us around from the early days and I can truly say I've enjoyed every minute of it.This industry is clearly not for the faint of heart, however -- confirmed by the loss of over a billion dollars worth of "first attempts" by the three major US remote sensing firms back in the late 90s.Every time you put your primary business asset on top of one of the most explosive things (launch vehicle) on the planet, its enough to make you very, very nervous.

This is really a "work hard - play hard" culture at the company.We all work incredibly long hours and spend a lot of time away from our families, but it is simply because we believe in this dream and are committed to making it happen.Even though the company has gotten quite large (over 400), we still have a culture that attracts top notch people who want to be part of a true team environment. I have great respect for our senior management team and really feel fortunate to work with such a fantastic group of people.

NP: What do you do for fun?

JK: As you can tell from my comment above, one of my favorite sources of entertainment and therapy is riding my Harley.A number of us at the company have them and we actually ride together to Sturgis (annual motorcycle retreat in South Dakota) every year, to include our CEO Herb Satterlee.I've even rented Harley's in places like Australia.

As the father of two great kids, I also enjoy spending time with them. My kids, Cody 10 and Kasia 7, and my wife Chris (age unknown) really enjoy skiing at Beaver Creek, vacationing on the beach (left or right coast), and spending time with our friends.

NP: Jeff, thanks so much for your time!

Published Monday, September 20th, 2004

Written by Nora Parker

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