Directions Magazine (DM): What is your position in your company and what do you do there? What challenges do you face? What accomplishments have you achieved?
Alistair Miller (AM): I am the senior product manager for Online Access Services at GeoEye. When I first started here in 2010, I was part of a small team reporting to the CTO. Our goal was to launch the EyeQ Web Service Platform, which we achieved with its commercial launch in September 2010. Over the past two years, we’ve built a product management team as part of the marketing organization, of which I am currently a member. I am still product manager for EyeQ, though I have taken on more responsibilities in managing a broader set of Web services. At a high level, I gather market and customer requirements, translate them into functional requirements for product development, manage product roadmaps, build sales collateral, train the sales team, and work with customer support to ensure a successful product. The facet I enjoy most about my role is that it is truly cross-functional – product managers have to interact with customers and all internal teams from the Ideation stage through Sustainment and Sunsetting.
The geospatial marketplace, especially imagery and services, is rapidly evolving. Even though some of the technologies have been in place for decades, only recently have they received widespread acceptance and use. Google’s purchase of Keyhole in 2004 was a major catalyst in bringing geospatial information to the masses. Subsequent acquisitions and consolidation by the likes of Microsoft, Nokia, TomTom and others have brought about a major shift in how customers, expert and novice alike, receive, interact with and analyze satellite imagery. The key challenges today are keeping up with the changing landscape, and bringing value beyond the pixels in the form of advanced analysis, information services and geospatial applications to an online environment.
DM: What was your career path to your current position?
AM: I’ve always had an interest in geography, but have to credit Marshall Bowen, one of my professors at Mary Washington College, for really sparking my passion for place. He taught Cultural Geography of North America, among other things, and told the most amazing stories that truly conveyed what a place was like in a way I haven’t experienced since. His was the first geography course I took my first year. I was fortunate to benefit from the other wonderful professors that made up the Geography Department.
After a couple of geo internships in college, I eventually found my way out to Boulder, CO. In a case that can only be described as sheer luck, I went to the Chamber of Commerce in Boulder to find out about GIS-related companies in the area. One of the handful that were listed at the time was DigitalGlobe, and three months later I started as an account manager in customer service. In 2004, I was asked to help with delivery of imagery to Keyhole, which morphed into me serving as project manager for delivery to Google. I also worked in an inside sales role before spending the last three years there in product management. I left DigitalGlobe in late 2009 and started a few months later at GeoEye. I’ve been lucky to have my focus change from a single product to managing a broader set of online services that are enabled through our EyeQ platform.
DM: What would you like to be doing in your career in 10 years?
AM: Market trends and technological innovations are two things that I constantly keep tabs on, and will continue to do so. Things are changing rapidly, and place is intrinsic to who we are and what we do. Content is changing too. There will always be large data providers, but more and more, individuals will become the largest source of content. People are becoming ground-based sensors in ways we couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago. Successful companies have to recognize this, and build or adjust their strategies to new realities. I’d like to think that I will be a key part in helping formulate these strategies. If that fails, I’ll open a brewpub somewhere on the east coast.
DM: What are you personal interests and hobbies?
AM: I guess my last answer gave away the fact that I enjoy beer. In moderation of course. I took up golf when I lived in Colorado, and now have the pleasure of frustrating myself with a club in my hands. I try to see as much live music as possible and I’ve been known to play the drums a little, though my brief days on a stage are behind me. I also follow baseball with a passion. These days, the overwhelming majority of my free time is spent with my wife and children, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.