Many companies can boast an international roster of clients. But DigitalGlobe spans the earth in a more literal sense: Its five satellites orbit the planet — collecting, downlinking and delivering both imagery and insights on those images. At its location in Westminster, CO, the company’s platform business capture and growth team works closely with clients to harness the technology.
We sat down with this small but mighty team to get a glimpse into their day-to-day routines and learn how they support users of DigitalGlobe’s first-of-its-kind subscription service platform, GBDX.
DIGITALGLOBE AT A GLANCE
WHAT THEY DO: Launch, operate, downlink, produce and deliver satellite imagery, and then turn that imagery into information that solves problems all around the world.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Westminster and Longmont, CO and around the globe.
WHO THEY DO IT FOR: Businesses, governments and nonprofits — including NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense.
FLEXTIME: Helps the team support employees and customers across time zones.
BRAGGING RIGHTS: Working with actual rocket scientists.
CAMPUS: A glass-paneled building shaped like a giant satellite dish.
IDEAL CANDIDATES: Flexible self-starters who bring passion and creativity to work every day.
Tell me about a bit about the business capture and growth team.
Mark Bowersox, customer success manager: The team’s overall mission is to identify customers who could benefit from our products and services, connect with them and ultimately sell them. Then, we take them through the initial stages of interaction with the platform.
Kevin Lausten, director of GBDX: Because our part of the business is primarily focused on subscriptions, we spend a lot of time ensuring that customers and users are really happy. It's not as if we sell you a device, and then you're out the door and the relationship is over.
What else can you tell us about this platform?
Elizabeth Golden, platform trainer: GBDX is DigitalGlobe’s big data analytics platform. It allows customers to more easily access imagery and extract information from that imagery — from small scale to large scale.
It's a pretty new technology, so people need to learn how to use it and integrate it into their workflow. My job is to train new customers on the technology. I also do a lot of internal training, because it's also a new technology to people here.
What challenges do you face collaborating with a team that’s spread across the globe?
Lausten: These things called time zones. We have corporate offices in London and Singapore, plus our satellite offices. Global business never really stops. As Westminster is the central hub for interacting with the sales team and customers, we work with teammates on different time zones.
You're working for this giant company, but your team is doing work that's really different from anything DigitalGlobe has done before. What is that like for you?
Golden: Part of working in this startup-type environment is that the people here are really driven. There's this urgency to succeed. In some places, that could be oppressive. Here, it's more energizing and exciting. I think it's energizing because the people I work with are really smart, driven, passionate people who are excited about their work. It's really infectious.
How would you describe the team culture?
Caitlyn Milton, customer success manager: We're very flexible. We all know the work that needs to get done, and it's up to us to figure out the best way to do that work.
Bowersox: We have a good diversity of professional experience and academic backgrounds. There are people with degrees in geography and geology, but also hospitality management. Some people have studied the technical side of image science and others are more business oriented.
DigitalGlobe currently has satellites orbiting the earth. Your clients include NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, Google and Amazon, among others. How does this affect your work?
Milton: One of our biggest differentiators is that we have direct access to a constellation of the highest resolution earth imaging satellites. There's no red tape. We don't have to ask anyone, because we have direct access to the world's best imagery.
I like to also think that we have the world's best talent. I get to tell my friends that I work with actual rocket scientists.
Bowersox: The business model is innovative. What we're doing here with the GBDX platform is new to DigitalGlobe and new in general to the geospatial imaging market. We're providing access to our very deep and rich archive of data without having to buy and own that data. It's kind of like a rental model. You pay a subscription fee for access. It opens the door to clients that may not have been able to afford the purchase model.
With that said, what types of new clients are you able to reach with a subscription service model?
Bowersox: The model is open to people who have questions about broad areas of scale, like an entire continent. We also serve the humanitarian space and NGO markets. We give them access to very powerful information without requiring them to own it. One cool example is that we are doing crowdsourcing campaigns to help with malaria issues in developing countries.
How does that work?
Bowersox: For communicable diseases like malaria, most relief programs focus on vaccinating and delivering medical supplies. Those supplies have a shelf life, which creates a logistics challenge. In order to get help to the people who need it, you need to know where they live. But the developing world doesn’t have the best foundation-based map information.
We map those population centers with our crowdsourcing platform, Tomnod. The crowd tells us about built up areas that would indicate population. Organizations can then use that in logistics planning — sending vaccinations where they’re needed, and before they expire.
It’s cost effective for customers in two ways: They get information without having to buy it. Plus, a crowd does the analysis work.
What is your team focusing on over the next few months?
Milton: We’re working on a huge project for a customer in Australia. We're trying to map several different data points across an entire continent. That's never been done before.
Bowersox: It's 7.9 million square kilometers of area — all of Australia. For every building in Australia, they want to know a range of information about the built environment including what roof material is being used. We fly satellites that collect spectral information, which can determine roof type, whether concrete, clay tile shingles, plastic or fiberglass.
What makes someone successful on your team?
Golden: Being flexible and willing to learn new technologies is important. The platform is a combination of different technologies. No one is an expert in all of them, but everyone is expected to learn a little bit about each one of those different technologies to understand how things connect.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Milton: I’ve worked on projects that had an actual impact on human beings, working with groups like the Jane Goodall Institute, the Global Fund to End Slavery and Famine Early Warning Systems Network. Recently, I managed an archeology project to help identify signs of looting from known archeological sites around the world — and then also potentially finding sites that aren't yet known to modern archaeologists.
Lausten: We talk publicly about the fact that we aim to see a better world, but we also live that mission internally — in the work we do for global development organizations and the ways that we give back. It’s exciting to be a part of that.
Photos by Nick Cote. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.