Meet a wetransformer – Kate Lyndegaard, Product Manager
During this series, we are looking to show off the many different humans who work at wetransform, as well as take the opportunity to get to know each other a little better.
Alright, time to introduce yourself!
Okay! My name is Kate. For the last five years I’ve been the Product Manager here at wetransform. I come from British Columbia, Canada, originally. I got interested in GIS for the first time in about 2004/2005. At the time, I worked for a seismic survey company based out of Calgary, Alberta. So, I worked in the Alberta oilfields, surveying. We’d be out in the fields, 10 hours a day in snow up to our knees, collecting GPS points along survey lines in the remote north. That can be scary sometimes!
One day I was out alone, collecting GPS points in the deep snow. As I looked up from my GPS recording device, I spotted cougar prints meandering in and out of the treeline parallel to my path. I immediately got my receiver out and started transmitting: “I need help. You need to come and get me.” I got away safely in the end, but for a moment there it truly felt like I was being tracked by a cougar. They see you long before you see them.
Another time I was walking through a pretty dense forest and a herd of 30 elk ran by me, darting between the trees. All I could do was stand still. It was amazing, as big as they are, how agilely they can run through the woods.
I really felt at home there and I really saw what GIS was being used for in the field. A lot of people work in offline environments, collecting massive amounts of GPS data. They then come back into the office at night, creating GIS maps to support managers in their understanding of field operations. I got really interested in GIS there and started formally studying it, first in Canada, and later at Penn State in the US.
What led you from the Canadian wilds to our office?
Around the same time as I was working in the oil and gas industry in Calgary, I met my husband-to-be, a Danish guy. Together, we moved to the United States and spent 5 years in the Washington D.C. area, where I worked on the GIS-team of a very large UK-based consultant company. That was really exciting, as there was a group of about ten of us, all PhDs in GIS. A very nice group of people to work with, doing all the GIS management for the consultancy.
So after those five years in DC, we moved to Zurich, Switzerland... where I met Thorsten!
I was sitting in a conference room, listening to a woman presenting her company. It sounded really interesting, so I went up to her after the presentation to talk a little more. It turned out she was the Business Development Manager at wetransform at the time. She then told me that the company was based in Darmstadt. At that point I already knew that I’d be moving to Darmstadt, so it was great to hear!
The next day I introduced myself to Thorsten, the CEO of wetransform.
I said I was interested in a job and had my first interview in downtown Zurich, a couple of days later.
How do you describe what it is you do nowadays?
I feel like people are beginning to understand more and more what location intelligence and spatial data are. You see more and more companies wanting to become spatially enabled, so you’re not speaking a different language as much as you used to anymore.
Usually, I start off by saying that I’m in digital cartography or make a comparison to Google Maps. That tends to resonate.
I then explain that we work closely with European directives and support EU member states in their compliance with these directives, by helping them transform their data to common standards in order to enable pan-European analysis.
What kind of challenges do you face on a day-to-day basis?
I really feel like a Swiss Army knife, or as if I’m on a talk show called “Ask Me Anything!”.
When I started, five years ago, there were even fewer people than our 15 today, so I really had to do whatever I could. Anything I could. I wrote documentation, created all the INSPIRE SLDs, managed the product backlog, got familiar with all the specifications in play, measured platform compliance with the INSPIRE specifications in terms of metadata and services, the list goes on.
I think over time it’s evolved from that “Just do anything that needs to get done!”-position into a more structured product development role. I now work more closely on detailing the development of features that we have in our backlog. I spend a lot of time working with the development team, translating the “big pictures” into executable, well-defined issues in a backlog and prioritising these issues.
Right now, our main challenge is the number of overlapping projects we have.
We have customer projects, we also want to drive our own feature development, we have hale»studio development... trying to juggle all these things at once can be a really big task in and of itself.
How would you like to see your role develop further?
To be honest, I think that everybody has a hard time defining the role of a Product Manager. I think that to a large extent, it really comes down to your company’s expectations.
At wetransform, the Product Manager role has always been more on the operational and development-side of our business. I find my role is really about communication across the different teams, as well as the prioritisation of ten or more projects at any given time while working with a single development team.
I also still do a lot of front-end software testing and spend a large amount of time challenging what the team is putting out, but personally I would like to get more involved with Marketing and Sales. I enjoy doing market research, competitor analysis, tender and offer writing, just more customer-facing responsibility overall.
For a Product Manager, working on these things all lead to creative product ideas that are based in reality.
What is it that excites you about working at wetransform?
I appreciate the fact that wetransform still has one foot solidly grounded in the academic world. There’s obviously a lot of research going on and when you work at wetransform, you are exposed to a lot of new and emerging developments. It is interesting to watch the development there, as well as some of the more local German standards.
Of course, there are INSPIRE and the European standards, but wetransform is increasingly also working with all of the local German standards. For a non-German, it’s fascinating to be in an environment where you are also exposed to some of these more regional specifications.
I also really enjoy all of the workshops, training sessions, and webinars that I provide. Both on our core products – I do a lot of hale»studio and hale»connect training – as well as topical training, such as specific INSPIRE themes and OGC standards. I really enjoy that. I really enjoy talking with the people.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I enjoy golfing. I’m a member of my local golf club I’m even taking extra golf lessons right now. I also like skiing, that’s something I’ve taken with me from Canada. Other than that, I enjoy spending time with my family.
Do you have any particular moments at wetransform that stand out in your memory?
Then there’s the INSPIRE conference in Antwerp, Belgium. It was very cool because we stayed in one of those typical old-fashioned houses in Antwerp, with the original interior and details. After several days there, we walked out of that conference to discover that our minivan got towed, which in hindsight was very funny. I can still see all of us piling into a taxi to get over to the tow yard!
What would be your dream for wetransform?
My dream would be to grow our international customer base, as well as the domestic one. We currently have a lot of German customers, but it would be great to spread our reach even wider.
When it comes to innovation, we are already supporting the European Green Deal through things like data spaces. Besides that, I also hope that there will continue to be room for the development of location intelligence and spatial analytics solutions. It would be a dream for me to offer even more value-added services on top of the data we already transform and publish, for anything from XPlanung and other data analysis to AI-processes. I feel this would create a very strong end-to-end value chain for our customers.
If you're interested in working at wetransform, check out our careers page!