An interview with Skymatics CTO Cassidy Rankine.
It’s a challenge understand what a company can do without understanding its foundation. As a co-founder of Skymatics, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Cassidy Rankine stepped away from the computer screen to share his experience and perspective on succeeding with technology in the future. Want to learn more about Mr. Rankine, here is a link to his LinkedIn bio.
I am the current Chief Technical Officer at Skymatics and one of the co-founders. And my role is managing all the technical development and the technical services for the Skymatics drone service that we do.
Cool, so, a few questions for you today, the first one is what are the two greatest lessons your experience has taught you?
The two greatest lessons…. So number one, there’s a lot of experiences to draw from, so I’m going to have to pick and choose. In the drone industry specifically, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the target is always moving, in terms of the technology that we’re using. So it’s always important to keep your eyes on what’s changing because nothing is a fixed state in this industry.
That’s a good one!
The second lesson based on my experiences is when it comes to anything related to off-site work or what we call fieldwork or field operations. Coming from a field research background, planning planning planning, always plan for not IF something will go wrong but when something it will go wrong. Double up, triple up on anything you need that you can’t get when you’re on site and just prepare for the worst and expect the best when in the field.
That’s a good one, I like it.
So now to get maybe a little bit deeper and more personal, who or what inspires you the most?
Ok, so what I find really inspiring in others is people who have or show a lot of passion for what they do. If someone has found passion in their work or their hobbies and that really comes through that I find really inspiring. Having that perspective into peoples, you know what gets people excited and gets them out of bed and gets them from their day-to-day. That’s what’s really important.
I think that’s going to tie in well to a question later too.
If you could perfect any skill what would it be?
That one’s easy, probably time management. I’m just interested in everything usually. And so, finding the amount of time in a day to see through all the things that you are interested in doing or you want to do, or the things that you have to do. That time management skill is not one you can ever perfect, but you can always try to improve it.
That’s a very true one, I could use some of that too.
Ok, back to a career question, where do you want to go next in terms of professional life?
I think I’d like to keep my feet in the remote sensing waters, spatial data is, it just has so many applications.
What is spatial data?
Any information that has a location associated with it, we often take the spatial data tools we have in our day to day lives for granted. Things like map navigation, geotagging of photos, just location services in general. And remote sensing and geospatial data management are now finally starting to merge together to influence the way do everything we do on a day to day basis.
That’s for sure even with the newest smartphones, it’s always got some new spatial data. But I would never have tied it back to that term.
In terms of being in the remote sensing industry, it’s really cool watching the evolution of these unmanned robotics. Robots are the future for doing the dull, the tedious, the dangerous jobs out there. It’s just the beginning of a huge adventure into unmanned systems for the workplace.
Cool, that’s a very big answer.
We have 3 left, so what was the biggest obstacle you overcame to get to where you are?
The biggest obstacle, that’s a good question, I guess the decision I made to go from academia into industry research. That was a big challenge for me. My interests always lie in the new and the unknown and discovering new things and I’d always felt that that was just in academia and not entirely elsewhere. But I’m learning now that there’s industries, like ours in the unmanned systems and UAV space that there’s lots of unknowns.
It’s always experimental and you’re pushing the frontiers of things and getting my mind around taking a scientific approach to everything and having everything well-defined and characterized and controlled in an experimental setting to getting my mindset to ‘how can we make this work?’, just at the bare minimum functional level, that’s a whole different mindset. It took quite a lot of time to get my state of mind in that frame.
That’s a good answer in that I think that’s usually what we have to overcome is our own challenges whether that’s a limitation that we set for ourselves or a perspective that we have to change that tends to be the big thing that we have to overcome.
Yeah, it’s the big question of quality over quantity, you can waste endless amounts of time trying to perfect something, but it’s usually not going to be as useful as getting something that works good enough out there. Battling with perfectionism is probably one of my biggest obstacles.
As a leader, what’s your biggest goal? This ties into the passion, I suppose that you spoke about earlier.
So the goals as a leader, I guess yeah it’s really trying to share my passion and trying to get other people in what I’m passionate about. And how you can apply that passion to the problems at hand. And that’s kind of a difficult question because leadership applies to so many different areas of my life, not just in work, but outside of work as well so, just striving to be someone that is viewed as a person not as a position in a leadership role. That’s probably pretty relevant for me.
I like that answer, and I think the team is going to like that answer too. There’s a lot of things here that a lot of answers and a lot of conversations that we don’t have every day, in the office. So to ask some of these questions in this setting lets people in in a way that they don’t normally talk to you.
Ok, very last question, what is your advice to someone entering, I have here the remote sensing industry, but maybe that’s a broader question for just advice that you might have for anybody in either drones or transitioning into a business setting instead of an academic setting, or anything like that.
I would say, and this applies across most industries where some sort of technology is involved, but in remote sensing in particular, is don’t underestimate the nature of exponential change. It’s a huge shift in the way people have been trained classically, when you get an education, you learn about a skillset as it applies to a job that exists, and what is starting to happen, and what needs to be considered more, is creating an education or a skillset for jobs that don’t exist yet, that we can foresee being needed in the future. And remote sensing is one of those industries where most people in the industry today are trained on a way of thinking about imagery and data sets and spatial data, that is a lead and a lag between data capture and interpretation. You have to shoot for what’s going to be happening in 5 years from now, and your expectations for what should be happening in 10-15 years will be happening in 2-5 years now. So you gotta really expect what’s coming not what IS currently.
That would be tricky.
Yeah, that’s the challenge.
It requires you to look up from your work first of all, regardless of your setting. To take a look around and to actually analyze a little bit and look at some trends and all those things that most people don’t take the time to do.
Yeah, shoot upwards on the curve for all your goals because they become reality in the technology space faster than you would think.
Thank you for sitting, you didn’t even get any coffee, sorry about that, No coffee with Cassidy. But thanks for taking the time today.
Video of this interview is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSVKxeJVDFs
Cassidy Rankine obtained his PhD in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Alberta in Canada. Specializing in remote sensing and geographic information systems. For more info, click here for Mr. Rankine’s LinkedIn.