We’ve been tracking Ryan Peterson for many years, after a traffic jam inspired him to start TrafficGauge, a Seattle startup that marketed a dedicated traffic data device that gave drivers a real-time view of conditions on the road. This was long before smartphones made this type of thing an everyday capability. (TrafficGauge was acquired in 2009 by Networks In Motion.)
These days Peterson is still in the industry, working at TeleNav. And he’s our latest Geek of the Week. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire, plus some classic photos from the original TrafficGauge office.
Name: Ryan Peterson
Job, hobby and/or other geeky pursuit: I’m the Director of Product Management for Maps & Traffic for mobile GPS navigation products. At TeleNav, I lead our efforts to extend the global reach of our navigation offerings with strategic partners. A large portion of our employees work on this effort due to the technical and business challenges that it entails so I’m constantly working late at night with our technical resources in China to optimize processes and grow our large team. Similarly, we’re always improving our backend systems so our pre-loaded GPS offerings at AT&T, Sprint, TMobile and USCellular provide industry leading maps, routing and guidance.
One of my geeky hobby is enjoying oddball electronic industrial music to offset work stress! My favorite is VNV Nation.
Coolest thing about what you do: My role in working with strategic partners for our core technology gives me a crystal ball into the future of technology. It’s fascinating to watch technology incubate and transition into the market and ultimately see the benefits provided to customers. Another cool aspect of my job is the ability to work with people from all corners of the globe. What’s always amazing is how easy it is to communicate across cultures and how there’s such easy alignment for common goals.
What does it mean to you to be a geek? A devotion to something that changes people’s lives that’s ahead of mainstream society. For example, my constant devotion to traffic information when people were saying at the time, “what would I do with that?” Now real-time traffic is in vehicles, mobile apps and TV. Most people “get it” now.
Geekiest thing(s) you’ve ever done, built, or worn: I started a company, TrafficGauge, in a tiny bedroom with five people working out of it – we worked there for two years before moving to an office building! The room was filled with electronics, oscilloscopes, computers, books, cramped spaces – it was great. The conference room was the deck of the bedroom (and it rains a lot here so not very ideal). Our devoted team was on a mission to deliver traffic data to help consumers save time and stress.
We started the traffic data industry and our success encouraged others to follow suite and create a mini-industry. Our technology and designs are now incorporated within all kind of products you now see in the marketplace.
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life: Working hard sometimes eats into your personal life, but for all the fun-times lost, there’s a reward at the end of the tunnel both at work and in everyday life.
Kirk, Picard, Janeway or Sisko? Sorry, Star Trek fans, I didn’t watch it.
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Transporter, please. I’d like to work with my China and US colleagues in each of their office on the same day and sneak a four hour vacation in Maui between their work days. That would be so cool… except if my boss got a hold of it!
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … start a real-estate investment fund to invest in shared ownership of undervalued properties to leverage the great deals out there.
I once waited in line for … Metallica tickets which required an overnighter at the Warehouse (resulting in front row seats). I also waited in line for five hours for the first iPad. For my mom!
Your geek role models (And why?): Steve Jobs because of his constant dedication through his ups and downs while remaining persistent when others weren’t so Job’s-crazy.
Greatest Game In History: Arcade PacMan because it reminds me of the days when I had to beg my Dad for a quarter, and then had to beg for another one after the “ooo-ooo-ooo-oop-oop” sound (game over)!
Best Gadget Ever: MacBook Air – It’s just amazing how slim and always-on it is. The form factor works great when cramped in an airplane.
First computer: Atari 800 with cartridges and cassette tape drive well before the 5 1/4″ floppy was the standard.
Current phone: iPhone 4G
Favorite app: When the market is up, Etrade (investments) – when the market is down Wells Fargo (cash)… so lots of fav app switching lately. However, I’ve found the flashlight app to be the most essential app for me.
Favorite hangout: Our Whidbey Island cabin because I’m learning aqua farming from the retired neighbors on the weekends (growing oysters, clams, mussels and catching crab and salmon) which is fun, relaxing and different.
Favorite cause: Iggy Rescue (Italian Greyhound) because these dogs are the best, smartest, cutest and cuddliest little-big dogs ever such as my dog, SP!KE
Most important technology of 2011: HTML5 is starting to cause waves of change for mobile.
Most important technology of 2015: Will iPhone9G be solar powered? I think solar will finally have its day in ’15.
Words of advice for your fellow geeks: Stay up late because that’s when the creativity flows – which also gives the benefit of sleeping in late. A win-win.
Recommended site: www.vancouversun.com because it’s enlightening to read about the news from the next city to our north and hear the different perspectives on the same issues.
Geek of the Week is a regular feature profiling the characters of the Pacific Northwest technology community. See the Geek of the Week archive for more.
Does someone you know deserve this distinguished honor? Send nominations to email@example.com.
[Geek of the Week photography by Annie Laurie Malarkey, firstname.lastname@example.org.]