One of my favorite parts of my role is being able to do what I love – writing! I started a series earlier this year on the TomTom Developer Blog highlighting some of the amazing mapmakers at TomTom – the people behind our Maps APIs and SDKs. Kasia was the first person I had the pleasure of interviewing. I love highlighting women in tech, so it was inspiring to hear her story and fun to capture it through writing – so it can be shared with and inspire others!
One of our goals at TomTom Developers is to highlight the people behind the products as we continue to build and grow our developer community. In our TomTom Mapmakers series, we will be publishing an interview once a month with some of our product owners, designers, and developers.
We took the time to speak with Katarzyna Kaczmarek, Product Manager for the TomTom Maps SDK for Web, Android, and iOS. She is based in Lodz, Poland. Read on to hear about her background and experience as a product manager.
Can you share about your career journey? How did you get to where you are now?
My interest in computer science started in high school. I really liked modern technologies – the internet, and all the opportunities it gives. When I got my first smart phone, I saw a lot of potential in the device and what can be done with that. I wanted to go in this direction because I felt that this is an area that will be very innovative and developing very fast – I knew that this was going to be one of the future industries and how connected our life would be to that.
Mathematics and physics were always my strongest subjects. I also took computer science and programming courses at school, and those were really cool. I could make some game, some webpage – it was super cool to see that working! Also, the range and the reach of it – with the internet you can reach lots of people. And again, all the opportunities you can achieve with that.
I studied at Technical University of Lodz in Poland – I took part in an exchange program in Copenhagen – where I lived for next 7 years. I got a master's degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Technical University of Denmark. Moving out, living abroad, and studying at a foreign university was a great experience. At the university I took a lot of computer science courses, but also courses in telecommunications – mobile phones, mobile data. For me it was so cool to understand how it all works. I like to have that knowledge with 5G, 6G coming, I understand what that means, and it’s great to have that background.
That sounds like a great experience. What did you do afterwards?
After I graduated, I started working in a bank as a developer. This was yet another great experience – it was part of my grad program. I worked in a data warehouse, doing business intelligence. As an exchange in the bank, I worked with some advisory systems and online banking – I was coding tools for advisors and doing some implementations for online banking. It was very challenging – everything was completely new. With IT, there are so many technologies that at some point in time every developer needs to specialize. It’s not so simple as you learn about technology and that’s it – you have to be familiar with so many supporting technologies as well.
When I studied at school, I learned the basics, the way of thinking, and the ways of doing stuff. But when I started to work, then I had to tailor all the knowledge I had to the specific environment I worked in – to specific tasks and technologies. Which was good. Also, I was lucky in the bank, there was scrum running as the methodology for project management. I got very interested in that and I asked if I could take one of the organizational roles, and that’s how I started to be a Product Owner. After I started, I knew this was that I wanted to do. I loved the connection of tech knowledge and skills – and mind – with communication. I had to talk to the business reps often, make visual communications, presentations, collect requirements, work together w team on what we should do. This is what I really liked.
After seven years I decided to go back home – I missed my family, friends. This phase in my life was over and I wanted a change and start a new chapter, so I moved back to Lodz.
Can you share a bit about your experience at TomTom?
When I was at TomTom, I really started to master the skills. They had a very interesting job offering. I got hired as a Product Owner. I started to work in Location and Navigation Services (LNS) – I didn’t know that much about Android and iOS development because it was my first time working and developing for mobile phones. However, this was not a problem because my team was very supportive, patient, and open to sharing knowledge. They were also very engaged in doing things together. With such great people, I could only grow and we could deliver a great product together.
In a relatively short amount of time, we released a product into production. For some of the people, it was the first product in production. I also had a pleasure to travel to San Francisco with two developers from my team for the launch of the product – we prepared a 90-minute workshop. It’s been a great journey, and we’re continuing to develop the SDK now with more and more features. Everyone is very dedicated to the work.
Can you elaborate more on your role?
My role as a Product Manager involves creating product vision and strategy, collecting requirements and figuring out what problems we should solve for our users, analyzing with the Team which next features we should bring to the product, working and aligning with other teams. Another important aspect involves interaction with stakeholders that are in dialogue with customers or interact with customers directly depending on the case.
What is your favorite part of your role?
I enjoy the combination of working in technical and business environments to bring value for our users, customers and businesses. I like working with other PMs to learn what is happening in the rest of the organization in order to find topics that are relevant for the SDK or that the SDK should be a part of. This is great – hearing and learning about new things, and bringing this information to the team and working out together how we can expose it in our products. [My favorite part is] learning about topics and technologies, our solutions, and working together with the team on bringing these into the product.
I also like to understand our clients and our market – of course it’s important to create a product they will like, to be up to date with the customer needs and business opportunities. When you study who the customer is, what their needs are, and what products they do, you can come up with more ideas that can level up your business. It’s for me personally, a small success to come up with an idea for the SDK. Thanks to that I’m able to bring the product to the next level.
What is a challenging aspect of your role?
Some challenges include an influx of ideas from various people which have to be processed, and then decide what to reject or what to accept. It’s important to think holistically and what the best for the product and business is so it brings value for our customers and the company.
There are a lot of people I collaborate with. The business and ideas are dynamic, and it can be difficult – different people have different ideas or arguments that might be equally reasonable, but sooner or later we have to decide to go right or left. This is always a challenge to assess which idea is the right one – which we should continue with. There is also a lot of technical discussions and talks about technological choices. But I have great coworkers and the team to support and to work out the best way.
What is it like being a woman in tech? What do you wish people knew about our industry?
I love being a woman in tech! It is because I like tech and people who are passionate about it. In fact, there are more and more girls joining IT in both organizational and engineering roles, which is great to see. However, there are a lot of stereotypes about the IT business, and many are negative which I disagree with. All people I’ve met at the bank, at TomTom, in all departments, have been extremely nice and helpful. IT is a young field of industry so there are people from my generation or the generation before, and these are topics that are interesting for us.
My colleagues are very friendly and communicative, open to share knowledge and discuss different ideas – it’s a pleasure to work with them. It is fun to work with them too! We laugh a lot and there are a few funny situations every day. The atmosphere at work is very friendly and relaxed, it doesn’t matter if you are a woman or a man, you are a part of the Team! Moreover, I think everyone likes having female engineers around – they’re great team players, very good at what they are doing, and everyone appreciates they great work. All female developers are very respected in the organization and they have strong positions. I enjoy working with them a lot – greetings to Asia, Ania, Dagmara, Julia, Justyna, Magda, Marta, Monika...! :)
What do you think would be the most fun country to map?
I think that every country is fun to map as every country is special in a different way. Mediterranean countries, US, Australia, South America have wonderful coast lines. Countries with mountains have wonderful thrilling routes that are cool to see on the map, especially interesting for bikers. There are huge cities in counties of Asia, these regions are important to map as it brings value for so many people on daily basis. Also, there still so many uncovered places that could be added to the map. As a PM, I’d say that the coolest country or region to map is the one which brings most value for most users and businesses.
You can connect with Kasia on her LinkedIn page here.
Visit the TomTom Developer Portal to sign up for your free API key and get building with our Maps APIs and SDKs today!
To learn more about the Maps SDK, check out our documentation here:
Lastly, check out Kasia's introduction to the new SDK for Web v6 here: