TomTom Mapmakers: Dominika Spolnik, Product Manager, Map Display & Traffic APIs
The TomTom Mapmakers Series
As we continue to build and grow our developer community, we’ll be highlighting the people behind the products. In our TomTom Mapmakers series, we publish an interview once a month with some of our product owners, designers, and developers.
This month, we took the time to speak with Dominika Spolnik, Product Manager for the Map Display API and Traffic API. She is based in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Read on to hear about her extensive experience with – and love of – maps!
Can you share a bit about your career journey? How did you get to where you are now?
I grew up in a small town in Poland. I enjoyed mathematics and geography, so chose to study on Technical University in Wroclaw. I was studying Environmental Engineering which would allow me to work with architects and people who design buildings, so nothing related to what I’m doing now. After studying, I worked in a company where I was creating digital maps of electricity or water networks in different cities. Still kind of related to my study, and a little bit related to the maps, as we were using city maps as a background.
In my next company I was testing mobile phones, and then the next company was TomTom. I moved from Poland to Amsterdam in 2006, quite some time ago. I became a tester in TomTom. Started with testing an “ancient” HOME 1.3 – 2.0 – the applications meant to manage & update our PNDs. Then, as a Senior Tester I was working on Sydney – TomTom’s first web-based Route Planner. Back then it was one team responsible for creating the APIs (Display, Routing, Search) and the web application using them.
Afterwards I was an Information Analyst for our web shop and Product Shop. At that time, I was working on the backend side for all the payments and order and user management.
The next step was MyDrive, the current TomTom route planner with web and mobile applications. This time we were using the APIs created by different teams. Then I became an associate Product Manager and briefly worked with the older versions of Display, Search and Routing APIs. Next, I was responsible for the SDKs and about 4 years ago I moved to my current role, where I’m taking care of a couple of “visual” APIs – Map Display, Traffic, and a couple others. We are not only creating the APIs, but also prepare the map data used in those endpoints. We strive to provide always the freshest map, so we do a map release twice a week.
Wow, that sounds like a really cool journey.
Yes, I think it’s very interesting. Map Display API and Traffic API, those have been the main APIs I work with now, but we are developing two new features that will be available on the Developer Portal sometime later this year.
What is your role at TomTom and what does your typical day look like?
As I said, I am a Product Manager for a couple of online APIs and for the tool-chain providing the map data used by those APIs. I start my day by going through emails, answering questions and requests. In the morning I usually have a couple of stand-ups and alignment meetings to be up to date with what the teams are doing, if everything goes fine, etc.
Usually I have a lot of meetings with the teams, stakeholders, Business Units, and customers to discuss current implementations, requests, and priorities of features that are upcoming. I often give presentations about the products and upcoming plans, so the slide decks need preparation and updates. As we’re working in a very agile environment, our plans, tickets and presentations need constant refinement.
What is your favorite part of your role?
Seeing that what we are working on is nicely welcomed by others – customers were waiting for certain features so we were happy we could deliver them. I like working with my products – I like them and I enjoy them. Making the map more pretty, more useful, that makes me happy.
What is a challenging part of your role, or what is a common challenge developers face today?
Clearly defining requirements and being transparent on what we are going to deliver. Also, getting feedback, gathering requirements, and passing them to developers so it’s explicit what they need to develop.
What do you think would be a fun country to map?
I love traveling and I love mountains, so if I would have the opportunity to go and map, then I’d love to go to Patagonia in the south of Argentina or Chile. I think those areas are so beautiful - at some point I will go there, but to have the opportunity to go there and map those places, I think that would be really cool.
What do you like about making a map?
If the map looks really cool, you just want to go there. It’s like, it’s kind of bringing the world to people – if that makes sense.
Yes, I think that’s really well put. I too, feel like there’s just something about looking at a map. Like you said, especially if it’s well done or looks nice, it gives you this feeling of excitement, of exploring new places.
Being a woman in tech, do you have any advice for other women in technology or women who want to get into API development, mapping, location technology?
I think if you enjoy working with (location) technology, your gender shouldn’t matter. Being a woman is not a reason for not getting into this industry, even if you think it’s dominated by men. Do whatever you feel like doing, if you’re good at it and it makes you happy.
I think that’s great. Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience or journey?
I think TomTom is quite a journey - because it’s so broad, you can do completely different things in different areas without actually leaving the company. I’ve worked with almost the whole chain of making maps: processing, making APIs, and actually using those APIs, and I’m still at the same company – and I’m sure there are still some segments of TomTom I didn’t yet discover or didn’t try. You are never bored here.
You can connect with Dominika via LinkedIn.
To learn more about the Map Display API, check out these relevant links:
To explore the Traffic API, here are some useful links to visit:
Lastly, don't miss our other articles in the TomTom Mapmaker series here: Meet Kasia Kaczmarek, Product Manager, Maps SDK.