TomTom Mapmakers: Meet Jose Jose Rojas, Developer Advocate
Our Mapmakers Series
TomTom started with a simple idea: Make digital navigation accessible for everyone. Our people are what make this vision possible, and we are excited to celebrate and showcase the amazing individuals who make the location technology that help people every day. As we continue to build and grow our developer community, we are 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 to learn more about their journeys, roles, and hear their insights on the future of location tech.
This month, we chatted with developer advocate Jose Jose Rojas. He may look familiar, as he is the creator behind our YouTube channel and works in a variety of roles helping developers use our APIs. A game developer and electric vehicle enthusiast, Jose has held a variety of roles at TomTom, from software engineer to product owner to his current role as developer advocate – he has been with the company a decade.
His story so far is inspiring, to say the least – and a true testament to keeping your eyes open for opportunities, pursuing passion projects, embracing adventure, and doing what you love. Keep reading to learn more about his journey, advice to developers, and thoughts on the future of mapping – and life.
Tell us about your career and the steps you took to get where you are now.
I always wanted to make computer games. It was my first passion ever since my mom got me a ZX81 Spectrum computer. Yes – it was those that you hook to your TV, with super 1K RAM (16K extended) and running Basic. I think that helped me unleash my love for mathematics.
It was obvious that I wanted to study systems engineering in my home country of Colombia. If you’ve seen the nerd stereotype on TV, then you would have seen me in my university years and most of my career.
I started out working as a consultant for company called Unisys in a half software development, half sales support role in Columbia. This job took me to Berlin and Mexico City working on various projects for different companies. Then I worked for several years at RIM-Blackberry in Toronto as a software developer. RIM was releasing its new Blackberry phones with color screens, and someone had to write its native games. If you had an early Blackberry, you probably played with one of them.
I have been in several roles in the industry, but for the majority of my career, I’ve been a software developer. My first project at TomTom was coding the first SDKs for the online routing APIs. When the project ended, I worked on “MyDrive” - the TomTom Route Planner on mobile. From there, I moved to the Amigo team, originally making the speed cams application. It was only recently I wanted to try some other roles like Scrum Master, Product Owner, and lately, a Developer Advocate for the TomTom Maps APIs team.
Wow, Columbia, Berlin, Mexico City, Toronto, and now Amsterdam – that’s a lot of moving around! How cool to be able to have those experiences. Can you share a bit more about your experiences living and working in such different places?
I have been always adaptable and enjoy different cultural experiences. I’ve lived in Berlin about 3 different times in my life, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.
Mexico was simply lots of fun. I was surprised by the friendliness and professionalism of my colleagues who taught me how to really drink tequila (and how to gain 10Kg quickly with taquitos al pastor) – happy times.
So that covers Columbia, Germany, and Mexico. How did you end up in Canada?
After Mexico City, my wife and I decided we wanted to live somewhere new. I was at a conference and saw a big banner saying, “It’s Canada for you – Is Canada your future?” The guy at the booth told me they were looking for engineers and would provide permanent residency. I said, “Why not?” and decided to apply. I was approved and ready to go in a month.
My wife and I went back and forth with what to do next, as we didn’t know much about the country. At one point, we asked ourselves “We need to research where to live in Canada… where is Canada?” Ten months later, we sold most of our belongings, packed two big bags, and flew to Toronto.
Here I finally got my chance to work on mobile games. My Toronto experience was bittersweet: I gained new friends but also ended old relationships. I decided on a new start in a country I loved, and headed back to Berlin for a couple years. I eventually moved to Amsterdam to work at TomTom.
Wow, that’s quite an adventure! So you ended up moving to Canada only because you saw that sign.
Literally! Yeah, it’s true. Life has a way of showing you the things you need – sometimes it’s right in your face – and it's up to you to listen and follow them.
I love that. Can you elaborate more on your role at TomTom currently?
The TomTom Maps APIs are posed to be the disruptive force to the hegemony that Google maps has on location-based applications. At TomTom we’ve developed solutions to support the location tech industry, and we believe that developers play a influencing role. As developer advocates, we promote these APIs to developers – we listen to the needs of the industry and support the community with the technical aspects like tutorials, demos, writing articles, etc.
What is your favorite part of your role?
I enjoy being able to be creative and technical all at once. The creative aspect of my role comes from producing videos for our YouTube channel, and technical part happens when I get to write code for different tutorials. And of course, I enjoy the opportunity to learn more about marketing.
What is a challenging aspect of your role?
The balancing act of deciding where to have more impact. As an advocate you can act on many fronts: writing, presenting, teaching, coding, etc. You have to always have a pulse on what is working at certain times, and for this, it is great to have support from my team.
Are there any trends around location tech that you find interesting?
I look forward to having indoor location positioning ubiquitous everywhere so the mobile industries can tackle the problem of accessibility and direct marketing to possible customers without the need to spam them later.
What do you think the future of mapping looks like?
I believe the use of maps will become very personal. By personal, I mean that personalized content will be used most of the time. With the use of AI and custom usage, I’m sure applications will provide private versions of all kinds of maps for daily use. So, if I like walking, shopping and riding my e-bike, then there will be a custom map for me.
Quick Facts with Jose
What’s your favorite location product to build with, and why?
I’ve always liked the Routing APIs. I’m impressed with the amount of options available to create a route: walking routes, delivery routes, and of course, EV routes.
Do you have any side projects you’re working on?
Several! A mobile app related to making videos, and making parts for my e-scooter with a 3-D printer and CAD.
What’s your favorite coding language?
What do you think would be the most fun country to map?
Difficult question but if I was a MOMA driver I’d love to go to Bhutan! There are still lots of roads and places to cover there and it is so exotic!
Do you have any advice for developers?
ABL! Always Be Learning. New libraries, frameworks, and technologies are appearing in the ecosystem at all times. Never be afraid to show your skills within the platform that you like. If you know React, that can be extrapolated to Quasar, for example. And never lose sight of your soft skills, like public speaking or team communication. These skills will increase your confidence level in your workplace – there are no excuses since everything can be found for free online!
What’s your biggest goal at TomTom – what do you want your legacy to be here?
I left TomTom briefly and came back simply because I thought other companies had a similar way of working, great culture, and interesting projects. How wrong I was! I came back because I missed that. I would like to be remembered as an ambassador of the amazing work environment we have at TomTom.
You can connect with Jose on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Don’t miss some of Jose’s most popular video tutorials:
- How to Add a Store Locator to your Maps Using the TomTom Maps APIs
- How to Protect Your API Key
- Adding a TomTom Map with the Quasar Framework
- 5 Cool Ways to Use Maps APIs
- Points of Interest with Reviews, Ratings and Photos
- Autocomplete and Suggestions with the Search API
Want to read more from our Mapmaker series? Check out these articles:
- Meet Maarten Clements, Search API Product Manager
- Dominika Spolnik, Product Manager, Map Display & Traffic APIs
- Meet Kasia Kaczmarek, Product Manager, Maps SDK
Stay connected with us via Twitter and YouTube, and don’t forget to stop by our Forum and say hello.