TomTom Mapmakers: Meet Leen D’hondt, Product Manager, TomTom Maps
OUR MAPMAKERES SERIES
TomTom started with a simple idea: Make digital navigation accessible for everyone. Our people are what make this vision possible. We are excited to celebrate and showcase the amazing individuals who make the location technology that help people every day. 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 spoke with Leen D’hondt, Senior Product Manager at TomTom, currently located in Bangkok, Thailand. Read on to learn more about Leen’s career journey working in maps in a variety of industries, and her thoughts on the future of location technology.
What do you do at TomTom?
I am a product manager in the Maps Unit. Together with the product management team, I develop the Maps product vision which aims at defining “the future we want to create with TomTom Maps.” I co-define the strategy to work towards that vision.
My activities include setting geographic priorities based on user and market insights, presenting an x-domain view on the status of the map, supporting marketing with the right messaging and information, helping pricing on how our products are structured, and improving our product positioning. I represent TomTom Maps at events and in customer and prospect meetings.
Tell me about your career path – how did you get to where you are now?
I grew up abroad as child of parents that love to work and travel in different geographic environments and I guess this travel bug is in my blood.
I studied bioengineering at the University of Ghent and got interested in the interface between geography and bioengineering, so I pursued a Professional Master’s in GIS and Remote Sensing at the National Polytechnique Institute of Toulouse.
My career journey started at Tele Atlas Ghent as a Process Engineer. Wanting to discover the world, I decided to travel for eight months in Asia.
Coming back, eager to “create & do”, I worked in environmental and development projects for 3 years as a consultant for the European Commission, the Belgian Development Cooperation, and the World Food Programme in East Africa. I worked on agricultural projects, such as mapping diseases on banana plantations to trace sources of infection and their geographical spread.
Back in Belgium, I joined Capgemini as a management consultant for 3.5 years in the GIS Unit. One of the cornerstones of Capgemini is its talent development. I learned the ins and outs of software development, advised organizations regarding IT/GIS solutions and managed the implementation of these solutions as a product owner.
Mid-2015, I re-joined the TomTom family when I moved to Bangkok with my partner. TomTom offered a position of product manager of the Maps unit for Southeast Asia. My geographical scope broadened to the APAC region and in 2017 I joined the Global Product Management Team.
What is your favorite part of your role?
I like to be in the driver’s seat, working together with the teams to create products that support map users around the world.
I enjoy the market research and the analysis of human behavior based on big data: How and why maps are used, by whom, and what future user experiences of maps look like. It’s exciting to explore with teams around the world, trying to understand what matters most to map users in order to steer the map strategy.
Do you have any advice for other women in tech working in male-dominated spaces?
As a western woman, I do not really feel the gender difference at my work. Of course, men and women are different but that is also true for people with age and cultural differences. Diversity makes it interesting.
A piece of advice I have for women with small children (or planning to have children) is to work in a flexible working environment. Having a flexible agenda has been priceless to manage my time as a mother of two boys.
What do you think would be the most fun country to map?
Mmm... I’d love to map the deep oceans and the biodiversity in the oceans, helping to shape the future in a constructive way by fighting biodiversity loss.
Are there any interesting trends around location technology, fleets & logistics, or on-demand that you find interesting?
The ever-increasing need for more rich content and more accurate data is interesting. That trend seems limitless. For example, what will be the impact on reality if we add Augmented Reality on Maps? Or will we map the future before it is here?
What do you wish people knew about our industry?
The impact that location technology can have on shaping the future (in a positive way). I think we only see the tip of the iceberg of location technology and its limitless opportunities.
I believe TomTom is very well positioned being at the center of a new type of mapping ecosystem. Having both big automotive players like Renault-Nissan, PSA, and FCA as well as the big tech with Apple, Microsoft, and Uber as customers is a unique place to be.
What are some ways you see location tech being used for shaping a ‘better’ world, both currently and in the future?
In the mobility world, at TomTom, the obvious example is by offering optimized routing, in that way reducing congestion and ensuring a safer journey. Another example is the development of applications that enable smooth electric driving which eventually reduces emissions and noise pollution.
Ideally, in my opinion, TomTom could improve the handshake between car navigation and other modes of transportation, ensuring the full user journey is a delight and is as environmentally friendly as possible. By focusing on technology that supports more green and safe travels, we do have an impact on the behavior of our users and the choices they make.
But also in many other industries, location technology offers vast opportunities. Just a few examples:
- In the environmental sector, tracing all sorts of pollution sources
- In nature conservation, managing wildlife protection
- In the health care sector, optimizing health care for disabled persons by connecting people based on location
- In the agricultural sector, mapping soil fertility to improve nutrition management
...and so on.
Anything else you’d like to add?
As always, technology can be used in a “good” and in a “bad” way. It is the same with location technology.
I find it interesting and even essential that as product managers, we should think about the ethical component of what we do, why we do what we do, which future we want to create, and how location technology can support that future.
You can learn more about Leen by visiting her LinkedIn page.
Want to read more from our Mapmaker series? Check out these articles:
- Meet Jose Jose Rojas, Developer Advocate
- Meet Maarten Clements, Search API Product Manager
- Dominika Spolnik, Product Manager, Map Display & Traffic APIs
- Meet Kasia Kaczmarek, Product Manager, Maps SDK