The People Behind PrecisionHawk: Tom McKay

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At PrecisionHawk, we’re pioneering drone technology for the commercial sector. It’s made possible by our people.

Tom McKay brought his GIS expertise to PrecisionHawk in May. With more than nine years of experience in the GIS industry, he has a clear vision for both satellites and drones. Here, Tom works as a Geospatial Sales Executive and as the Lead of PrecisionHawk’s Terraserver team. He has found a role that matches his passion for both sales and GIS, and the way he continues to blend the two is “ever-evolving.”

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I’m an early riser and I have no problem popping out of bed, so I say the gym because I like going to the gym pretty regularly in the mornings. More generally, I look forward to just seeing what life will throw at me. Since I joined PrecisionHawk, the types of requests I get and the types of people who come to me are very diverse, and it’s been much more interesting than what I was used to.

Before working at PrecisionHawk, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

Before I came here, I had a little taste of sales. My secondary passion is beer, and I used to sell beer samples as a side-job on the weekends. During that time, I actually found that more interesting than my average GIS job that I went to school for and had been doing for 10 years. That was something that made me think that I would enjoy sales, and now I get to mix that into my full-time job and do two things that I really like.

Why did you choose to work at PrecisionHawk?

First, I knew someone who worked at the company so I knew the reputation that it had. I’ve always been interested in drones and I thought it would be really interesting to be at the front end of cutting-edge space. Second, I had discovered that I enjoyed sales, and as I started talking with people here about what I could do, the need for someone to work with satellites came up. It wasn’t the position that I applied for, but satellites were what got me into GIS in the first place, so when I found out that I could work with them at an organization like PrecisionHawk, I couldn’t wait to sign up.

What is unique about working at PrecisionHawk?

This is my first real job with a startup, so just the startup culture itself is unique. The way we do things here is ever-evolving. It’s a very open environment where everyone collaborates and brings new ideas to the table.  No good idea goes unnoticed. We also have an open floor plan, flexible hours and even games to play, so overall it’s an inviting place to work.

How has PrecisionHawk helped you in your professional development?

During my time at PrecisionHawk, I’ve gained a lot of skills that I never would have thought to explore. For example, before coming to PrecisionHawk, sales was just something I did on the side, but now it is part of my full-time job. I also learn something new about satellites every day as far as what they’re capable of and what their offerings are. For example, today someone came to me and wanted a weekly coverage of an area at one to three meters and I found out that wasn’t really in the realm of possibility in the satellite industry. Now going forward, I know that if somebody wants something weekly, it will be in the 5+ meter range. I just continue to learn technical details like that here and there because I work with such a diverse clientele.

How do you see drone technology evolving over the next five years?

My job with PreicisionHawk focuses on satellites, so I’m not a drone expert here at the company, but I still see a wide range of applications for drones. I believe drones will be used in all facets of life, even in something like transportation. I know our CEO has talked about drones being the next iPhone or the next Roomba, and I definitely think that iPhones are the way that we’re headed. They’re integrated into everything that we do, and that’s definitely where I see drones heading.

What is the biggest benefit you believe drones will offer?

I think drones are extremely beneficial in gaining access to data that you otherwise wouldn’t have. For example, drones give you the ability to view something from an angle that you aren’t able to safely get to as a human. They’re a lot like satellites in that way. While satellites can cover larger areas in a more timely fashion, drone imagery is much, much higher quality.

If you could give your 21-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

For me, since I’m sort of a beer snob, it would be stop drinking Busch Light. From a professional standpoint though,  I would say make sure you always steady the course and don’t get discouraged. There was a time not too long ago when I was thinking about making a career change away from GIS and geography. I didn’t make that career change because I realized that I simply hadn’t found the right fit or the right job yet. I think if you stick with it, you’ll eventually find what you’re looking for just like I did.

If you could choose anyone to be your mentor, who would it be?

I’m a huge New England Patriot’s fan, so this might be a little biased, but, other than his personality, I really admire Bill Belichick. He has a vast knowledge of the game and dedication to something that he really loves, and it’s inspiring because he has such a passion for it. He’s known around the NFL as a mastermind for the plays and situations that he is able to come up with. Even though it has nothing to do with what I do for a living or what I went to school for, just the way he is able to conduct himself, stick to business, and get the job done is really something I think that I can learn from.

Do you have a motto or personal mantra?

I have these two quotes that have always stuck with me and I have no idea who said them:

  1.     The most important thing is to be able to sacrifice what you are for what you will become.
  2.     We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.

I’ve seen the second one played out in my life because I went into college knowing what I wanted to do. I stuck with that major the whole time, got out of school and found a job, worked there for awhile, moved through a couple different jobs and realized after awhile that my personal experiences and things that I learned throughout my career and life shaped how I saw and approached different things.

Though he didn’t have a background in drones, Tom brought unique expertise and a blend of passions to PrecisionHawk, and we’re glad to have him as part of our team.

If you’re interested in joining the PrecisionHawk team, you can view all of our open opportunities here.