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On a Mission to Take Geospatial Intelligence to New Heights

On A Mission to Bring Gesopatial Intelligence

Summary: Rob Torres, VP of Maxar’s Mission Accelerator Group, discusses the integration of Wovenware, a nearshore service provider specializing in AI and software engineering, into Maxar, leveraging geospatial data and AI to revolutionize earth and space intelligence.

It will be a year in November since Wovenware became a wholly owned subsidiary of Maxar Technologies, a world leader in space technology and geospatial intelligence. It’s not, however, a new relationship.  Since 2017, Wovenware has worked closely with Maxar as a nearshore service provider on numerous internal AI and software engineering initiatives, including Maxar’s global imagery basemaps, 3D geospatial datasets and more. 

Maxar’s Rob Torres, VP of the company’s Mission Accelerator Group, has been a close Wovenware partner since day one.  We recently spoke to Rob to learn more about how he applies life lessons to his leadership role, how he sees Wovenware fitting into the tapestry of Maxar and what‘s driving innovation in earth and space intelligence.

Tell us a little about your role at Maxar:  

Rob: Maxar’s Mission Accelerator Group (MAG) is a team within Maxar’s Public Sector Earth Intelligence business segment that brings centralized engineering and subject matter expertise for core capabilities that are important to the company’s strategic growth plan. MAG is organized into four strategic areas:  3D Geospatial Data, Foundation Mapping, Public Sector Product Engineering and Applied Machine Learning. About 60 percent of the team’s time is dedicated to supporting contractual requirements and the rest is spent on internal product development, prototyping and R&D. The group is comprised of more than 70 team members, primarily spread across offices in Virginia and Florida.

How did you first become involved with Maxar?

Rob: I started working for Maxar in 2004 as an intelligence analyst shortly after transitioning from active duty as a U.S. Marine. I helped set up the company’s first predictive analytics team, co-located at the U.S. Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. Those early years were an exciting time, I was among the first to brief the Pentagon on intelligence insights produced from our Geospatial Predictive Analytics software in the early 2000s. Ironically, I was recalled to active duty shortly thereafter, and upon my return, I rejoined Maxar. Since then, I have served in many roles, including Program Management, Business Operations, P&L and the MAG.

When did you first hear about Wovenware and how did the relationship evolve?

Rob: Back in 2017, our services account was looking for engineering surge support on several customer and internal R&D initiatives. We decided to outsource certain requirements and started the search for service providers. We worked alongside several firms in the U.S. and Canada, but it wasn’t working. We then expanded our search to Puerto Rico to identify firms that didn’t work with our competitors, and Wovenware emerged as an interesting option. 

Tony Frazier, now Maxar’s EVP and GM, Public Sector Earth Intelligence, and I visited Puerto Rico to meet with the shortlisted companies. One small thing that struck us was the fact that the other service providers did not invite us to their offices, but instead set up formal meetings in restaurants and other places. When we reached out to Wovenware to set up a meeting time, Carlos Melendez simply said, “sure, just swing by.” We were surprised, but really liked the informality of it. It was clear that the team was transparent, honest and confident. We had heard of Wovenware’s very early work with custom software engineering and their growing interest in AI, and we found that work exciting since we needed help with both software development and dataset modeling. After a few meetings, it was clear that Wovenware was an ideal choice—the partnership was easy from the get-go and the team fit right into our work culture, work ethic and approach. It quickly tuned into a seamless partnership.

How did acquiring Wovenware, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of Maxar, support the company’s growth objectives?

Rob: At the time Wovenware was acquired by Maxar, we were well into a very comfortable six-year relationship. Wovenware was providing everything from UI design to full-stack software delivery, enhancing 3D terrain analytics tools, producing large-volume ML training data sets and delivering on a long list of automated object detection models optimized against Maxar high resolution imagery. Wovenware brings a valuable, hard-to-find skillset to the table, and we recognized an opportunity to bring that in-house to add to Maxar’s own software engineering and AI capabilities. Wovenware is now one of Maxar’s software development and AI/ML centers of excellence, with its software delivery experts partnering closely with other Maxar teams to develop new solutions for customers.

What is the value of geospatial intelligence to government and commercial customers, and how is AI enabling the development of more actionable insights?

Rob: For both governments and businesses, an accurate representation of Earth is essential to performing the types of analytics needed to make confident decisions. From solving environmental challenges to protecting national security, this data can provide visual intelligence that helps end users make the right choice to solve complex problems. And, Maxar offers the industry’s most advanced earth intelligence, including the highest resolution satellite imagery and 3D datasets. AI and ML algorithms can help support human analysts extract insights from this data faster and at scale, saving countless hours and improving “sensor-to-decision” speed. Maxar’s high resolution data provides some of the best foundational training datasets for these models, which in turn helps enable better outcomes for customers.

How has your military background influenced how you lead the Maxar Mission Accelerator Group?

Rob: My years in the U.S. Marine Corps certainly have shaped how I approach my role and lead teams. I value a commitment to accountability, focusing on it as a positive and measurable attribute. During my time in the military, I learned how to be accountable not only to myself, but also to a team, always remaining highly focused on seeing projects through to successful completion. These are traits that I bring to my day-to-day job at Maxar and that I encourage all my team members to embrace as well.

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