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Behind the H: Dave Nesbitt

Posted by Andrew Scott on

Behind the H: Dave Nesbitt
Dave at his desk, (leftmost position)

 

Dave Nesbitt, Hammerhead’s Head of Maps and Navigation, has a storied history in the world of GPS mapping and routing.

 

If you catch Dave at our Pennsylvania office, he will greet you with a warm smile characteristic of his Lancaster county roots. If you ask him anything about bikes, you can be sure Dave has something to say. A former Cat-3 warrior, Dave has decades of riding under his belt but only relatively recently has he started to apply his formal education to his passion for cycling.

 

 

Dave’s cycling roots trace back to his childhood days in southern Lancaster County, PA, where growing up on a farm meant friends and towns were often miles away. This allowed Dave to take up cycling as a means to get around and kill some free time. As Dave grew older, he attended and graduated Franklin and Marshall College with a BA in Physics and Economics, and soon thereafter was working for Johns Hopkins on naval contract work- his first foray into the world of software engineering and navigational computation. Working for the navy was where Dave dipped his toes into the world of mapping and routing, and more importantly, started his work on large-scale maps and GPS navigation.

During this time, Dave got married, had children, and due to life’s ability to get complicated, had to put the bike away until he found himself yearning for time back in the saddle in his early 30s. “I bought myself a nice Trek,” Dave explained, “and when you spend that much money on a bike, I figured I’d better ride it.” He subsequently joined the Baltimore Bike Club, and maintained form and fitness while working.

After working for the US Navy, Dave started a job at the tech startup MapQuest, where he would go on to work for 15 years and truly hone his navigational and routing masteries. Dave was promoted to the role of Head Engineer for MapQuest’s automotive navigational team, where his years working at Johns Hopkins for naval contracts came into play.

 

 

“As MapQuest grew, it shut down its east coast office in Lancaster,” Dave explained. “I didn’t want to move with the team to the west coast, so I started working for a new navigational company called MapZen.”

At MapZen, Dave engineered an open-source navigational platform called Valhalla, which was soon acquired by Samsung along with MapBox. For a few years, Dave worked as the lead engineer for MapBox, where he specialized in creating custom maps for clients with specific GPS needs.

Dave wanted to return to the consumer-facing side of development, and the job at Hammerhead allowed him to bring together his passion with his formidable professional experience. “I ultimately wanted to take out the middleman. With MapBox we had clients with specific requests, so we would work with them, but there was always this ‘middleman’ feeling to it all.”

“At Hammerhead, it’s the full story — what the cyclist needs is the main priority, and now we’re making maps specifically homemade and tailored for the needs of a cyclist. I can develop the software, go ride it myself, then see what needs changes or what needs fixing.”

Dave’s drive and passion for the sport informs his professional ability and diligence when developing maps for cyclists. Dave is just one of many cyclists on the Hammerhead team who are driven to create the most powerful and industry defining head unit on the market, and despite having worked for massive corporations, he ultimately cherishes the ability to sit down with the niche cycling community and craft something that’s personally fulfilling.


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