Welcome to the third post in our “Meet the Team” series! Today we chat with Rob Rose, Chief Operating Officer and Co-founder of Population Explorer. To date, we've highlighted our team's collaborative and dynamic company culture, the result of their authentic character, diverse talent, and scholarly expertise. What makes the team even more interesting though, is learning how their achievements are rooted in applicable, real-world experience and a dedication to helping the world's most vulnerable populations. With this post, we asked Rob to share his narrative, and what life events have propelled his 30-year dedication to natural-and-human-caused disaster analysis and response. Rob's story is both inspiring and interesting, revealing even more of what drives the passion and compassion behind Population Explorer.
Rob Rose lives in the Middle East with his wife, who is a diplomat. He grew up in Sacramento, California. After his undergraduate studies, he joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Zaire. When he returned, he moved to Colorado and earned a Masters Degree in Economic Geography from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
After graduate school, Rob moved back to Africa and worked as a relief worker in war-torn South Sudan. These two years of witnessing the worst and the best parts of humanity left him with a clear life's mission, "to be engaged in the world and do whatever I can to make a positive impact on the lives of the most vulnerable among us". Rob is driven by compassion, commitment and honesty, values which are evident in his personable, positive communication style, attention to detail, and dedication to making Population Explorer accessible to everyone who needs it.
Read more about our conversation below.
What interests you most about the field of Geography?
As an undergraduate, my interest in geography started because I wanted to study how species and biological communities vary across geographies. When I went to graduate school, which was after I had spent two years in the Peace Corps, I began to focus more on better understanding human interactions with the environment. I was lucky to be a researcher on one of the very first studies (this is back in 1990) on the potential impact of climate change on human populations. I worked with a team of geographers and engineers to model impact scenarios across a range of geographies, with a focus on river basins. [Complex river basins. In: As Climate Changes: International Impacts and Implications [Strzepek, K.M. and J.B. Smith (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, pp. 57-78.] My work has always centered on the intersection of humans and their environment and now gravitates more towards the analysis of natural hazards and response planning.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I spent a number of years actively supporting efforts to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction. I have been a falconer for over 40 years. When I am not chasing falcons, I spend as much time as I can fly fishing.
Before working at Pop Ex what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
...more like an experience. In 1998, following the Rwanda genocide, President Clinton traveled to Rwanda. I provided the President and his team with a 20-minute presentation on the impact of the genocide on food security and described the international and US Government efforts to mitigate its impact.
What an honor. Please describe more your background working in disaster analysis and response.
I had been a relief worker during operation lifeline Sudan. In 1992, when President Bush ordered US Troops to Somalia, I was there on the beach to meet them. In 1994 during the Rwanda genocide, I was on the Uganda border paying $100 per person to save what people I could with what money I had. In 2002, a year after US Troops were deployed to Afghanistan in response to 9-11, I moved to Afghanistan to open USAID’s Famine Early Warning System.
Sounds like quite a life-changing experience. What are some more of your resume highlights?
- Peace Corps - Zaire (now DRC)
- Catholic Relief Services - South Sudan and Somalia response
- UNICEF - South Sudan
- USAID FEWS NET: Opened and managed offices in: Somalia, South Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Afghanistan.
- World Food Program - Kenya
- Peregrine Fund -- I took a break for a couple of years and worked to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Developing Population Explorer, and seeing it used as a decision support tool for disaster response has been a major highlight. This really is the culmination of much of my professional work.
What specifically do you do at Population Explorer?
Together with Ben Watkins, we conceived Population Explorer following the Indian Ocean Tsunami. I have been a funder, a technical leader, and manager from its inception until today.
What motivates you to go to work?
My colleagues are a huge motivator. They are all very committed to the product’s success. Our clients also are an inspiration. Providing them with a tool that helps them to answer fundamental questions about their target communities is a big motivator.
What do you like most about the Population Explorer application and what inspires your work with this company?
It quickly answers two simple question: How many people are in my target area? and What are their demographic characteristics? I'm inspired by my commitment to improving people’s lives.
What has been your favorite project?
...helping first responders in the US and abroad better estimate populations affected by disasters...and then using those estimates to provide life saving support.
What message do you have for prospective clients?
If you need to know the basic population demographics of specific target geographies, Population Explorer is the cheapest, fastest, and most accurate tool for the job.
What can your clients look forward to with future versions of the application?
...neighborhood level demographics data on incomes, education level, and a range of other socio-economic characteristics of target populations. I am excited about the efforts we are taking to improve data quality, data resolution, and the range of data available.
What are three words that describe Population Explorer?
Powerful. Intuitive. Insightful.
I also asked Rob to share his favorite quote, and it's quite original.
Stuff is eaten by dogs, broken by family and friends, sanded down by the wind, frozen by the mountains, lost by the prairie, burnt off by the sun, washed away by the rain. So you are left with dogs, family, friends, sun, rain, wind, prairie and mountains. What more do you want? -Federico Calboli
If you liked this blog post, please share it with your network, connect with us, and stay tuned for more “Meet the Team” conversations in the coming weeks.