Many of the original development team still work for ARANZ Geo, all adding their substantial knowledge and experience to the mix. Many joined as students in the early days to advance the RBF mathematics and software that is Leapfrog’s engine, FastRBF™. ARANZ Geo founder, Rick Fright describes it as a ‘blend of expertise’ and a ‘combination of experts all at the top of their game’, many in between working at University College London or Cambridge University. Fundamentally the common theme was that they were Kiwi’s, many friends from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
Tim Mitchell, now one of Leapfrog’s senior developers, coded significant parts of the FastRBF™ algorithms. Tim Evans, who joined in 1999, continues to be responsible for the amazing core computer graphics libraries in Leapfrog®. Jonathan Carr returned in 1999 after spending some time at Cambridge University developing the 3D ultrasound work further and is still consulting for ARANZ Geo. Other significant team members included Marcos van Dam and Jon Cherrie, who contributed the noteworthy algorithm – the errorbar fitter and Tim McLennan, who also worked on coding and is now a Senior Researcher.
Jonathan Carr, an avid caver, describes the research team’s effort as being a bit like cave exploration – the endless effort, hard work and of course, the dead-ends.
Some key roles have changed and become more specialised allowing people to operate at a higher level. Says Senior Researcher Tim McLennan, “Now it’s more directive research that solve specific problems.” ARANZ Geo also has several geologists working in various departments across the company, a thorough understanding and close connection to their geologist market remains a key strategy.
Solving the right problems
Recent work includes introducing advanced vein modelling to Leapfrog Geo, which boasts to offer the most advanced abilities in the industry. This focus on solving the right problems is essential to maintain the company’s position as the industry innovator. Commercial viability is crucial, so investment can keep fueling new development.
It’s a hive of activity at the Christchurch offices. Upstairs marketing are preparing for another conference, this time they’ll be demonstrating a new product prototype. Downstairs there’s a bell ringing and loud clapping as the development team land a new feature into the software. In Customer Services you hear fluent Spanish as the Technical Services Geologists help customers in South America. The massive map of the world on the back wall shouts just how far Leapfrog has come. CEO Shaun Maloney, often clocking up flying hours as he travels the globe, is in the office today and he can be seen talking to the teams, discussing what people are working on and what he’s heard from the field.
Looking around at all the enthusiastic people I’m reminded of my initial conversation with ARANZ Geo’s founder Rick Fright. “We were trying to help ourselves of course, but we also ended up helping our mates too. It’s an enduring pleasure when we go to the Christmas dinner to see all of the people who make a living in our company.”
Rick told me that ARANZ Geo is particularly unique because it offers high tech options for New Zealand graduates to actually stay in New Zealand, rather than moving overseas to the big industries and labs, which is often the norm. Rick described it as ‘really interesting work at a world-class level.’ Looking around you can definitely feel that vibe.