Inside BlackBerry Interview: Andy Toy, the (foursquare) Mayor of Waterloo


Andy Toy

Research In Motion® (RIM®) is a company where thousands of people work every day to build the best mobile communication experience. One of those people is Andy Toy. If you’re wandering around Kitchener-Waterloo, you’re sure to run into Andy at a restaurant, farmer’s market or local pub. I first came to know the man (the legend!) via foursquare when I noticed he was the mayor of almost every place I frequented. One day I realized Andy worked at RIM too, so I looked him up in our address book and strolled over to introduce myself. That’s the beauty of social networking – and especially being social through BlackBerry® smartphones.

A few weeks later, I was bouncing around blog post ideas and I said “Hey, I should interview Andy Toy.” I managed to meet up with Andy for a chat about foursquare, social networking and how the BlackBerry platform fits in to the mix.

So you’re presently at 66 mayorships on Foursquare, which is the most in Waterloo of any individual that I’ve ever seen. You’re kind of the virtual mayor of Waterloo. Are you the mayor of any RIM buildings?
Yeah, I’m the mayor of some other RIM buildings, but which ones often vary, because I just really check in when I can.

To make sure no one takes over.
I do my best, but the competition for mayorship of RIM buildings is pretty intense. I might have gotten mayorship of a building for a short period of time, but I might not go there that often necessarily, so other people get it back.

Is there any mayorship that you pride yourself on having? For me, it’s the RIM 20 building. I need to have that one. When I lost that one, I was heartbroken.
I like being mayor of various restaurants around Kitchener-Waterloo.

So you’re a foodie?
(laughs) That’s right.

You mentioned earlier about meeting the two guys from Motek Americas (the developers of Screen Muncher and Color ID).
I met the guys from Motek at one of the restaurants I go to. I checked in there, and within a few seconds, somebody at another table said, “Hey, are you Andy Toy?” I said, “Uh, yes I am. Did you notice my foursquare check-in?” And they said, “Yeah, you’re famous. You’re like the mayor of K-W!” (laughs) And so they wanted to get their picture taken with me.

What do you do at RIM?
I work in the Software R&D department, in the BlackBerry Infrastructure Engineering Group.

So if you were a consumer, an average Joe using a BlackBerry smartphone, what part of their BlackBerry smartphone experience are you responsible for?
Basically, our BlackBerry software group looks after all of the software that’s used in RIM data centers to run BlackBerry smartphones.

So you deal with the software that runs a BlackBerry smartphone user’s emails and BBM™ messages through RIM’s network data centers then, right?
That’s right. Basically, we have pieces of software that handle BlackBerry smartphone activations, all the email traffic and all the web traffic – any BlackBerry smartphone traffic goes through the relay system in RIM BlackBerry data centers.

Do you have a special key to get in there?
(laughs) Generally not, because once we finish all the software development and engineering, it’s handed over to BlackBerry operations.

I see you’re on a BlackBerry® Bold™ 9700 or 9780 smartphone.
Yeah, this is a BlackBerry Bold 9700 smartphone. It’s my favorite BlackBerry smartphone at the moment. It’s nice and compact, and it’s got a good weight to it.

How long have you been at RIM?
I’ve been at RIM for 12 years.

So, a long time.
The beginning, relatively. Early on, anyway.

What building were you originally in? RIM 1?
When I started, I was in RIM 2. I believe when I started, everybody was in RIM 2, because it wasn’t RIM 2 yet.

It was just RIM?

And now we’re at, like, 30-something buildings, with A, B, C and D…
Yeah, we’re up to RIM high-20s, I guess, and then we have all the letter buildings.

So you’ve been here for 12 years. What’s been the biggest change for you?
Oh, just continued growth in all the processes and business buildup. Everything is done totally differently from when I first started because of the size of the company now. There’s hardly anything I can think of that’s still the same. The thing I miss the most, really, is just knowing everyone in the company! (laughs) Now that it’s so big, you can’t really do that anymore.

Has social media changed that for you at all, by using foursquare or Twitter®, for example?
Yeah, so that’s an interesting thing. Basically, I try to sign up for everything as I find out about it. I have accounts on Facebook®, Twitter, Pownce – well, that’s gone now – MySpace®, VEVO… whatever came up, I’d give it a try to see if it was interesting.

Would you say you’re addicted to any of them?
I have to say I was using Facebook a lot, which I only got into because somebody wanted me to comment on what he was putting on his Wall. So I started there, and then I got on it and I started doing more stuff on Facebook — sharing photos, linking in various interesting articles from websites, playing some of those games. (laughs) Lately, my focus has been more on foursquare and Twitter.

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about BlackBerry® Messenger (BBM™), which is basically a social network all on its own. What do you use BBM for?
I use BBM for its groups. Most of them are food-related. (laughs) I am in several groups for arranging daily lunch meet ups with colleagues, dinner trips to Toronto, wine & cheese nights, home theatre nights, Thirsty Thursday weekly beer night, friends’ kids’ dance events. It’s a great way to co-ordinate with many people for an outing and for sharing photos from it.



If you’re in Waterloo and feel like challenging Andy’s mayoral claim – or if you’re not in Waterloo but want to beat his record of 66 mayorships – be sure to download the foursquare app for BlackBerry smartphones or fourplay for the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet and give it a shot!

Have you met a co-worker you didn’t know or made a friend when challenging each other for a mayorship on foursquare? Let us know in the comments.

About Alex Kinsella

Promoter of apps. Connoisseur of tacos. By day, I'm a PR and Social Media Manager at BlackBerry.

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