Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jon Bowen - Esri

Name: Jon Bowen
Major & Minor: Geography
Year Graduated: 2012
Current Employer: Esri
Length of Employment: about 9 months
Interests and hobbies: whitewater kayaking, traveling, biking, things that keep me moving

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? You sort of take what you know, what you enjoy doing and apply it to people who give you the opportunity to live off of it. I was fortunate to have a lot of experience from internships and guiding trips that gave me the idea of a person I wanted to be and once I found that I had made connections to apply what I know in the way’s I find fun and amusing.

What do you think gave you an edge to get your current position? The ability to say yes to anything and figure out the details later. My stoke level for the things I’m doing at the moment.  Extensive internship experience.

Describe your typical day at work:
My typical day at work…well I usually get in around 8 am to a workspace that consists of no offices but a collaborative space much like the lab at Eau Claire yet inspirationally overlooking DC.  Check some emails, check Github for updates/issues, manage all the new elements for the website, then start working on my more exciting projects that tend to be more cartographically focused in the am until about noon. From there on California is alive and at work so we start to do collaborative projects on future Story Maps templates and prototypes with the rest of our team from Redlands.  Intermixed in the afternoon I tend to do my less interesting projects which include server management and some other GIS problems solving. On a given day I do anywhere from an ongoing set of 3-4 different projects. These may consist of some of the following;
Building custom story maps for our bigger partners
Meetings with important gov bureaus or big non-profits
Researching new story ideas to take on as personal projects
Creating mock-ups for prototypes/whiteboard new ideas
Front end HTML/CSS and content website management
Wrestling server and GIS issues
Learning the latest and greatest in the industry and javascript
Slamming coffee

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Since my position is fun, creative, inspiring, educational etc I plan to stay at Esri until that changes.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school? Get off your arse and do something you enjoy. The world needs more people who enjoy their work. You’re at a perfect time in your life to try and do literally everything until you find something that you can jive with. Don’t waste your time on people or activities that don’t help you making your tomorrow better than your yesterday. If your lazy now you’ll be lazy forever so don’t expect a thing to be given to you if that be the case. Your 4 years in college shape the rest of your 90 year lifetime not just with your job outlook but with your social life, comfort levels, exercise habits, etc,. Put into motion the life you envision and not give two shits who disagrees with that, you’ll find your groove eventually and I guarantee you if you make yourself happy the folks around you will put up the stoke your putting down. 

Kyle Wells - : Colorado State University (CSU) – Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands at Fort McCoy, WI

Name: Kyle Wells
Family: My dog Mani
Major & Minor: Geography (Liberal Arts) & History (Liberal Arts)
Year Graduated: Fall 2011
Current Employer: Colorado State University (CSU) – Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands at Fort McCoy, WI
Length of Employment: 9 months
Interests and Hobbies: Traveling, Camping, Fishing, Sports

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation and/or in your career path (i.e. graduate school or type of job)?
I knew that I enjoyed Geographic Information Systems in school, so started applying for GIS/Cartography related jobs. Fortunately during my final semester, Garmin International representatives visited the UWEC Geography Department to mingle with students and see what projects students have been working on. During their visit, I presented them with a well put together resume and discussed what projects I had been working on. This led to an interview, and my first job out of school as a Cartography Technician with Garmin.
I was not sure if a career in the Cartography industry was what I ultimately wanted, but it was a start, and would hopefully help me decide. Over two years had passed working at Garmin, and I realized I wanted to use GIS with environmental projects, and perform analysis. I found that with Colorado State University as a GIS Technician.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position?
Certainly 2.5 years as a Cartography Technician at well respected company helped; however because my work with Garmin was so specific to Garmin, it was hard to translate all of those skills to my current position. This is where a strong GIS background from the university helped greatly. My understanding of geodatabases, collecting data with GPS equipment, analyzing datasets, and creating maps gave me the edge that CSU was looking for. Participating in additional research projects, like a field seminar course to Honduras, appealed to CSU as well.

Describe your typical day at work:
On a typical day I am entering data in geodatabases, digitizing features, collecting and uploading GPS files, maintaining and updating map collections, delivering data, creating specialized maps, and providing GIS support to many different departments on the installation. It changes every day so there is no getting bored!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Either with CSU or in another position that incorporates geospatial technology. I work with a lot of people that are unfamiliar with GIS and it has been fun showing them its capabilities. For example, teaching them that data can be used to perform analysis when planning and designing projects, rather than GIS just being used for reference maps. If I can continue to help others using GIS, then that is where I see myself for a while.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school?
Get involved and interact with classmates and professors. There are plenty of opportunities, whether it is reaching out to classmates in the lab, working with professors, participating in Geography and Anthropology Club activities, presenting projects outside of class, or attending conferences. These allow you to test your skills and knowledge, while also improving upon them. Plus you get to know people and have some fun.
Practice interviewing based on your experiences from school. There is a big difference between you understanding your work and explaining it to other people. These are more examples of why interacting with others and presenting your work will be beneficial.
Start looking at job requirements early to help you get an idea of what experience you may need. If you are unsure about whether to continue school or start working, talk to alumni or professors. They are great to talk to and are more than happy to help.

Hillary Johnson - ACTED

Name: Hillary Johnson

Major & Minor: International Geography
Year Graduated: May 2012
Current Employer: ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) – a French NGO
Job Title: GIS Officer based in Jordan
Length of Employment: 6 months
Interests and hobbies:
Travelling, running, horseback riding, spending time with family and friends, learning Arabic
What helped you decide what route to take after graduation?
I wasn’t exactly sure what I would want to study in graduate school so I thought it would be in my best interest to gain some professional experience straight after graduation. In the two and a half years since graduation, I have learned a lot about what I am looking for in a job and have found what I truly enjoy doing in my current position. Now if I go to graduate school in the next couple of years I have a much better idea of what I want to study and professional job experience that will help me in the classroom.
What do you think gave you an edge to get your current position?
I think having the GIS experience from UWEC geography department and a strong GPA from those courses really helped me. In addition, since my position is based overseas, having some international experience from studying abroad for a semester was also a plus.

Describe your typical day at work:
I work for a NGO that specializes in information management and research for humanitarian crises around the world. In Jordan, our team conducts needs assessments to better inform humanitarian aid programming for the Syrian Refugee Crisis both in refugee camps and in the surrounding villages and cities. I am based in Za’atari Refugee Camp, which is the second largest refugee camp in the world and is located just outside of the city of Mafraq in the north of the country. As a GIS officer, my job involves data analysis on the research done in the camp and creating maps based on that data. A typical day for me is to arrive in the camp around 8am and begin work on whatever project is going on at the time. This includes maintaining and updating the geospatial database for the camp, updating general infrastructure data to share with other agencies in the camp, creating new maps based on recently collected data, and responding to inquiries from other partners in the camp for information to help their programming. Our day in the camp ends at 5pm though on many days work continues from home depending on the urgency and scale of the current project.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It’s hard to say since I’m currently living from one 6 month contract to another, but I could see myself continuing in this line of work for the next few years. I am also considering graduate school now that I have a better idea of the kind of career path I am interested in – which has to include travel, field work and GIS. I’m just taking it one adventure at a time for now.
What advice can you give to those who are still in school?
My biggest piece of advice is to take advantage of opportunities available to you now, whether it’s is an internship, joining a club, studying abroad, student research or even just taking one class in something you’re interested in just because you want to. I think it’s important to be open-minded with your future because your dream job may be something you haven’t heard of yet. I dreamed of a way to live abroad, help people and use my GIS skills when at UWEC without knowing it was even possible – and here I am doing it. My point is to be open-minded and try new things because you never know where it might take you.

I’m more than willing to answer any questions about how I landed myself in Jordan so feel free to email me at