Realizing a sustainable future that supports our economy, environment, and infrastructure requires a capable, pioneering workforce to see it through. As a GIS professional, you have the power to make an impact in your industry and be an influential resource to your organization.
But you don’t have to do it alone.
Students and professionals that attended FedGIS Conference 2020 joined discussions hosted by Esri Young Professionals Network and GeoNet about networking and career development to talk about community building. Building a network and professional community can significantly support your skills and growth in your career path. Take it from GeoNet MVP Ken Buja, who found the support he needed to advance his career right here in The Esri Community.
Pictured: Attendees of the Grow Your Network, Grow Your Career Session started with active networking activities to begin the session.
Ken Buja started as a cartographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) building maps and performing analysis for marine biologists and oceanographers. As geospatial technology and tools advanced, along with the organization’s ability to adapt to the technology without the expertise of a cartographer, Ken had to find ways to reinvent his career.
“As the software got easier for marine biologists and oceanographers to use, that kind of left me out of a job,” said Ken. “They could do their own analysis and produce their own maps,” said Ken.
“I gradually transferred over to doing application development, making websites and tools that they can use to analyze their data.”
Esri Training instructor-led courses helped him with learning new systems, products, and programming languages to support his career transition and projects. He supplemented information gaps by going through available product documentation and product demos to find answers he needed, but it wasn’t always sufficient.
“Sometimes searching for answers just didn’t work out,” said Ken. “I would turn to a discussion source like GeoNet to start asking more of my intricate questions.”
As a GeoNet member, you are encouraged to work out loud. By doing so, you help others who are also facing the challenges you have and can help others be efficient and effective in their work. It all starts with asking the right questions.
Pictured: Ken Buja (center) chats with attendees of the Grow Your Network, Grow Your Career Session at FedGIS Conference.
“When searching for answers didn’t work out, I would start asking questions and explain clearly what I was trying to do, what steps I took, and shared code that I’ve used to learn everyone else’s experiences,” said Ken.
Ken gave an example of how his website for Spatial Prioritization went from a single-use project to becoming a prevalent ArcGIS Web AppBuilder framework that is now used by federal and state agencies across the United States. Spatial prioritization is a process where a group of diverse stakeholders can collectively identify and prioritize areas of interest to map to fill in spatial analysis gaps.
Using the Web AppBuilder Developer Edition, Ken customized an application and designed widgets to replicate his website into a GIS solution. Connecting and collaborating with people in the community who have in-depth knowledge about customization helped him successfully build the tool.
“GeoNet has been indispensable for me to do my job,” said Ken. As a result of the amount of help and support he received, he makes it a point to do the same and participate in opportunities to provide feedback to people’s projects and review code for those who were asking for help. By doing so, he built a professional community in GeoNet that supports his work as a GIS Developer.
“Since I am the only developer who is in my group, I view GeoNet as my team of developers who can help me talk about code, bounce ideas off each other, and get a new way of thinking about things,” said Ken.
Building A Community
The Esri Young Professionals Network hosted a luncheon with Eva Reid, a community builder, and Senior Analyst and Trainer at the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Government of the District of Columbia. Eva shared her career story and highlighted a GIS project she led with DC Volunteer Snow Team. DC Volunteer Snow Team used GIS to effectively match volunteers with snow shoveling needs in the communities based on the volunteer’s residential proximity to the request location. GIS optimized the use of volunteers and their deployment in their neighborhoods and connected people through the act of community service. She tied in the value of community connections to encourage attendees to work on community building throughout their careers.
Pictured: Keynote Speaker Eva Reid speaks to an audience of 500 at the YPN Luncheon.
“We all have three types of communities: personal communities, professional communities, and passion communities,” said Eva. She offered insights on how engaging and actively building the network within your three communities can influence your access to opportunities and expand your perspective.
Following Eva’s talk, another leader in the GIS industry joined the conversation with Eva to offer advice to the room of young professionals. He comes with more than 50 years of an impressive background in GIS and intrinsic knowledge of the industry.
It was Jack Dangermond.
Jack and Eva answered questions from the audience with moderator Wilson Parnell. The audience asked for more details about how to apply the advice of community building and sought guidance on common issues with evangelizing GIS in the workplace.
Jack said,” Be opportunistic. Find those opportunities where you can say, ‘GIS can help.’ Be interested in solving the problem.”
Eva added, “A lot of the time, we’re talking to people who are subject matter experts about the topic, not the technology. So as a person who is trying to explain why GIS is a good approach, put the technical stuff to the side and talk to them about what the end results might be.”
As the conversation neared the end, an attendee questioned how to have authentic relationships in professional communities. Jack and Eva suggested to start with a conversation and setting an intention to be a friend to someone.
Having a conversation with someone will help you determine if you want to build a relationship with a person. “That’s pervasive not only in your personal relationships, but it goes right into your business relationships,” said Jack.
“Although our personal, professional, and passion communities are separate, they really do flow into each other. It doesn’t just stop at the border,” said Eva.
Pictured: Jack Dangermond and Eva Reid start a conversation after the YPN Luncheon Q&A Session.
These sessions offered some practical tips for building your community and your career in GIS. Here are two ways to start building your own community and how you can start right now:
- Start with a problem, whether it’s yours or someone else’s.
Ken was able to connect in the community by sharing his GIS problems, and Jack suggested to an attendee to be interested in solving other’s problems with GIS. So, what’s your problem? Whose problem can you solve? Use your problems as opportunities to learn with other colleagues and work out loud to invite them into your process.
- Start with the intention to connect authentically with people.
Eva described how your personal, professional, and passion communities are all opportunities to build your experience and network. The soft skills and learning experience you develop in one community, are easily applicable in your other communities. Have a conversation based on something that authentically resonates with your personal experience, professional goals, or things you are passionate about, like community service or recreational activities.
- Start here.
Do you need help thinking through an idea, project, or code or want to get multiple perspectives on a topic? Ask The Esri Community. Join GeoNet to find a product, industry, or developer community to connect with fellow GIS users. Start conversations in Esri Young Professionals Network, Women's Geospatial Forum, or introduce yourself in the GeoNet Member Introductions space. You can also hop right in to answer a question, share your expertise in a blog, or join a discussion.