Esri Community Member Spotlight: Amanda Huber

02-26-2024 08:59 AM
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Esri Community Manager
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This series of member spotlights features you and your peers here in Esri Community—the people playing a role in finding solutions, sharing ideas, and collaborating to solve problems with GIS. We’re doing this to recognize amazing user contributions, to model how Esri Community’s purpose is being brought to life, and to bring depth to this group of incredible people who may never meet in person, but who benefit from each other’s generous expertise.

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Watch Amanda's video interview in Kaltura


Promoting Parks and Farm Life through GIS


The pleasant charms of pastoral life are found in abundance on Gale Woods Farm—a 410 acre working educational farm found in the U.S. town of Minnetrista, Minnesota. There, visitors of all ages engage in learning about agriculture, food production, and land stewardship by immersing themselves into the farm’s daily doings. More than 20 buildings and areas on the property impart their natural lessons—from Sugarbush, a stand of sugar maples that feed a modest syrup boiling operation; to gardens that supply people and livestock with fresh crops; to the Mushroom Forest, where a selection of friendly fungi educates about decomposition while supplying the farm’s CSA program; and much more. Supplementing the farm staff and livestock are Mardi the llama and two confident Pyrenees, Orion and Ursa; who together guard the farm’s sheep. Rutabaga and Spud make up the barn cat brigade, doing their part to keep the rodent population in check.

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The Gale Woods | Farm Tour is an ArcGIS StoryMap submitted to the 2023 Esri User Conference Map Gallery

Gale Woods Farm is just one of a number of areas overseen by the Three Rivers Park District, a Minnesota park system established in 1957 whose mission is “To promote environmental stewardship through recreation and education in a natural resources-based park system.” Experienced in whole, the park system manages 27,000 acres of parks and trails in the state’s western Hennepin county, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island. From art parks, winter sports hills, golf courses, nature centers, land restoration, and more, Three Rivers Park District enacts its mission through a diversity of amenities capable of coaxing people out into nature and their community.

As a GIS Administrator for Three Rivers Park District, Amanda Huber (@Amanda__Huber) is part of a three-person team that assists other departments—Planning, Engineering, Maintenance, Forestry, Water Resources, and Wildlife—with all their geospatial needs.

Amanda distills the numerous tasks and complexities involved in her team’s role by gamely summarizing, “We wear a lot of hats in the organization.”


Esri Community for Questions and Product Research


Now more than six years following her introduction to Esri Community, Amanda is glad to discuss the ways in which it continuously supports her needs and the Three Rivers Park District’s many stakeholders.

She shares, “I learned about it as being a great place to ask questions and learn more information. It’s a very rich and robust database of user contributions.”

That rich library of information and network of members is so crucial, in part, because the GIS products that Amanda creates and manages ultimately serve the public who account for a vast number of people, along with a range of uses and abilities.

Amanda chuckles while describing the scope of her team’s work, “My boss likes to say it’s easier to list the Esri products we don’t use with our organization, because there are so many that we do use.”

That need for a significant number of Esri products sets the stage for another use case Amanda’s team leans into: collecting intel from other users on new products they’re thinking about adding to their stack.

“If there’s a product that you’re interested in purchasing, or that your organization could maybe benefit from, Esri Community is a great way to see what questions people are asking about it or ideas that are being submitted.” She adds a thought to emphasize the value of supplementing Esri’s own product marketing with peer feedback, “And so, it’s a really great place to learn about those products from another person’s perspective.”

There are times, though, when Amanda has scoured Esri Community only to find that information she’s seeking or a question she has are new so that answers aren’t readily available. When this happens, she’s ready to be the first to ask and pose her question to the collective expertise of her GIS peers.


Connecting About ArcGIS Monitor Capabilities


In 2023, Amanda’s team installed ArcGIS Monitor 2023 as part of the suite of Esri products they were beginning to leverage for the park system. The product was still new at the time and Amanda found that official documentation sometimes didn’t have a piece of information she was researching. As in similar circumstances, Amanda turned to Esri Community as her next key source for information. She discovered that her team wasn’t alone. Others had already published similar questions about the new product. Amanda joined the ongoing conversation by contributing perspective and data from her end, and asking fresh questions like whether there was a way to find a list of IDs to track down where alerts were coming from (See: ArcGIS Monitor- List of ID/Codes for Components/Notifications?).

@DerekLaw, a Senior Product Manager at Esri, and other Esri team members active in the ArcGIS Monitor space were present and exchanging information with members, including addressing Amanda’s question.

“ It’s really cool to be able to have that one-on-one conversation
and not feel like you’re unheard. ”

Though Derek had to confirm there wasn’t a way of doing what Amanda was asking at the time, he took the opportunity to collect use case details from her to add to the development backlog for a future release. What’s more, through their conversation Amanda and Derek were able to make plans to discuss the case in greater detail at the ArcGIS Monitor kiosk at User Conference 2023.

“It’s really cool to be able to have that one-on-one conversation and not feel like you’re unheard.” Amanda remarks of that type of interaction made possible in Esri Community.


A Safe Space to Connect and Learn


Amanda’s embrace of the give-and-receive nature of Esri Community and her frequent, constructive participation in the platform gradually gained a unique level of recognition. At the start of 2024, Amanda, along with 13 other highly-engaged individuals, were welcomed into the Esri Community MVP program.

When asked what motivates her to contribute her own knowledge to other members seeking help, she reflects on the variety of needs she sees, “Sometimes it’s students that are working on a school project and don’t know how to do something in GIS. Sometimes it’s a professional who’s in a position where they haven’t worked with a certain product before, I feel as though I can help. For example, an organization may be moving from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro. We’ve been in ArcGIS Pro for a while now se we can help as subject matter experts.”

“ Esri Community has been an indispensable resource to myself
as a GIS administrator and to my team. ”

Amanda points out the forgiving environment of the platform as an important part of what has made Esri Community feel like such a welcoming space to participate in. She wants others who might worry about looking silly or being perceived as an amateur to know they can feel safe opening up.

“Anytime you have a question, obviously look it up and see if you can find it in the documentation first—do your due diligence. But if you can’t find that answer, ask the question. It doesn’t hurt. You’re not going to embarrass yourself.”

She fervently underscores the value she’s received, “Esri Community has been an indispensable resource to myself as a GIS administrator and to my team.”

“It's really cool when you’re able to collaborate with a lot of different users from around the world and ask questions or hear from other people on how they’re using GIS or answering questions that you may have.”

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Amanda Huber is a GIS Administrator for Three Rivers Park District, a local government agency in Minnesota. She also serves as a Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium Board member and volunteer Chair of the MN GIS/LIS Communications Committee. In her free time, she freelances for Blue Water GIS, a small GIS company based in Bellingham, WA. At the time of this article, Amanda has joined Esri Community’s prestigious MVP program.

About the Author
I'm a Community Manager focused on Engagement & Content here at Esri. My guiding ethos is that community — people coming together around shared purpose, demonstrating collective support, and collaborating in mutually beneficial ways — is the most powerful source for progress in the world. I'm at your service as we make great things happen through GIS.