You currently work at DC Water. What is your position there?
I am a Permit Technician II. It is similar to what may be referred to as an “Engineering Technician” in other offices/agencies. I am tasked with reviewing site construction plans for small projects (single family homes, condominium/apartment buildings, and other small commercial buildings) to ensure their water and sewer work is up to code. I take on side projects as well, including managing our GIS data, approving/rejecting submissions for small water service installation, running QA/QC when our office creates customer billing accounts, and anything else my boss comes to me with.
What is a typical work day like?
A typical work day: In the morning, I make sure I’m current on all of the side projects. When new projects come into our office for review, they come to me first. I take notes on each project and enter it into our GIS database. I then complete all of the requests for small water service installations and do the QA/QC on customer billing accounts. When I’m finished with that, I review a few projects throughout the course of the day. Our office serves the public, so I am frequently called upon to assist customers.
How has your geography education prepared you for your job?
My geography education prepared me primarily to do the GIS work (data management, problem solving, etc.) in our office, but has helped in other ways as well. Geography is a field where a person usually works with quantitative data and applies to the “bigger picture,” so I am able to help the engineers in our office apply their quantitative research and skills to help resolve issues. While it may not be of the utmost importance, my geography education has definitely been an interesting background to have in observing a rapidly changing major metropolitan city, and I am able to witness first hand some of the positive (green infrastructure projects, revitalization projects) and negative (gentrification) aspects of this change.
You recently attended the ESRI User Conference in San Diego. How was that?
The conference was awesome! I have been to TUGIS before (and loved it) but this was on a whole different scale. I met people from around the world and got to see all sorts of different applications of GIS. The city of San Diego was beautiful and very accommodating to all of the geo-nerds.
Were there any presentations/exhibitions that stuck out?
There were a few presentations that stuck out to me. Working in local government, I tried to visit as many sessions for local government and utility companies that I could. I think my favorite session (this was from the plenary session) featured the ways in which the city of Los Angeles is using GIS to solve major issues and not only get their citizens information in an efficient and timely manner, but allow them an outlet to help contribute data. To follow up on this, I was also very interested in a session that featured using ArcGIS online data to create apps for the general public. There were apps for various county data, national parks, etc.
How did the conference develop your GIS skills?
The conference exposed me to the use of open data, which was a fairly new concept to me (I’m also new to the workforce so maybe I just haven’t been anywhere that uses open data yet). In another session, I learned how to edit data more efficiently and ways to use Python in data editing. I also attended a few young professional sessions that taught me some useful generic office skills (i.e. working with a mentor, thinking about my career, private vs. public sector, etc.)
At the Maryland Geographic Alliance, our main goal is to promote geographic literacy across the state. Why do you think geography education is important (any realm of geography: environmental, human, GIS, etc.)?
Geography education is hugely important and while I could write a book containing all of the reasons why it is important, I will instead attempt to sum it up in one sentence: it is extremely important for us to understand the world that we live in, the planet that we live on, and the people that we live with. This knowledge and insight will help our generation and those that will come after us to solve major issues that threaten our well-being. It is only with adequate geographic literacy that the human race will be able to cope with the catastrophic effects of climate change and resolve major political conflicts (just to name a few). Once again, this is just one of many, many reasons why geographic literacy is important.