Build a Bulletproof GIS… but before you begin, you have have this: Purpose

I love Geographic Information Systems, but this was not always the case. In this post, I am going to talk about the first step in building a great found foundation for GIS, and my future blog posts about how to build a bulletproof GIS.

You can start here if you haven’t even clicked your first buffer, if you just finished your last GIS course if you are struggling to get your GIS career off the ground or find yourself in a GIS rut.

I am going to teach you how to be 10 more effective in GIS, double your value in GIS, and massively increase your impact (and make more money) in GIS.

So what is a bulletproof GIS anyway?

Over the past few years, I have been putting together geographic information systems that allow me to maximise creativity, maximise my time, maximize safety, and maximize cash. I have made some huge gains along the way, but I have also made some huge mistakes.

What I am going to teach you is how to avoid mistakes and create a better GIS so you can have an amazing career.

Here is something not many people know about me, I few short years ago, I would not have been able to tell you what GIS stood for.

Yes, I used maps all the time, I even made maps in Photoshop and Illustrator for presentations, figures for scientific papers, technical talk slides, my thesis, and teaching. “Maps” had their purpose, but GIS was just not on my radar.

Then I found GIS, and I never worked harder, I never learned more, and I never loved a topic as much as GIS in my life. Yes, this includes my PhD in Geophysics (probably a blog or two on that one day).

Why did I work so hard and why did I have so much success in GIS?

It turns out that we humans are purpose-driven creatures. We do way better in life if we have a target that we are aiming at or a goal we are working towards.

The saying “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” should actually be “Where there’s a purpose, there’s a way”.

For me, my purpose in GIS was straightforward. I needed a job.

Little did I know when I started GIS just how awesome it is.

My purpose for needing a job drove me to figure out what I needed to accomplish.

My purpose in GIS changed rapidly as I progressed through my courses and shifted from “I need a Job” to “I need a job I love” to “How can I build a job I love?” and it didn’t stop.

The world of GIS has massive opportunities spanning multiple industries, using some very cool technology. Your purpose in GIS will shift rapidly as you progress, and that’s a good thing.

Finding your ultimate purpose in the world is a very large task and beyond this little blog post. It is well worth finding of course, and I encourage you to do your searching if you have not already discovered your purpose.

I have created a worksheet to help you figure out how to best deal with your purpose as it is related to GIS. You can download the sheets below.

TLDR:

Identify your purpose with respect to GIS. Do what it takes to get it done with respect to GIS.

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GIS is Awesome! So… now what? This is a little awkward…

Geographic Information Systems is AMAZING! It’s technologies and software are everywhere and used to generate not only an impact in the world, but also money! I fell in love with GIS (not literal love… geeez) after seeing it work first hand in field operations for resource exploration.

But I also noticed not everyone I knew who took GIS was getting a great job. Some had low level “click here, do that” GIS jobs, and some couldn’t find any employment at all. After getting asked over and over again on my LinkedIn account about GIS jobs, I realized something.

Skills are common, Mindsets are NOT.

Any keen person could teach themselves the GIS software through trial and error. I taught myself the Adobe suite of products (Photoshop, Illustrator, Aftereffects, Premiere Pro) over a number of years via YouTube (and Pre YouTube… yes I am little oldish). I am no Adobe expert, but I have skills. Skills are common, Mindsets are not.

A lady who trained in GIS at the same time as me was so mad about not finding a GIS job, she said “I could have learned all I needed to from YouTube videos!” For her, I would say this was true. She could easily have learned “Click Here Do That” from a video and she probably learned this why which is why she ended up with no job at all.

So let me reiterate, Skills are common, Mindsets are NOT.

We had the same practical training in GIS which essentially consisted of “Click Here Do That, Repeat”. I exaggerate of course, there is TONS to learn in GIS and the program I took can be found here which was AMAZING. Also, skills may be common, but they are very VERY important.

If you don’t know how to create a buffer from a subset of objects selected based on their proximity to an attribute within a subset of line features selected by attributed polygons in your Geodatabase, you are missing some very important fundamentals.

The difference between my GIS experience and others is that GIS is not just about the skills or the software, which are VERY important of course. What is essential for success and to make an impact on the world (and money), are mindsets.

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5 Ways You Are Sabotaging Your GIS, and 5 Ways to Fix Your Mistakes. (START TODAY!)

I love geographic information systems! The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing.

Recently I spoke to a friend of mine in GIS about ways we have been completely messing up our GIS. We took a hard look at what we have seen and had to deal with over the years,

We realized something… we had sabotaged your GIS… A LOT.

You might be sabotage your GIS... make sure you figure out what you are doing wrong.
You… YES you are sabotaging your gis.

We each had our pet peeves and annoyances but agreed there are some things that really sabotage our GIS like really messed things up.

What do I mean about sabotaging our GIS? I mean holding us back, keeping our GIS from being maximally useful, I mean a lot of time and energy being gets wasted doing things in our GIS that shouldn’t be done.

Knowing what we are doing wrong and knowing what is actually working against us is half the battle to creating an amazing GIS.

Knowing is half the battle.
Knowing is half the battle.

We actually came up with 9 things that seemed to always get in the way. I will only be writing about 5 for now because otherwise, this blog post will get too long.

So without any more fan fair, here are the 5 things that sabotage your GIS.

Using Model Builder

On the surface, this little part of ArcGIS and QGIS appears to be an amazing add-on for any non-programmer. Just link a bunch of boxes, change a few parameters, and BOOM… you have your model. But model builder (as of typing these works) has too many limitations that will come back to haunt you… badly.

Model builder seems faster and easier, but it will slow you down in the long run.
Model builder… don’t do it… not even once.

I worked at a big company where the previous GIS guy has been gone for at least 2 years. He had worked at the company for over 10 years, and did some amazing work, but left behind a massive data update system all based on Model Builder. 

The model had two pages of step-by-step instructions, 5 models that had to be run separately, with 2 extra models to verify results. The process took HOURS and had to be babysat the entire time. While it did work, it was painful to run.

The solution, do programming from the start. While you might feel the learning curve is high, it pays off within months, if not weeks… if not days, when you get going.

Not talking to your coworkers

Sometimes in GIS, we can get pretty isolated. Sitting in our office, troubleshooting other people’s questions, or just doing our own thing creating analyses and maps. This is a mistake because GIS is not about us… it is about the people we work with.

GIS is not about you, it is about your team

I have made this mistake a few times. I have gone ahead and designed symbology, tables, features, maps and widgets based on what I thought was going to work and be cool without talking to my coworkers.

While I usually had good initial responses, there were always changes that undid a lot of the work I had done. 

The solution, sit down with people who are going to use your GIS and really listen to what they need. Sometimes it can be as simple as a symbology change, adding more fields in tables, or a complete rework of your online maps.

They are looking to complete their jobs in your work… talk with them, work with them.

Not using multiple GIS software packages.

I used to be an ArcGIS Pro only guy… until I couldn’t be. Turns out that many companies have a hybrid system of GIS software.

Make sure you know more than one, or even two, GIS software packages

Sometimes there is not enough money for everyone to run ArcGIS. At one company I was at, we had 1 Spatial Analyst license between 5 people. This forced us to use QGIS.

Sometimes companies will merge together from multiple companies with wildly different GIS setups. This requires combining GIS data for daily operations while ensuring that access to older GIS data is still possible. 

This doesn’t even cover all the engineering, geoscience, construction and other software that has in-built GIS capabilities that require integration into your GIS.

The solution, accept, learn, and integrate (where needed) the top two GIS software packages. They currently are the paid one (ESRI) and the open one (QGIS). These may change in the future but always use and become proficient in these two.

Not Integrating New Technology

Humans get set in our ways and we don’t like change. Something new comes along, and we resist that new thing because it threatens what we already have. This is normal, natural, and good… but can really mess up your GIS.

Integrate new technology as fast as you can so you don’t get left behind.

However, somewhere in there, we can’t resist change forever… and sometimes if we don’t change, we get left behind.

I worked for a company where I moved our entire field operations from paper maps and handheld Garmins to Android devices and Collector. One field hand, a very highly experienced member of the team, refused to use a mobile device for field ops. He was let go after refusing the direct request of the project manager… don’t be that guy.

Solution, be at or near the leading edge of new innovations, accept new technology and learn fast.

Integrating Too Early

Yup, this one and the one before seem contradictory, but sometimes you can integrate too early and get left with very expensive bricks or broken code.

Some technology… is just destined to fail… or at least not catch on fast.

At my first GIS position, my boss was super keen to have our office operations harness mixed reality where we use Microsoft Hololens to plan operations. We bought two Hololens (the first generation), sent over $10000, and countless hours trying to figure out how to harness mixed reality for planning.

While we may have been ahead of our time in trying, the experience ended in failure. Years later I can say it was a good try, but the technology just wasn’t there at the time.

Solution. Don’t integrate EVERYTHING, but certainly go with what works.

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3 Fortnite Rules for GIS Success, or how I learned to build fortifications… sort of.

I love geographic information systems! The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing.

I recently started playing Fortnite with my son. I knew this game was a thing a few years ago so I looked it up as my son is now mature enough to play fast-paced PVP games. Since the game is also free to play, he and I have played together weekly for about two months.

For those of you who don’t know the game, it is a cooperative third-person shooter pitting 50-100 players in 4-person squads against each other on an island map. The map is pretty cool from a GIS standpoint, but that is probably for another post.

Fortnite map, GIS analysis for another time
Fortnite map, GIS analysis for another time

The game started us off easy. We were low-level, and from the actions of the other players, it appears as if the game groups players together by experience. As we went up in level, however, so did the other players and the game got harder… way harder.

After we reached level 30 I noticed that there were strategies to winning. I took note and started to copy what the best players were doing. As I watched I noticed just how much success in GIS was like success in Fortnite.

Let me explain.

When you start a GIS career, you are essentially starting from scratch, level One if you will. In the beginning, you thrash around in GIS, using the same tools, same steps, and getting stuff done.

You gotta start somewhere
You gotta start somewhere

However, as you progress in your GIS career, things get harder, problems get more complex, and you are given a higher workload. To keep up you have to take notice what other GIS folks are doing and copy or innovate their techniques.

This is like Fortnite. If you don’t start noticing what the better players are doing, you start to lose, and badly. That is when I noticed three rules of success in Fortnite that were applicable to success in GIS.

Knowing the rules for succeeding in GIS is half the battle.

Knowing is half the battle.
Knowing is half the battle.

Here are my three Fortnite rules for GIS success.

Work as a team

GIS is not about you. GIS is about working as team to get the job done. Even the most semi-successful Fortnite players play as a team.

Work as a team, GIS is not just about one person, but many.
Work as a team, GIS is not just about one person, but many.

As GIS folks we create analysis and maps with and for other people. The best GIS is a collaboration.

Build fortifications

In Fortnite, if you start taking damage, build fortifications. In GIS, this is the structure you have built within your GIS, unlike in Fortnite… you build this ahead of time.

Build your fortifications ahead of time for a solid GIS win.
Build your fortifications ahead of time for a solid GIS win.

I write often about the need for a solid folder, database and naming structure in your GIS. Without this foundation/fortification to keep the high ground in GIS, you will fail.

Get the best equipment.

In Fortnite, when the storm narrows the battlefield, the best equipment is essential. Full shield and full health… nothing against the best equipment. The same goes for GIS (sort of).

Get those Epic GIS upgrades!
Get those Epic GIS upgrades!

In GIS this means upgrading continually. A new version of software comes up? Upgrade. Cloud computing the next thing? Upgrade. AI in imagery? DO IT. Always get the best equipment.

HOWEVER… Paper always wins. Never forget paper.

As of typing these words my name in Fortnite is DrChrisGeoSci, add me if you like. I don’t know how long I will continue playing the game… it is a time drain. As far as I can tell getting good at the game is difficult, takes a ton of time, and is a completely useless skill.

It would be better to learn how to bake an amazing pie, learn to code in a new language, or even read a good novel than be good at a video game.

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How to combine Geoscience and Geographic Information Systems and become twice as hire-able now.

Hey Everyone!

Geoscience was my first love. I spent my academic career in the geoscience roles doing fun research and travelling the world.

But I found a new love, Geographic Information Systems. In a stroke of luck (or pure genius) I discovered an amazing combination of science disciplines.

Geoscience and GIS are a perfect match and I didn’t even know it!

I spent 99.99% of my time in front of a computer writing code and never appreciated just where all the data I played with came from.

Turns out that geoscience is not just “sit-in-front-of-your-computer-all-day” career. You can go out into the field and harness GIS to do amazing geoscience research and acquisition.

Yes, geologists do GIS, but the ones I have known knew didn’t have in-depth training. They were taught about rocks, but not how to create a map for field surveys.  

Having excellent geographic training and solid GIS software foundations will make you twice as hireable. Having GIS will also give you skills outside of geoscience.

GIS and Geoscience are a great combination for career advancement. GIS is also useful in other fields!
GIS and Geoscience are a great combination for career advancement. GIS is also useful in other fields!

Why do the geoscience and geographic information system fit so well together?

The first is straightforward, we live and operate on the surface of the earth. GIS gives us a powerful tool to plan, execute, and analyze complex geographical operations. With complex GIS techniques and technologies, we can visualize the earth’s surface and subsurface.

With detailed spatial analysis, we can understand rock formations, dip and strike of geology, plan better surveys, model water flow (both surface and subsurface), and detect geo-hazards like unstable slopes and flood areas.

The value of GIS extends into other earth sciences that combine even more disciplines like biology, ecology, and social science. The parallels are striking.

Here are some steps below that you can take to better combine GIS and Geoscience.

Get GIS training NOW.

GIS is a great add-on to many disciplines and should not be seen as a single career goal. Taking a 1-year college degree, or two-year master’s in GIS will prepare you for an amazing future.

Get trained in GIS. Pick and poke learning is ok, but getting insights and feedback from humans is best.
Get trained in GIS. Pick and poke learning is ok, but getting insights and feedback from humans is best.

Online courses are good too but I am a huge advocate for in-person in-class training. Something powerful happens when humans come together to pass on information.

Take what works best for you and get started on your GIS training now.

Start your work at the GIS level.

For years I made the mistake of jumping right into the geophysical data I had on my computer without knowing where it came from. Noise in the data was XY Hz, missing sections were just gone, and data wasn’t acquired in perfectly straight lines because of reason.

The GIS cycle is a good place to start to understand your geoscience data.
The GIS cycle is a good place to start understanding your geoscience data.

If you start at the GIS level, you will see that the noise came from roads, the missed sections were flooded areas, and lines were not perfectly straight because of dense forest.

Starting with your geoscience data at the GIS level will get you out of your head and into the real world.

Get involved in field operations with GIS.

GIS as a planning tool is essential and not just for field operations. Your valuable geoscience knowledge can be integrated for a deeper understanding once you start seeing how data is acquired.

GIS is versatile and will help you with understanding your data.

You will get to see how remote sensing can help you understand geology better. Canopy cover and bare earth will show you how field operations will progress. You may discover something new, like how flood plains are good locations for acquisition, but bad if rain comes.

Once again, GIS will get you out of your head and into the real world.

GIS is part of your final results and improvements.

Analyzing your field data by itself is just not enough for a complete understanding of geoscience. Understanding the limitations you had during the planning process and during field acquisition will make you aware of what is going on with your data.

Your final results including GIS will have a more nuanced understanding of how future data will need to be acquired. “Can we get better data next time” will turn into “We need multispectral remote sensing data to plan where our geophones are going to be placed”.

Improve your GIS mindsets.

I have learned over the years that “how-to” knowledge is common. The software you need to learn for GIS has great manuals, plenty of free “click-here-do-that” resources and instructional videos everywhere.

Geographic Information Success

What is hard to teach, and hard to learn, are mindsets needed for success.

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Who is going to use your GIS? Three types of people, so you better figure them out!

Hey there everyone!

I love geographic information systems, and if you are reading these words, I hope you do as well!

One measure of success in my GIS is how many people use it and love it. Love might seem a little bit of a strong word but something special happens when people say “Hey, I really understand what is going on” or “Thanks for making your maps easy to use”.

Free PDF provided at the end to help you out!

The ideas that I am going to share with you in this post will not only make people extremely happy with your GIS, the ideas will also increase the value and impact of your GIS on the world.

The way to have other people use and love your GIS is to get out of your own bubble. As GIS people, we tend to stay inside our minds. We know our GIS inside and out, we may have even coded every single line of every single tool in our code libraries.

We have to take a step back and have a look at our GIS from a different point of view. Three points of view actually.

Three use types, with the first one being the most important.

As part of “Building a Bulletproof GIS” I am going to introduce you to the three types of people that will use your GIS. To be 10 times more effective in your GIS you have to take into consideration each type of person when designing your GIS.

You have to learn to speak these types of users language. You have to connect with them where they want to be connected with. You have to get in their minds, ask them questions, maybe even become them for a few days (if not longer) to really understand them.

These three types of people are going to be with you for your entire GIS career. People can shift between each type rapidly, but they each have distinctive needs depending on your GIS.

These three types of people are:

  1. Creators
  2. Viewers
  3. Field Workers

You as a geographic information professional need to understand each of these types of people as they related to your GIS.

I will explain each.

CREATORS

These are the people who can look at your features, shapefiles, folder structures, maps, layouts, projects and understand what is going on. They speak “GIS”, they know the technical terms, they know the jargon, they most likely have training in GIS.

Creators are people like you who know GIS lingo and can build their own GIS.
Creators are people like you who know GIS lingo and can build their own GIS.

Creates can to look at your GIS and say “Great, this person is competent” or “Good they planned ahead and don’t have 10 features named roads1 roads2 roads3”.  

Creators can be your colleagues, your subordinates GIS analysts, your direct superiors. They could be new hires.

Most of all, YOU are a creator.

VIEWERS

Viewers want to understand very specific details about your data. They want to “click here” and information flows out. They want your data easy to understand, no matter how complex it actually is, no matter how long it took you to create or acquire. Their world is instant gratification.

Viewers want to understand your GIS instantly without any explanation or training.
Viewers want to understand your GIS instantly without any explanation or training.

They want to look at a map, a webpage, a graphic, a chart and say “It’s about Population” or “It’s about economic growth” or “It will take me 10 minutes to get there”.

Viewers don’t care how long you spent on your infographics. Again, they want instant gratification.

Viewers could be clients desiring updates, bosses wanting time motion analytics, the public looking at your volcano mapping.

Most of all, YOU are a viewer.

FIELD WORKERS

These are your crew on the ground using mobile apps to collect date or navigation. They could be using your hard-copy maps as backup. Field workers concern lies more in ease of use of your data and safety than what hue you picked for the red stop sign.

Field workers use your GIS in their daily activities and need it to function smoothly and safely.
Field workers use your GIS in their daily activities and need it to function smoothly and safely.

They don’t want complexity. If they are there for pipeline surveying, they want to see all things (but nothing more) important to pipeline surveying. If they are doing ecological work they want ecology features, and nothing more.

Field workers may be volunteers, surveyors, managers, or inspectors.

Most of all, YOU are a field worker.

To maximize your GIS effectiveness you need to understand these three user types with respect to your GIS.

I have provided a PDF below to help you understand the users of your GIS better.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my other links!

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Double Your GIS Job Interviews NOW… 3 Top Tips to getting a job faster!

I love geographic information systems! The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing.

But I have an open secret. I was unemployed in GIS for 6 long months. I thought I had a great resume, I thought I had a great portfolio, I thought my social media footprint would get me hired… turns out I had a few things wrong.

Landing a GIS job was harder than I thought.

Before I go any further, here are a few statistics about being unemployed I didn’t realize until I was unemployed so long in GIS.

The average length of unemployment is 5 months
A person will lose $15,000 (at least) being unemployed in that time.
You will become depressed, maybe seriously, the longer you are unemployed (I was)

I don’t tell you these things to scare you, I tell them to you so you know what to expect. And knowing these things is half the battle.

Knowing is half the battle.
Knowing is half the battle.

I couldn’t figure out why companies weren’t jumping on the change to hire me. I had a great resume (Turns out my resume sucked… and my portfolio was wrong).

I had been applying for every single GIS job I could find. I was spending 2 hours crafting a cover letter, changing my resume, and filling out paperwork for every application I submitted.

I was submitting 5-8 applications a week and getting almost no response.

After several months, I took my resume to a professional resume person. They pointed out a few problems with my applications and I changed things up. I landed a couple of interviews because of this change, but no offers.

After months of no offers, I went to bed one night vowing to quick GIS in the morning and do something else.
I wanted to quit GIS altogether.
I wanted to quit GIS altogether.

Laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, I had a revelation.

I realized I had been doing my GIS applications all wrong. I had been submitting applications as if I was the most important person.

The most important person was the company I was applying to and the people reading my resume. I had to change my resume, my portfolio, and my cover letters so that they were about them, not me.

That is when I developed “Permissionless GIS: Double Your GIS Job Interviews NOW” and I had instant results.

 I put all my skills together and developed Permissionless GIS
I put all my skills together and developed Permissionless GIS

I got to work changing up everything, and something amazing happened. I landed two interviews in four applications the first week… and two interviews from four applications the second we!

I went from 1 interview every 25 to 30 applications to 1 interview every two applications.
Using Permissionless GIS, I had three job offers in 4 weeks.

I have a ton of details, tips and tricks, massively valuable information in my book, but I am going to give you the top 3 tips I discovered right now.

Ask

Ask your network, friends, former classmates, former coworkers about GIS jobs,

The most powerful thing you can do... just ask.
The most powerful thing you can do… just ask.

Turns out most jobs that are available are not even advertised. Instead, jobs are filled by people who ask, referrals from friends, or internal hires. Asking is a powerful tool to getting a job faster, in fact, it might be the fastest way to get a job.

Show Don’t Tell

GIS is a visual medium. That means, make sure your portfolio stand out the most.

(image)

People like to put their qualifications on resumes, and this is important. However, what matters most is SHOWING that you can do GIS through your portfolio. Your portfolio tells the only GIS story that will matter… your results.

This brings me to:

Make your Submission about THEM, not You.

You are 1 in a thousand job applications. They don’t care about you. They care about themselves, so give them more of themselves.

Them not you
Your resume has to be about THEM, not you.

How do you make your portfolio about them? Make every single map of your portfolio about THEM. This means, find out where they are working, and make a map at that location using open source data. Find out what their operations are like, and make a map about it.

Yes it will take time (20 hours for a 5-page portfolio… more in my book), but you will land more interviews and get job offers sooner.

More in my book.

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2 Secrets to making GIS HUGE in your company… (They aren’t secrets, but they do take effort, time and the willingness to stick your neck out).

I love geographic information systems! The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing.

However, I have been noticing a trend with companies have worked for, and even with my friends in GIS.

A TON of people “know” GIS, and by “know” I mean they can get by doing GIS in their companies without GIS training and doing only basic GIS.

Making “maps” is good and all… but it doesn’t take any GIS knowledge

I worked in a company where the survey design team (3 guys), 2 office supervisors and a field manager had a combined zero years of training in GIS. Yet, they did GIS every single day, and their job got done.

I was speaking with a friend of mine, and she said even her GIS department (2 people) was being underutilized at her company (over 500 people in an Australia wide mining company).

She was amazed at how little people took advantage of GIS, but just stumbled around doing the same old thing year in and year out.

This tells me 2 things about GIS:

  1. GIS will be treated like word processing. Anyone can do it, anyone can learn it, and anyone can use it… poorly.
  2. There is a HUGE opportunity to show how GIS can be done right in a lot of companies.

The opportunity (or secret) is to take a chance and show how GIS can help the company you are working for.

Knowing that this is half the battle, and here comes my favourite image!

Knowing is half the battle.
Knowing is half the battle.

You could be doing something you as a GIS person thinks is “basic”, but it is actually HUGE for your company.

Perhaps you are harnessing attributes for analytics, perhaps you are tracking how people move on your mine sites, perhaps you are compiling statistical information on company vehicles.

Show what you are doing. Show the people who matter.

The key here is to SHOW how GIS can push the company forward.

This is the first “secret”…

SHOW… Don’t Tell.

A lot of my success in GIS has been me simply showing the possibilities.

Showing you can do the work is 327.6% more valuable then telling people you can do it.
Show your work… it is way more powerful than talking.

If I try to explain in words what I want to do, I get blank stares. “Online Maps” and “tracking equipment”? Oh ya… sounds good… NEXT (is what my boss said). Spatial analytics and automation of projects… all SOUNDS good… but they LOOK way better.

Use your GIS visual skills to show how GIS can be done better at your company.

This brings me to the second secret… which is actually really hard to implement.

It is better to ask for forgiveness, than beg for permission.

Every time I have shown how GIS can work, I never asked for permission, I just did it.

Just do it, asking is slow.
Doing is better than asking, which is better than waiting.

I am not saying be dangerous, or break laws, or bypass supervisors, I am talking about doing the work without being asked to do it or asking to do it.

You may step on toes, and I would make sure to work with people in the know, but sometimes you just have to do things before you have permission.

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Stay ahead in GIS and get online NOW… otherwise, you are will lose… BIG TIME. 3 Tips To Start TODAY.

I love geographic information systems! The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing.

If you are a student or work in a small company, you are going to want to pay close attention to what I have to say here.

When I started my GIS career I was hired by a small company that still used paper maps and handheld GPS units for their field operations. They had ESRI products but hadn’t integrated much of them. In the space of two projects, I was able to put their operations fully online and mobile using ESRI products.

Paper and GPS units... to ONLINE!
I thought it was pretty nifty… it wasn’t that nifty.

I was very proud of myself and I gave myself a pat on the back. I moved this small company online (mostly) and I was a bad a$$… until I worked at a bigger company… oh boy.

When I got to a bigger company… everything was already online… and everything was online in ways I never dreamed up. I had to play catchup pretty fast. 

At a small company, I was solving small problems… in a big company… much larger online problems were the norm.

There is more to getting online than just features and maps.
Playing catch up to REALLY get online.

At a small company, there may only be one or two GIS people to collaborate with. The problem with this, massive blind spots.

I found quickly that many “cool” solutions I came up with at the smaller company, especially online, had easy solutions that collaboration with coworkers easily took care of (another post altogether).

I am telling you all this so that you know what is coming if you are not already. And as I like to say always, knowing is half the battle. 

Knowing is half the battle.
Knowing is half the battle.

In my first 2 months at a big company, I had to change my perspective quickly. I was no longer doing GIS in a bubble, the system affected more people.  Bigger thinking was needed.

Here are three easy tips I learned that you can benefit from as well. Pay close attention especially if you are a student and you use ESRI products.  

Before I get too deep, the first 2 steps are easy! These you can start today even!

The last step… hard, but worth it.

Here we go.

Always put your GIS online… heck… live there ASAP.

If you are an ESRI user, this is an easy one. Get your features sorted, your tables in order, and share your data online for your team and clients to harness.

Get online, you probably are… but if you aren’t GET THERE NOW.

Once your data is there, you will have the ability to use both ArcGIS and AGOL. You can use Pro for Geoprocessing, while your teams have the ability to interact with your data.

You will start to see there are limitations between ArcGIS Pro and AcrGIS Online (a future video!). You can easily harness a hybrid system between the two (and even QGIS!)

You will have to pay more attention to permissions, restrictions, symbologies, and analysis constraints, but your GIS future is online and mobile… get there as fast as you can.

Learn Arcade and start learning JavaScript

Arcade is a lightweight coding language that does some powerful things on ESRI web maps and mobile. There is syntax cross-over with JavaScript allowing some really cool functionality with ESRI.

Learn Arcade and JavaScript at the same time.

Luckily, Arcade is fairly easy with plenty of tutorials out there. You can harness symbology, charts, text, and even combinations of those altogether. There are limitations you will find, but you can develop some really cool things with Arcade.

Now… for the hard part.

Learn JavaScrpt…  HTML… CSS… React… Geeze… just learn web development.

This seems a bit overwhelming, and I assure you I was very overwhelmed. But starting on a course in web development is essential for you GIS future.

Learn how the a webdev.

ESRI has products that hold your hand through the online experience process. But there are limitations and it helps to get JaveScript There are great courses online for free, but my go-to is/was on LinkedIn “The Complete JavaScript Course, Zero to Expert”.

ESRI has some great tutorials and a community of people who can help you learn as well. 

Start today!

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3 HUGE reasons you need to focus on THIS in GIS to get a head (The answer is System, check this out)

I love geographic information systems! The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing.

But I also know this…

GIS IS EASY (if you let it… or don’t know any better)

Click here do that… it is all GIS is… if you are not careful!

I have worked in companies where “GIS” (I put it in quotes for a reason) is used only as “Make a map for that” group. Without analytics or science behind it… maps and GIS are easy.

I have also worked in companies where people doing GIS work have zero training and get by doing the basics. Clip a line? Yup. Add points? Yup. Make a polygon? Yup. Spatial analytics for proximity analysis? Nope.

In these cases, no one takes GIS to the next level because they don’t know how, or worse… they don’t need to… because GIS is easy.

I have said this before a few times, but it is a fact that we as GIS folks must accept. In fact, knowing this will help you win your future GIS battles.

Knowing is half the battle.
Knowing is half the battle.

This is where I really started to think… how do I get ahead in GIS?

The soltuion are two words that means so much…

Build Systems

The solution is build systems. The systems I am talking about are a set of principles or procedures to which you complete your GIS work.

Build GIS systems

What is a GIS system?

When I was a GIS analyst, I noticed I was doing the same things over and over again when projects started up. I would receive a location for analysis, create project foldes, build the database, create maps, create infographics, and send out a PowerPoint document.

So, I created a “Project Start Up” system with a set of principles and procedures that needed to be followed.

I further noticed that consistent procedures and principles happened at many stages during the project. In many cases, when the projects were in different locations, all required similar actions, similar data, and similar analysis… you get the picture.

So, I created stages of systems. “Start-Up”, “Production” and “Completion”. I created steps for each, documents for each, and procedures for each.

I also learned to be flexible because not all projects were equal in scope or importance. Projects also were different due to location, data limitations, and time. But I still had a system to rely on.

I learned three very important lessons I learned while creating these GIS systems that I will share with you now.

Being Organized Matters

When you develop systems for your GIS, you become hyper-organized.

Being organized matters

Being organized is very important for GIS folks. We need to know where our data is, what it is, and how we got the data. This will set you apart from the random GIS users that get by with the basics.

Structured Thinking -> Creative Thinking

With a system in place, you can start thinking in steps and procedures and know how long and when projects will be complete… and then break the system (or side step it)

know the rules, structure the rules, then break them
know the rules, structure the rules, then break them

Once you know how things work, your creativity can skyrocket because you know how to change things up and why to change them up.

Building a structured system to enhance creativity sound strange, but it works.

System creation is more important than GIS skills

The biggest takeaway I realized while developing systems for my GIS, is that systems building is needed in EVERYTHING and well into the future.

Systems can be used in everything to get stuff done.
Systems can be used in everything to get stuff done.

While you think GIS is going to be your career, in many cases it won’t be. 80% of people change their careers every 5 years (me included).

Understanding how to develop systems in whatever job or endeavour you do is massively important.

You may only be spatial selecting data for the next 5 years, but you will need to be able to simplify and create systems forever.

Start now to get ahead.

and Have fun!

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my other links!

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