Can online courses make you more hirable? Probably… but will you remember what you learned? Probably not… try these.

Online courses are great… but do they work?

Continual learning is essential to advance your career in every field. There are so many free learning opportunities and resources online it is a wonder we are not experts in everything by now.

Dude… there is so much online… why are you not an expert in everything?

Online courses are also great to fill in the gaps while you are between jobs. (PS… I should know!)

On LinkedIn people have been posting their online course certificates showing off their efforts. The “certificates” are digital pieces of paper you receive upon completion of courses which can be as short as a single hour to weeks of time commitment.

Over the years I have completed many of these online courses. These course range from learning geophysics concepts, understanding machine learning, programming, marketing and copyrighting to software usage and resume writing.

No, I do not get any kick back from these logos…

You can get these courses from Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, and hundreds of other sites on the interwebs. Whether you want to write better, learn how to make a paper airplane, start a blog, do a hobby, or do #GIS, there are courses out there.

But do these courses help? The short answer is maybe… and but probably not.

You might just be wasting your time (but you can change this).

Here is why.

According to research people will have forgotten 50% of what they learned within 24 hours, and forget 90% within a month.

Memorization has it’s place, but in reality, it will be gone soon after you

As you power through your machine learning course, introduction to Python, and “Cooking on the Go”, in a month you will have a nice digital certificate… and (most likely) barely remember what ‘print “Hello World”’ does (Hint: It prints “Hello World”)

This memory retention is not just about online courses. This also applies to school, college, university, and corporate training. This is a big reason why I dislike rote memorization.

Having being in academics many years, I could talk endlessly about the problem with rote memorization. This cycle of “learning” is not ideal, but does have it’s place. For most people, it is a setup to “win” in the short term, while losing in the long.

Just “Doing”/”Memorization” does have its place. If you need to retain definitions, names, dates, or terminology… memorize away. At least with memorization you are practicing which can lead to long term retention.

But online courses, with short videos, hand-holding exercises, and (if you are lucky) an actual exam… will be gone from your memory banks in a few days or months.

Here is the good news. This is ok as I like to remind people, knowing what is happening means you can game the system.

If you are rationally aware of what is happening, you can make better choices.

If you know you are going to forget, you can plan to focus. If you know you are going to forgot 90% of what is coming at you, focus on the 10% that matters most.

This works. I went from an average student, to straight A’s with this method.

I have 5 tips you can ensure that those online courses are more effective for a longer period of time.

Use what you just learned… RIGHT AWAY.

Did you take a course on Python? Don’t wait for a project to come up at work, find something to solve right away.

Use what you learn… RIGHT AWAY.

Did you take a project management course? Again.. don’t wait for a project to come up at work, use the work in your own life.

This many not be possible with high level courses, so do the following.

Repeat the course… again… and again… and again.

Repetition is the key to retention. For students and people between jobs, this HAS to be your first go to make your learning stick.

Repetition is the a great way to make sure you learn .

Repeating the course is most likely free, you can use different data (maybe) or tools or ingredients. This is important especially if you are unemployed and do not have access to projects.

When I took GIS at college, I made a point of redoing all my assignments from the start, twice. Doing the assignment once wasn’t enough to understand. Doing an assignment once could be randomly correct. Don’t the assignment twice… better… three times… BEST.

Go to the next level.

There is always more to be done. There is no “last course”, there is always something to solve.

There is always a bigger fish.

This is a mistake that most beginners have… thinking there is an end.

There is no end. Keep going.

Keep going.

Teach what you just learned.

Something happens in our minds when we are required to teach others things we know. I experienced this often as a grad student.

Teach what you know, you will learn it way better.

I don’t know what it is, but our brains force us to understand something more deeply to not look like idiots to others.

As a grad student I was often asked to teach lap or tutorials for lower level geoscience classes. I literally had one to two days to “learn” a topic and teach it. I probably learned more in a day to teach those classes than I did in weeks in normal classes.

Not a grad student? That’s ok… be the go to student to help people out with assignments or advice. Make a YouTube video. Help your kids.

Check out my YouTube channel here.

I have shirts available on my Teespring store if you would like to support me.

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No one is going to promote you… so promote yourself to advance your GIS or Geoscience career. PS: Your first attempts will suck… get over it.

I was recently on twitter and I saw a quote that I am twisting to fit this blog post.

Self-promotion is hard. Being unknown is hard. Choose your hard.

No, this is not a black and white issue. You can be known without ever using social media. You could probably even go your entire GIS and geoscience career without ever using social media.

But social media is free, powerful, little bit of a mine field and people use it everywhere, all the time..

You use it all the time… so you might as well be on social media to promote yourself.

In this post I am going to talk about how you can automatically start harnessing social media to make yourself 10 times more hirable in the job market.

You will not only make yourself more hirable, but you will also learn to communicate better, learn to market yourself and learn to public speak (if you go the video route).

Chances are you already spend (far too much) time on social media already.

According to studies, people spend 2 hours 23 mintes a day on social media sites.

This means people (YOU) are online a lot… and will be online A LOT MORE into the future.

We do love our social media… in some cases it’s “Anti-social” media.

Social media use varies between apps and platforms, but the numbers are telling.

Turns out by statistics, you are already poised to harness social media.

Social media has been good for me (so far).

I started my YouTube channel, Twitter account, and Instagram in 2015. Signing up was all a strategy to prove that YouTube could be used for Geoscience education.

When I create educational videos, it takes 5 h ours per minute to develop the video.

Five years, 6200 subscribers, 100+ videos, 250,000+ views, and hundreds of posts later, social media has worked out for me.

While I am no PewdiePie or whoever else is on top of YouTube, my social media story is a success story (to reasonable degree) and you can have success too.

You don’t have to jump in like I did and start creating videos. Videos are great, but they are also hard.

There are a few steps you can off with to get your online self-promotion started.

Sort out your crappy LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a great tool to connect with professional people and allow companies to see who you are.

Serious people… one good image is all you really need to start.

You are probably making serious mistakes on your LinkedIn that you need to fix TODAY.

First and foremost, you need a good profile picture. I ignore connection request if people do not have a picture.

Make sure your head line is interesting and relevant.

Here is secret… you can use the picture for your Twitter / Facebook / Instagram… and you will have “brand recognition” doing this. Your face and headline consistent across apps.

Check our more way to make a better LinkedIn account here.

Start a YouTube channel.

If you have research or work results you can share, create a video to show it off. Perhaps you have a topic you love to teach… make a video.

Several great things about YouTube… it’s free… it’s easy…. AND IT’S FREE… Start today.

Perhaps you have a capstone project for school, or thesis, or a term projects… create a video of the results. Almost anything you have to give a presentation on… create a video for it.

Comment / Share / Like… just engage.

Engaging with people on your social media apps is the easiest way to start self-promoting.

The more you engage, the more you get a feel for you will need to do for better self-promotion.

Become social media savy.

Check out my YouTube channel here.

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You’ve got the Geographic Information Skills to get hired… but what else you got? Answer: You better be this…

I love geographic information systems. The endless possibilities in coding, the variety of visual designs and the unlimited application in multiple industries is perfect for a creative person like me.

But it occurred to me…

Is GIS enough to get hired? Is having great GIS skills enough?

Answer: No… GIS is not enough... but it is a start!
Are you GIS skills enough? Probably not... but it is a great start!
Are you GIS skills enough? Probably not… but it is a great start!

This is not just because GIS is usually an “add-on” skill, but because things change.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we will change jobs every 4 to 4.3 years.

That means whatever you are training in or doing now is not going to be what you are doing in 5 years, let alone 10.

This is only going to increase with the raise of the gig economy.

…not to mention the continual advancement of technology.

This includes anything you are trained in. GIS, Geoscience, Engineering.

It is important to understand this because as the old G.I.Joe public services announcement says.

Knowing ahead of time that things are going to be different allow you the ability to change faster.

Knowing that things change gives you the ability to plan to change faster.

Remember though… the following still applies!!!

Skill sets and “Click-here-do-that” are very important.
Being able to speak GIS and hold a professional conversation is important.

No matter how you look at it, you need the skills to be effective. You need the skills to get GIS done.

But here is something you need to know…

Skills are common and GIS is easy.

Like it or not, GIS could be considered the “Word Processing” or “Spread Sheeting” of your company. Need a map? Call Bob. Need a graph? Call Jane.

Everyone knows how to type in Word, everyone knows how to use Excel. They may not do either well, BUT they may do it well enough to get the job done.

What this means is that if you are not careful, you can easily be replaced, or they might not need you at all.

This comes back to what a GIS instructor once told me:

The “Shallow” is an aspect of the problem, more to do with how we represent GIS.

Luckily, there are somethings you can do to ensure you stay competitive in GIS.

Be Obsessed with GIS, or be average

This idea comes from the marketing world of Grant Cardone. He talks about becoming obsessed at a skill to be the best in the world at it. He talks about sales… but it applicable to GIS.

Being obsessed is figuring out how to be better.

Being obsessed is learning how to to learn.

Being obsessed means that you will know the ideas inside out.

Being obsessed means you will keep up with trends to know what is coming next and know what to abandon quickly.

Being obsessed means doing the work that other people are not willing or able to do.

If you are going to learn something, go all in.

How can you be obsessed?

Listen to podcasts:

https://cng.fireside.fm/

https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/podcast/

https://mapscaping.com/blogs/the-mapscaping-podcast

Attend online seminars.

Read Blogs.

https://www.gislounge.com

https://geographicinformationsuccess.com/blog

Watch Videos

https://www.youtube.com/drchrisgeoscience

https://www.youtube.com/RiccardoKlinger

Check out my YouTube channel here.

I have shirts available on my Teespring store if you would like to support me.

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How to use GIS, Python and Geoscience to get hired! Hint: it’s about multiple cross-industry skills because… cross-industry.

Hey Everyone! 

I have written about geographic information systems and the geosciences being a perfect match. GIS deals with the 2D world we live in, and geosciences deals with the 3D we explore.

In that blog I talked about making sure you use GIS right away in your geoscience work flow for a complete view of your data.

In another blogpost I talk about what people value in GIS. People want solutions to their problems, not your GIS.

This is slightly different in the geosciences as entire industries are setup around geoscience problems and their solutions.

But what happens when a whole industry no longer needs solutions?

The skills and solutions graph for geoscience looks like this.

A “One Skill” industry and it’s solutions are always going to be nerve wracking problem.

If you are in oil and gas you know this cycle well. This cycle occurs in many resources industries.

You may even be currently feeling the pain of this cycle.

This is not your fault. You cannot control global energy markets. You may not have even been able to control your university education.

University education is one of the problems.

I spoke with a university professor at a geoscience conference last year. I asked her if her universities geoscience program was including programming skills as essential for a geoscience degree.

Her answer was no, no specific programming course for geoscience… not good.

A traditional geoscience university education looks like this.

This is a university education, but not what really happens in life.

People on average change their job every 4.0-4.3 years.

This means your skill set needs to rapidly change, or be cross discipline over your lifetime.

Your lopsided university education is outmoded in a matter of years.

Here is something important, you can take your education into your own hands. You can learn skills to keep you viable.

It is not too late, and it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be good.

Your skill set should look like this.

University skills are good, but cross disciplinary and personal skills are way better.

So how are you going to go about getting these skills?

Online Training (and purpose)

Python courses are all over the internet. Have a look yourself. You can get the skills, but that is only step one of 400.

Learn the skills you need to get ahead on line. It is pretty easy, but it does that purpose.

You can do this will almost any other skill. I am currently doing this with business intelligence and blogging.

Purpose is in there because you can take the courses and still fail.

I failed the only programming course I ever took at university and three years later I was programming geophysical software.

When I failed the programming course it was because I did not have purpose. When I excelled at programming it was because I had a purpose.

School Training (and purpose)

In the case of GIS, there are course offered at college levels that are short and comprehensive. You will get all the “click-here-do-that” you need… and still not get job, unless you have a purpose.

You can get short real world training at Colleges… just like online, but with a real person!

Here is some more statistics, many people are happier after a career change.

There is a reason for this. People’s first choices of career are almost always not choices but random events, or events picked for them by other people. Most people lack purpose in their lives.

Purpose is a massive way forward.

Purpose behind the choices of your cross disciplinary skills or your career will drive you to be successful.

How do you find a purpose? I have no easy answers to this. I can offer only snippets of advice from my life.

Programming – Purpose: Turn all the complicated calculations and actions into simple lazy clicks.

GIS – Purpose: Have a cross industry, visually creative skill set that is super fun!

Geoscience – Purpose: Science. I love science. I hate the job cycle… but love science.

Finally….

Become a Caveman.

You need to take care of your health. You need to eat right. You need to exercise and lift weights. Education and industry training do not matter if you are sick and unhealthy.

Get your health, your emotions, you life in order as well.

Most people miss this one completely. Don’t miss this one.

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Geographic Information Systems gets in the way of solutions. Here is how you fix it and get hired…

I love the creativity of geographic information systems. I love the ability to combine programming, visual detail, and science into one cool discipline. GIS can be used in so many places… and here lies the problem.

GIS is not a career by itself.

Now all you knee jerk naysayers out there, hear me out.

GIS is best tacked onto another discipline. GIS is best as a compliment to a larger more complex career. Focusing on GIS as a career by itself is probably not a great idea, unless you are developing GIS software… which again, means GIS is tacked onto another dicipline… software development.

Now say this with me… This is a good thing.

This comes back to what a GIS instructor once told me:

The “Shallow” is an aspect of the problem. Sometimes digging deeper into GIS is not possible. Sometimes digging deeper is getting away form the solution.

GIS is not always the solution.

If all you need are directions from point A to point B, your GIS ends there.

If all you need are points on a map showing size differences for population, your GIS ends there.

If all you need is an Excel spreadsheet to track you metrics, your GIS ends there.

Sometimes the easiest solution is the right solution in GIS. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Of course GIS can do some really cool stuff. Time motion analysis, mobile applications, statistical dashboards, image analysis, the list goes on.

I listened to a Mapscaping podcast interviewing Adam Carnow, of ESRI where they talk about communicating GIS value and re-branding. Go listen to the podcast because it got me thinking.

I have written about “Value in GIS” and I know that communicating value is important. However, for most people communicating GIS value looks like this.

“If the higher ups just saw the awesome GIS stuff we can do, it would all be better”.

Or

“If I just had a better GIS pitch, everything would work out perfectly”

These are wrong. Your GIS solution gets in the way of what people really care about. This is especially true if people in your organization can’t spell GIS.

People want to tune into ” WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me”).

People don’t care about your GIS. They have some issue they want solved and that could be GIS, or baking for all they care.

People are not interested in technology, they are not interested in GIS.

People are interested in solutions to their problems they think about the most… not GIS.

If a spread sheet has done the job for years, your GIS solution gets in the way.

If bringing in mobile apps means more training and more money spent, your GIS solution gets in the way.

If multispectral imagery costs X+$100 with GIS, your GIS solution is getting in the way.

GIS IS GETTING IN THE WAY.

The truth is YOU are getting in the way. You have to change the way you think about GIS. You have to change the way you approach the situation.

If you want to be hireable or get ahead you need to think differently.

Here are a few steps you to take to ensure that your GIS solution doesn’t get in the way.

Learn to understand what other people want.

If you are like me, you love technology. So do other people. But they don’t care how it works, as long as it works.

People just want their problem solved, not your brainy GIS “stuff”

Learning the technology is great, but now take some time to learn marketing, sales, and psychology. You can sell feelings far easier and faster than technology.

Start thinking of your GIS as emotional, as currency, as food that people want.

This requires talking to people. This requires going out and being interested in the people using your GIS. This requires understanding their needs and desires and how you can help them.

If they want to save money, talk about saving money with GIS. If they want to make money, talk about making money with GIS. Leave the technical talk to your close team.

Learn clear communication.

You can communicate multiple ways to people. You can communicate in ways that turns people off, or turns people on. Try to communicate to everyone, or communicate to the ones who matter.

Communicating clearly takes time and effort. The good thing is, you can start now.

Your choice of words matter, your choice of visuals matter, your choice of medium matters.

Give presentations. Create videos. Use infographics. Create a podcast. Write a help document. Make mistakes. Fix mistakes. Get better.

Communication is a skill you can actively learn.

Learn business skills and business intelligence

The biggest driver behind what is going to keep you employed and get your hired is money. Yes there are exceptions, but your ability to affect the bottom line in a positive way can make or break you.

Business skills are long term approach. I am going to tell you a secret… I have poor business skills. Here is another secret… I am learning business skills now!

These skills include, strategic planning, leadership, team building, sales, marketing (see above), negotiation, delegation, and financial management.

If you are reasonably ambitious, you will end up in a managerial role in your future. It is the natural progression of a job that requires you to understand business more than technology.

Check out my YouTube channel here.

I have shirts available on my Teespring store if you would like to support me.

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Can Geographic Information Systems be used with everything? Ask these questions, or face the Space Wizard!

I love Geographic Information Systems. I love the creativity of programming, database design, and map creation.

I think it is the perfect discipline for a visually creative science minded person with marketing sensibilities.

GIS is wide reaching as a great support tool for multiple industries. GIS can help plan research, aid in problem-solving, organize data, demonstrate statistics, target marketing, and create visualization.

However, there is something that has stuck with me for a long time. A very thoughtful instructor I had said the following:

Geographic Information Systems has a wide reach, but it is not very deep in it’s understanding.

This means to me that GIS can be used pretty much anywhere (maybe), but doesn’t have much depth to its use.

GIS software in also becoming ubiquitous in the work place. With the ease of use and download of open source software, GIS is beginning to be part of the furniture.

I spoke with a friend who is in the security supply industry. I mentioned GIS could help his business and he said “Oh ya, we have a guy in the office doing that”.

By “Doing that” me meant using Google maps to plan out routes and google earth to show address clusters. Not the most sophisticated GIS, but GIS none the less. This got my creative juices flowing!

A few months ago I was asked on my YouTube channel if GIS could be used for chemistry by a person who worked in a lap. My knee jerk reaction was to say “Of course!”

After a few weeks of contemplation I realized that my automatic reactions about GIS may not be true. In fact, the following is most likely the real answer.

GIS is not a solution for everything.

Sad I know, but GIS really isn’t a fit-all solution.

But how do we know that GIS is not a solution in specific cases?

On a philosophical level a single answer to everything is an answer to nothing. Simple singular answers, while comforting, creates dogmatic views. A dogmatic view will shoehorning every inconsistency into its narrative, no matter how absurd.

In the 1999 Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” Professor John I.Q. Nerdelbaum Frink Jr. (yes I had to look that up), asks Lucy Lawless from Xena a continuity error questions to which she response:

“A Wizard Did It” or in many other cases “A space Wizard did it” or… a “GIS Wizard”

You can view the clip here.

A simplistic answer such as “GIS can work for you” is not always true. GIS could get in the way of making quick, easy and correct decisions.

How can we find out if GIS will be useful for situations?

We can start with a brief look at the scientific method of course.

A simple Scientific Method diagram.

As a long time researcher and academic I appreciate the scientific method. First and foremost it allows us to make mistakes, correct our methods, and try again.

Mistakes are okay to make, mistakes allow you to grow, ask better questions, and make better decisions. To find out if GIS can work for our problem, we can ask a few questions.

Is your data geographically referenced and is the referencing important?

This is obvious in many cases such as surveying buildings, street lights and fire hydrants where location is critical. But not so obvious when thinking in a business context.

A friend of mine owned a car body shop. He knew how many people came through his doors, what work they needed done, and how much they paid. But he did not have their addresses, even for marketing purposes.

Address for a business are important to be able to understand where your customers are coming from. They allow a business owner to target areas for marketing.

Is your data affected by the shape of the earth and other surface features?

When I was doing field survey design, the standard practice was to make flat lines on a map and let field workers decided where to go. The field dealt with the hills, we dealt with the lines.

The slope limitations of equipment is a affected by the shape of the earth.

Turns out that using Lidar for pre-planning is important for cost assessment, project analysis, and safety.

Do customers addresses mater in this context? Possibly if you are delivering packages and need to know routes.

Do you have multiple different geographically referenced data sets from multiple disciplines?

More geographically reference data increases the need for a system to compile and analyses the data. In the case of my friend and his body shop, perhaps only his clients address were important, making GIS a very small factor in his operations.

In the case of a geological survey, you would have roads, slopes, geochemistry, hydrography, ecology, and the list can go on.

Does your geographically referenced data have different attributes?

My parents had an arborist come out and look at taking down an old dead tree from their front yard. As a GIS person I got to thinking, how could this arborist use GIS?

You can find out a lot about trees if you just ask.

They could use a mobile app to take notes of locations of trees in a block they visit. Each tree could have attribute of “type”, “age”, “height”, “trim required”, “removal required”. These attributes could easily drive a marketing plan for the neighborhood.

It takes asking questions, creatively formulating a hypothesis, and testing that hypothesis before GIS is a solution to everything.

The more I think about it… the more I think GIS can drive some serious cash flow with some spatial creativity.

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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 traveling 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 is 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 hire-able. 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?

First is straight forward, 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 detail spatial analysis we can understand rock formations, dip and strike of geology, plan better surveys, model water flow (both surface and subsurface), 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 parralells are

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

Get GIS training NOW.

GIS is a great add on to many disciplines and should not be seen as single career goal. Taking a 1 year college degree, or two year masters 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.

On-line 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 start  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 reason.

The GIS cycle is a good place to start to understand your geoscience data.
The GIS cycle is a good place to start to understand 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 your out of 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. You 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 your 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 the 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 needs 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.

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.

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, or 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 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 maximum creativity, maximizing 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 presentation, 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 straight forward. 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 down load the sheets below.

TLDR:

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

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 differences 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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