Your Skills are Amazing… Guess what… so are everyone else’s. Start doing these things NOW to get ahead.

I love geographic information systems! The artistic creativity in map making, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross industry value is amazing.

But there is a HUGE problem… GIS is easy. It is easy like Word Processing and spread sheets are easy (If you are not careful that is)

Anyone can do Word or Excel… but they usually do it poorly. The same goes with GIS. A lot of people can do it… poorly.

But… how will anyone know?

Same destination, you did it better, they were all over the place.... but... (See next illustration below)
Same destination, you did it better, they were all over the place…. but… (See next illustration below)

Here is an example from my past with respect to Word processing.

When I was taking GIS at college I was require to do group work with two other students. We created a 100 page document together.

Everyone one in the group insisted they knew how to use Word… but they didn’t have the experience I had.

I had already written a 200 page thesis and 4 research papers by this point and used all the “Referencing” tools in Word.

“Insert Caption” – Check

“Cross-reference” – Check

“Insert Citations” – Check

“Table of Contents” – Check

You use these functions because they update each other when pages are moved, figures are deleted, or sections altered. Plus, hyperlinks are made within the document.

One of my partners, an Engineer by training… insisted on removing all my formatting and hand editing all figure captions, all cross references, all citations, all table of contents.

Hand editing… 30 images, 60 references, and three tables…

What a mess.

Here is the kicker… at the end with a printed copy… how would have known the difference my skillful use of Word and their hand hammered editing?

No one.

At the end, no one really cares how much work you put in, or how well you did... they just want it done.
At the end, no one really cares how much work you put in, or how well you did… they just want it done.

How is anyone going to know that you do GIS better than anyone else?

As I wrote about here, people don’t care that you have the skills, they care if you can solve their problem.

So how can you show them you can solve their problem?

It is actually simpler than solving their problem completely, but it does take showing a track record of solving problems.

This is where degrees and certificates matter. This is where trainings courses and endorsements matter.


Here is something you need to know, because knowing is half the battle.

I like saying this, because it's true... if you know what is happening,  you can fix it.
I like saying this, because it’s true… if you know what is happening, you can fix it.

You will never be perfect for every role… EVER… so don’t try to be.

There is an old saying that says “He who chases two rabbits catches None”. Well same goes for GIS roles.

Focus on a single problem that you can solve, and define it completely.

In marketing terms this is called “Narrowing your Niche”, in career terms I will call this (for now)


You specialize in problems everyone can solve, or one that is not already thoroughly solved.

Google Maps works, don’t do that… unless you have a revolutionary idea… which is unlikely. Google pays thousands of people a lot of money for this specialization.

You find your idea and then….

Define your Problem

Remember people only want their problems solved. Find a problem, and make it yours.

Find a problem the you can fully identify, layout, and explain.
Find a problem the you can fully identify, layout, and explain.

Not all problems are created equal. No all problems require you to focus your energy on.

Some problems are too easy and everyone will already know it.

If you are just starting out, research what industry needs. Ask industry insiders. Focus on that problem and go.

Define Your Solution

There is an old saying that “A question well asked is half solved”. Try this one, a problem fully solved is owned BY YOU.

Solve the problem completely (or at least most of it), and the solution is yours.
Solve the problem completely (or at least most of it), and the solution is yours.

You own the problem, you have researched the problem, and now own the solution. If you know the problem inside and out, you can solve the problem inside out.

Even better, people have the problem you KNOW inside and out, and that means they will trust you with the solution.

Promote Yourself

If no one knows you have the solution to a problem… then you might as well go home. SHOW OFF NOW.

Show off you problem and it's solution. You will soon find out what "sought after" means.
Show off you problem and it’s solution. You will soon find out what “sought after” means.

We live in a world where self-promotion is free. You have at your fingertips the advertising power never dreamed of by marketers in the past.

For zero dollars, you can shout to the world that you have the solution to a problem.

By promoting yourself, you own the problem, you own the solution.

You don’t have to be the best… but you may have to be the loudest.

Check out my YouTube channel here.

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

They don’t care about your GIS, Your Education, Your Skills, or You… They care about having their problems solved…. STEP 1: Build the Skills

I love geographic information systems. The visual creativity feeds my artistic side. The spatial analysis and complexity feeds my science side. And all of this has massive cross industry value.

But here is something you probably don’t want to hear.

No one cares how much you care about GIS, or how willing you are to learn… they care how much you can help them RIGHT NOW.

This is a case of “Knowing is the half the battle” Because if you don’t know this, you will be stuck spinning your wheels.

Knowing what the real problem is put you half way to solving it.
Knowing what the real problem is put you half way to solving it.

Don’t believe me? How about I give you a quick example.

Your car dies in the middle of the freeway. As you are pulled over to the side, a guy wearing a lion tamer outfit comes up with a spoon in hand and opens the hood.

He starts randomly poking around. You ask him “Are you a mechanic?”

“No, but I am really interested in being one” he replies.

Pipes get punctured (very sharp spoon), he hits the battery and ground a few times… sparks fly.

What the heck is this person doing? You stop him and say “You don’t look like a mechanic, you don’t act like a mechanic, and you certainly don’t have the skills of a mechanic… now get out of here”.

The guy may have been keen, the guy may even be nice, but you don’t need him.

This is the world. You have the skills to fix the problem, or you don’t.

To get there faster you have to start with step one.

Build the skills.

There are three components to building the skills. The first is through formal, online or on the job education.

Get the skills, this takes "responding" to peoples needs first. This is where you start to learn
Get the skills, this takes “responding” to peoples needs first. This is where you start to learn

I would suggest formal education at a University or College. They SHOULD have up to date education standards and SHOULD have good instructors.

Online also works, and helps you learn self-discipline at the same time.

These types of learning are responding to a very specific demand. They want X, you do X. They need Y, you do Y.

This is an important step when it comes to GIS. Learning this way is a necessity. This is building the basic market skills GIS needs.

You need to know what a buffer is, what a datum is, what a projection is. There are a thousand concepts (roughly speaking… could be more… could be less) that you need to learn.

This learning process can take months or years. This is also the time where you focus your skill set and begin to engineer your success.

Find out what specific skills will be needed in the future, and what industries need them the most, and focus in.

Do this and the skills you have at the end will be unique and valuable.

You can take a college education and make it 100 times as valuable by actively focusing ahead of time.


Fail Win Fail Win or the Path of Iteration

Failure is good. Failure is normal. It is after failure that we find some of the best learning.

Failure is good, failure makes you stronger, failure is the only way forward.
Failure is good, failure makes you stronger, failure is the only way forward.

It is through this “Fail Win” iteration that you find out what works.

This is where you find gold that people really need for their GIS.

At this stage, find mentors in person, online or in literature.

This stage could be years in making.


Teach What You Know

Something magical happens when you teach someone something you know.

Teaching is the best way to learn the skills... WAAAAAAY better than just doing them.
Teaching is the best way to learn the skills… WAAAAAAY better than just doing them.

A switch in your mind gets’ turned on and says “Holy crap… I need to know this before I tell someone else about it”. It is a responsibility switch. It is a switch that says “Don’t look like an idiot… do it right”.

Finally the last stage of Build the Skills.


Purposely advance what you do, without permission, on your own, with your own ideas.

Many people don't do this step. They are content with not taking this level or risk. RISK TO BE THE BEST.
Many people don’t do this step. They are content with not taking this level or risk. RISK TO BE THE BEST.

You have built your skills and understanding to the point where creativity take over.

You no longer have to asker permission because you know what works and what doesn’t.

Not many people go to this point. It is the most risky of all the skill steps.

But I will help you… se e how easy it is! (well… at brain storm phase anyway)

GIS for arborists.

GIS for Automotive Experts

GIS for Entrepreneurs.

GIS for shoe repair.

You figure it out.

Check out my YouTube channel here.

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

Get hired in GIS NOW or Engineer your GIS Success or Make GIS work for you! or {Place Flashy Title Here}

I love Geographic information systems. It is so versatile and applicable across many industries.

So why do so many people find it so hard to find a GIS Job?

I see people every day on LinkedIn or Twitter, who are frustrated with the job prospects in GIS. Many times the jobs are either basic, or seem out of reach.

Today I am going to teach you about a system I am developing I like to call “Engineering your Success”. This system will increase your hire-ability in GIS by a factor of 10.

Engineer your success. Skills, mindsets, and reputation
Engineer your success. I am developing a method that will make you 10 to 100 times more hire-able.
I am going to show you what you need to start doing today to set up your life so that you can win in GIS.

GIS can be found in everyday activities that we take for granted. For instance, Google Maps!

Every time I get in the car to go somewhere I let Google Maps shows me the way. I can trust that it will route me around traffic, and more recently, show me locations of user identified speed cameras.

Perhaps there is moral dilemma (helping people avoid tickets!) but I think the Google Maps system brings more awareness and safety to commutes.

GIS is also used in urban planning, agriculture, geoscience, disaster management, environmental analysis, space exploration and the list goes on.

However, there is a HUGE problem with GIS:

GIS can be very easy and a TON of people are doing it.

GIS is drawing lines on a screen. GIS is “click-here-do-that”. GIS is making maps.

There is a low entry price to GIS (free in the case of QGIS), this means, it is not necessarily a career for most people.

A partial solution I like to talk about is “Code Everything”. I will leave this to a future post because I am going to give you a full solution here… “Engineer your Success”.

NOTE! I am working on this, so consider this 1.0, I will have more information to come!

Step 1 – Build the Skills

No matter how you look at it, you will need the “Click-here-do-that” knowledge of geographic information systems.

No matter how you look at it, you need the geographic information system skills.

You need to understand the software, you need to understand what datum’s, projections, data types, tables, features, etc. are.

You can do this through formal education at university or college, but if you are really keen, you can learn on line.

Protip: You will be doing this skill building… forever, you must learn to love it.

Step 2 – Build the Mindsets (version 1.0)

Mindsets will dictate your success. People who have irrational belief in themselves, somehow come out on top. Guess what… you have to do this.

Mindsets are the second of the three for your GIS success.

The following are my top 3 mindsets for success in GIS.

Learning and Growth mindset.

Technology changes, algorithms change, you must learn and grow as fast as you possibly can. If you do not learn and grow, you will be left behind.

There is no failure.

People get wrapped up in worrying about making mistakes. Most mistakes aren’t catastrophic, sometimes they are just funny. The sooner you recover from “failure”, the sooner you win.

Find the Need, Fill the Need.

People get generalized skill sets because they don’t know exactly what other people need. Generalized skills are good… to start. If you want to win at GIS, you ASK what people need.

You can start by asking your Boss exactly what they want… and then giving them exactly what they want. Because you are learning and growing, you will be able to take they requests to the next level, and because you do not believe in failure, you keep pushing forward with new technology and new ways of thinking. Once you fill a need, move on to the next… as fast as possible.

Step 3 – Build the reputation.

Two words. Social media.

Social media is… a double edged sword… FIGURE OUT HOW TO USE IT PROPERLY

Get on LinkedIn, Twitter, FB, or whatever new platform may arise.

Learn out loud. Show your journey. Celebrate your successes, help people with their failures.

Work out loud (if you can). Show results, celebrate victories.

Help out loud. Have a GIS solution you know people will love… SHARE it.

Become social media savy.

Check out my YouTube channel here.

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

Unemployed in #GIS? … Do these 5 simple tasks to make yourself 10x more hire-able in 30 days.

Being unemployed sucks, especially if you have a family to support.

I know this well. When oil went into the toilet in 2014 I lost my job.

Granted I hated that job (which is for another blog post) but jobs mean money.

I retrained in #GIS over the next year and acquired skills outside of oil and gas.

Geographic information systems is an amazing skill set to have. It can be used in all sorts of industries and can allow you to be self-employed.

But what happens if you just finish school and are unable to get a job? What happens if you lose your job and can’t find something?

There is some bad news, and two sets of good news.

The first good news is that knowing what the the issue is is half the battle.

Knowing what is in store will help you win the battle.
Knowing what is in store will help you win the battle.

And there there is the… THE BAD NEWS!

Most people when they are unable to find a job do nothing. They wait. They send out resumes (which is a good). They search the internet. Then… they start doing unproductive things.

Watch TV, use social media for outrage, eat too much, and get depressed. You may even start questioning your choice of career.

Here is something more depressing.

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

You will slowly forget that which you are not doing. SO START DOING IT
You will slowly forget that which you are not doing. SO START DOING IT

This means you if you are not actively using your education, you are going be forgetting what you have learned.

You are not keeping up with new technologies. You are not making new connections. You are falling behind.

But as promised, there is some good news!

I am going to give you a few very basic steps to not only keep your skills ready, but also make your 10 times more hire-able in the next 30 days.

These steps will only take you 1 to 2 hours a day. That means only watching one less TV show (best not to watch any till you are employed).

You can make the steps fun, or just check the off a list.

The list looks like this:

Read a single blog (Day 1)

This seemingly small activity will keep you informed about what is currently happening the world of GIS. The great thing about blogs is that many people are writing on some really great topics.

Blogs give you distilled information that you can ingest quickly
Blogs give you distilled information that you can ingest quickly

They are doing the hard work for you by researching topics and bring the distilled information right to you.

Even better you can listen to pod casts as they do the same thing, and you can listen while you work out (which you should be doing).

Here is all list of blogs to start:

Bigger list here:

Here are some great podcasts:

Bigger list here:

Gather Open Data (Day 2)

Finding free data is both easy and a pain. I have searched for sites that have links to open GIS data, but I find more likely than not, the links are long since broken.

Collect some data. Plenty of stuff is out there,, admittedly it sucks gathering it all.
Collect some data. Plenty of stuff is out there,, admittedly it sucks gathering it all.

Pick your country and search.

Imagery however, I use the following.


Free imagery. Not the best quality, but great for keeping your imagery analysis skills up.

Sentinels Scientific Data Hub –

This is a recent find for me, check out GisGeogrpahy’s link on how to access it.

You can easily find more, the data is out there.

Do some analysis (Day 3)

You did this before for money, you might as well do it now for your future. You can really show off you skills if you are good!

You have done this for money or grades, you might as well do this for your future, like it matters.
You have done this for money or grades, you might as well do this for your future, like it matters.

You can use QGIS for free or ArcGIS Pro for cheap. With Arc You get access to all the apps, all the training, and even ArcGIS online.

This is a ridiculously good purchase which I would suggest you do.

Here are some example analysis you can do:

Analyze the spatial statistics of roads in a region which are under threat of flooding.

Analyze the location of factories and population centers.

Look at population density statistics.

Create a Graphic (Day 4)

Geographic Information Systems is at its heart a visual medium. The beautiful thing about creating graphics for your GIS is that they can be simple.

Even more skills you were getting paid for, or marks for. Do it for your future enow.
Even more skills you were getting paid for, or marks for. Do it for your future enow.

In fact, the more simple and easy to understand your graphic, the better.

You want people to look at your analysis and say “I see! Those are the roads that are going to be most affected by flooding”.

Here is another free hint. In case you get stuck trying to figure out how to represent your analysis… copy what already works.

Did I say copy? I mean be inspired by.

Show your work (Day 5)

No one is going to know you just did the above steps if you don’t actually show your work.

Social media is your new resume... HARNESS IT NOW
Social media is your new resume… HARNESS IT NOW

Show your work is risky.

What you have done might suck.

What you have done might change the world.

You will never know if you don’t show your work.

Social media is free. Post now. Post often.


Become social media savy.

Check out my YouTube channel here.

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

Check out my teespring store, buy something and support what I do!

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.

Check out my teespring store, buy something and support what I do!

Success! You're on the list.

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.

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

Check out my teespring store, buy something and support what I do!

Success! You're on the list.

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:

Attend online seminars.

Read Blogs.

Watch Videos

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.


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”.


“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.


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.

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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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