Engagement

A few years ago, we sold our house and moved into a new one that we had built. The old house happened to be the one in which I had grown up. The process of disconnecting from that house got me back in touch with a lot of tasks that had become muscle memory. For example, mowing the lawn.

I had mowed that lawn roughly every week since middle school. By the time I was mowing it for what I realized was the last time, I could have done so blindfolded. I knew where every obstacle was and knew every contour in the ground. I had long since stopped paying attention to the task. There were many other things that I realized had become the same for me.

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Making a Change

Most of my January has been a process that culminated in today’s announcement that I will be moving on from Zekiah and joining the team at Spatial Networks, where I will be taking on the role of Vice President of Engineering and Technology.

I’ve been at Zekiah for fifteen years and have had the pleasure to do groundbreaking and meaningful work for a variety of federal customers. During that time, I’ve worked with a lot of incredibly talented people and the current team is no exception. The company and its customers are in great hands and the geospatial team, led by Eric Mahaffey, is poised to do great things. A little inside baseball: There’s never been an instance where the partners at Zekiah didn’t completely agree on a course of action. It’s been a great experience to have such trust in your colleagues, and they have been completely supportive of my decision. I’ve learned a hell of a lot about business while getting to do a lot of great work. I leave with no complaints.

I am looking forward to joining another incredible team at Spatial Networks. After 23 years as a federal/defense contractor, I am excited about the change of focus to a commercial setting. I’ll be working remotely, with periodic trips to St. Petersburg, Florida. The team at Spatial Networks is highly motivated with a strong sense of purpose and I expect we’re going to have a lot of fun while building great tools.

Directions

The 10-year anniversary of this blog is rapidly approaching and it is not lost on me that it has been laying rather fallow of late. I know others with long-running geospatial blogs have experienced similar situations at around the decade mark, and that only seems natural. If you are living your life well, the motivations and interests that prompt you to start an online presence such as this evolve over the course of a decade.

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When I started this blog, it was simply to create the kind of resource that I had been looking for: code-heavy posts that showed how to accomplish tasks I was working. I did that in the hope that others would find it useful, but also to serve as my own personal archive. Now, such resources are abundant as companies and projects recognize the need to engage via blogs and social media.

Of course, all such outlets now seem to be some sort of “official” arm of a company or organization or project. It seems to be increasingly difficult to find a “sole-proprietorship” blog that’s being kept current. It’s not for me to say whether that is positive or negative. I speak from experience when I say it is difficult to maintain such a venture over time, and I certainly see where being part of a content team has advantages.

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A Week in the Life of a Geotech Omnivore

Earlier this week, I posted the above tweet. To explain the variety I referred to, here is a partial list, in no particular order, of the tools I’ve worked with in the past week.

  • Node
  • TileMill (Yes, I still use it)
  • ArcMap
  • QGIS
  • Python
  • ArcGIS Server
  • GeoServer
  • C#
  • WMS
  • SOAP (!)
  • Windows Communication Foundation
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • PostGIS
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • SQL (Spatial and non-spatial for the above platforms)
  • Leaflet
  • GeoJSON
  • X.509 certificates

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My Path to GIS

TL;DR: This post is long and there is no summary.

When you reach a certain stage in your career, you start fielding more and more inquiries from those younger than you about how you got started in your field. In my case, the field is GIS. The short answer, and not a particularly uncommon one, I’ve discovered, is “by accident.” I have previously documented that I landed my first job through one of my regulars at the bar I was tending at the time. I’ve also documented how I became interested in maps and programming at an early age. There are, however, a few more dots to connect.

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My love of maps remained avocational and really went dormant as I got more into programming. During my middle school and high school years, I wrote BASIC code on my Commodore 64 to automate Dungeons and Dragons tasks. This was in a time before the internet was available in homes and, since we lived in a pretty rural area of Maryland, every call was long-distance. As a result, there was no way my parents would let me dial into bulletin boards. So I did it the old-fashioned way: checking out programming books from the public library. I had a few other friends who were into programming as well so we shared what we learned.

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Perspectives

Today marks the first day of classes for the spring semester at Salisbury (Maryland) University. This is significant for me because it also marks my first day as an instructor in the Masters of GIS Management program, teaching an online course called “Leadership in GIS Organizations.” This is my first foray back into academia in the 22 years since I finished my own degree.

Aveiro March 2012-18
By Alvesgaspar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This new venture doesn’t represent a career change for me so much as an enhancement. I have spent my entire career working as a consultant, primarily developing geospatial systems for government (mostly federal government) users. This means I live in the for-profit private sector and interact with government fairly regularly.

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Come Sling Code With Us

It’s been a pretty good week for us at Zekiah. We announced two new contract wins and I’m pleased to say that we’re not done yet. After final paperwork is done, we should be able to announce a couple more. These are the things that make small-business ownership worthwhile: doing good work, building relationships with our customers and then leveraging our track record to be able to work with new customers. Project execution and business development help us build the foundation necessary to be a good place for our employees to work and we try hard every day to make sure that we are such a place.

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