New Directions

Since the first of the year, I’ve been on my own. After considering a number of really compelling job offers, I decided to start my own company and take a contract position with company doing work that’s meaningful to me (more on that in the future). I’m also picking back up with some GIS work I did in the humanitarian relief sector with Brightrain Solutions back before I started at my previous company.

My new company is called Cercana Systems LLC. The word “cercana” means “close” or “nearby” in Spanish. I’ve been learning Spanish over the past year and I like that the word has a location-related connotation. Every English word I could think of has been used many times over and available domain names are quite convoluted. I wanted a name that reflected location – setting my intention to get closer to geography and geospatial than I have been in the past few years. Cercana fit the bill in addition to simply being a nice-sounding word.

The wheels of bureaucracy move slowly and it’s taken a few weeks for all of Cercana’s paperwork to finalize. During that period, I took some downtime. It was the first time since I was 16 years old that I didn’t have formal job waiting for me to return. As a result, I was able to unwind a bit and do some things that had been difficult to get to. For example, I began making maps again. Initially, they are for personal use and wall art. I decided that my walls didn’t have enough geography and fixing that gave me a chance to flex my muscles with QGIS as well as learn a little more about ArcGIS Pro.

The first map I made was an elevation map of Colombia to commemorate the trip my team made there in October. I printed ten copies and sent them to each person who made that trip. Another I am working on is bathymetry map of the Chesapeake. That will hang in my home. After that, I have ideas for a few more, including a poster I may make generally available.

I’ve also been using the time to upskill – getting more hands-on with AI/ML. I’m starting with the basics even though I’m comfortable with more advanced topics. I find doing the occasional hard reset is good way to take a fresh look at known topics. In the course of doing this, I have found a couple of good courses on LinkedIn Learning. I am starting to think of it as LinkedIn’s most valuable feature.

As part of my upskilling tour, I sat through a webinar by Safe Software about the use of ChatGPT-3 in FME data integration workflows. It was probably the best example I’ve seen of using ChatGPT for something productive, rather than simply generating limericks or sonnets or Python snippets. You should definitely check out the recording of the webinar, which is available here.

I’ve also been working the next around of administrative stuff to get Cercana ready for growth. For example, I’m working through the registration process to be able to bid or team on work with the US Federal Government. I have no interest in returning to the windowless-room world, despite the fact that it pretty much props up the geospatial industry. There’s plenty of meaningful work to be done in the civilian space that doesn’t come with the additional baggage.

I’ve spent some time listening to a couple of podcasts, including MapScaping and SmartLess, among others. Additionally, I’ve gotten back into my running and fitness routine. I’ve committed to running the Marine Corps Marathon again this year and the first race, the MCM 17.75k, is at the end of March. Finishing that gets me past the lottery for the marathon. I’ve also set a goal of running an event on all five MCM event weekends this year. That will keep me moving through November.

Looking forward, my goal is to synthesize what I’ve learned over my career so far and see if I can build a company that aligns to my view of the role technology should play in the lives of people. I’ll start small, building a portfolio for myself, and then grow from there.