Evolution and Leadership

My first management position was at a restaurant. It was a chain steakhouse in a one-horse town in Maryland. A few months into that role, I was the sole manager on duty for a weekend night shift that was going poorly.

Feeling my frustration mounting, I did the most mature and leaderly thing my 19-year-old mind could think of – I tipped over the break table, causing everything on it to crash loudly to the floor.

I felt a momentary rush of power as people scurried away from my obvious anger, setting off to do whatever they could do to right the sinking ship that was this shift. Word apparently spread quickly throughout the staff because, before I had walked another ten feet through the kitchen, I was confronted by a member of the waitstaff.

Louvre Museum [Public domain]

I forget her exact words, but they boiled down to “You’re being an idiot. This is your shift. If you want it fixed, go fix it or find another job.” She was right, and jarringly so. I’m pretty sure I didn’t fix that shift, but I never flipped a break table again in my restaurant career. Thus began a lifelong interest in leadership and management.

I should also note that, several years later, the woman who confronted me agreed to marry me and we will celebrate 25 years of marriage next year.

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Miles to Go

This blog started as my lifeline. Fifteen years ago, I was working on a project that wasn’t particularly compelling in an environment that wasn’t conducive to collaboration. I wasn’t doing geospatial work and I was worried that it would slip away. This blog was the mechanism that motivated side projects that kept me in touch with geography.

It started out as a technical outlet, with the intent of being the kind of blog that I often found myself searching for. From there, it evolved over time, though I fought that evolution for a while. Motivated by the same fear of losing my technical edge that caused me to start it, I kept a technical focus here even as my daily work became less technical. Eventually, I let that struggle go.

Perhaps because I know what my own thoughts were as I blogged, I can see that evolution unfold. Inadvertently, I ended up documenting the arc of a career in the geospatial technology industry.

And then it just stops.

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Catching Up with Microsoft

Recently, I’ve gotten back in touch with .Net in the form of .Net Core. I’ve been shaking off some the coding rust and building some tools to help with data handling related to the Foresight data service at Spatial Networks. It’s been fun to get my hands dirty again and also interesting to see how .Net has evolved over the past few years.

It’s been a few years since I’ve done a lot with .Net and, after spending some time in the Node ecosystem, this was my first foray into .Net Core. The application I was working on just wasn’t coming together correctly in Node, so I started prototyping out the logic flow in .Net Core, with the intent to port it back to Node when I had a good reference implementation. The more I kept using .Net, the more impressed I got, so I just kept the application there.

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Desktop GIS – The Evergreen Topic

It seems that I tend to revisit the state of desktop GIS every so often. With the continued advancement of “web GIS,” as well as the increased power of mobile platforms, proliferation of spatial analysis techniques into non-traditional environments, the ubiquity of spatial databases, and a host of other factors, it’s tempting to speculate on the long-term prospects of traditional desktop GIS software. This seems especially true when the software in question originates in Redlands, California.

I was brought back to this topic by a recent discussion on Twitter, initiated by my friend, Atanas Entchev.

https://twitter.com/atanas/status/1093489694082510853

The ensuing discussion grew legs and continued much longer than I would have thought. The core of the discussion centered around confusion in Esri’s messaging or, more accurately, subsequent interpretation of Esri’s messaging with regard to the status of ArcGIS Desktop. Long story short: much ado about nothing. Esri is releasing new versions of ArcGIS Pro and ArcMap. There are primary sources reaffirming their commitment to desktop GIS, so we can all go back to what we were doing. Awesome.

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Looking Ahead

I started this blog because I love to write. At the time I started it, blogging was what passed for social media, but I wasn’t necessarily looking for a social experience. I just wanted to write.

I was at a point in my career where I was fairly cloistered inside the windowless rooms of the Washington, DC defense contracting industry. I went home every day without anything to show for it, having left my work behind in places few could access. Blogging became a way for me to craft the technical skills I was developing into something demonstrable, something I could point to and say “that’s what I do.”

I started programming young, around the same time I started writing for pleasure. This is probably not coincidental. Piaget would probably say that I had reached an appropriate stage of cognitive development for both skills to emerge, possibly late in the concrete operational stage or early in the formal operational stage. Whatever the explanation, they emerged at the same time for me and, consequently, both have felt to me like forms of creative expression.

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Thank You, Keith Masback

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet people throughout your career who provide the necessary influence, whether they realize it or not, that you need at the time. One such person for me in recent years has been Keith Masback, who recently concluded a 10-year run as the CEO of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF).

Geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT in Beltway jargon, is most closely associated with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), where the term was coined in the post-9/11 timeframe. The USGIF was formed shortly thereafter as the non-profit educational and outreach arm of the GEOINT community.

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Data Is Hard

Where I work, we have developed a nuanced philosophy to describe the niceties of collecting data, managing it, validating it, and preparing it for use: “Data is hard.”

This was brought to light in a very public manner by the vandalism that was displayed on basemaps produced by Mapbox. The responses by Mapbox  and their CEO, Eric Gendersen, are good examples of how a company should respond to such incidents. Kudos to him and the team at Mapbox for addressing and rectifying the situation quickly.

The Gordian Knot
By jmerelo [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Speculation quickly ran to vandalism of OSM, which is one of the primary data sources used by Mapbox in their products. That speculation was backed up by the edit history in the New York area, but it is interesting to note that the vandalism was caught early in OSM and never came to light is OSM itself. In this case, the crowd worked as it was supposed to.

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The Consulting Mindset and the War on Cubicle Body

I’ve been debating for a while whether I wanted to write this post, as the subject matter deviates greatly from the technical and professional writing I normally offer here. I decided to do so because my recent dive into fitness is intertwined with my professional life and affects how I approach my day, so I think it has bearing on my life as a 21st-century tech worker firmly planted in middle age.

I need to thank everyone who follows me on social media for putting up with my various “war on cubicle body” posts. You have been part of my publicly crowd-sourcing accountability for my fitness-related goals. I’ll dig into that more deeply later on.

I have been somewhat surprised, on social media and in person, to the reception “the war” has received. I expected the reception to be positive, which it has been, due to the supportive nature of the people in my extended circle. I was more surprised by the number of people who have told me it has motivated them to kick-start their own journey. I am truly humbled by that. Finally, I’ve also gotten a good dose of the expected “I don’t know how you do it” and “Where do you find the time?” comments. Because this begins to get at the conundrum faced by many tech and information workers in today’s society, I decided this post may be relevant. Settle in, there’s no TL;DR nor will I split it into parts.

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