Point of Beginning

Profit and Profession

November 14, 2011

The engineering board in my region that influences and decides on the qualifications for things like becoming a PE or PLS ruled that engineers who work with boundaries and land data could receive their PLS certification without the education requirements that are mandated for everyone else. While it annoys the academic community to be considered over-educated technicians, apparently knowledge of boundary surveying and leveling is the only requirement for getting a PLS in my state.  That being the case, it is time to bring to bear the other attributes that education and training allow. My first approach is offering commercial GIS solutions to local businesses.

Every successful business uses data to make the decisions that decide the difference between opening another location or dissolving the company before another tax year begins. Mostly that data is interpreted in charts and graphs--valuable, but still ambiguous without spatial context.  For surveyors, upgrading and maintaining software is an expensive proposition. Fortunately GIS programs like open source MapWindow or the streamlined, freely available ArcGIS Explorer are fully functional tools. This means not only can existing data be given spatial context, every client can afford to use it. This allows users to start thinking with their whole brain by applying a visual context to the facts and simultaneously increasing the value of the professional who supplies these solutions.

For all the work and passion that goes into operating an enterprise, every company has one goal: to make a profit. GIS helps this by reducing waste and creating opportunities. Solutions are scalable, so starting small even with big companies is an easy business deal. This week I'll be sitting down with a fairly large company in my region that was wholly unaware of what GIS was until a week ago. They will tell me what they want to do, and I will tell them how my GIS could help them do it. Just seeing their excitement as I explained the concept of visually seeing their statistical data tells me this is a smart move to bring this service into my area.  Looking at the entry-level salary of $40,000 a year also affirms the value of GIS.

GIS is a magnificent tool, one that I have from my years in school and not something I could have learned on my own. Thanks again to Esri, education only takes the effort and time to practice with their software and tutorials. While anyone can pick up and start using a GIS for their own needs or as a stream of income, setting up these systems to be effective requires enough effort to warrant its own degree. Is all this effort worth it? Maybe for the established professional it would seem like overkill, but for new boys on the block, going after a solution that plays to our education's strengths is just "plane" smart.