Solo Notes: One-Woman Show
Roxanne Nimmer, PS, explains her decision to become a professional surveyor as a fluke. “I knew I didn’t want to work inside. I had been cowboying for a living and decided it was time to go back to school,” she says. She learned about the profession while browsing through a course catalogue and decided it sounded right up her alley. “I love it. I’ve always loved it,” she says. “I’m not particularly fond of the business end of things, but the surveying is a passion of mine.”
Nimmer kicked off her surveying career in 1984. She launched, Mesilla Park, N.M.-based Del Sur Surveying LLC in 2001 while still working another job, and she went full time in 2011. In the beginning, she says, it was kind of tough being a woman in a field with so few women. She says at the time, there was still somewhat of a mentality that women didn’t belong in the surveying space. Nimmer says she was the fourth New Mexico resident woman registered as a professional surveyor in the state, sixth overall if you include those who came from other states. Coming from the ranch atmosphere though, she says she was no stranger to that male mentality and that with time, things have improved. “I think it is a lot easier for women nowadays. … It changes,” she says.
While she isn’t exactly a fan of payment collection, Nimmer says she loves owning and operating a small business because it keeps her in close contact with her clients. She says she is passionate about going into the field herself as opposed to sending someone else out. “I love putting the pieces of the puzzle together and making them work.”
POB: What aspects of the business do you enjoy most and why?
NIMMER: I enjoy putting together the research material and making it fit with what I’m finding in the field. It depends on the project, but mostly putting together a lot of deeds, that sort of thing, then with what I find out in the field, making the puzzle work.
POB: Do you have any memorable stories from field work and/or a favorite project you worked on?
NIMMER: In 2012 we were sub-consulted to a contract of the federal government, the U.S. International Water and Boundary Commission. We got to do 95 miles of right of way along the Rio Grande. It was a two-year project. It was really kind of cool to go through all of that.
POB: What has been your biggest challenge so far?
NIMMER: It would be the business side and it would be keeping cash flow. Unfortunately for us, the little guys, with most contracts we’re under an engineer and you’re kind of forced into signing a contract that says you don’t get paid until they get paid. They’re usually bigger firms and their cash flow is big enough where it doesn’t bother them. But it can be hard on the little one.
POB: How do you stay on top of the latest trends and technologies?
NIMMER: Mostly online anymore, reading; the occasional tradeshow/conference.
POB: Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to get into the surveying business today?
NIMMER: Do not only focus on your surveying curriculum, but also include a lot of business courses.
POB: How has the surveying profession changed since you started and where do you see it heading in the future?
NIMMER: The technology; that has just exploded and it seems like the older I get, the harder it is for me to learn. From when I first started using chains and the distance meters you had to attach to the top of the transit, it seems like night and day. We still have a couple of total stations and every tool has a purpose, but for the most part we use GPS. I’d really love to get my hands on drone technology, but it’s a little out of my price range right now. … I think it has changed with the growing increase of technology. You have to stay up on it. And by the time we get technology to use, it’s outdated. That goes for using field equipment and office. The computer systems and the software we’re using nowadays, all of that has changed. When I first started with electronic drawings, it was on CAD version two point something. You literally had a nap when you were waiting for the zoom command to work. When I first started it was hand drafting. So it changes daily.
Roxanne Nimmer, PS, owns Del Sur Surveying LLC, in Mesilla Park, N.M. She has been a part of the profession since 1984 and a business owner since 2001. Nimmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solo Notes is a regular feature in POB magazine and highlights the experiences and strategies of solo surveyors and small business owners. To share your story in a future issue, please email Managing Editor Valerie King at email@example.com.