In this special edition of Solo Notes, we turn our focus from solo surveying to the future of surveying. Instead of seeking out a licensed surveyor who goes it alone, we sought out a soon-to-be surveyor still working towards his license. We also pose different questions, less about experience and more about expectations. At a time when the profession is working to avoid a potential shortage of next-generaton surveyors and attract young talent, the perspective of an individual who is young, interested in and planning to become a surveyor is invaluable.
At age 29, Gus Porter fits into the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) 35 years or younger “young surveyor” definition. He is not licensed yet, but is working on it. Porter currently serves as vice president at Sawtooth Surveying LLC in Emmett, Idaho. He has been with the company for seven years and has 15 years of surveying related experience. Porter has secured an associate degree in land surveying/geomatics from Great Basin College and is continuing his education there with the goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in land surveying/geomatics.
He says he has known since he was a small child that he wanted to be a surveyor.
“When I was fourteen years old and on summer break, my dad came home from work one day and said, ‘Son, we need help at work so you’re coming with me tomorrow.’ I immediately fell in love with the job,” he says.
From then on, Porter spent all of his summer breaks doing land surveying work. He even managed early work release his senior year in high school so he could survey. Still, he says he is excited to come to work each day.
Sawtooth Land Surveying specializes in ALTA/ACSM title surveys; boundary and cadastral surveys; GPS control surveys; residential, commercial and industrial site development; condominium surveys; utility surveys; 3D HDS laser scanning; bathymetry; transportation/right of way surveys; aerial mapping; 3D modeling; and construction layout, including heavy highway. The firm serves clients in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada.
From what Porter has seen, he says young surveyors are maybe more open to the newer technologies and pushing the limits of how they can be used to advance both day-to-day business and the profession. Porter points out that all of his more experienced colleagues have been great about recognizing this and giving younger surveyors the latitude to try new things.
“Overall, I think the combination of young and experienced professionals is a very effective combination for the overall success of any geospatial business.”
Looking ahead, the future of surveying has endless potential as long as the profession is not afraid to act now, he says.
“There is a definite shortage of young people entering the profession, which could really have a negative impact if we do not take the necessary steps to correct it. My primary goal as a young surveyor is to try to reach out to as many young people as possible and educate them on how great and rewarding this career is. I think that a major problem is that so many young people have never even heard of surveying.”
POB: What experiences have most prepared you for a career in surveying?
PORTER: I would have to say that getting to go to work with my dad throughout my childhood really gave me a glimpse into the world of surveying. I didn’t know what most of the equipment and technology was, but I was absolutely captivated by it. He was always very patient about answering all of my endless questions about what each thing was and what it did. Looking back, I think that the constant exposure to the profession and my dad’s willingness to feed my curiosity was what set my course as a surveyor.
POB: What do you most enjoy about surveying so far?
PORTER: The most enjoyable part of surveying to me is that there is always something new to learn. In this profession, I feel that we are truly limited only by our imagination. Since the opportunity for expansion of our knowledge and experience is always present, there is no time to get bored or stagnant. Searching for old stone monuments is right up there too though.
POB: What are your favorite tools to use?
PORTER: CAD is probably my favorite tool. There is just so much that you can accomplish with a good CAD program. I also really enjoy any opportunity that I get to use a chain or a plumb bob. There’s just something about those tools that bring me joy, as crazy as that may sound.
POB: What are you most looking forward to?
PORTER: College has been a part of my night and weekend life for many years now. I’m really looking forward to receiving my bachelor’s degree, getting my license and being able to stamp that first survey. I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure that’s going to be a glorious day.
POB: What areas of the profession are you least enthusiastic about?
PORTER: I’ve been pondering this question for days and haven’t come up with anything.
POB: If you could go back in time, what would you do differently to prepare for a career in surveying?
PORTER: I would have tried to take some college courses in high school to expedite my degree process.
POB: What advice do you have for others considering this as a career path?
PORTER: I would advise people to seriously consider this profession for themselves. Sure, sometimes the fan mail is hard to keep up on, but it’s so worth it. This career is so multi-faceted that you can find opportunities to fit almost anyone. There are large firms, small firms, you can work outside, inside, or both. It seems to be a rare occupation that can offer so many different ways to challenge a person each day.
Gus Porter is vice president of Sawtooth Land Surveying LLC, in Emmett, Idaho. He is working toward a bachelor’s degree in land surveying/geomatics at Great Basin College and can be reached at Gus@SawtoothLS.com.
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.