Dealing with Disruptive Technology
Pamela Nobles, PSM, PLS, SP, is president of Diversified Design & Drafting Services Inc. (3DS), a full-service land survey firm based in Tallahassee, Fla., that takes on projects mostly for design engineers working for state and local governments. Nobles has a bachelor’s degree in surveying and mapping from the University of Florida. She has 28 years of geospatial experience, 10 years of photogrammetry experience and 19 years of business management experience. However, “This is not what I always wanted to do,” Nobles says.
She entered college with engineering in mind and she went to an advisor for guidance after testing a couple of different disciplines. The advisor suggested working for a company that specialized in what she thought she wanted to make a career out of, which was civil engineering at the time. Nobles took a job with a civil engineering firm that also offered surveying services and ended up being drawn to surveying. “I also learned pretty quickly that my personality was much more survey than engineering,” she says.
At that point, she moved to Gainesville, Fla., to finish her degree. After graduating, she worked with the State of Florida conducting research on sovereignty lands issues. Nobles purchased her first company in the mid-1990s. She ended up closing it and staying home with her son before opening 3DS in 1999.
Nobles says her management style is pretty hands off. “I try to hire well-qualified people and let them do what they do best. I typically guide the direction of the company in respect to new technology and new markets,” she says.
One of her biggest challenges is keeping up with constant geospatial technology disruptions. As for traditional surveying and photogrammetry, she predicts that aerial data will be used more and more for a growing number of applications because of the proliferation of UAVs.
Q. What do you do for a living?
A. I am a surveyor. Mostly, I measure things — at least at my office. I also served on Florida’s regulatory board for about 12 years. I serve on numerous national committees through the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES) and the Management Association for Photogrammetrists and Professional Surveyors (MAPPS). I do a lot of marketing and promotion for my business.
Q. What is your favorite tool to work with?
A. Currently, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for surveying. What do I personally use most? My phone. I believe that UAVs are going to be a big game changer for small geospatial firms. They provide a low-cost method of obtaining large amounts of data quickly. I think the processing software is going to need to catch up though. Black box solutions won't work for surveyors and mappers.
Q. What is the toughest challenge you face?
A. Introducing new technology into my workflow. New methods of data collection are disruptive. There is so much disruptive technology out there right now and more coming out all the time. Deciding which will work best for my company and our projects, and then implementing them is a huge issue. You have to get buy-in not only from your employees but also your clients. Educating both on why I think things are going to work is a huge task.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
A. To trust my gut. I have a story of not letting a minor partner have access to certain things in my company. This was years ago. I never had a specific reason why I didn't give access but in the end my gut was right. After that incident I learned to trust those uneasy feelings even if I couldn't pinpoint an exact reason for my uneasiness. In a highly technical society, we tend to over analyze things and forget to trust our instincts.
Q. What advancements would you like to see made?
A. I'd like to see more young people get excited about geospatial professions. I'd also like to see surveyors embrace new technology more quickly. I work with groups that include professionals from throughout the U.S. and I feel surveyors, ironically, think very one-dimensionally about what the profession encompasses. I live and grew up in a state where photogrammetry is licensed under one umbrella and feel that almost anything that has 3D measurement should be done by a licensed professional. With all of the new tech that is available, I feel surveyors are giving away much of this sector. I think bringing the younger generation in and broadening our vision for the services that professional surveyors provide is essential to the future of the profession.
Q. What are your keys to success?
A. I have a lot of mentors. I started out in the profession with good mentors and I still have them. I think that is a large key to success. I also try to stay on top of new technology and never stop learning. I spend a lot of time and energy on professional development. As I answer these questions, I am traveling back from SPAR 3D, where various scanning technology was showcased. Staying current with technological advances and what others professionals around the country are doing are key to personal and professional growth.