Geo Positions: GIS Pro Says Simple Scales, Complex Fails
Anthony Calamito went to college with a plan to become a meteorologist. He still is fascinated by weather, but once he started taking meteorology classes, he says he grew intrigued by how the earth and its topography shapes weather patterns. “The rest is history,” he says.
Now vice president of product at Boundless Spatial, Calamito couldn’t do his job without geographic information systems (GIS). Whether he is working on customer data, solving an internal problem or testing out new software, he doesn’t go a day without it. In his 12 years of GIS experience, he says processing power and methods stand out as the most obvious changes. “The theory and methods are still the same, but our ability to process data and find new ways of doing so is what has changed the most,” he explains.
Calamito remains blown away by how new ways to use location-based content and analysis in everyday life are constantly being discovered. In his opinion, GIS has come a long way from command line routines and static analysis of coverage files. “Geography is now an ordinary part of everyday life.”
Q. What do you do for a living?
A. I have the best job on earth; I get to use GIS, help others use GIS and identify ways to make GIS software better for everyone. What’s not to love about that? As the vice president of product here at Boundless, my job is to make sure that we are delivering software that meets the demanding needs of users from around the globe. With GIS becoming ubiquitous in everything we humans do, it's increasingly important that we understand not just what users need to do, but how they want to do it. You can build a GIS with all the bells and whistles in the world, but if users can’t figure out how to use it, it’s pretty much worthless. My job is to make sure we are listening to customers’ needs and demands, and making sure we use that feedback to make better products.
Q. What is your favorite tool to work with?
A. Good question. Probably PowerPoint. Seriously. In every job I have done with GIS, PowerPoint was the way we communicated our findings and explained how we arrived at the answer. You can create the most cartographically and aesthetically pleasing map, and you can use geoprocessing to create the most perfect and defensible analysis, but if you cannot communicate your findings to a decision maker, you’d be just as well to draw pictures in the sand.
Q. What is the toughest challenge you face?
A. To constantly remain on top of how technology improves and changes over time. In order to maintain our status as creators of innovative, open GIS software and solutions, we need to stay in tune with the ever-changing, fast-paced IT world we live in. I read blogs all the time, I use news feed aggregators and subscriptions to publications all to keep in touch with what is going on in the world. Social media is also a great way to stay in tune with what is changing.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
A. Information travels fast. Especially with social media being such a popular method of communication these days, any new information becomes public knowledge in short order. However, it cuts both ways. On one hand, it’s great when we are sharing news about an upcoming release, or inviting people to the Boundless booth at a tradeshow or event. On the other, it can be disastrous when we inadvertently post incorrect information, or word something slightly different than what we meant. Followers are quick to take notice and are not afraid to let us know. We always appreciate feedback — and make changes when necessary — but boy does it happen almost instantaneously.
Q. What advancements would you like to see made?
A. I love seeing the pace of innovation in the GIS space. GIS now plays a key role in IoT, streaming sensor information — think precision agriculture and connected cars — and big data analytics. You can get almost anything as-a-service, and can access it from almost any device you own. It is a great time to be working with GIS. It is tough to say what we should advance on next, but I would love to see more work in the area of raster “big data” processing. There are some great open source projects being incubated, and I would love to see them make their way into mainstream work.
Q. What are your keys to success?
A. There are three key mantras I try to follow:
- Be interested, not interesting. Keep learning. Someone will always be faster, better, smarter than you.
- Simple things scale, complex things fail. Over-engineering a solution is usually the worst idea. Keep it simple and you can always scale up or down.
- Take care of the people who take care of you. Any success I might have is usually the result of the team I work with. Win as a team; lose as a team, but always as a team!