Career Notes: Career Surveyor Mentors Others
James C. Weed, PLS, has been an active member in the land surveying industry for over 21 years. Weed joined Control Point Associates in 2008, bringing his expertise in construction stakeout, expert testimony and geodetic control surveys. As principal, he oversees all construction stakeout and 3D laser scanning projects.
Weed’s first job was with a small engineering firm, working as a rodman. “I did not always want to be a surveyor,” he says. His former crew chief, Tim France – a mentor and “the best teacher I ever had” – was instrumental in his decision to make surveying a career. Weed went to the library and taught himself everything he could. He purchased a CAD software license to learn the program and processed his data at night to accelerate his chosen career path. He quickly worked his way up to instrument operator (IO) and then crew chief within two years.
After working as a crew chief for several years, Weed became a field engineer, which he enjoyed. His wife urged him to go back to school and get a degree in surveying. He transitioned to an inside job, taking a pay cut for the opportunity to get his surveying degree. For him, it was now or never – many of his peers in the surveying program were on a 12-year plan to finish their degree at night, but he chose to go all in for four years. He received his BS in Surveying Engineering Technology from NJIT in 2007.
Over the past two decades, Weed has worked for small- and medium-sized organizations, as well as an independent surveyor. He has operated throughout the northeast and the Caribbean, as well as coordinating national portfolios for clients like Bank of America, Walmart, and McDonalds.
POB: What was it like going it alone as an independent surveyor?
Weed: The biggest challenge as an independent surveyor is the same as a larger firm: finding employees to scale. There was plenty of work, but it was difficult having the qualified help to complete it. If you do good work and deliver what you promise, you are going to get results.
POB: What is your take on the future of surveying?
Weed: This is a critical time for the profession. The average age of licensed surveyors is going up, and I’m not sure if there is enough interest or awareness in the next generation to make a career of surveying. The industry has a challenge – it is sometimes viewed as a ‘trades-only profession’ – which prevents students who are considering engineering paths from also considering a career in professional land surveying.
As surveyors, we have failed to put ourselves on par with other professions. We are professionals, licensed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. For the profession to survive, we need to be held to the higher standard. There should be a more significant push to standardize the licensing requirements across state borders. There are two paths in surveying: the high-school-to-work path and the degree path. Both tracks offer the opportunity to make a fantastic living.
We will always need traditional land surveying. There will always be a need for a licensed professional to provide professional opinions of boundary locations. My hope for the profession is that we will claim a leadership role in the forefront of the emerging technologies, to ensure that competent, licensed professionals are serving the public.
POB: What did you want to accomplish when you were first getting started?
Weed: In the beginning, I just wanted to pay my rent. After learning how much I enjoyed the profession, I wanted to become licensed. From that point on, I made it a priority to encourage others to become licensed as well.
POB: Which of these accomplishments have you achieved to date?
Weed: I have accomplished every goal I’ve set so far in my career. That doesn’t mean I’m done. I consider myself very fortunate to have gotten to where I am at such a young age. My goal now is to grow Control Point Associates as much as possible and spread our brand as far and wide as we can, along with encouraging and developing the next generation of land surveyors.
POB: What have you done that wasn’t on that list or maybe a bit unexpected given where you thought you would go?
Weed: Practicing on my own was unexpected. Also, at one point in my career, I was overseeing both engineering and surveying and attended a lot of planning board and township meetings, representing our clients. It made me realize how much I missed just surveying, which is why coming to Control Point Associates was the perfect opportunity.
POB: What has been your most significant career lesson?
Weed: Working as a survey technician early in my career, I made an error on a stake-out of a house foundation and realized it after it was poured. I was terrified of the consequences and went to my supervisor to explain what happened. He showed me how to avoid making the same mistake again, and walked me through how to mitigate the damage and deal with the client. We called the client and admitted the error right away, and then did everything we could to fix the problem. That is how I’ve dealt with any issues ever since. The truth is, we all make mistakes; the difference is in how we deal with them.
POB: What advice would you offer someone who is still in the early stages of their career?
Weed: READ. There is a tremendous amount of information available in surveying books. Read everything you can. Find out what the license requirements are in your state and work towards the goals you set for yourself. I would also encourage joining the state surveying society.
POB: Anything else you’d like to add?
Weed: Control Point Associates is committed to growing with our employees. We encourage our employees to go through CST training and pursue paths towards licensure. Many of our employees started out as an entry-level CAD or IO, and have grown into professional management positions. We provide an environment that allows for a life-long career.
James C. Weed is a principal of Control Point Associates, Inc., one of the largest land surveying companies in the northeast, and has been involved in the industry for over 21 years.
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 Editor Perry A. Trunick at firstname.lastname@example.org.