Early in my career, I learned to dread the question that always came up at parties and gatherings: “What do you do?” I didn’t have a quick answer that someone outside the profession could relate to.

Sitting in the meeting of the Future of Surveying Forum, it is clear this profession suffers from the same problem, but amplified. Not only does the answer vary by individual or organization, it can change from day to day.

The same surveyor might be doing a boundary survey today, BIM tomorrow, and a bathymetric survey the following day – and that’s just the B’s. What about deed and title research, CAD and computer modeling, legal research or expert testimony, or flying a UAV? You’re a mathematician, a clerk, a pilot, a paralegal, a historian and even an artist. All of this – and more – and yet you are always a surveyor.

As a group, we struggled over a definition for the profession that would be easily understandable and enticing when trying to attract new talent to the industry. The terms we shared were most often functional, sometimes conceptual and occasionally philosophical. We only had one day together, so we had to keep moving.

The volunteers who met in June (and in prior years) share a passion for surveying and a desire to see the profession continue to grow and prosper. Some important elements came together, and the Future of Surveying Forum has found a virtual home base at www.beasurveyor.com. A definition for surveying is only one of the multitude of tasks the group has agreed to undertake, but there was a collective sigh of relief that each of the outcomes, results and tools can find a place there. It’s neutral ground, though NSPS has generously agreed to house the site to get things started. (The site actually has a history already – we are following the footsteps of a North Carolina surveyor – but that’s another story.)

Back to definitions, I remember asking a senior executive once what he did. He had his impressive functional title printed on his business card, but he answered, “I manage the company’s money.” It was true. He had budgets in the millions of dollars for the functional departments that reported to him, but he viewed his job as ensuring that money was wisely spent.

With that in mind, I thought, surveyors safeguard wealth. Using surveying skills and geospatial technology, you support property rights and responsible land management in order to preserve value and protect the environment.

How do you describe your role when someone asks you, “What do you do?” It’s not a rhetorical question; the Future of Surveying Forum needs to know your answer.

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