Professional land surveyors know the value of lifelong learning. If it’s not in your DNA, it’s in your PLS.

If the terms of professional licensing didn’t require professional development hours, I don’t think most surveyors would abandon the practice of continuous education. For one thing, the technology and methods continue to evolve and require at least some effort to remain current. But, there is also a natural curiosity that is part of the personality of the professional land surveyors and geospatial professionals I’ve met.

I don’t recall where I heard the comment recently, but someone said, “My father was a Marine, and I learned that when you are confronted by an obstacle – innovate.” Apologies to the individual who said it if I didn’t get the quote exactly right, but the remark seemed appropriate for surveyors. In the field or at the computer screen, there are often perplexing problems that require a step back to examine the whole picture before deciding on a direction forward.  Each of those experiences represents a part of a larger learning process that contributes to what a former boss of mine called the wellspring of knowledge. We keep the well fresh by adding not only our own experiences, but also lessons we pick up from others.

In the military, I learned to find those “others” who could coach me or teach me. We called it OJT – on-the-job training. It helped you succeed in your job or, if you were in combat, it helped keep you alive. Either way, it was a pretty intensive learning process.

I see that quality, along with a sense of mission, in the veterans I’ve worked with. These are good traits, but they don’t appear on a resume. Often what is on that resume is just as difficult to interpret. As one veteran told me, “There isn’t much call for a guy to run around in an armored personnel carrier with a machine gun on the roof.” Fortunately for him, there was a place for someone with a desire to learn and a sense of mission and team commitment.

Nov. 11 is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Our cover story links some soldier surveyors from that era with present-day surveying students. I also asked another soldier surveyor, Tony Novotny, to come back and tell us about his military experience. My hope is that these stories will help us understand and appreciate the value veterans can bring to their post-military careers.

Today’s veterans aren’t coming home by the boatload or the planeload. They reenter civilian life individually or in small groups. Most are predisposed to learning and to sharing their life lessons. It seems like a good match if you’re looking for who will follow your footsteps.

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