Career Notes: Smart Surveyors Communicate
Surveyors are notoriously a technically-minded group of people. They’re smart, logical and capable of solving increasingly difficult problems. However, it’s also important for surveyors to know and understand how to manage, create and embolden relationships with people.
Christopher Glantz, PLS, is the deputy chief of surveys at the Oregon Department of Transportation — a 106- year-old entity — in Salem, Oregon. He has a bachelor’s of science in geomatics engineering from CSU Fresno, and is a licensed surveyor in six states. He’s been in the industry for over 15 years, and has worked at the ODOT for the last 2.5 years.
In that time, he has learned that interacting with people sparked a passion in him that centers around helping others understand and reach their full potential. So now, he not only focuses on the technological aspects of surveying, but he makes it a point to practice communication – which has led him to newfound success.
Q. What path did you take to end up where you are today?
A. In high school, I wanted to study engineering. While researching engineering programs at Fresno State, I came across the geomatics engineering program. Prior to that day, I hadn’t heard of land surveying or geomatics, but I liked maps and aerial photos, and I Iove the outdoors. It seemed like the program was a good fit. I attended the geomatics program at Fresno State out of high school and graduated in 2006.
After graduation, I went to work for a local engineering firm, Provost and Pritchard. In 2007, I was offered an opportunity to work for David Evans and Associates in Salem, Oregon, and worked there for seven years. Aerial LiDAR and other remote sensing technologies captured my interest. [Around the same time,] a survey manager position opened at Quantum Spatial in Portland, and I couldn’t pass it up. Then, in 2016, I moved to a survey support position at the Oregon Department of Transportation and since have become the lead remote sensing surveyor and the deputy chief of surveys.
Q. What did you want to accomplish when you were first getting started?
A. At first, the only goal was to earn a professional land surveyors’ license. I wanted to work for a company that could afford me the opportunities to grow and experience the many types of surveying that exist. I feel fortunate to have had those opportunities. Additionally, I wanted to work in different parts of the country. I grew up and went to college within a 40 mile radius and didn’t travel much as a kid. The draw of the unknown was high, and doing something new was exciting.
Lastly, I was interested in making as much as I could. Looking back, that wasn’t a good way to get started, but I didn’t grow up with much so I tried to get what I could in the shortest amount of time.
Q. Which of those accomplishments have you achieved at this point?
A. I was able to achieve all of the goals and many more that I didn’t know I wanted when I [first] started. I passed the Oregon Professional Land Surveyors’ exam in 2010, and since have acquired five more licenses. I moved to Oregon in 2007, so the goal of working someplace new was met. In addition, the positions I’ve held have allowed me to travel across the Pacific Northwest and to Alaska. I wouldn’t have been able to do so if I didn’t take the chance and move to Oregon.
Financial success came, but at a cost. I worked too much and lost focus [of] what is truly important. Now, the breadth of experience, knowledge, purpose, and autonomy drive who I am and what I want.
Q. What have you done that wasn’t on that list or may be a bit unexpected given where you thought you would go?
A. When I first started surveying, I wanted nothing to do with managing people. My career thrived on process and change relating to the technical part of what we do. It was awesome when I helped find efficiency in a process, finished a project on time and budget, or helped create a deliverable that exceeded a client’s expectations. My first management job terrified me, but I still remember the first time a report of mine came up and told me, “Thanks, you made my job easier today.” That interaction helped me realize that it felt good to help others understand and reach their potential.
Surveying is filled with many great surveyors. We’re technically-minded and capable of solving some of the most complex data and legal problems. However, from my experience, we’re not quite as good when it comes to managing the people and business side of what we do. People are fuzzy and hard to deal with, but I feel they give me the greatest satisfaction.
Q. What has been your most significant career lesson?
A. You are the only one who can decide what your career looks like. Of course, there are other factors, but the final choice is in each one of us. Go after what you want. Don’t wait for someone to hand it to you.
Q. What advice would you offer someone who is still at the early stages of their career in surveying?
A. The first is find a good mentor. There is no need to work for a place that won’t treat you like an asset. There are companies out there who are great and want to teach the younger generations; go find them and learn as much as you can.
Secondly, the amount of technology today is staggering. It is disrupting and changes our lives on a regular basis. My advice is to become comfortable with change; embrace it, and it will embrace you. Learn as much as you can about all aspects of surveying, engineering and geospatial technologies. You might need to learn how to program or analyze large amounts of data. The world is looking to us for our expertise, but if we can’t solve their problems, they’ll find someone else.
Lastly, learn how to communicate with the general public. A good test would be to go up to a high schooler and tell them what you do. If they zone out in 15 seconds, you need a bit of practice. That might look like taking a public speaking class or a business writing course. We’re naturally technical people and we get caught up in our technical jargon. The products we provide are our expertise and opinion; therefore, we should learn to communicate in a manner that anyone can understand.
Career Notes is a regular feature in POB magazine that aims to help surveyors learn from how others work. To share your story in a future issue, please email Managing Editor Alexis Brumm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christopher Glantz, PLS, is the deputy chief of surveys and lead remote sensing surveyor at the Oregon Department of Transportation. He's been in the industry for 15 years, and with ODOT for almost three.