Don Dostie, president of the Maine Society of Land Surveyors, says there is one word he would use to describe the land surveying profession: purpose.
“When people want to have a career, they need to feel like they have purpose. More than money, more than anything else, more than a title, if you have purpose then you’re going to love what you do,” Dostie, who is also project manager at Encompass Services LLC, says.
During his time as president, Dostie is using his passion for the profession to shine a light on land surveying — and he’s doing it with the help of his vice president Cassandra Quintal.
“I think they believe I am able to capture a new audience, if you will, as I’m a bit younger and don’t fit the typical mold of a surveyor,” Quintal, who is also the survey project manager at Survey Works, LLC, says.
Quintal helped organize presentations, lightening talks and land surveying outings — like one to Baxter State Park where the group hiked to get some coordinates for a mountain elevation. Keeping younger surveyors engaged is essential.
Through several initiatives, the MSLS is raising awareness about the land surveying profession and introducing the next generation to an ever-changing field. The profession isn’t what it was a few decades ago. Today, technological advances have changed the way land surveyors work. This technology and all the “cool tools” — think drones, laser scanners and more — can be intriguing to younger generations, Quintal says.
In an effort to modernize, the MSLS is working to upgrade its website to create more of a portal, Quintal adds. The organization is also establishing a workforce training initiative with Maine’s seven community colleges to help raise awareness about land surveying.
“We are developing a program with them specifically for surveying with the idea that it would be kind of a short class training, maybe 8-10 weeks, where they’ll get the introductory ‘what you need to know,’” Quintal says.
These efforts are crucial, especially as many of the land surveyors are nearing retirement and the demand for land surveyors continues to grow.
“There is a lack of awareness or lack of understanding what surveyors do and the critical function we have in society, and one of my main goals as the president of MSLS is to go on a public relations effort,” Dostie, says. “I think it’s important that surveyors need to reach out and say, ‘we’re here, this is what we do and it’s important what we do.’”
Here, Dostie, Quintal and MSLS Executive Director Bruce Bourgoine talk more about life as a land surveying professional in the state of Maine.
1. What would you say is the majority type of work available to land surveyors in Maine?
I would say the highest volume is in the residential field. Maine is split up into two major regions: there’s the southern portion of the state where a lot of the economic growth is happening, a lot of commercial activity. And then there’s the northern part of the state where there’s mostly large land parcels, nearly 100% residential in that area. So the surveyors that are working in the southern Maine aspect, there’s definitely commercial activities and development on the engineering side of things, construction. And then on the northern side, which is like the largest land mass, it’s essentially all residential work. There has been a big boom in the last couple of years with solar farms. There was a state initiative, incentives for the solar development, and that has definitely been occupying a lot of surveyors. There is a lot of development in the northern regions because there are large land parcels that they are able to convert to these solar farms. So that’s been a big job sector for the past couple years here.
2. About how large is MSLS? How many members? Compared to previous years, is membership growing or staying steady?
We range from about 275 to 300 members on a very stable basis.
3. Do you measure the ethnic diversity of your membership? Do you have an idea of the percentage makeup?
We do not. That said, there is little ethnic diversity in Maine. Anecdotally, there have been more women entering the profession but surveyors in Maine are overwhelmingly male.
4. How would you say MSLS has grown the most over the years?
This is our 50th anniversary year. We’re going to have an annual meeting in the fall to celebrate. But there have been some major changes. When I first got involved MSLS was 20 years and a lot of the original charter members were still heavily involved with the society. Many of them are retired now or have passed on, and we have a group of professionals who were trained or mentored by them running MSLS right now. We’re getting ready to retire. … (The) MSLS, we were quite active 30 years ago, and we’re either maintaining that level of maybe there’s been a slight decline in membership, so we are trying to liven things up now.
5. How has that growth benefitted MSLS members?
Most of our educational offerings and seminars are well received. We have been emphasizing the value professional educational offerings and have built good connections with other associations.
6. What do you think is affecting the growth of the land surveying profession in general the most? Lack of awareness? Training? Lack of Education? Technology? Or do you think the profession is growing in other ways?
I think the people that are in it right now are a fairly reclusive bunch. They more or less avoid the spotlight, and I think that’s probably one of the biggest barriers is that they’re not self-promoting. We don’t have a lot of marketing into the profession and I just see that as a general characteristic is that reclusive nature of a surveyor. And that just leads to lack of awareness, lack of public perception of us, and both Don and I are working diligently to drive to curb that.
7. What would you say is the marquee survey project that has been completed in Maine? What would you say is one popular survey project underway in the state at the moment?
The one I really would light to highlight is call Rock Row and it’s a multi-use development. It’s this grand idea. It’s 110 acres and it’s currently underway. It’s a walkable village and it’s really centered around an old dismantled aggregate mine, a gravel quarry — it used to be called Old Blue Rock — and the quarry is 400-feet wide and 300-feet deep, and it used to be a mine, and they are converting it into this walkable village. It includes retail, dining, over 700 residential units, office space, health care. There’s an outdoor amphitheater for entertainment. There’s transit hubs so the rail line runs through it. It’s extremely accessible and it’s a really prime part of the state and they are developing it into this awesome village to incorporate your whole life spectrum of shopping malls, grocery stores and medical facilities — the whole bit.
8. Do survey professionals need their license to be involved with the MSLS?
Yes as full members. We do have an Associate category for Land Surveyors in Training (LSIT) and others with interest in the profession.
9. What rules or laws are on the books or up for review would you say threaten the survey profession in Maine?
None at present but we constantly monitor legislation with a paid lobbyist and attend State Board of Licensure meetings.
10. What is the best way for someone to get involved in MSLS?
Simply contact me (Bruce Bourgoine) or any MSLS officer or director. We have six local chapters that are also good pathways to connect with the organization.
11. If you are a surveyor in the state of Maine, what kind of quality of life (salary, projects, work-life balance) would you say someone can expect?
A lot of our survey firms are smaller operations. Most of them are less than five people and when you get into a work environment like that, you have a lot of influence over the projects that you have, and the value of the employees here is very high, so you’re able to balance that work-life spectrum just because your skills are in such high demand that you kind of get a little bit of say on how you’re able to balance that. Some aspects of our job we’re able to do from home. We also get a great balance between office time and field time.
12. What do you think makes Maine a great state to practice the land surveying profession?
Certainly, Maine offers a great variety of possibilities in a growing micro-urban environment of the greater Portland region to a long coastline to small towns and immensely forested regions allowing someone to fit lifestyle with their practice.
There’s definitely a lot of opportunity here. A lot of opportunity especially if you’re an outdoorsy type. Maine has an excellent climate. It’s fun to be out in the woods. You’re not concerned about too many deadly things. The weather is usually pretty manageable. Maine is just a great place to be. You’ve got the mountains, you’ve got the oceans, we’re pretty friendly. Here, if you’re into surveying, you can become involved and make an influence in any realm that you’re looking for.