Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Favorite blog posts from the Past

Well I may reminiscence here on my retro blog at metsguild.com on occasion.  This is after all a retro blog.

One of the best things I ever did at Washington College is to get Mr. Edward Redmond from the Library of Congress to come to Washington College and talk about his research.  If you ever get the chance descend to the depths of DC and visit the map library vault where you can see and touch, with gloves, George Washington's original maps, then go.  It's quite a thrill.

Thanks to then President Mitchell Reiss of Washington College and then Governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley for introducing Mr. Redmond's talk that evening.

On none other then Presidents Day.



Mr. Edward Redmond, Senior Reference Specialist and Curator in the Library of Congress, Geography and Maps Division, gave a lecture on the maps of George Washington. Mr. Redmond is not only an internationally recognized authority on George Washington's maps but prior to his work with the Library of Congress he taught Early American History at West Chester University and is now working on an atlas of George Washington's maps. Mapping the Past: The Surveys of George Washington is hosted by the Center for Environment and Society at Washington College, the Geographic Information Systems Laboratory, and the GRW Program. Video production by Digital Media Services at Washington College Event and sound production by the Washington College Department of Drama

Monday, February 10, 2020

5 Solid Tips for Finding a New Job in GIS for experienced GIS Professionals

I have been advising a large amount of college students for years on how to find a job in GIS after they graduate.  The advice stream started when I hired them as interns; usually four years before they graduated.  I recall one student intern who I hired without seeing him in person. He showed up with his Mom one day and had blue hair with a Mohawk.  Good advice.  Blue hair, a Mohawk, and a job today don't mix. Call me old fashioned if you must but it's old guys (and old gals too) like me that make a lot of hiring decisions and we, for the most part, don't like blue hair.  Mainly because our conservative customers who pay us don't like blue hair and Mohawks either.  Everything else is okay really but blue hair with a Mohawk.   Really you got to draw the line somewhere.

Most of my interns got jobs if they followed my advice.  I’ll do a separate post on how to prepare yourself for entry level jobs later.  Today I want to focus on folks who have at least a few years under their belt doing serious GIS work.

At my last GIS management job in Maryland I not only advised students on how to find jobs, I advised my staff on how to advance themselves as well.  That may have been a mistake as if they actually followed my advice, and many of them did, they quit working for me and went to work for someone else.  But I am glad for them that I was able to mentor them to advance themselves.  But then one day it was myself who decided to find a new job. And I followed my own advice as an example to my guild members.

There are many reasons why you may decide to start looking for a new job.  Here are some of them;

·        *   You hate going to work in the morning for any reason such as, well; if you do hate going to work in the morning you know the reasons so I am not going to rattle them off.

·        *  You have a pretty good idea that you are being way underpaid for your region and you don’t see any room for advancement in your current organization.

·         *  You spent the last five years doing the same thing, which you may actually like for the most part, but you feel you want to broaden your career experience.

·        *   Or you may be like me and end up going through a major life change that has nothing to do with work at all.  That’s how I ended up in Bermuda as an example.

Tip #1

Follow my Mom’s advice.  Don’t quit your current job until you have in “writing” a solid new job offer in your hand.  Feel free though to get into some side-hustles to test the waters.  Even if you simply do some volunteer work in GIS for some needy non-profit.  But hey honestly, I didn’t always listen to my Mom. But I should have.

Tip #2

Build your Internet profile up now.  Beef up your LinkedIn page and add more network contact’s especially in the career area you may wish to move too.  Make sure you actually communicate with them too and don’t just collect new LinkedIn connections like road kill in your rear-view mirror.  And make sure any other social media account you have represents you as a fine upstanding person who also appears to be neutral in regards to politics.  And everything else for that matter.  No one will ever admit to discrimination but it does happen and you will never know.  Get some of your professional friends to give you honest feedback as well on your resume and your social media presence.  I feel obligated myself when someone connects to me on LinkedIn to review their profile before I accept.  If I see something like a misspelled word; I am going to tell them.  Or their picture is like the best example of what picture not to post on LinkedIn.  If I really know them, then my comments might get more brutally honest.  If you feel brave then feel free to link into me and message me if you dare to want some brutally honest comments on your page.

Tip #3

If you’ve been doing GIS for five years you better be certified as a GISP, or actively pursuing that designation.  Too many employers are now requiring GISP even if the "Employers" really have absolutely no idea what it means to be certified and if the certification is actually meaningful.  Enough said there.

Tip #4

You need to keep at your continuing education.  Keep going to conferences and don’t just attend, but present at them.  Keep taking GIS workshops.  And most importantly, if you only have a four-year degree, you best get yourself into a decent graduate school (online or in-person it really doesn’t matter) and get a Master’s in GIS.  No pain, no gain.  I personally recommend Penn State.  What else do you expect a Nittany Lion to do?
Tip #5

Now the hard part.  Finding that job.  There are many search engines.  Use them all.  Although I will have to say that for myself, I am very fond of these job search sites;

And my old classic favorite, the GIS Jobs Clearinghouse.  I love these guys.  But they don't catch all the GIS jobs out there.

Well for me the hard part wasn’t finding “a job”.  I found lots of them.  It is just many of them weren’t where I wanted to be for the salary.  It takes a lot of time to apply for a job, and even more time if you get an interview.  Only to find out down the road that the salary the new employer wants to offer you wouldn’t support your family; or your dog for that matter.  My advice.  Be bold and upfront.  I quite often just flat out ask what their expected salary range for the hire was if I couldn’t figure it out from the advertisement.  But use caution here.  If they do have a salary range, don’t expect to get an offer more than the mid-range and even then, only if you are very well-qualified. If the application process is intense, then I would ask before I applied.  If just a few clicks and press submit then I would wait to ask if they asked for an initial interview.  If they wanted to fly me to Hawaii for an interview; well then, maybe I wouldn’t ask such a silly question about salary in advance.  But any offer to work in Hawaii best be way up there as the cost of living is astronomical.  But not as high as Bermuda was of course.

I hope you found these tips useful in your efforts to advance your career.  Good luck and remember that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side so please try not to burn any bridges when you move on as you never know if you may need to cross them again.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

GIS Designed Map Permanently Installed by Sultana

Last September, Daniel  Benton, Erin Bloodgood, Erin Beach, and Kayla Johns began work on designing a map that would span the 30′ by 25’ floor of a new education building designed by the  Sultana Education Foundation, a  long-time local non-profit institution in Kent County. The mission of the Sultana Education Foundation is to provide experiential education to students of all ages, fostering an appreciation and stewardship of all aspects of the Chesapeake Bay.

Image result for Sultana Foundation chestertown dedicates new building"

Their newly created Education Center was built in downtown Chestertown as an environmentally conscious LEED Platinum certified hub for educational activities, community awareness and environmental projects.  The building was unveiled in the September, promising to be an invaluable tool to the area for educational platforms and opportunities for local schools.

The Sultana Education Foundation approached the GIS Program a year ago, asking for a collaborative project that would lead a team to create a map.  The map would depict the Chesapeake Bay area as it would have appeared before the colonization of North America. In size, it was to be a map that included all of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington D.C. as well as huge tracts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

In an interview during the early stages of the project, Benton said that he had never worked on a map of a comparable scale. “It has been challenging to find data that meets the standards we are setting for ourselves,” he said. The opportunity for students to work independently on projects of this magnitude is unique to Washington College, where the experience they acquire is incredibly useful to their future professional lives.
The team finished the project in early April of this year and sent the map to Locust Grove Studios, a studio that specializes in creative design, 3D design, graphic design, and animation. They worked on editing and optimizing the color scheme and design elements of the mapping data that the GIS Program developed to fit with the building. In addition, they used their image enhancement programs to create a vivid depiction of the water through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and extended out into the North Atlantic Ocean.

This Fall/Winter the GIS team is looking forward to designing new mapping layers as part of a collaborative project with the Sultana Education Foundation, Locust Grove Studios and the National Park Service related to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Benton said they could “show just about anything, such as the routes of Smith’s voyages, archeological sites of Native American settlements, as well sea level and shoreline changes.” Locust Grove Studios has designed some map proof-of-concept data layers which can be shown from a high-tech suspended projector over the main floor of the newly created Education Center. These initial test layers have already proven the abilities of the combined map/projector system.

“I visited the new building when it was still under construction last year, but since they finished it over the summer I haven’t gotten a chance to see the completed product yet. I can’t wait to go see it,” Beach said. “I think it’s so amazing that I could help create and contribute to something that hundreds of people will see, look at, and learn from. I helped make this map, and now it’s a real thing that I can go look at. And it will last for years,” she said.

According to Benton, it’s supposed to last at least 100 years in its place by the door – quite a long lifetime.

“I would say this has been one of the most enjoyable projects that I have worked on at the GIS lab,” Benton said. “The new building is amazing and it is amazing to see this map that I worked so hard on in the building.”

At the WC GIS Program, we’re proud to see testimonials of our students that will endure long after they have graduated and moved on to their professional careers. Daniel Benton’s work with the Sultana Education Foundation is a testament to his skills and the opportunities available through collaborative effort between educational institutions. We look forward to seeing more work from Daniel before he graduates, and to the exciting future opportunities for Erin and Kayla.

Stewart Bruce Accepts New Position in Bermuda

n 2007, Washington College’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program fit into a single classroom, Goldstein 206. There were a bare handful of student interns and one staff supervisor. That was also the year that Stewart Bruce was hired by the current Director of the Center for Environment and Society, Dr. John Seidel. Taking over what had until then been a fledgling program, Bruce determined that the best way to serve the WC community was to have the GIS Program grow.

In nine years, Bruce did indeed grow the GIS Program, and currently the student intern population is just under 100, and there are 9 full-time professional staff. To accommodate the mass of employees, the GIS Program has operated out of the Dixon Business Park for the past 5 years. The two suites occupied currently have well over five times the original space of Goldstein 206.

In Aug. 2016, Bruce announced his departure from the WC via email and announced his move to a new job in Bermuda.

“I have greatly appreciated everyone’s efforts to grow the program into the best GIS Program on the planet,” he said in the email. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”

During his time at WC, in addition to growing the GIS Program, Bruce was an Adjunct Assistant professor of Anthropology, teaching classes in GIS, remote sensing technologies, and cartography.

Bruce came to WC from Pennsylvania State University where he was a senior extension associate. While working as Program Coordinator for the WC GIS Program, Bruce initiated a relationship working with the Governor’s Office for Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP), launching a project that looked at regional crime data sharing.

The GOCCP Grant is now one of the GIS Program’s largest and longest running, and we are currently pursuing a renewal of the grant to continue the work that Stew began.

Last year, the GIS Program launched the Earth Data project, which is a “huge deal for the GIS lab and the Center for Environment and Society,” according to Bruce.

The Remote Sensing project began a partnership that continues between the GIS Program and Earth Data, a local Centreville company that has been a fixture for over 40 years.

In his last year working with the GIS Program, Bruce also launched the METS Guild, a STEM program for students in grades 7-9 that allowed them to work on real world GIS-related projects, with a second track dedicated to 3D virtual worlds and gaming, and a third track dedicated to web development. After its first successful run, the Guild is now accepting applications for its second year.

Casey Williams, journeyman leader, is one of the student interns leading the youths in the METS Guild program. She said that Bruce was a boss who saw the best qualities in everyone he worked with. “Whenever a visitor would come to the GIS Lab or if were with him at a conference, he would vouch for us, support us, and drum up interest in what we were doing. Stew also encouraged and pushed us to go outside our comfort zones in order to not only develop as employees, but as individuals as well. I never would have gotten involved in programs like METS Guild or the training academy without him believing in my abilities,” she said.

Bruce’s goal was to expand the lab without forgetting the pillars of a Liberal Arts education. In an email he sent as a thank you last year, he wrote, “While our customers are obviously very important, our number one priority is now, and always will be, to provide experiential learning opportunities for our students and help guide them into the productive job of their future. It is a combination of a fine liberal arts education available at Washington College with the experiential learning available at the GIS lab that makes our graduates competitive in today’s world market.”

Everyone who met Bruce could clearly see the passion he had for the students who worked at the GIS Program. His goal was to teach them real world GIS skills that would help them go far in their future endeavors after graduation. He passed on all the knowledge he could and provided an environment here at the GIS Program where students could exponentially grow their skills under direct supervision of professional GIS staff.

It is apparent from the success of our alumni that Bruce accomplished that goal. Two of our most recent GIS alumni have gone on to work immediately after graduating thanks to their experiences here. Josh Hyde and Stephen McFall, 2016, have gone on to pursue careers at Booz Allen Hamilton after summer internships that Bruce introduced them to.

“Joining the GIS lab may have been the greatest thing I have ever done in my life,” McFall said in a previous interview about his internship experience with Booz Allen. “The lab offers so many opportunities that you just can’t get anywhere else. I would like to thank Stewart Bruce for all of the help he has given me along the way through my college career.”

Bruce is now working as an Information Systems Officer at the Government of Bermuda, where he acts as a project manager, working to implement a new EnerGov application. He also assists the planning department by providing GIS maps, manages the department’s BEMIS application, and trains staff in GIS skills.

Because of the nine years he dedicated working at Washington College, the student intern population has grown exponentially and the GIS Program has secured incredible projects and opportunities and aspires to continue growing.

Erica McMaster, GIS Operations Manager, has temporarily taken over Bruce’s role. McMaster is a certified GIS Professional and has more than ten years of experience working with GIS and ESRI software. At the GIS Program, McMaster is currently working on the GOCCP and MHSO grants.

All of the staff remaining here at the GIS Program are working hard to fill the gap that was left after Bruce’s departure. He was a phenomenal boss that will be missed.


Washington College GIS Mentioned in Police Chief Magazine

Every day our analysts and student interns work hard at creating useful products for our customers in hope to make a difference in traffic safety through Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It is not every day, though, that we get mentioned in an international online publication for our hard work, but one of our products was mentioned in the July issue of the Police Chief Magazine.

This issue mentioned a product we created for the Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO) and Maryland State Police (MSP); the 40 on 40 initiative. The MHSO team at the Washington College GIS Program, comprised of Sean Lynn, Michael McGahee, Alicia Shipley, and Dana Case, along with their student interns, worked on assisting MHSO’s 40 on 40 initiative through GIS mapping and analysis. This was a high-visibility education and enforcement (HVEE) effort to reduce alcohol-related driving during the Super Bowl on 70 miles of US Route 40 in Maryland.

Our analysts created an in depth report of previous crashes that occurred along that stretch during prior Super Bowl weekends in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. The team analyzed four years’ worth of data to show which areas of US Route 40 had the highest number of alcohol-related crashes, crashes by severity, highest crash counts on individual days, months, and times, and the total number of alcohol-related crashes that occurred during past Super Bowl weekends. There were 11 police agencies, including around 100 officers, that were involved in this initiative across Howard, Baltimore, Harford, and Cecil counties. Our team met up these agencies before the kick off to provide them the detailed report of their findings.

Previously mentioned in the Baltimore Sun, this effort proved to be a huge success. The use of GIS mapping to show law enforcement exactly where previous alcohol-related crashes are occurring along US Route 40 helped them to set up their DUI checkpoints along the roadway using a data driven approach.

The Police Chief Magazine stated the findings of this initiative: “Overall, during the Super Bowl weekend campaign, participating officers issued 641 citations, 604 warnings, and 204 safety equipment repair orders. There were 64 impaired driving arrests and 20 criminal arrests. About 670,000 motorists were exposed to impaired driving message boards, with another 900,000 impressions from the four billboards. Traffic safety organization Toward Zero Deaths Maryland helped disseminate messages via social media, reaching 12,000 followers and garnering 45,000 views. Maryland Highway Safety Office officials reported that the local cab company reported a 50 percent increase over average business on the first Friday of the campaign” (Wentlandt).

Brad Wentlandt, “High-Visibility Education and Enforcement (HVEE) Pilot Project,” The Police Chief 83 (July 2016): 26–31.
Image from Police Chief Magazine


Summer Kicks off at the GIS Lab

The 2016 summer interns have jumped into full gear at the GIS lab working 35 hours a week along with the GIS staff. The summer semester has begun very successfully as 26 interns have joined the team to help assist the lab in the plethora of projects being worked on, including 4 students interns that are working for Earth Data. The driven GIS interns that are at the lab for the summer semester include:

1 Graduated Senior: Koppany Jordan
5 Rising Seniors: Daniel Benton, Katie Walker, Erin Bloodgood, Christian Cooke, and Elizabeth Frye
5 Rising Juniors: Mark Christie, Casey Williams, Shane Manske, Jacob Hathaway, and Lindsey Arnstein
8 Rising Sophmores: Paige Guarino, Shannon Preen, Taylor Blades, Aaron Compton, Molly Flowers, Jiahan Lui, Morgan Perry, and Girija Ganeshan
3 Rising Freshman: Carl Williams, Emily Dobson, and Sara Kaminski
4 High School Students: Gavin Blue, Ryan Muller, Jervis Blake, and Phin Howell

The students are evenly distributed among all of the varying projects and grants throughout the lab. The GIS staff are grateful to have full time effort from these hard working students to put towards the projects they are managing.

Working at the GIS lab over the summer proves to be a very successful experience for the students as well. See below as some of the students express their reasoning for choosing to work at GIS over the summer:

  • Katie Walker, Journeyman Leader, explained that she “wanted to work here because of the wonderful co-workers and positive work atmosphere, as well as the ability to learn new skills by getting involved with more projects. Having worked here last summer, I understood that you can become more involved in the lab working over the summer than during the school year.”

  • Casey Williams, Journeyman, said that she chose to work at GIS because it “gives me the opportunity to get to know my coworkers better, to meet and get to know new students and employees, and it gives me the opportunity to better myself by working on different projects, while improving upon skills or learning new ones.”

  • Girija Ganeshan, Apprentice I, states that she chose to work at GIS this summer in order “to gain experience working in office environments.”

  • Koppany Jordan, Journeyman Leader, expressed that he “chose to work at GIS this summer because it’s an amazing environment to work in. It’s a great place to acquire new skills and be challenged in ways you don’t think possible. Staff are very welcoming and strive to help you see your fullest potential, no matter the line of work. That is why I asked to come back to GIS for the summer, so that I could not only continue to grow in this place and more fully develop my skills, but also learn something new along the way.”

  • Shannon Preen, Apprentice I, said that she “chose to work here this summer to maintain my skills learned this past school year and to open myself up to learn more this summer. I believe if I didn’t work here this summer, next semester when I return I won’t be as refreshed in the skills I have obtained.”

As an added bonus, Stewart Bruce, GIS Program Coordinator, has initiated a professional development session once a week for all staff and students in order to learn new skills that everyone can put into action for their professional careers. As the cherry on top of these bonus learning sessions, free lunch will also be provided. Everybody can certainly agree that Stewart Bruce is very adamant about the professional development for all the students and staff and we are grateful for his dedication to the lab and to everyone who works here.

The interns and staff are braced and ready to go for a successful summer at the GIS lab!


Congrats to the GIS Class of 2016!

Our seniors are heading off to bigger and better things, and they are certainly going to be missed at the GIS lab. Their hard work and dedication for the GIS Program is greatly appreciated and we are certain that each and every one of them will go on to do great things in the future!

A special congratulations to Josh Hyde and Stephen McFall, who will be starting their careers at Booz Allen Hamilton after graduation. The two interned there over the summer and dazzled the company. Read more about it here.

Our 2016 Seniors

Josh Hyde is an Anthropology Major and a History Minor. Hyde worked on the Maryland Highway Safety Office grant, focusing on traffic records improvement as a programmer. He worked on updating and testing an ETIX Geocoder that “can update location data and geospatial data for a given dataset. Once updated, this tool could be used on a county by county basis, significantly reducing the time students spend geocoding data.”

Stephen McFall is an Anthropology Major and has worked at the GIS lab for all four years of his college career. McFall has worked on the ECI Project, where he helped build a 3D model of the Eastern Correctional Institution in Google SketchUp. By adding textures in from Autodesk 3DS Max and importing the model into Unity, he created a virtual version of the prison to help prison guards organize and access important information.

Brian Gicking, a Mathematics Major, has worked at GIS since fall of 2014. The majority of his time at the lab was working for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) grant doing crime mapping. He quickly became a huge asset to the GOCCP grant, completing all of the reoccurring projects, like Safe Streets, and supervising other students. He fell in love with being a crime analyst so much from working at the lab that after graduation he plans to pursue that career path. Gicking also developed a huge time saving method for student timesheets, converting all time to be entered digitally on an Ipad, thus saving many trees as well as saving the GIS office manager, Kelsey Newcomb, hours of time when processing student time sheets.

Brad Janocha is an International Studies Major with a Near Eastern concentration. Janocha has managed many projects for the lab, such as the Megacities project and mapping opiate use in Maryland’s Mid-Shore Region. Janocha also was one of the leaders for the training academy for the first year students who were interested in learning about GIS. After graduation, Janocha is considering signing up for the Peace Corp and in the future hopes to own his own business. Janocha was a finalist for Student Employee of the Year because of all his work at the lab.

Jeff Sherwood, an International Studies Major with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies, worked on the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) grant, as well as on the Washington’s World and Megacities projects. In 2015, Jeff won the USGIF Scholarship for excelling in both academics and GIS work. Sherwood also was one of the leaders for the training academy put on for the first year students who were interested in learning GIS.

Koppany Jordan started his GIS internship on the GOCCP grant. After studying abroad for a year in Morocco, he came back to the lab and was able to also work on the MHSO grant at the lab, creating statistical analysis on crash and citation data, as well as creating crash hotspot maps on demand for many agencies throughout the state. As an Economics and Political Science/Religion major, he had an interest in economic and business development through the lens of GIS. Jordan plans to work this summer here at the GIS lab before heading off to California to graduate school.

Jessica Gough is an Archaeology and Spanish Major and a Music Minor. During her time at GIS, Gough worked on the George Washington Atlas Project, which was a collaborative effort with Mount Vernon to assess Washington’s Southern Tour. She also was very involved in the back end of Geoworkshops, GIS’s professional development program.


Hannah Ruff is an Art/Art History and Computer Science Major, and was the go-to person for web design and Photoshop. Ruff taught web design to the METS Guild students and also assisted in web development for other non-crime projects. Read more about Hannah here.

Leon Newkirk is an International Studies Major with a concentration in East Asia. Newkirk typically worked on general map requests as well as domestic violence, sex offender/daycare co-location, and homicides and shootings.He has worked on both the GOCCP grant and the Vehicle Theft grant. Newkirk also was a part of the team of students working on the Chesapeake Conservancy project.

Sean Emerson is a History and Political Science Major. He has worked on many projects during his time at the lab, including 3D projects and the Vehicle Theft grant where he worked on the monthly maps. Through his hard work and passion of GIS, Emerson was able to move up the guild and become a Journeyman Leader. Emerson is interested in using GIS for a career in national security. Read more about Sean here.

Hjordis Lorenz is a four year international student from Germany who majored in Clinical Psychology and minored in Spanish. For the past two years, she has been working at GIS on various crime mapping assignments (ArcMap) under the Governors Office of Crime Control and Prevention Grant (GOCCP) such as mapping locations of domestic violence, homicides and shootings or of recently released offenders. She has also worked on the Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO) Grant, focusing on DUI mapping and analysis. Lorenz was interested in working at GIS because it combines criminal behavior she learned about in class with real world data. For her future she is very interested in the interplay of crime and psychology.

Congratulations to our class of 2016! Thank you for all your hard work and good luck in the future!