Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So...what do you do for a living?

Otherwise known as the "cocktail" question.  I'm sure you've been to a social gathering where you're familiar with some individuals, less so with others.  During the course of the evening, eventually "the question" is asked what one does for a career.  For many, it's an easy answer - I'm a doctor/lawyer/engineer/etc...  For me, my response is generally met with a blank stare of confusion.

Me:  "I'm a Instructor for a GIS company."
Other person:  "GIS what?"
Me:  "I work for a Mapping Software company."
Other person:  "What's that?"
Me:  "It's a company that writes software to work with maps and the data behind maps."
Other person:  "Uh....."
Me:  "Have you seen Google Earth?"
Other person:  "Oh yes, I've used that many times - is that what you do?"
Me:  "No, not really.  Google Earth is just the beginning of what one can do with imagery and maps."
Other person:  "Excuse me for a moment...honey can I get another drink."

In reality, it's not that blunt but most individuals do not understand that most if not all mapping, whether it's for climbing, navigating, a pretty wall map, is created using software that is designed for designing maps.  Of course, the map is the front end that people see but the reality is that there's a lot more going on behind the scene of the map.  The attributes of the data - thinks roads or lakes for example.  The coordinates of the data - GPS units collect point or line data using a Geographic Coordinate System called WGS84.  The maps designed for the Internet all require software to visualize and analyze the vast amount of data out there.

But why talk about it when I can show you.  Below is a map that I quickly created from http://www.arcgis.com/ and then shared out as a bit of code to imbed into my blog.  It's a map of Quandary Peak - one of the many 14ers that I've climbed.

View Larger Map

Of course, this is but one small example of the infinite number of Geographic Information System (GIS) maps that have been created over the years whether with our software or the host of other software's on the market.  For additional information about the company, please visit http://www.esri.com/

But back to the "cocktail question" - what do you do for a living?  I teach cartography, database design, software extensions, parcel management, basic introductory classes and more to people from all disciplines of life.  Whether you work for the public sector or the private sector, the military or the non-profits, the K-12 teacher or the university professor, the person who wants to save the world or the person trying to determine where vital natural resources are located - your path may cross mine and we'll chat about how GIS can be that tool to aid your job.  It's a rewarding profession and I'm pleased to be involved with GIS for 18+ years now.

Climb On my friends...