Finding Your Voice & 40 Under 40

DON’T MISS XYHT’S OUTLOOK 2017, the 40 Under 40 (40 < 40) special issue. You have there a valuable resource. Be prepared to visit the future of geospatial: featured are the upcoming leaders of our profession.

Unless you are lucky enough to have one of these individuals on your staff, they are your competitors. If you are anything like me, that is not a scary thought— that is exciting! Competition demands I be better tomorrow than I am today. I am thankful for individuals such as these to inspire me.

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As I read the 40 < 40 profiles, several common themes emerge. Almost all of these professionals are college-educated, many with advanced degrees. Most volunteer their time to geospatially related non-profits—meaning, they show up. These are not simply jobs; these are careers. Many have traveled globally: a multi-national or global vision reflects in their work. They all use state-of- the-art technologies.

The sum of these parts—and the biggest distinction—is that they have found their voice. Are you under 40, dream- ing to make it on this list? The key ingredient is simple yet challenging. You must find your voice, that fire in your belly that inspires you. Passion moves people. Passion changes the world. The quest for your voice will either open the richness of your profession or indicate a need for change.

With passion, the term “work” loses its negative trappings. It is liberating when the ideas of career and hobby become indistinguishable. Be mindful that all work has elements of drudgery, but engagement should outweigh routine.

If you are an employer looking for superstars, my advice is nearly identical. Create a culture that enables your staff to find their voices. Also, have the courage to let go of the employees obviously not engaged. This can be difficult. You have to be honest with yourself. Are you building a high-performance team, or are you building a family? Teams, while certainly exhibiting many family qualities, know how to release the anchors to their greatness.

The quest for your voice will either open the richness of your profession or indicate a need for change. 

We also offer “Boom Behind/Boom Ahead,” by xyHt’s editor, Gavin Schrock, detailing the impact the Millennials—some herein—will have on the geospatial profession and related industries.

Sociologists have been developing a general snapshot of Millennial attitudes, and there are two that are oft repeated and relevant to this discussion: Millennials need a sense of community, and Millennials want to know their work has meaning.

This is a powerful combination with high expectations.The Millennials want to belong to something where everyone contributes equally. Having previously paid your dues has little currency. What you are doing today to support the mission means everything. From the Millennial perspective, a community should not hold its members down; it should lift them up. The biggest contribution a seasoned leader can provide, and should provide, is to help the younger staff find their voices.

This brings the discussion back to the start: It is difficult to find your voice if you are humming the same, tired songs. Finding your voice is easier when you are working with new tools and new modalities, like our 40 < 40. The surest way to protect, preserve, and promote the geospatial professions is to place the latest tech in the hands of our future leaders, encourage and support their educational pursuits, ultimately help them find their voices, and let them sing proudly.

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