Getting out Is a Good Thing

This entry is part 3 of 29 in the series Field Notes

Field Notes

Although I have been active in the surveying profession in several ways over the years, including serving as the editor of Field Notes, I really haven’t ventured out much to seek face-to-face encounters in various venues and settings, but that recently changed a bit and has produced a new perspective for me.

In the past month I have had three opportunities to step outside my comfort zone and contribute a little extra to our great profession. Having all three behind me now, I can say I am very pleased that I accepted the invitations, as I likely got much more out of the experiences than I provided.

The first was an invitation from the U.S. Geological Survey to present at a week of training for their scientists using GNSS data collection in support of their mission. I will not go into detail here because this training deserves an article unto itself, which will be coming soon. What I will say now is that I came away beyond impressed by the technical content these USGS scientists are immersed in.

The second was an invitation to present at the annual California Land Surveyors conference, which I had not attended in 15 years. I was asked to speak about the recently completed California Spatial Reference System Epoch 2017.50 project, which I was heavily involved with. But, it wasn’t giving the presentation that opened my eyes, it was being in the company of some 350 of my colleagues, many whom I knew or knew of.

I had expected to see a sea of grey hair (like me), or no hair, but instead saw a broad age demographic that included many people 40 and under. Although I was at the conference for only one afternoon, I came away feeling almost guilty for having gone so long without attending. I also realized how important it is for my generation to make the effort to mingle with our next generation and impart some wisdom and knowledge if given the opportunity. Our mentoring chances are not what they used to be.

The final experience was attending the Utility Engineering & Surveying Institute (UESI)-Cal Poly Pomona Surveying Geomatics conference to present and serve as a session moderator. I was encouraged to submit an abstract last fall, and to my surprise learned that I had been accepted a couple of months later.

UESI was formed as an institute within the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 2015, and this was their first conference of this kind. More information on UESI can be found here.

In this instance, I presented on the challenges of working in the dynamic 3D environment of California with regards to maintaining the positional integrity of survey control over time. I must admit, it was somewhat intimidating to see some of the people sitting in the audience, including the moderator. Let’s just say that they are people I have looked up to for many years and never dreamed of being in front of. But, I got through my presentation without anyone gonging me, so I considered that a win!

While it was an honor to be selected to present at a conference such as this, I had many more enriching takeaways from the time spent there. The technical sessions were outstanding, and the keynote speakers were informative and inspirational.

It was very clear that the role of the surveyor in the world of utility engineering is, or should be, significant. The utilization of remote-sensing technology has taken this discipline to a whole new level, and surveyors are being looked upon to take on the data collection, processing, and certification role.

We can’t let yet another ship sail while we stand on the dock complaining. We need to embrace this opportunity and infuse our expertise into the workflow. If not, I guarantee someone will.

The other aspect of the conference setting that was powerful was the networking. There were attendees from all across the country, from the public, private, and academic sectors all comingled in one place sharing meals, ideas, and great conversation. Additionally, the students from the Cal Poly Pomona Geomatics Engineering program were ever present, serving food, assisting with technical sessions, and hustling to keep it all together. They couldn’t help but absorb some of the energy and knowledge that filled the conference center for three days. Although I was a bit tired by the end, I felt refreshed with a new sense of optimism for the future of our profession.

I also vowed to step out of my comfort zone more often, if given the chance, to participate in the types of things I have spoken of in this article. Going in, I couldn’t have imagined how rewarding it would turn out to be. I encourage you all to take a step outside your comfort zone. You just might be surprised how good it feels.


This article appeared in xyHt‘s e-newsletter, Field Notes. We email it once a month, and it covers a variety of land surveying topics in a conversational tone. You’re welcome to subscribe to the e-newsletter here. (You’ll also receive the twice-monthly Pangaea newsletter with your subscription.)

Field Notes

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Getting out Is a Good Thing” Comment

  1. Scott,

    I enjoyed your talk at the UESI conference and agree with you completely, especially your comment about watching another ship set sail and standing on the dock complaining.

    I remember having a conversation in 1989 with a colleague and friend, the late C.Roger Ferguson, of UCONN, about how the surveying community missed the boat on GIS. Back then, and sadly sometimes still, surveyors would respond that GIS stood for “Get It Surveyed” yet they never took the time to understand the technology or the users’s needs. You were supposed yo hire a surveyor “just because”.

    I think the short book “Who Moved My Cheese” should be required reading for every surveyor standing on the dock.

    Thank you for your thought-provoking article.

    John Bean
    Anchorage, AK

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