The Internship That Mapped My Future

By Lauren Rosenshein

Ed. note: Directions staff met Lauren Rosenshein last spring at the ESRI Business GeoInfo Summit when she walked up to our booth and asked about our publications! Evidently she was successful in her quest for that internship, and reports on the experience here.

My name is Lauren Rosenshein. I am a native of New Jersey and I am just about to enter my senior year at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I am a Geography Major at McGill, with a focus in GIS. Geography is not a well known major, and I've become accustomed to my fellow students assuming that my major means that I can name all of the state capitals and major rivers of the world. I can name a lot of them, but we all know that the study of Geography is something more - for me it is a focus on understanding the spatial dimension of physical and human phenomena, the "why of where," and applying that knowledge to make more informed decisions.

This past summer, my last one as a college student, was a critical one for me. With the right job or internship I could be exposed to the real world uses of Geography/GIS in business and government. This would be immensely helpful to me in choosing my career path when I graduate. I realized early on that summer jobs can either be incredibly fulfilling or full of trivial tasks and responsibilities. I really wanted to see how GIS was being applied to solve problems, make businesses run more efficiently, and make federal and local governments more effective. I wanted to find an internship that would give me practical experience in my field.

Deciding to become an intern for the summer can be risky. While you may be able to include an impressive job title on your resume at the end of your employment, actually gaining valuable hands-on experience in your chosen field is uncommon. Many interns undertake menial responsibilities that only touch the surface of their field, if at all. Internships do not
often provide the type of expansion of knowledge that many seek. I was lucky enough to get one of those coveted internships that's just the opposite. I was an intern for the Technical Marketing team at ESRI's Washington, D.C. Technology Center. My duties were far from menial, and I learned more than I ever could have anticipated.

I started searching for GIS internships sometime around December of last year. There are a lot of them out there, but none that interested me as much as the one offered by ESRI. ESRI has a strong commitment to education and, more than anything, I wanted to spend the summer learning as much as I possibly could about GIS technology. My classes at McGill University have provided me with a strong base of knowledge, but I knew that I still had a lot to learn about the capabilities and application of the technology.

My advice to students seeking an experience like the one I was lucky enough to have this past summer, is that the most important thing you can do is "put yourself out there." I made the decision to attend ESRI's Business GeoInfo Summit in Boston in early May. The conference was a place for both large enterprises and small businesses to demonstrate the ways they are employing GIS to make better business decisions and increase productivity. Attending the conference were many of the GIS analysts and technicians from companies all over the country, as well as many high level ESRI employees. I shook the hand of every person I could, and gained contacts with businesses using GIS from all across the nation. I was also lucky enough to meet Jack Dangermond, the president of ESRI, and tell him how excited I was at the possibility of becoming a summer intern. I was the only undergraduate student attending the conference, and I believe that the enthusiasm and drive I demonstrated by attending put me a step ahead of my competition for the internship. Sometimes it is not only about what you know, but about your character and your drive to learn and adapt your skills.

Fortunately I was selected to be an intern at ESRI and I had a fantastic summer working in ESRI's Washington DC regional office. My internship at ESRI this summer has involved me in truly meaningful work and in an immense expansion of my knowledge as a geographer. When I arrived at ESRI this summer I already knew that Geography and GIS would be my career, but I never dreamed that it could be my passion as well. To me, this summer internship has been much more than something to put on my resume. It has been my window into the rest of my life, and my way to gain an understanding of just how incredible the technology can be.

Rather than being given what I would consider typical intern duties, I was constantly challenged to expand my skill set and utilize new and exciting applications of the technology. Some of my more challenging projects involved the server side of GIS technology, which was an area to which I had not been exposed during my university studies. ArcGIS Server and ArcIMS are two of the components that enable server-side GIS, which is one of the most rapidly growing areas of the field. I was given the opportunity to create several ArcGlobe and ArcMap services, some of which were used in demonstrations at ESRI's International User Conference in August. This was one of the most exciting aspects for me, as I knew that the work I was doing would be shown to thousands of GIS users from all over the world. Each project I worked on was new to me and required knowledge beyond that which I had brought to the job. I had to rely on the amazing team of people on the Technical Marketing staff to share with me their years of knowledge and expertise.

ESRI considers continuing the education of its employees very important. One of my biggest surprises when I got to the ESRI Technology Center was that, as part of my internship, I would be allowed to enroll in one of the classes offered by ESRI's Educational Services department which are taught at the technology center. I enrolled in Geodatabase Design Concepts and was joined by one of my fellow staffers from the Technical Marketing team. I learned a lot of valuable information about geodatabases, yet another aspect of the technology to which I had had minimal exposure at McGill University. I was also exposed to the way that ESRI is run. Encouraging staff to take classes and constantly expand their knowledge are things that I did not know went on in the corporate world, and that is something that excites me when looking towards my own future.

Looking back on my experience this summer I cannot help but feel lucky. While I always knew that GIS was a field that would offer me fantastic challenges, job opportunities and security, I never knew that I could develop such a passion for it. A field that offers constant mental challenge and intellectual growth is rare. My internship at ESRI has made me realize that not only will I be doing something that is important to the way our society runs, but it will also be something that I can truly enjoy doing. I have found my passion, and it only took one fantastic summer internship. Begin your search early, show enthusiasm, and you are on your way to a great career in GIS.

Published Friday, September 29th, 2006

Written by Lauren Rosenshein

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