Women in GIS: Kim Anderson, GE Smallworld

By Joe Francica

Women in GIS
Kim Anderson
GE Smallworld

What is your position in your company?
Federal Market Development Manager...I am tasked with establishing GE Network Solutions in the federal government market, laying the foundation for doing government business, finding and prioritizing the many opportunities, leading the sales effort, and establishing strategic relationships.

What is your background?

I have worked 18 years in IT, the last 15 of which were in GIS. Prior to that, I was involved in medical research activities.

First point...I studied at the University of Michigan and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology. Although the content was not information technology focused, my academic preparation in science was sound. I later studied computer science, gained the knowledge base necessary to succeed technically, and pursed my career interests one step at a time. Even though not perfectly aligned with my eventual work, building a scientific foundation was essential for me.

Second point...I moved from place to place often over the years. In addition to being an information technology professional, I was a mother and the wife of an Air Force Officer. Knowing I would relocate every three years or so caused me to learn the job fast, make a difference to the organization, and prepare my replacement. In fact, it is important to understand that I gained much from the upward mobility involved in supporting my husband's military career. By the way, he eventually reached the grade of Major General.

I started working for Jack Dangermond at ESRI in 1988, which led to three consecutive positions with the company over 10 years. My first responsibility at ESRI was to establish a technical support organization at the corporate headquarters in Redlands, California. Prior to joining ESRI, I had three years of experience managing technical support for a Washington, DC, area software company. Always "sales aware", I conceived and initiated their first ever pre-sales technical support team. When I interviewed at ESRI I knew immediately that I wanted to join the organization to build a professional technical support department.

When the Air Force moved us to San Antonio, TX, three years later, I opened ESRI's Texas regional office. I established the San Antonio office, grew it for three years and groomed my replacement before moving to Washington, DC. When I left in 1994, we had added two states to our region, our sales were impressive and we had added application development and training to our offerings as well.

In the National Capital office I began by managing state and local business in a 5-state region. A few months later federal business came under my management as well. When I left in 1999 there were 60 people doing sales, application development, and training, and our revenues from federal business had increased dramatically.

During this time I had been involved in applications of GIS for health organizations.It wasn't my job, it was my passion. I wanted to spend more time consulting on projects related to bioterrorism. This was two and a half years before the need was thrust into the public eye, but I was interested enough in it to leave ESRI to join a consulting firm where I could focus on health applications of GIS.

A year later I founded my own woman owned small business, doing consulting and providing GIS solutions for health organizations. My husband and I made the decision to settle permanently in the Washington, DC area. We love the intense professional environment tempered by our weekend pleasure of escaping to fish and sail on the Chesapeake Bay, which has created the perfect lifestyle for us.

I was hired as a consultant to GE Smallworld in March of 2001 to advise them on doing business with the federal government. Their technology was so compelling and I enjoyed working with the GIS solutions team so much, I wanted to be more directly involved, which led to my employment in my current position on September 10, 2001.

With which programs are you involved at your company?

In short, I respond to the spatial analysis needs of the federal government. Most government agencies are well aware of Geographic Information Systems, and many have been users for years. They are experienced enough to know where they need additional functionality. The tools they have are usually desktop GIS products, which tend to be single user or departmental installations, not suitable for an enterprise with large numbers of users and HUGE databases.
I enjoy being able to offer a technology that fills the gaps in their current systems. "Smallworld", our core GIS, includes some unique features that many federal government GIS users require.A database architecture that supports the management of multiple disparate data sources, terabytes of data and multiple concurrent update users, and a robust object modeling capability are some of those features.This technology supports a variety of applications, many of which are related to National Defense and Homeland Security. Our communications suite of products is of significant interest to many government organizations because of the ability to model both inside and outside plant and the use of one seamless data model that allows you to trace the network at any scale. This means that in one continuous model you can trace a circuit from New York to Los Angeles, but you can also zoom in to as fine a scale as a specific port on a device on a rack in a room, etc, etc, within the same model.
Our solution is also unique due to the ability to analyze the physical and logical networks as a single system.This has tremendous applicability for organizations interested in homeland security and national intelligence.

What does your typical day or week look like?
My days are long and intense, and I like it that way.My job involves both current revenue generation and future business development, so I try to find the right balance between sales activities and building relationships for the future with partners, associates, and clients. In a typical week I am likely to make several sales presentations, meet with system integrators, negotiate teaming on federal procurement vehicles, plan our marketing activities, write a white paper, and contribute to a proposal submission.

What involvement do you have with other areas of utilities or telecommunications?

Utilities and telecommunications are part of the nation's critical infrastructure, which must be documented (mapped), analyzed for vulnerabilities, and protected. In the current world situation, in which terrorism is a real threat, knowing what we've got, where it is, how best to protect it and how to continue operations in the event it is damaged is essential preparation.Several GE colleagues and I are bringing together many technologies and capabilities that were previously disparate but are now being considered components of a homeland security system.

What is the most important "next thing" that will happen in GIS in the telco industry?

As most people know, the past 12 to 24 months have been tough for the communications industry. In the commercial sector, huge investments were made in infrastructure with very little return being realized. I believe that we will see GIS-based applications used to enable companies to better manage the installed plant and provide better service to their customers while keeping costs under control
The keywords are standards and interoperability. Having gained momentum due to the activities of organizations like the Open GIS Consortium, the need for industry standards has become painfully obvious after 9/11. When the communication system supporting emergency response goes down, provision of an alternative system can't be limited by format compatibility concerns. The goal is data sharing that will allow us to document the entire critical infrastructure, despite the fact most of it is commercial proprietary information. Of course security is of primary interest and it must be the top priority in discussions of data sharing.

What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud?

I am proud of leading others into successful careers in GIS. In the course of my career, knowing I was likely to relocate every three years caused me to find and start grooming my replacement soon after arriving. I have guided several fantastic people into positions of leadership in GIS and I have learned from them and enjoyed the associations very much.

Before you came to GIS, what did you think your career would be?
I planned to be a missionary doctor, and I continued to work hard towards that goal until I met my future husband in biochemistry lab in my first year of medical school. I decided to marry him, leave medical school and study computer science because that field would enable me to work anywhere the Air Force sent my husband.

Would you recommend GIS to other women?
I recommend a career in GIS to anyone with a sincere interest in this fascinating field, regardless of gender. It would have been impossible for me to plan the exact career I have lived. I am delighted to have moved into the GIS arena at a great time and I believe that the potential is there for long, successful GIS careers to be built starting right now.

Why is GIS an exciting industry in which to participate?
When I started in this field, in 1988, I noticed that people in GIS, mostly geographers, were in it because they loved it and truly believed in its importance. Nobody went into geography to make money, because there was little opportunity for financial gain. Today, the potential for financial gain enters the equation, but it is still true that practitioners of GIS typically want to make a difference in the world, and I like being part of that community. GIS supports decision making in a unique way. It is multifaceted and it involves rapidly changing technology and so many applications it will never be without challenges and growth opportunities. Simply stated, though, it is exciting because whatever role you play, you can make a difference.

Published Sunday, May 19th, 2002

Written by Joe Francica

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