Women In GIS: Tina Cary

By Directions Staff

What is your position in your company?

I am founder and President of Cary and Associates.I started the company in March 1998.I've been in GIS since 1978: I developed a co-registered database (topography, soils, population, and Landsat data) and a query system to do my dissertation research.

Tina Cary
What is your background?

My undergraduate degree was in Mathematics and Computer Science.As a Purdue undergrad, and in need of a job, I saw a sign in the Computer Center about a position as a computer operator at the Laboratory for Applications of Remote Sensing.I had no idea what remote sensing was. (The year was 1971.Who knew?) So I got the job, and was working there when the first Landsat was launched in July 1972.To see the Earth from 500 miles up, in 110 by 110 mile chunks, with detail down to the acre, was incredible.That really explains the rest of my career.I went to graduate school in Geography, and used GIS and remote sensing as tools in my research.

Would you recommend GIS to other women?

Yes, I would recommend GIS to anyone.To me, GIS is similar to such things as statistics and psychology, in this way: for some people, GIS or statistics or psychology is the topic of study, while for other people it is a tool to be used in other fields.People can be in GIS and be doing many different things: selecting and analyzing data; developing new software tools; teaching people how to use GIS; marketing GIS products; advising firms how to select a GIS software or service vendor; and on and on.The possibilities are numerous.A person who is introverted and analytical will choose a very different direction from someone who is extroverted and loves to persuade people.

For someone who wants to get started in GIS, surfing the Internet is a way to become familiar with terminology and activities in GIS.Books are another resource you can fit into your own time schedule.Next, look for activities in your area associated with Geography Awareness Week (annually in November) and especially with GIS Day (19 November 1999). The Web site is http://www.gisday.com.Most likely you will find an organization within driving distance that is hosting an open house or demonstration.Your objective in attending is to meet people from the host organization, and find out what they do, what they like about it, how they prepared for it, and who else in their organization they would recommend you talk to.And possibly, what kinds of positions they have open and what background is required.

You could also investigate what professional meetings related to GIS fit your time and money budgets.In many cases, a registration for viewing only the exhibits is quite modestly priced.This will give you an opportunity to see demonstrations by the vendors and to meet people and ask questions.Recruiters attend these meetings too, and can advise you what you need to be qualified for the positions they are seeking to fill.

At this point, you should have a fair idea whether you can be hired into a GIS position with your present background and skills, or whether you need education (college courses) or training (short courses offered by vendors, strong focus on how to use their product) to be considered for the position you want next.

What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud.

Right now, I have to say it is that my company is growing.

What does your typical day or week look like?

The answer here varies a lot with the number and status of contracts. Because my company is young, I do a lot of marketing, and I try to accomplish a lot without spending a lot.So e-mail is a major part of that.I have international clients, and most of the communications are by e-mail, a few by phone.Meetings are fairly limited, generally one face-to-face meeting to learn what is needed, one to present the proposal and sometimes one to present the deliverables; meetings rarely occupy more than 10% of any week.In general, I spend an hour or two every day on e-mail; I try to put in at least a couple of hours a week reading journals and surfing the Web to stay current in the industry and to identify opportunities.The majority of my time involves writing proposals, doing the work, and writing reports.The remainder involves such things as negotiating contracts, billing, updating the company Web site (http://caryandassociates.com), accounting, purchasing, and all the other elements involved in keeping a small business functioning.

Why is GIS an exciting industry in which to participate?

To me it is exciting because something new is always happening, often because of advances in technology.

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

The internet and World Wide Web are creating opportunities we can barely envision.The Internet is proving itself as a tool for both business and learning.In the past, learning about GIS happened at a limited number of colleges and universities, and on the job.With the tremendous growth in distance learning (see Forbes June 16, 1997), more people will have access to courses in GIS.And with the strides in mapping on the Web, they will be able to have access to appropriate tools and materials, no matter how remote their location.These developments will facilitate "e-government" which is quite possibly the most important "next thing" that will happen on the Internet and in GIS.Citizens will be able to study planning and zoning maps in the comfort of their homes, compare model results for ballot initiatives, even manipulate the variables themselves to compare various results, and thereby make informed choices (voting on the Internet, of course) about issues that affect land use and their quality of life.

Before you came to GIS, what did you think your career would be in?

At one point, I thought I would be a high school math teacher (partly because my high school math teacher, Mrs.Swanson, was the most respected teacher in the school).

Email: Tina Cary
URL: http://caryandassociates.com

More Women in GIS

Published Friday, January 21st, 2000

Written by Directions Staff

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