The Annual Employee Review – A GIS Edition

December 20, 2023

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It’s that time of the year. When employers aim to document your annual progress through various forms or structured conversations. Let’s face it… it’s not fun. And all too often, it’s not really helpful. Whether it’s SMART goals you wrote before you knew your workload or projects for the year or a generic, catch-all survey given to everyone that doesn’t really capture anyone accurately – these employee review exercises feel like a time-consuming check the box task.

But what if we could rewrite the employee review process specifically for GIS professionals? What would that look like? What aspects of your work year would you want to see summarized? What captured characteristics would you be excited to see and share? What’s the GIS annual summary equivalent to your Spotify Wrapped results (or Apple Music’s Replay)? (Apparently I’m in Spotify’s ‘Vampire’ category for music listening habits?!)

Geo (Professional) Statistics

If you’ve ever watched a baseball broadcast, you quickly realize from the sportscasters’ commentary that they track a LOT of stats in the sport. Almost anything you can think of is tallied, averaged, and/or projected. Well, we work in the data and visualization sector. Imagine if we had similar data tracking practices (used in a fun manner, not in a big brother manner, or to throw us into competition with each other – just think on the fun angle, folks!).

Imagine the statistics we could spout off and display for GIS professionals? “Dana here has had a banner year expanding their UAV system use, recently setting a new personal record through their single capture of 75 million points!” Or, “Alex is focusing on specialized tasks, recently surpassing the 700 mark for buffer tool use in one calendar year.” The possibilities seem as endless as any sports almanac.

Imagine having your frequency breakdown of tool usage in your preferred GIS platform? Which did you use the most? Which had the highest rate of return for the infuriating error 999999? How many unique datasets did you work with this year? What’s your longest file name (and what saga does that file name entail, e.g. ‘version2_proj_reclass_final_FINAL’)? For which tools, file types, hardware/software etc. was it your rookie year (used for the first time)?

Your GIS Character

If your work this year placed you in a GIS character category for what dominated your time, what would you be? I admit I’m imagining each of these as stylized WWE-type character (think ‘the Undertaker’) from the relentless (data) ‘COLLECTOR’ to the tenacious (geo) ‘RECTIFIER’! But don’t forget other characters like the scheming (data) ‘ARCHITECT’ or the savvy ‘ORATOR’ (writer of grants & pitch-er of project proposals). Okay, we are clearly in the initial workshopping phase of character names. I’m open to all suggestions.

Perhaps this could be a design undertaking for Esri’s Creative Lab as a spin off series from their Geoween efforts. Please note, we’re focusing on the positive here. We’ve all had our ‘Raster Disaster’ and ‘Analysis Paralysis’ moments, but they don’t define your entire work year. (Though Raster Disaster was the name of our grad school coed flag football team and we were consistently terrible.)

New Checkboxes

Broad and open-ended or a Likert scale of set responses, those annual review questions don’t reflect everything you offer and bring to your work. Perhaps we could propose a checkbox addendum for GIS professionals just to help remind employers of all that you do for both your organization and the field that’s not captured in your job description. It’s not about checking all the boxes; it’s about showing the variety of things you may do that go unnoticed. Here are just a few ideas.

INSTRUCTIONS: Please place a checkmark next to any of the activities below that you have performed in the previous year as a GIS professional.


___ Explained a geospatial technology (e.g. GPS, LIDAR) to a non-GIS colleague or client

___ Shared someone else’s GIS work with others in the field to make their efforts more visible

___ Gave a GIS elevator speech at a conference, meeting, or social gathering to summarize what the GIS community does for and within society

___ Showed a mapping app, web map, or other geospatial resource with a community or family member to aid their daily life tasks

___ Discussed your employer’s use of and contributions to GIS with members of other organizations


___  Caught an error in provided data and fixed it before it impacted project results

___  Helped a colleague find where the heck that GIS tool is in the software menu

___  Ran an analysis for someone who was short on ArcGIS credits

___  Tweaked someone’s default map settings to make their work shine and the results more intuitive for their audience

___  Converted a data table into a map to level up your organization’s presentation


___  Replied to someone’s GIS question in an online forum, sharing your experience and suggestions

___  Made your code, dataset, methods, or research article, etc. open access for all to use

___  Transformed an alleged ‘ready to use’ dataset into an actual ready to use dataset for others

___  Scoured the internet to help find the data on that thing that someone needed

___  Talked about GIS career trajectories, opportunities, and options with fellow and aspiring GIS professionals

 Oh, the Places You’ll Go

That annual review form at work doesn’t capture who you are and what you fully do as a GIS professional. But remember, WE know. And we continue to cheer on your efforts and growth. We’re excited to see what you do next year. And the year after that. And the year after that….


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