Five Things I Learned Working in GIS at the State of Arkansas

September 28, 2011

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I had the opportunity to work for the Arkansas Geographic Information Office for 11 years. On August 22, 2011 I left to work for Sanborn. You can read more about that here

So what did I learn while working at the Arkansas Geographic Information Office (AGIO)?

  1. You don’t need to know everything about everything. You just need to find the best people you can and hire them. I was fortunate enough to work with a diverse group of people during my 11 years with the AGIO. Each individual brought a unique skill set to the team. None of us were or are rock stars in the industry, but operating as a team I believe we have made an impact.
  2. Keeping it simple is a key to success. Often it seems those in information technology fail to stop and listen to the problem before trying to present a solution - the old “a solution looking for a problem” approach. Some of the most successful projects I worked on were short on planning and implementation because they were simple. You know you have kept it simple when it just works. For example, this map illustrates the location and number of state network outages by city. It is refreshed every 10 minutes and is intended to provide users with the ability to quickly determine if there is an outage in their area. Understanding the business requirements and needs is critical to a successful effort. Sometimes it is good to wipe the board clean and start all over.
  3. Communication is paramount to success. I once heard a staff member explain the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) standards to an executive using a three point hitch on a John Deer tractor as an analogy. You only get to that analogy by listening carefully and understanding your audience. Technology is rarely the issue, people usually are. Most of us could write a book on this one. In my 11 years working with information technology individuals in the public and private sector I have rarely found an issue that could not be solved. That said, there were plenty of times when things fell apart due to an individual or group of individuals.
  4. It’s not about you (me). I had the opportunity to work with a number of folks in county and state offices. Seeing them be successful in the use of technology was and is very rewarding.
  5. If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t trying hard enough. I was fortunate enough to work for someone who believed in action and understood that sometimes you don’t get it right.

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