Women In GIS: Ruth Bowers

March 6, 2001

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What is your position in your company?

I am a GIS Processor/Technician at TerraPoint LLC, Houston, Texas.I found this particular position through an IS employment agency.The organization that initially brought me to GIS was the City of Houston (Texas) Planning and Development Department, where I worked for over 7 years.I have to admit that my discovery of GIS was pretty much a happy accident.I was working at the City of Houston Research Division doing software support, desktop publishing, a little bit of Atlas GIS, and other things to support the planners there, when the GIS manager approached me.I went to work for the GIS group, got bitten by the GIS bug, and the rest is history.

What is your background?

I have a BA in Liberal Arts with a major in geography.I went to college before GIS was taught much, so all of my GIS training has been through continuing education classes and on the job training.I've taken several ESRI-certified classes, and I've read a lot of user manuals and programming books from cover to cover.I also owe much of my training to more knowledgeable and experienced colleagues and acquaintances that were kind enough to spend time talking to me.

Would you recommend GIS to other women?

Yes, definitely.I would recommend starting out at a fairly large organization that has been around for awhile.That way you'll be able to get a good foundation from experienced people.Also, if you didn't take computer programming in college, you need to take the initiative.Don't worry that much about what language you start out in.You'll need to learn several anyway; and once you learn the principles of programming, you can pick up other languages more quickly.Figure out who are the most experienced and creative people and ask questions.Look at what the people in positions above yours are doing and figure out what you need to do to get there.The worst thing you can do in GIS is simply learning your own job.

What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud.

To be honest I think I'm most proud of simply being able to acquire enough GIS skills to be able to do what I want to do.Considering my lack of training in college, I 'm very happy about the way my career has turned out.

What does your typical day or week look like?

I just started this position, so my partner and I are in the process of learning the path that data takes in this organization.My time is split between: discussing how we want to organize our work; discussing the technicalities of various GIS processes with our manager or other colleagues; writing scripts; running scripts; writing our help files; and pulling up data in ArcView or ARC/INFO to determine if our scripts worked and that the data is of good quality.The computer systems here are organized in such a way that we can automate almost everything we do.About once or twice a week our manager will call a formal meeting with our project group, the production group, or the whole GIS group.Ongoing issues are disk space, allocation of machines for processing, and client priorities.We write scripts mainly in AML, Avenue, and C Shell.I'm a little rusty on AML and have never written C Shell scripts, so I'm spending some time at home boning up on these things.In the near future, our duties will expand to include producing our final product, that is creating hardcopy maps and loading data onto CD's or DVD's.

Why is GIS an exciting industry in which to participate?

The main thing about GIS that has kept me excited is that it is such a broad field.There are always new areas to explore.For example, although I've been working in GIS full time for over 5 years, I'm just starting to work with TIN's and GRID's.

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

The truth of the matter is, I'm just kind of going along with the flow.I'm not sure what to think about the migration of ARC/INFO to the Visual Basic world.

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

Since my degree was a liberal arts degree, my strong point was doing research in general.I had a fuzzy picture of myself doing something like working for a newspaper or other organization doing support research for other people and gradually learning enough to do my own research.

Email: rhbowers@swbell.net
URL: www.transamerica.com/Business_Services/Real_Estate/TerraPoint

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