Women In GIS: Adena Schutzberg

January 3, 2001

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What is your position in your company?

Right now I'm head, ok, "principal" at my own consulting firm, ABS Consulting Group, Inc.I've been here since Sept 1, when I started the company.I've been in GIS for about 11 years now (yikes!).I think the best way to explain how I got here is to say that I've been paying attention during

Adena Schutzberg
the time I've been in the industry.By that I mean paying attention to myself (what I "like to do") and the industry (what's needed, demanded or missing).

What is your background?

I got here through a typically random process.I studied chemistry and geography in college (University of Chicago) and went on to get a masters degree in geography (Penn State).I didn't study GIS at all; I really only took two "computer" classes during those 6 years - one in geographical statistics, the other programming in FORTRAN.My Dad was the one who knew about the "computer thing" - he was an engineer.He gave me my college graduation present when I was a freshman - the very first Macintosh.

Out of school I got an internship that combined geography and chemistry - I worked at Arthur D.Little (Cambridge, MA) in the Earth Science and Engineering Unit.I walked in and they said, "Oh, you make maps - here." I was handed a box of AutoCAD, R9.I had a ball learning it.One day, after the Exxon Valdez oil tanker hit the reef in Alaska, I was "loaned" to the Marine Sciences Unit to work in an organic chemistry lab.That led to travel to Alaska and mapping several thousand sampling locations.Eventually ADL set up a GIS practice, and ran the day-to-day operations, using an AutoCAD based GIS, Geo/SQL.During that time I also managed to squeeze in several semesters teaching geography at local colleges.One note on that: if you want to learn to speak comfortably in front of people, teach a class!

I actually answered an ad in the local paper to get a job at ESRI.After 8 very exciting years and many different positions in products and marketing, I left to head up the US office for Cadcorp, a small UK based GIS company.After a year alone in the states, I was ready to strike out and "hung out my shingle." My goal is to do all the GIS work I consider "fun" and see if I can make a living.So far, so good!

Would you recommend GIS to other women?

I think GIS is a fine place for women.There were 4 women in my grad school geography class (of 17!).Three of us are doing very well in GIS - my two geography classmates are at ESRI and Intergraph, respectively.

I'd give the same advice to men and women.Figure out which "part" of GIS turns you on, or you think might someday.Is it training? Marketing? Programming? Making pretty maps? Using GIS in your favorite area - forestry, oceanography, biology...? I think the most exciting thing these days is taking the technology and its perspective into new areas.

What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud.

This may sound funny, but it was the first ArcView extension I wrote.It's called CADTOOLS and I wrote it to enhance some of the capabilities of the very first version of ArcView's CAD Reader.The fact that five years after I wrote it, it is still in the top ten downloads for ArcView amazes me.I like being part of a community that is so "sharing" oriented and it's nice to know I contributed too!

What does your typical day or week look like?

As a consultant, what I do is really determined by what my clients are asking of me.Much of my time is spent with my TenLinks.com Mapping/GIS editor "hat" on.The Map/GIS section of Tenlinks.com is a directory of selected GIS sites on the Internet, so I'm always trolling around for new sites to add.In addition, TenLinks puts out a GIS newsletter, the GIS Monitor, every week - so I'm keeping up with the latest news and trying to figure out what it means for the industry.

I spend the vast majority of my time tracking down sites and researching stories on the Web.I enjoy playing detective.I do get a fair amount of e-mail - and try to be conscientious about answering promptly.And, I do spend a lot of time writing - for TenLinks, and for some of my freelance assignments for magazines and other clients.

I'm lucky in that I really enjoy writing, something I didn't realize until about six years ago.I got a call from the editor of a CAD magazine asking if I could write about raster to vector conversion.I explained to her that I knew very little about it.Her response: "that's perfect!"

My meetings are generally about confirming what the client needs and agreeing on a plan.I do the work myself for the most part, though I'm lucky to have some fine "editors" looking over my writing.

Why is GIS an exciting industry in which to participate?

I think it's because the technology and its perspective are slowly weaving themselves into daily life.I'm a geographer by training, and I take some measure of pride pointing out to my friends that "Geography Matters." These days, they recognize it themselves!

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

It has to do with how well we find our role in the wireless age.In a sense it's the challenge of how we make sense of "when geography matters" and "when it does not."

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

I thought I wanted to be a chemist, but really had an open mind, something you run into at a liberal arts college.I think that running into many strong geographers as a student, and later in industry, convinced me that geography, and by extension GIS, was for me.

Email: aschutzberg@tenlinks.com
URL: tenlinks.com
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