Women in GIS: Heidi Whitehill, Scout Geographics

November 2, 1999

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What do you do in GIS?
My husband and I are co-founders of Scout Geographics which we started in December 1998.He is the creative engine for the company, providing logo/identity, a website, and graphic design support.I make the maps.

Heidi Whitehill
Prior to Scout, I was a health analyst for four years (1993-1996) at a consulting firm in Falls Church, Virginia.I was the lead cartographer during my time at Standard Technology.I moved to Kansas City to work for GeoAccess, a software and consulting firm niched in health care.I was a consultant for 23 months with GeoAccess before striking out on my own.

What is your background?
I graduated from Ball State University in 1990 with a B.S.in Geography and Political Science.Since my favorite flavor of study is Medical Geography, I chose Virginia Tech for Masters work.The subject of my thesis was accessibility to children's health program in Roanoke, Virginia.I received my M.S.in 1993.I attend as many geographically related conferences as possible, and I am enrolled in my second business class for beginning entrepreneurs.

Would you recommend GIS to other women?
Yes, I would and I do recommend a career in GIS.It depends on how formally a person wants to be involved with GIS.For a degree in Geography, I would investigate departments with a concentration in a preferred subdiscipline (like UNC, Va Tech, Univ.of Wash, etc.for Medical Geography).The Association of American Geographers has a good guide to schools.If going to school isn't practical, I think that motivated folks can teach themselves software packages such as MapInfo.Reading everything that you can get your hands and eyes on is crucial, too.

What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud?
Sometimes I think it's crazy, but starting a business is something that I wouldn't have seen myself doing two years ago.

What does your typical day or week look like?
When I'm not working on a client's project, I'm working on getting new business.I spend 5 to 10 hours a week reading about and contacting other geographers and data vendors.

Why is GIS an exciting industry in which to participate?
There are so many different ways to apply spatial analysis.The sky's the limit (sometimes!).With GIS, you can make processes better, faster, more efficient, and safer.This tends to make clients very happy.

What is the most important "next thing" that will happen in GIS?
I think that greater accessibility to software for business applications will help many more people understand the power and importance of spatial analysis.

Before you came to GIS, what did you think your career would be in?
When I started college, I wanted to be a high school History teacher.In the future, I would love to teach Geography at a Community College.

Email: Heidi Whitehill
URL: Scout Geographics

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