Thanks to all of those who helped make last week’s Geography career panel a success – especially our alumni panelists Angelo Taylor, Ed McCormack, Frank Leonard, Tee-Ta Walker, and Jason Milstead. While each panelist has followed very different career paths, they all stressed the numerous ways in which a background in Geography helped prepare them for ‘the real world’ – especially learning statistical skills, GIS software, census skills and above all learning out to write clearly, concisely and persuasively and the ability to synthesize and display data for critical audiences. Each also stressed the importance of networking and being able to work collaboratively. For a recap of the event, see the summary below.
Angelo Taylor characterizes himself as a “Business Analyst, Market Research Analyst and GIS Professional with 10+ years of experience researching, developing and innovating critical processes, tools, and predictive analytics to enhance cross-functional business intelligence and decision making for organizations spanning multiple retail channels including supermarket/grocery service, telecommunications, apparel, restaurant and drug industry”. He talked about the relationship between business intelligence and GIS applications for commercial and business purposes. He argued that business intelligence analysts still either underestimate GIS or don’t quite “get” what answers it can provide. At Coinstar, Angelo has been a kind of GIS evangelist, helping integrate spatial/location analysis and modeling into the company’s analyses and business strategies. Using GIS to aggregate disparate data sources is a powerful information tool to find new markets and evaluate existing ones. Maps help synergize people’s thoughts and also point out possible business risks and opportunities. Angelo also stressed the importance of learning statistical and database skills as multiple ways to manipulate data to draw out answers and see spatial patterns. Current software and programming languages he uses to create analytical products include: ArcGIS, Microsoft Stack, SQL and OLAP (for relational reporting and data mining.
•Statistical Analysis & Modeling
•Large Complex Databases
•GIS Modeling and Analysis
•Retail Site Selection
•T-SQL, Excel, Word, Access, PowerPoint
•ESRI ArcGIS & Exts, MapInfo
•PASW (SPSS), SAS
•Visual Studio .NET, C#, VB.NET, VBA
Ed McCormack talked about how he applies spatial models to help analyze transportation issues and problems. He traced his evolution from early days at UW Geography as a cartographer using pen-and-ink to draw maps, to an information researcher and then into someone who combines GPS with GIS. His experience includes examining the use of technology to improve freight mobility, developing freight performance benchmarks, and exploring the land use-transportation relationship. During his time TRAC, he was also responsible for managing a series of border and freight technology projects for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Previous experience also includes working as transportation planner/modeler for an engineering consulting firm and for a Metropolitan Planning Organization. He sees geography as situated midway between urban planning and civil engineering, and GIS as a very important tool for the ports, regional planning councils, engineering firms, etc.
Frank Leonard talked about how his diverse education as a geographer has helped him learn in many areas as he has built up his company, Key Mechanical, which manufactures & maintains refrigeration units. He stressed the importance of taking business and marketing courses and advanced quantitative skills courses. He has used the drafting skills he learned at the UW, as well as an expertise in civil engineering. His economic geography courses at the UW have also served him well in market development. He also stressed critical listening skills and always carefully researching and articulating your own needs before communicating them to others.
Tee-Ta Walker emphasized the importance of community, collaboration, data management and research, mentoring, networking and communications skills. She uses PowerPoint, Excel and statistical analysis tools every day. In her community outreach and recruiting roles for University Prep, she uses census data to pinpoint particular areas of the city. University Prep’s commitment to diversity also leads her naturally to sift through census data to identify potentially disadvantaged populations. She uses lots of social media to get buy-in from potential recruits and their families, as well as families of current U Prep students. She is always collecting and analyzing data and doing web-based research for both recruiting and assessment of enrollment statistics. She also does a lot of surveys, using both qualitative & quantitative methods. She has created a lot of streamlined analytical process for U Prep to help then better analyze the outcomes of their initiatives and better see the processes and patterns that result in their learning outcomes. Mentoring and networking are central to her job and her way of thinking about being effective professionally.
Jason Milstead describes himself as developing “new consumer experiences online that are easy to use for millions of users and quickly grow into highly profitable businesses. I enjoy finding the right balance of product design, technical efficiency and revenue growth to deliver value to my customers, product team and shareholders”. His specialties include: “web product management, $100mm+ p&l management, advertising sales, strategic partnerships, product/UI design, and agile/scrum development”. Jason related how he has built up his general management skills working at Real Networks, Rhapsody, and other online enterprises. He stressed the importance of being able to manipulate data and make sense of it. Whitepages.com is a top-30 website, sifting through hundreds of millions of data points, and puts a search engine on top of a database to get location-related results. Overlaying data on top of maps is critical for geovisualization of locations and trends. He also talked about the importance of writing skills, networking, and developing a personal brand through blog posts, meetups, Twitter and Foursquare.