In 2016, Directions Magazine launched a series of articles dedicated to celebrating the innovations and impact of the men and women in the trenches of the geospatial industry. This humble series, written by Dr. Joseph Kerski, was called GeoInspirations. Today, the series has grown into a phenomenon, and morphed into one of our most popular podcasts.  

Over the years, Dr. Kerski’s inspirational interviewees have delivered everything from career advice to life lessons, inspiring new geospatial professionals to craft innovative careers. For today’s post, we’ve collected some of their best advice to new geospatial professionals—timeless advice for all professionals. 

 Advice from the Pros 

“Keep asking yourself, ‘What can I do?’ … All of us are capable of a lot more than we need to use during our everyday jobs. Some may be skilled programmers; others may excel in video editing or even building sculptures from wood. But what would happen if one would bring these skills to the table? If an educator who builds scale models of Star Wars figures during his or her free time started to model mini-worlds to explain geographic topics, for example? That’s where innovation might come from: mixing worlds, blending skills, and striving forward!” 

— Dennis Hunink, “GeoInspirations: Dennis Hunink – Educator, Developer, Innovator” 


“When you are starting out in a new profession, you are not considered a leader. You’re simply learning the ropes. During this time, which spans years, it is critical that you are connected with the leaders and tracking the issues that keep them up at night. This is the best way to make a difference in the field while developing a powerful network. The opportunities that will come your way with this approach are far greater than anything that will happen with a 4.0 GPA. It is also the quickest path to becoming a leader yourself. Strive to make a difference for others as you journey forward. Don’t focus on yourself. True joy, happiness and success comes from making a difference.” 

— David Neils, “GeoInspirations: David Neils – Nature Champion, Career Connector” 


“Keep a sense of adventure! Understand geography as a way of life. Promote and explain geography to the lay audience. Involve yourself at the local and state levels. Network with geographers and non-geographers. … And by all means, get out of the office and see the world!” 

— Bill Strong, “GeoInspirations: Bill Strong, Focused on What Matters” 


“Be an expert and build your reputation. This creates instant credibility, which helps differentiate you. Being able to provide confidence on what will happen in the future in an uncertain world is a powerful thing. [I] also highly recommend learning from a mentor. Find someone successful and learn from and partner with them. … Expose yourself to other disciplines as well so that you can develop as a leader. If you want to work in business, then you should learn the language of business …” 

— Dr. Lawrence Joseph, “GeoInspirations: Dr. Lawrence Joseph – Applying Geography for Better Business” 


“… don’t be afraid to ask questions. Seek out conversations with a variety of people, especially those who have different positions than you.”  

— Madison Vorva, “GeoInspirations: Madison Vorva — A Voice for Change” 


“Everyone should ask themselves: how can we help others? For years, I have hired or helped hire students from SDSU, to give them a summer (or two, or three) of GIS hands-on experience. This benefits their future employer, who, I’m happy to say, might be with me! 

“Don’t be idle. What professional organization do you want to join? For me, it’s the AAG and URISA. I have my GISP. I encourage others to get their GISP. While software certification is useful, for me, when I am hiring, I want to see professional involvement. Software can always be learned. Volunteer. … Participate. Going to a conference, academy, symposium, or summit? Don’t just attend. When you can, present. Host a workshop. Moderate. Make a map or app. Put yourself out there and have give-and-take with others — communication and collaboration. 

 “There are many job opportunities out there; you need to take a leap. You may need to move, more than once.”Ra 

—Lauri Sohl,” GeoInspirations: Lauri Sohl – Enabling a Smart City, and Giving Back to the Community” 


 “Stay on top of the technology so you know where GIS is going and how to apply it. Be a lifelong learner. Technology will drive what you can do. Look for ways of applying it to the world around you. Engage in the community. Partner with others; you cannot do it by yourself.” 

— Randy Raymond, “GeoInspirations: Randy Raymond, Bringing schools & communities together through meaningful GIS projects” 


 “[Learn] how to be more efficient so we can use our time more wisely to accomplish great things and enjoy life to its fullest (work-life balance). Everyone is so busy! I don’t feel busy; I definitely have a lot of things in motion but I rely on the Lean strategies I’ve learned to create successful plans and accomplish goals.  

“… focus on the term “geospatial” instead of “GIS.” Our community and industry is not just one technology, tool, or software application. To be successful as a geospatial professional today you must be aware of all the many components and how they integrate. You also must be disciplined and flexible enough to learn new systems and quickly dive into new technologies instead of staying anchored into something just because you’re good at it.” 

— Michelle Ellington, “GeoInspirations: Michelle Ellington—Making efficiency a priority” 


 “The community you’re part of is a lot bigger than you may realise. There are so many ‘ordinary’ people, all over the planet, that care deeply about geographical issues and want to hear from us. So, where you can, reach out and talk to them.” 

— Alastair Bonnett, “GeoInspirations: Alastair Bonnett – Defining Geography Beyond the Map” 


“Learn a broad range of skillsets – first from technical to soft skills. Seek out opportunities to speak up in public meetings, create maps for local NGOs, learn about Big Data, learn coding, understand where the technical landscape is heading and get some hands-on experience or find a friend to mentor you around some of the new advancements in not only the GIS and geography fields, but in the technical fields in general. Lead a public meeting (or co-lead one). Video yourself presenting and make sure you are a strong presenter. Get feedback from peers on your technical approach and your delivery. Experience is golden. Take an internship or fellowship. Don’t be afraid to ask for informational interviews to understand what your favorite industry is looking for. Contact the human resources department directly to set those up. Did I say learn code for emerging GIS professionals? Also RInsightsTableau….so much to learn. That’s what’s exciting about the GIS profession! Think outside of the box always: See how other industries are solving problems and think about how that might translate to the problem you have to solve. Write memos to you superiors about your creative visions. Be precise. What problem are you trying to solve? How will you solve it potentially? What is the cost? What are the risks? What are the rewards? Be bold – because you can do this!” 

— Breece Robertson, “GeoInspirations: Breece Robertson – Making a Positive Difference on Protected Lands” 


 “… Get engaged with your local or regional GIS community. No matter where you are in your career, your involvement is valuable. And when you are not surrounded by your GIS peers, you should be sharing what GIS can do. In many fields, the GIS expert may be cast in a support role. But remember, you have expertise using tools to help others see things in a different way which may give a project new direction or more meaning. So speak up and integrate your geospatial skills into your work portfolio, your hobby or your side job to demonstrate what you can do!” 

— Stacey Stark, “GeoInspirations: Stacey Stark, Touching the Future” 


“Take advantage of the knowledge of everyone around you. Those people around you, from levels below you to the top, can help tremendously. Don’t discount people – everyone has talent and knows something you don’t.” 

— Peggy McKillip, “GeoInspirations: Peggy McKillip – Changing the World” One Tree at a 


“One of the most important things for a new professional to understand is the breadth of things that GIS is used for. Everything from environmental impact assessments for new construction, to supporting disaster response efforts, to defence planning — and even mapping Mars. A lot of people don’t realise that the technology is even used for making 3D movies or video games…  

‘…take at least a few courses in computer science, particularly distributed computing or information systems. Consider learning about formal business analysis or project management. Focus on one particular industry that GIS is used in and become an expert about the use of GIS in that industry (for example, telecommunications, volcanology, hydrology, marketing, finance, and so on) — the list of choices goes on and on! 

‘…always remember, “GIS is Cool”. There are so many amazing things that can be done with GIS and it is a fun industry to be part of, so enjoy it! A lot of the work that we do is also really beneficial to the environment and society, and that is something that we can all be proud about.” 

— Nathan Heazlewood, “GeoInspirations: Nathan Heazlewood – GIS is benefiting the planet, enriching career paths, and…is Cool!” 


“Go sit at the feet of the great.” 

— Robert Saveland, “GeoInspirations: Robert Saveland – Geography Educator, War Hero, Lifelong Learner” 


And always remember:  

“Don’t settle for good enough.” 

— René Pretorius, “GeoInspirations: René Pretorius – ‘Don’t Settle for Good Enough.’” 

Reposted from The DirectionsMag Geospatial Community Blog, an extension of Directions Magazine. Visit us for daily geospatial news, exclusive articles, geospatial webinars, and podcasts. If you are interested in contributing, please email