Holiday Traditions Around the World, Thanks to Esri Story Maps

One of the things that’s so cool about working at Esri is our employees: we have countless opportunities to meet and collaborate with people from all over the world. Currently our workforce of 3,100 employees hails from 70 countries.

Shortly after hearing the first Christmas carol of the season (I believe it was a week or so before Thanksgiving!), I started to wonder about holiday traditions and celebrations in other parts of the world. What type of music is indigenous to my colleagues’ native countries? Did they grow up hanging lights around their houses like we do in the US?

These story maps gave me the answers.

Santas Around the World
Smithsonian Folkways Holiday Music Map
Smithsonian Holiday Decorations Map
10 Great Christmas Markets in Europe
Sweet 16–Holiday Trees That Amaze
 

Regardless of where you’re from and how you celebrate this special time of year, I hope you enjoy learning more about holiday traditions around the world.

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Don’t Put Your Job Hunt on Hold During the Holidays

Esri HR Partners Kristin, left, and Megan

If you’re like most of us at this time of year, you’re probably feeling a bit frazzled by the extra demands on your time. But if finding your dream job is on your to-do list for 2015, there are things you can be doing now to make that dream come true. These words of wisdom from Esri HR partners Kristin and Megan, originally posted last year, certainly remain relevant. So take a break from the holiday hustle and bustle to read through their tips. Leave us a comment if you plan to try one out, or if you have one to add to the list.

Happy holidays!

Job Hunting During the Holidays: Naughty or Nice?

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Inspiring Children to Learn About GIS

Many Esri employees celebrate GIS Day every year by giving presentations in their children’s schools and elsewhere in the community. Last week, Sandra, Nina, Jaime, and Patty from Human Resources were among them.

By Guest Blogger Sandra Maldonado

Volunteering at the Redlands Boys and Girls Club on GIS Day was a great experience. Spending time with the kids and sharing the importance of GIS and its impact on their world was a big hit. (Of course, the candy, cupcakes, and prizes helped a little.)

The day included a presentation with geography trivia, where kids worked in groups based on grade level and colored GIS Day printouts and a sign. This helped them relate to the importance of geography, the earth, and the many uses of maps. Other activities included coloring and reading a GIS comic book, learning about Mexico and its physical location on a map, and writing a postcard to Esri employees sharing their thoughts on GIS. Colorful cupcakes were the grand finale.

Nina and Jaime guard the cupcakes
en route to the Boys and Girls Club.

Overall, I loved working with children in kindergarten and the first grade, watching their faces light up when they won a prize and seeing their creativity in coloring the signs. But most of all, I loved their responses to the trivia. Did you know Elsa from Frozen lives in her ice castle in Arendelle, Texas, and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer uses a map to find children’s houses?

Thank you Esri for making this GIS Day so memorable.

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Getting to the Finish Line, One Step at a Time

Molly Zurn, a documentation product engineer on the ArcGIS Online (AGOL) team, talks about her life at Esri and on the slopes. She’s been here almost 15 years, the last seven of which have been on the AGOL team.

Before joining the ArcGIS Online team, what was your role?

I’ve always worked on documentation. My degree is in geography, but I was hired because I didn’t have any GIS or technical skills. I came from a teaching background and was brought on to write non-technical documentation to make it friendlier to the non-GIS audience. I started with internet mapping services (ArcIMS), then Geography Network and RouteIMS, and then joined my current team when ArcGIS Online really got going.

Talk a little bit more about what a documentation product engineer does.

Mainly we’re the advocate for Help, and our responsibility is to explain to users how to work with our software. Sometimes it’s nuts and bolts how-to; sometimes it’s conceptual information, for example why they would want to do something and how it fits in to the rest of their work. I also contribute to blogs and other types of messaging. It might be a one-to-one e-mail correspondence with the user, or internal documentation for Support Services and training staff to help them get ready for a new product.

The reason we are part of the product engineering teams is because early on we are involved with defining new product functionality and testing it. That’s really the only way to write something well and, as I said, we’re an advocate for the doc, but of course we’re also an advocate for the user. If we can’t write something because the software doesn’t make sense, then we very quickly go back to the developers or the architects or the product managers and say, “This functionality doesn’t make sense.” So we’re not in a little bubble just writing—for me, that’s what keeps my job interesting.

And are you the only documentation product engineer for ArcGIS Online?

I’m the only full time documentation product engineer, but there are about 10 to 15 other authors who contribute content for their component of the product. For example, the spatial analysis team writes all the topics that relate to the tools in our MapViewer where you can do spatial analysis. We have folks who write the topics that relate to hosted web services. The Zurich team writes about Web Scenes and then we have the team who writes about Web AppBuilder. I’m the publication lead—I make sure all those components are done on time and all get published on the day we release and that all the topics get handed over to the localization team for translation.

What do you think sets Esri apart as an employer?

Esri is very trusting and flexible. In some sense, the only thing that matters is that you do a good job and you get it done on time. We have a lot of collaborative meetings; people on our team are all over the world—Zurich, Beijing, and all across the US—so it’s certainly not a nine-to-five job. And that works so well for me; it just fits into my lifestyle. I have to do a lot of brainstorming and the most success I’ve had with coming up with ideas is when I’m out running or skiing or I’m walking my dogs. So for me, it’s the flexibility and a big reason why I’ve stayed here. And it’s also the people I work with. Everybody is respectful and is interesting and is interested in each other and mostly interested in doing good work for our users. That’s everybody’s driving motivation.

You mentioned the collaboration with Beijing and Zurich. How do you stay connected?

Well, I will say every year I’ve been here collaboration across teams has gotten easier. Esri has spent good energy on making sure we all have the tools we need to get our job done, and for a team like mine that is so dispersed, the tools to communicate with each other really have been essential. So we do a lot of online meetings and while you’re talking to each other on the phone, you all can see each other’s screens and you can be sending each other instant messages. These multi-faceted collaborative tools really have made the conversations easier because then you can focus on the task at hand.

Tell me more about your passion for running and skiing.

For whatever reason, competing has always been a part of my life. I feel like it’s part of who I am. I did triathlons in college but after graduating I didn’t have the time to bike, so running was more efficient. I live in Reno (Nevada), which is made for trail running and all types of skiing. The last 15 years, I’ve focused on long distance trail running, up to 100 miles, but I also enjoy Nordic skiing. Tahoe has a lot of local cross country ski races so I’ve competed in those, but I’ve also gone across the country and even internationally for competitions. The last ten years my husband and I have been doing team events, ski mountaineering, which is when you skin up a hill and then you take your skins off and ski downhill over moguls or backcountry or powder. So it’s been a great way to travel and stay fit, but also meet new people.

I understand you hold some records.

I think it’s been broken by now, but several years ago there was a ski mountaineering race where you had 24 hours to ski as many vertical feet as you could. (In ski mountaineering they calculate how many vertical feet you’ve done, not miles.) So I was combining my long distance running with the ski mountaineering and I broke the world record for women.

Is there anything else you want to add?

I was thinking about talking to you today and how the running and skiing fit into my work and vice versa. I feel the skills for both are so overlapping—the work I’ve done at Esri has really helped my running and my skiing, and the running and skiing have helped my work because the mindset and the day-to-day are the same. So much of it is about the planning and having a goal, and then really staying focused on the goal. When I’m in a competition running 100 miles, there are many points along the way where I want to stop because it’s too hard and I’m in too much pain, or I’m thirsty, or I’m hungry, or I’m cold, and I just have to remember that I really want to get to the finish line. And that’s the same with the work I do here. It can be stressful and at some point in every release it feels like it’s not going to come together. So just like the running and skiing, we all stay focused on the goal of improving the software or coming out with that cool new UI. In running it’s tree to tree, or in skiing ski pole to ski pole—in my role here, it’s getting one little project done then on to the next.

 

Want to do work like Molly?

We’re hiring documentation product engineers. Learn more about the positions and see if you’re a fit at www.esri.com/careers.

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Stretching the Limits of Technology: Systems Administrators at Esri

Whether you work for a small company or a large enterprise, there’s no doubt you rely on a systems administrator to keep your IT network performing at its best. I recently talked with Stephen, a sysadmin in our Information Systems and Technology group, about his role and what keeps him at Esri.

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Being at the Esri UC: “A Ridiculously Cool Feeling”

By Guest Blogger Rachel, Esri UC Student Assistant

When I got on the plane heading from New York to San Diego, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew there would be a lot of maps, and I knew I would be on my feet a lot, but “student assistant” was still a pretty vague term in my mind. Once I arrived, I quickly learned why – being a student assistant means many different things. From getting a behind-the-scenes look at the conference to learning what a banner stand is (and going on a scavenger hunt throughout the conference center to find them) to meeting thousands of fellow geogeeks, the week was an incredible whirlwind of people, activities, and – of course – maps.

While the first few days helping with set up and pre-registration were exciting, when Monday morning hit there Continue reading

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Doors to Opportunity Opened for Esri UC Student Assistant

By Guest Blogger Lauren, Student at Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS)

If I could sum up my week in one word, it would be opportunity. The Esri User Conference Student Assistantship Program provided so many opportunities during the conference, and it truly becomes what you make of it. The choices I made during the week will have a long term effect, and seeking every opportunity possible opened many doors.

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‘Deep Sea Dawn’ Shares Some Advice for Students

Dawn Wright (a.k.a. “Deepsea Dawn”) is Esri’s Chief Scientist as well as an ocean scientist, geographer, and GIS author. There isn’t much this neat lady doesn’t do! Her work at Esri involves formulating and advancing the intellectual agenda for the environmental, conservation, climate, and ocean sciences aspect of Esri’s work while also representing Esri to the international scientific community.

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Esri UC 2014 and the Beautiful City of San Diego

By Guest Blogger Swatantra, 2014 UC Student Assistant

The Esri User Conference is a Place for Unity, Enthusiasm, Entertainment, Awesomeness, Friendships, Interactions, Relationships, Learning, and Understanding.

Swatantra poses with Esri President Jack Dangermond

My first visit to San Diego, California was outstanding and I think I made the most out of it. It was my first participation in the Esri User Conference and I feel honored to have had the opportunity. Acquiring a student assistantship position is very competitive and I feel lucky to have been one of 60 student assistants in 2014. The week was all about geography, geographic information systems (GIS), and understanding our world. A conference assistantship is an exclusive opportunity for students who have an interest in GIS. We were a union of students from across the globe. A team of friendly and generous Esri staff members guided us for the whole week. All the assistants were assigned a set of tasks to help Esri staff during conference events. Our overall job was to make sure that the conference logistics ran smoothly. We worked all weekend and half days during the week. This schedule allowed me to participate in technical workshops and interact with attendees during our leisure time.

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A Creative Island Within Esri

By Guest Blogger Melanie, Story Maps Team Intern

Open Spaces, Open Collaboration

When I first stepped into the Washington, DC R&D Center, I was struck by the space. Wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows opened up a magnificent panoramic view of the capital with a spotlight on the Washington Monument. I spent many moments throughout my summer observing the city’s pulse. “It’s so alive,” I thought as I watched cars crossing the Potomac River via 6 separate bridges, planes passing above on their way to/from Reagan International Airport, cyclists and people moving along the ground in a bustle, and of course the daily flock of kayakers, boaters, and paddle-boarders that floated around Theodore Roosevelt Island. This was a creative space.

I settled into my office in June. In the Story Maps team it was hard to tell who was “boss” and who was “intern.” I learned very quickly that there was no sense of “hierarchy” or “bureaucracy” here. We all worked together in a laissez-faire style. It felt strange at first, but I adapted easily and quickly learned that everyone was there to help me.

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