Mabel Ney Talks R&D, UX, and UC

Esri staff in our R&D Centers have ongoing collaboration with development teams in Redlands through regular phone calls and video conferences, but they also come here several times a year for meetings and personal interaction with teams. Mabel Ney from the Portland, Maine R&D was in town recently for just such a visit, so I took the opportunity to get to know her and the work she’s doing.

How did you find your way to Esri?

I got my Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design at the School of Visual Arts in New York and worked in advertising there for a while. My husband and I eventually moved to Maine and we both ended up at a mapping company called DeLorme. Esri uses their data, so often times when you look at a web map, you’ll see DeLorme as one of the sources. I worked there for 11 years. I started as a traditional cartographer working on films, transitioned to digital cartography, and finally to Director of Research and Development.

I left there when I became interested in user-centered design. I went into consulting and focused on information architecture and user experience design. The job for Esri came up in Portland—certainly I was aware of Esri because of DeLorme, and several people from DeLorme had gone to Esri. I wasn’t looking to change, but it was Esri and it was in my own backyard. It sounded like a really good opportunity…very user-centered, a really interesting design process. It mingled with the process I was familiar with, but took it a bit beyond, where everybody on the team was much more involved. That was very appealing.

Going from a graphic design background into what you’re doing now—is that out of the ordinary, or are more and more people doing that?

Oftentimes people who go into user experience design either come in from a graphic design background, interestingly from a library science background, or a technical writing background. They’re interested in helping people find information in a very user-friendly way, helping them on their path and supporting that visual learning aspect we have. So it’s a likely transition for them.

How would you describe what your typical workday is like?

I primarily work on design documents. I white board out and sketch the flow of what I think the path will be as you move from screen to screen. As I’m doing that, I will pull the developer over and have them validate what I’m doing. If it’s something bigger or more complex, we’ll have a design session in which we bring in a couple of designers, some developers, and QA engineers. We’ll all take a stab at sketching ideas and start to see how that comes together until we have an agreed-upon design.

I also try to have touch points with our customers routinely. I get out of the office to be with our customers or be on a phone call with them so I can discuss things that are perplexing us at that time. We have some questions, we don’t know the answers, and we want to hear from people who will actually use the product. We’re trying to do even more of that and get the broader team out to do that as well. I’ve also been working on animations, which is really fun to do. There’s really good tools right now to do that.

What about your work keeps you challenged?

The depth of challenge at Esri is really what holds my attention. In other jobs I’ve had, there was a very narrow customer base, and you knew them really well. But here, you can talk with somebody from city government and you can talk with five different agencies and start to see a pattern, but then you go over to somebody in utilities and it’s totally different. They have all these other considerations you have to think about. So now I feel like when I design, I’m designing for at least five different personas, where before it was one or two.

And with Esri customers, they want everything to be as good as it can be too. They want to be part of that solution, so they open the doors and say, “Yes, come on over. Talk with us. We’ll give you time.” They understand the importance of doing that and it benefits them in the long run.

Do you work with a particular product, or across the whole ArcGIS platform?

Typically I am involved and focused on one product, but I do design reviews for the other designers on the other products. This way we can make sure that across the platform, there’s a consistent experience. You never feel like you’re focused only on one product.

What do you feel makes Esri different as an employer. You talked about the scope of work and the customers. Is there anything else?

Yeah, the benefits are crazy good. When I was told that not only I would be covered, but my husband would be fully covered, I was like, “Wait, what?” One thing I notice when I come to Redlands is that you see these long-term friendships. People run into each other and you can tell they’ve known each other for 12, 16 years. You don’t get that in many companies—that long-term relationship. And yet, they’re very accepting of new people into that relationship, it’s not closed off.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

The DevSummit and the User Conference are amazing for employees to be able to go to. If you are in development of products or marketing, it’s nice to see what everybody’s working on and how they relate to each other. Last year I was fairly new and we were just starting to talk about mobile web, an aspect of what we were working on, and this tool called PhoneGap. It just happened that somebody from the team who was using PhoneGap was walking through. I heard them say something about it and said, “Wait a minute, this is what we’re talking about. Can you come over and talk to us?” Even if you were here at Redlands, you may not have heard that conversation, but it’s because everybody is huddled up suddenly. To have that open dialogue is an awesome opportunity.

Want to join Mabel and the rest of the Portland team? Check out current openings.

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Happenings in SoCal This Weekend

As promised, we have more happenings around Southern California for the weekend of July 24th to 26th. This weekend we have a great assortment of new activities from live jazz, a salsa festival, and the World Games for the Special Olympics!

  • For those who want to get the summer heated up, head to the Oxnard Salsa Festival on July 25th and 26th. Dozens of vendors, amazing bands, and great dancing will be creating a buzz at this event. Head over to the Festival to break out some moves and listen to great music.
  • The Angelus Plaza has been hosting Afternoon of Jazz for the past few years and on July 24th they will be again. Make sure to check out this event to see some of the great names in the business and enjoy some great jazz.
  • The Special Olympics World Games are taking place in Los Angeles from July 25th to August 2nd. These games have been occurring since 1968 all around the world and they are now finally coming back to Los Angeles. Come to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum to see the opening ceremony and the games.

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Interns Let Loose and Play Some Mario Kart

In the technical industry there are so many serious components throughout a company. It is always nice when you have the opportunity to let loose and have some fun with your peers. With the majority of the interns now working during the summer, we recently got together to have a friendly competition of Mario Kart. We began with three brackets and by the end of the competition we had our bracket winners going for the grand prize.

Even the interns who did not make it all the way to the finals had a great time mingling and meeting some people from outside of their own department. Life after college can sometimes be scary and unknown, so having the opportunity to let loose and enjoy time with our peers is always enjoyable.

In the end the three bracket winners competed for movie tickets and bragging rights at the first Mario Kart Madness Competition. While Addison, Tim, and Dan karted to the winners circle, Dan took the lead, the trophy, the movie tickets, and his bragging rights home with him that day. Until next year’s competition, keep your karting skills dusted off and ready to rumble.  

Pictured left to right
Dan Barnes, Tim Furlow, Addison King

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Never a Dull Moment During SoCal Summers

Whether you are new to the area or are a California native, there is always something new to find that is going on around Redlands and other areas of Southern California. There is something out there for everyone! Here are just a few of the events we found taking place this weekend for all you adventure seekers out there.

  • Santa Monica always has something going on at the promenade and this weekend is no different. Cinema on the Street on Friday is featuring Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Why wouldn’t you want to explore the beach with a classic movie playing in the background? Sounds like a great time on the promenade.
  • If you are not in the mood for Willy Wonka and want to watch a newer kids movie, the City of Pico Rivera is having Movies Under the Stars and on Friday is featuring Paddington. Don’t forget to get there early to save a great spot and possibly get some free popcorn before it runs out.
  • If by the end of the weekend you still want to get out and about in Southern California, check out the Santa Monica History Museum’s Family Hands on History Day. On July 19th the theme will be Pacific Ocean Park. They promote hands-on experience, so youth who attend have better and more positive memories of history.

See you next week for more happenings throughout the summer.

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Why Esri? … To the Point!

Getting to the point and being concise with your responses can sometimes be a nice way to express yourself. Some employees only needed a few words to express how they felt or what they were thinking and answered Why Esri? in under five words. Stay tuned and watch for more Why Esri? posts in the coming weeks!

Colten Zacharias
Extended Support Program

Emily Dux
Technical Advisor Practice Lead

Gela Malek Pour
Software Products Release

Chad Helm
Extended Support Programs

John Preysner
Professional Services

Ritika Sinha
Managed Cloud Service

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Former Esri Intern’s Contributions to Ebola Response

When Olivia Hollenhorst started her Esri internship in the summer of 2014, she probably never dreamed she would one day be accompanying her colleagues to Geneva, Switzerland, to help map the Ebola outbreak. Upon completion of her internship, she was hired last September full time, and continued working on the health and public safety team in our Professional Services Division. That’s where she received the opportunity to spend a month working with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

The experience in Geneva allowed Olivia to combine her interest in GIS with her educational background in global public health. “My undergraduate degree was in public health, focusing on international public health. Near the end of my undergraduate career, I added on a GIS certificate with the hopes of somehow mashing them together. This internship and the consequent full-time work was great because it allowed me to explore what I could do with my two interests,” she said. Olivia is now going back to school at University of Washington to pursue her master’s in human geography with a concentration in infectious disease mitigation and management using GIS.

When asked why she wants to work with diseases she replied, “I like how a community responds to crisis and how they come together and problem-solve on the fly, really quick, to try and come up with a solution that can solve the immediate problem. That always rolls into a more sustainable effort to solve future problems that would arise.”

In time sensitive projects like this, getting accurate and up to date data is crucial. Olivia mentioned that one of the main difficulties of working on the project was coordinating and organizing data coming from multiple sources into a standard useable format. “We were getting data from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, but it was all coming in different schemas, at different times, and was going into all these different data hubs. We had to pull it back together and compile it in standard format,” she explained. With the help of the Esri Ebola response team, the WHO created daily briefing maps on disease distribution and resource location for internal use and weekly Map Journal Situation Reports for public consumption.

Would she go back abroad and do something similar in the future? “Oh yeah, absolutely,” Olivia exclaimed. “I would love to do any sort of emergency response or infectious disease work. I definitely want to do international GIS work related to health.”

For all of your future endeavors Olivia, we wish you good luck and hope you enjoy your time in your master’s program.

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Celebrating Summer in Southern California

Southern California has an abundance of events and activities year-round, especially during the summer months. There are festivals galore, all within a short drive from Redlands. We’ve highlighted a few of them for this upcoming weekend.

  • In beautiful downtown Santa Monica, Picnic on the Promenade is home to weekly summer events. On July 10th there will be a street performer showcase. While you are there you can check out the eateries, walk the promenade, and soak in the beautiful rays on the beach.

Aerial View of the Promenade

  • The Lotus Festival in Los Angeles is a celebration focusing on the culture and heritage of different Asian Pacific regions. This two day event from July 11th to 12th has a variety of interesting activities to check out, from Hawaiian and Tahitian dancing to western music of Japan.
  • Even if hot sauces aren’t your thing the California Hot Sauce Expo in Long Beach is still a cool attraction to check out. Don’t miss this two day event from July 11th to 12th, where there will be a ton of insane eating challenges at the expo and anyone can enter. The final event at the expo is one for the Guinness book of world records … literally. The challenge is to eat three Carolina Reaper chilis as fast as possible.
  • Music Under the Stars Summer Concert Series is a great family event. The concert series is supporting the preservation and sustainability of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. The concerts occur throughout the summer and feature performances by a variety of musicians.

Check back next week to see more festivals and events happening in So Cal.

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Why Esri? … For Diversity!

With a growing organization such as Esri it is always nice to touch base with employees from all over the company. From interns to seasoned employees, there is a spectacular spectrum of diversity among our workforce. With different opinions and outlooks on life, you can see the evolution of creativity within Esri.

Alexander Ponce
Creative Lab

Danny Chan

Karina Zavaleta-Abel
Patterns & Practices

Kaitlin Burroughs
Professional Services

Martin Wu

Adrianna Castillo
Human Resources

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Interns Gain Insight During “Meet the Managers” Sessions

Esri interns recently had the unique opportunity to hear from managers of different departments to learn more about the work their teams do. With the chance to ask questions to the managers, the interns became more knowledgeable in what Esri does throughout the entire company rather than just the end product. All the managers did a great job engaging the interns during their speeches and we were grateful for the opportunity.

Check out the Esri Student Connection page on Facebook for more photos!

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Why Esri? … Why Not?

This week the employees of Esri got creative with their answers in their own special ways. By leaving the question up for interpretation by the employee, we see creativity flow from department to department. There were many different approaches to the answer.

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