Author Archives: LeslieR
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Recently President Obama called for businesses to create new opportunities for students through classroom technology. In his speech at the White House Science Fair this week, he spoke about some of the amazing innovations young students have created in the past year and emphasized there is still significant talent to be tapped.
This week a group of 25 students began their summer internships at Esri, including several in regional offices, bringing the total to 34 to date. They represent schools from coast to coast across the US and as far away as Italy.
There will be several more “waves” of students arriving in the coming weeks. When the last one has filled out their paperwork and been shown to their office, we’ll have welcomed about 100 interns—a bit of Esri history in the making! They’ll be working in all areas throughout the company; one, Katherine, will be working with me to tell the Esri careers story. Watch for her posts over the next few months.
Welcome, interns. It’s going to be a great summer!
I recently had the opportunity to get to know two members of our IST Division, Diana and Dimitri. We talked about what it’s like being a business analyst at Esri, what motivates them, and what skills are most valued in new recruits.
How long have you been with Esri?
Diana: I’ve been here over 14 years; the last 8 have been in IST. Before that, I was in the US Air Force.
Dimitri: I started January 2012, and prior to that I was an SAP consultant for 16 years.
Do you each have a specialty within the business analyst role?
Diana: It’s expected that we have the general skills of a business analyst—requirements gathering, processes, communications—that type of collaboration is needed. But we each also have specialized skills where we understand a particular product—in my case, Salesforce—and can take those requirements and figure out how to build them into the system.
Dimitri: When I got hired, I had the HR background from both the business and the SAP side, so it was easy for me to transition into my role here. Additionally, my prior consulting experience gave me the skills I needed to be a successful business analyst at Esri.
If you’re like many Esri employees, the answer is two! In celebration of National Bike to Work Day, two events were held on campus to raise awareness about the benefits of cycling to work. Continue reading
Esri recently held an eWaste Recycle Day, with nearly 100 employees dropping off unwanted electronic items including computers, printers, monitors, TV sets, and cell phones. More than 5,600 pounds of equipment were donated to Goodwill, which processes it in an environmentally responsible way to help protect our planet from hazardous waste. The income Goodwill receives from the recycling program helps fund education, training, and job placement services for people with disabilities.
Truly a win-win. Happy Earth Day!