Category Archives: Career Advice

‘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.

Although she works full-time for Esri, Dawn continues to maintain professorial status at Oregon State University in the geography and oceanography departments. She has worked with students many years, and as such, has some great advice to share.

Dawn Wright speaking on the plenary stage at the 2012 Esri User Conference

As someone who has worked with students for a while, why do you think an internship is so important to a student’s success?

Despite the best efforts of professors there are just some things we’ll never be able to replicate in the classroom, so that’s why an internship experience is so valuable. There is nothing like having the opportunity to interact with people in the real-world setting of a company or agency, to extend one’s GIS skills while working on projects with that organization, or certainly to pick up some completely new skills. I think an internship is also a great way for students to experience some of the different “time frames” that exist in working environments outside of the school environment. It’s one thing to be under pressure to get a term paper in on time, and yet another to see some of the other kinds of pressure that are associated with getting out the next major release of commercial software, generating results for a consulting project that may affect how and where people live, or meeting deadlines for a major conference or trade show.

If someone’s interests or career path changes while they’re in school, what would be your advice to them?

Great question! My advice would be to go with that flow and learn as much as you can about that new career path you’re interested in. Find someone in that area who is willing to give you some advice, or do the requisite Internet research to find out about blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter streams, local and regional conferences in that particular area. Talk to other students who are currently on that particular career path. And … get an internship in that area too!

What are some “mistakes” you have seen students make in terms of finding their future career?

One mistake I’ve seen students make is to get discouraged if their expectations are not fulfilled immediately. I’ve seen some expect a high-salaried position in their area of choice to be available soon after graduation, and failing that (especially in today’s economy), they want to give up. It is so worth it to be patient and stay with a particular area, especially if that’s your passion. On the flip side, I’ve also seen students take on a position that may be related to their chosen career before they are finished with their degree. I’m a real strong proponent of students finishing their entire degree program before taking on full-time employment toward a career. Not only does finishing the degree lend the full complement of knowledge available to them through coursework, thesis work, and yes, internship work, but there is little to compare with the maturity gained by a student who has seen the degree through to its ultimate completion. I’m also against college athletes entering the draft before they can finish school, but that’s a huge conversation for another day!

What is your #1 tip for a new graduate starting their career?

Be a sponge – learn all you can from the people around you. Seek out a mentor in your workplace (hopefully it’s your supervisor but oftentimes it’s an experienced co-worker). Be humble.

What is one thing you wished someone had told you back when you were in college?

Watch out for the “freshman fifteen” weight gain (in my day it was only “the freshman ten,” but it’s weight gain nonetheless)! Seriously though, I do wish someone had told me about the importance of an internship! In my day, internships were not as prevalent, nor were they as valued, but it is wonderful to see that change almost completely, especially with companies and other kinds of organizations offering such excellent internship programs. Another thought, especially for undergraduates, is that an internship does not necessarily mean you have to leave campus. There are some Esri interns who may still have a way to go before finishing their degrees, and thus additional internship opportunities may be great for them. The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs on many university campuses is one great example.

What drew you to Esri? What’s your favorite part about Redlands?

I was very fortunate in that Jack Dangermond and Scott Morehouse asked me to come work at Esri (and the deal included the requirement that I come here to headquarters). They also asked at a perfect time in my professional life when I needed a major change. My favorite part about Redlands is the people. I love the friendly, down-to-Earth nature of the folks here in the Redlands community, which I think is a breath of fresh air in Southern California culture. The friendliness of Redlands people reminds me a lot of Oregon, which is where I moved here from.

Thank you, Dawn, for sharing your wisdom!

Students: If you want to see more from Dawn, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @deepseadawn

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Tech-Geek Turned #Geogeek

Esri’s Technical Support team is vital to the company’s success. They work with users daily on solving small problems and finding solutions. Scott Harris is a member of the team and says he’s finally found a job he loves.

Tell me about yourself. What is your background?

I took my first GIS class when I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree at Keystone College in Pennsylvania. I did a few projects while I was there, one of which was making some campus maps using ArcView 3.2 (which seems primitive today). I ended up getting my degree in Environmental Resource Management and then spent a bit of time out of the GIS field doing environmental testing. After that I became a GIS tech for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where again I was using Esri software. Later I went back for my master’s degree in geoenvironmental studies and then I ended up at Esri.

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‘Round the Table with Esri Recruiters

Recently the interns sat in on two presentations and interactive sessions with some of Esri’s HR partners (recruiters). Although interns have a good understanding of Esri’s departmental structure, these recruiter roundtable events helped give us a better idea of the opportunities we may have to work for Esri full time. This is especially helpful since the summer is winding down quickly!

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GIS Past, Present, and Future

I got the chance to sit down with Nate Ebel, who has only been back at Esri for a few weeks. Nate was an intern last year and now works full-time as a software engineer, but his start in GIS was . . . unexpected (and very cool!).

You were on the plenary stage at the Esri User Conference in 2002. Can you talk more about that?

Nate (next to Jack Dangermond) at the 2002 Esri UC

When I was in seventh grade, I was part of a small class that was devoted to problem solving and data analysis with a large component of GIS. At the time, I had never heard of GIS, but after using the software to create maps and analyze data, we entered maps into the Esri Community Atlas. Everyone in the class contributed a couple of maps, and our project ended up being a sort of “model project” that year. Esri flew me, another classmate, and my teacher to San Diego and we presented a few of our maps on the UC stage. One of the other projects that came out of this class ended up continuing through high school, and we presented it in various places and won more awards. That ended up being what led me in the direction of GIS.

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Internship Tips Straight From the Recruiter!

We’re well into summer, and most of us Esri interns are in the middle of our internships. Whether you are heading back to school in the fall or you are looking for a full time position, it is important that you give an internship everything you’ve got! In this interview with Lara McLaughlin, Esri’s Internship Program Coordinator and University Recruiter, you will hear what to do and what not to do as an intern from someone who works with students year round.

Describe your role at Esri.

This is my third year here, and since starting I have made a lot of changes to the internship program. I managed the internship program for my previous employer, so Esri hired me specifically to work on the program. Every year I am tasked with finding students and recent grads who may fit into Esri internships, and then I forward their resumes to hiring managers to see if they are a good match for their specific position.

What makes an internship during college so important?
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You Never Stop Learning

On Wednesday, interns had the chance to sit in on a brown bag presentation from two employees in Esri’s Professional Services Division. Chad Helm, who works in the extended support programs group, gave us a brief overview of the vast department, telling us about the various projects done by 600 employees all over the world. The Professional Services team supports customers and partners in effectively implementing and applying Esri software products. This may include short-term, in-house technical work or more long-term solutions projects.

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A New Face on the Marketing Team

One of the most common misconceptions about marketing, in my opinion, is it only encompasses one job function. Through my studies as a marketing major at Syracuse University, I have come to realize a marketing position is not just one singular role, and that’s what has attracted me to the field. What interests me about Esri is GIS is something relatively new in my life, and new is exciting. From what I do understand, I see the incredible power this technology has to map disease, help underprivileged communities, work on disaster relief efforts, and so much more. I am also beginning to see my role will encompass many areas of marketing, especially working on ways to attract students and new grads to the company, something I am excited to do!  

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Esri Career News for Students

A new issue of Esri News for Students and Recent Grads is now available online.


Included in this issue is information on summer programs (deadlines approaching!), careers for soon-to-be grads, Esri GeoDev Meetups, and more.

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Graduating Soon? Why You Should Start Your Job Hunt Now!

Are you one of the thousands of students who will soon make the transition from college life to the working world? In this interview with Michael Johnson, Esri’s university programs manager, learn what you can—and should—be doing now to land your first full-time job.

How soon before graduation should a student start seriously looking for a job?

It depends on where they’re at professionally and academically. If they have internship experience, they’ll likely already have some leads. I advise students to get going as soon as school starts in the fall semester—proactively leveraging contacts, networking, crafting their resumé, and applying to the places they know they want to work. So many students make the mistake of waiting until the spring semester or even when they graduate before realizing, “Hey, it’s time for me to find a job!”

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Job Hunting During the Holidays: Naughty or Nice?

Esri HR Partners Kristin, left, and Megan

For a lot of us, this time of year can be especially stressful … buying gifts, preparing special meals, and a full social calendar. But if you’re looking for a new job or considering a career change, you don’t have to put the job hunt on hold until after the New Year. Esri HR partners Kristin and Megan share some tips on how you can make the most of looking for a new opportunity during the holiday season.

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