Category Archives: Technology

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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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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David DiBiase Explains the Importance of Offering MOOCs as Part of Esri’s Education Program

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Esri’s Jim Baumann, published in the May 2015 issue of GeoConnexion. 

Esri’s education enterprise is diverse and spread across the entire company. For the most part, however, our education offerings serve people who already use our technology. What’s new about massive open online courses (MOOCs) is that they provide a way to engage with people who are curious about the power of spatial thinking and geospatial technologies, but who may not be GIS users or even have heard of Esri.

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#EsriJobChat: Your Chance to Talk with Esri Staff From Wherever You Are!

Whether you know all about Esri or are “meeting” us for the first time, join us for #EsriJobChat on Twitter and talk with us about everything careers related … our work environment, our innovative GIS software, current internship and job openings, resumé and interview advice, and more.


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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 Continue reading

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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.

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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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SIGGRAPH—“A Creative Recharge of Epic Proportions”

This is an actual quote from a recent SIGGRAPH attendee: “Think of everything that has ever made you geek out and feel so passionate about something in your whole life and put it into one feeling … That, my friend, is the feeling you get when being at SIGGRAPH.”

We couldn’t agree more! Once again, Esri will have a strong presence at SIGGRAPH, on the main exhibit floor as well as in the job fair. I sat down with HR team members Shawn and Jennifer to talk about what people who stop by our booth in the job fair can expect.

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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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Interns Go High-Tech with the Applications Prototype Lab

During the last week of June, interns were given the opportunity to sit in on some demonstrations in the Esri Applications Prototype Lab. These demos included looking at real-time social media trend maps, environmental habitat maps, and some 3D responsive design. For those of us not working in the APL this summer, these demonstrations were incredible to see. Just another cool piece of Esri that interns got a peek of.

A big thank you to Hugh Keegan and his team for taking the time to show us their stuff!

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