Category Archives: Work-Life Balance
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.
Who can believe tomorrow is the first day of summer already? Well, those of you who live in California don’t see much of a difference in temperature, but where I’m from, we got 132 inches of snow this year. Yikes!
Southern California is a great place to be during the summer months. From beautiful beach days to music festivals and other great events, there is plenty to do to maintain that work-life balance.
TGIF, am I right? From everyone in Esri offices near and far, we hope you have a great, relaxing weekend!
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!
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.
From its very own circus to locally brewed orange-inspired beer, from 16 parks to a high school with a working farm, discover some of the reasons why we feel Redlands is special.
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.
Just East of Los Angeles, surrounding the Esri campus, resides a robust and active metropolitan area known as the Inland Empire. Check out the cultural—and crazy!—attractions that are all within a short drive of Esri. From fondue restaurants with live music to a museum dedicated to the history of aviation, the “IE” is not short on things to do and places to see.
The adventure starts here: http://ugis.esri.com/IETour/#
By Maura, Strategic Marketing Intern
Summer has now officially begun, and Redlands and the surrounding areas are kicking their seasonal activities into full swing. Although within driving proximity to Los Angeles and San Diego, Redlands and nearby cities offer a wide variety of events closer to home.
Celebrate 4th of July in Redlands with a picnic in the park, family-friendly parade, and one of the largest fireworks shows in California. The opening ceremonies include a four jet flyover, a USAF C-17 flyover, and skydivers landing in the center of the stadium. Fun for all ages!
The Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival offers free, live music on Tuesday and Friday nights. This year’s offerings include a Chinese dance company, Frank Sinatra and John Denver tributes, symphony concerts, a ballet, and The Sound of Music. All are invited to join in a community sing beforehand.
Meet Maura, who will be a regular contributor to the blog this summer. Stay tuned for her posts on student programs, events for Esri interns, adventures around town and beyond, and much more.
Upon deciding to pursue a Geographical Studies undergraduate major, I began the prerequisite courses, one of which was a class on basic GIS. On my campus at the University of Chicago, few outside the Geographical Studies department have heard the terms “GIS” and “Esri.” However, after explaining to my peers what the software is, many claim some sort of knowledge, whether they used it at a previous internship or are familiar with its use in news articles, etc.
The class I took was also my first introduction to GIS. Although I am not tech savvy, I was greatly intrigued by the variety of uses for GIS in a multitude of fields. The study of geography is similar in this way: although united by one field, there are so many uses and paths one can follow in the exploration of geography and GIS that they are impossible to list. Thus, with a new interest in GIS and its uses in the everyday world, I jumped at the chance to intern at Esri.