Mapping a People-Focused Career

This is the first in a series of articles introducing the colorful group of professionals who work on the Esri Training Services team.

According to Esri Training Services team member Alan Coyle, the unique geography of Grants Pass, Oregon makes it the safest location in the U.S in the event of nuclear fallout. How does he know this?  Map showing Grants Pass, OR

Alan, a native Oregonian, studied mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. After graduating, he went to work for the state of Oregon inspecting nuclear fallout shelters. Alas, mobile data collection apps had not been invented yet. Armed only with pen and paper, Alan validated shelter locations and documented whether each shelter met the wall-width requirement—12 inches of concrete was deemed necessary to protect against fallout.

When the Cold War ended circa 1990, so did the state’s fallout shelter inspection program. Alan moved on to the state’s 911 program, where he became the self-described “address guy” thanks to his work on the MSAG (master street address guide) to support emergency response zones. He also trained 911 dispatchers on a new product named ArcView GIS.

Fast-forward to 1998. Alan’s skill at teaching ArcView to the 911 dispatchers was noticed by an Esri employee, who recruited Alan to join Esri as an instructor. Thus began a career that has evolved into different roles, all linked by a laser focus on customer education.

From instructor to training coordinator to training consultant, Alan now sports the title “instructor team lead.” He jokes that his job is to “keep the instructors happy.”

More seriously, Alan says he views himself as an advocate, both for the instructors he leads and for the students they teach. Both instructors and students have a vested stake in strong learning outcomes—in Alan’s mind, instructors are successful when students are successful.

In addition to Esri technical certifications, Esri instructors are required to hold CompTIA CTT+ certification, which recognizes core instructor skills. A key CompTIA tenet is to focus the class on students (as opposed to materials) and facilitate peer-to-peer learning using interactive activities and discussions. Alan works closely with his team to ensure that CompTIA techniques are fully integrated into every class they teach.

Pedaling for a Cause

Much as he enjoys his job, Alan’s life is not all about work. He still feels a strong pull to his native state. Recently, accompanied by Esri coworkers and customers, Alan participated in his fourth Cycle Oregon, a week-long event in which riders pedal through rural towns in a specific region of the state. This year, participants toured eastern Oregon.

Esri Training team at the 2013 Cycle Oregon event

Alan (right) with Esri instructors Carl Byers (left) and Jack Horton during this year’s Cycle Oregon.

Cycle Oregon is about more than cycling. The event’s stated purpose is to provide an economic boost to rural communities that have been hit hard by the recession and the decline of the timber industry.

With more than two thousand riders and hundreds of volunteers providing logistical support, Cycle Oregon brings a substantial influx of dollars to each small town on the route. Event organizers hire local groups to help support the riders’ overnight campsites and they donate to local organizations.

It’s not unusual for riders to garner support for other causes during the event. In 2010, Alan attached a “Riding for Rebecca” license plate to his bike to honor his wife by raising awareness of breast cancer and supporting Susan G. Komen. Rebecca Coyle participated in Cycle Oregon this year and plans to run the New York City marathon in November. She is now cancer-free.

When you think about it, riding around rural Oregon to help small-town folks is not that different from trekking around the state helping to protect citizens from nuclear fallout. It’s not even that different from helping to make sure that students leave Esri classes with the GIS skills they need to make a difference at their organizations.

His work gear has improved over the years though. Alan now gets to use a laptop.


About SuzanneB

Suzanne is a Maryland native with a degree in English Literature who enjoys writing about Esri technology and other topics. She works with Esri Training Services in Redlands, California.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


  1. Pingback: Mapping a People-Focused Career | GIS Tidings

  2. pcardoza619 says:

    What would be a good way to start a career in GIS? I am new and I do not know a lot in GIS, but would love to learn the technology because it is the future… Thanks for any advice

    • SuzanneB SuzanneB says:

      You’re right, the use of GIS is expanding very fast, and that is expected to continue–which makes it a great career choice. That being said, because GIS is used for so many different purposes, there are many potential career paths you could take. How you start preparing depends on your educational background, how technical you want to get, and most importantly, what interests you. I suggest you start by checking out the information and resources on the page below. If you want to learn some GIS basics, try this free web course . Good luck!

      Careers in GIS