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