By Maura, Strategic Marketing Intern
At the University of Chicago, where I’m a rising junior, Geographical Studies is one of the smallest majors on campus. While more popular in the graduate sphere, most undergraduates are unaware that such a course of study even exists. Thus, attending the 2013 Esri User Conference was a truly unique and overwhelming experience. The San Diego Convention Center was filled to the brim with self-proclaimed “geo-geeks,” the term proudly written across their Esri t-shirts and collectable buttons, who were equally excited to be in the company of others from around the world who are passionate about GIS.
“When life gives you lemons, you map the rise of lemonade,” a sign read above my head as I passed through the lengthy corridor on my way to one of the many workshops at the conference. After spending the morning wandering the exhibit hall and Map Gallery, I was on my way to my first workshop. Although my limited GIS knowledge left me sitting in awe for most of the workshop, the weight of GIS and Esri’s role as a proponent of such technology was not lost on me. Walking all around me were people from all over the world who use ArcGIS in their daily lives, whether that be as a community service organization like the Redlands Fire Department; a government group, like National Security; a philanthropic organization, like Catholic Relief Services; or a regional environmental agency in one of the many countries represented at the UC. These were people of all ages—from the children enrolled in Kid’s Camp, to the college students participating as Esri student assistants and more veteran users who first pioneered GIS at their companies in the 1960s—who came to learn more about new advances in ArcGIS and discuss with Esri changes they hope to see in the future. Just as ArcGIS serves as a platform for mapping, the Esri UC acts as a platform for users to come together to innovate and celebrate ArcGIS, Esri, and the ever-present role of geography in today’s world.
As I was only covering the event for the Esri Careers Blog, I can only imagine the amount of work and thought that Esri employees put into making the UC a success. Everything from the visual aspects of the exhibit hall to the multitude of interesting topics discussed in the workshops were right on cue, and I am still amazed at the idea that I am interning for a company with such a widespread customer base and so much more room to grow and expand throughout the world. The creative energy at the UC was tangible, inciting attendees to join in collaborative brainstorming, network with one another, and leave more excited about the future of GIS than ever.
Overall, attending the UC was an amazing experience and I look forward to attending more in the future, watching GIS and Esri as a company grow and prosper. I plan to bring my own “geo-geek” button back to UChicago, enlarging the ArcGIS sphere, just as all those who attended the 2013 UC will do, until they reconvene in 2014.