Dave Nixon, GISP, is a senior GIS analyst with GeoDecisions who provides full-time onsite support to the U.S. Army's Surface Deployment & Distribution Command - Transportation Engineering Administration (SDDCTEA) Data Division. His expertise includes in-depth Python/ArcPy scripting for data integrity checks, imagery analysis support, and SQL database management in a versioned ArcGIS editing environment.
The Esri® Users Conference (UC) is so much more than just a chance to go offsite and “Geogeek out” over mapping technology in beautiful San Diego, California. It’s a chance to connect with others who are facing the same obstacles that you are in their work, as well as others who are in different fields and can contribute a new perspective on a problem that could have seemed impossible the way you were looking at it from behind your desk.
During my week at the Esri UC, I ran into someone I went to college with almost 15 years ago, an old boss who started me down the path toward GIS, and the retired Colonel who gave me the opportunity to become a military contractor years ago. I also was able to discuss a Python script that I am working on - with the Esri developer who originally wrote it back in 2009 - and put faces with GeoDecisions co-workers that I had yet to meet in person. I even had the chance to chat with GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) Executive Director Bill Hodge, GISP, about how he and his wife have been married 49 years and were sweethearts since the first grade while eating a tofu dog in Balboa Park.
Mecca of Learning
Beyond the personal and professional connections, the ability to simply focus on improving and expanding my knowledge of ArcGIS software is invaluable. Sure, Esri offers a wealth of training online, but there’s only so many hours in a day and many distractions that will tear focus away from that training.
I was able to sit in sessions about ArcGIS Pro, Python, DISDI policies and standards, best practices for multi-user database editing, managing and hosting aerial imagery as a service, and ArcGIS Server changes for the next version - to name just a few. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Esri offers as official sessions!
So Much to See
The UC features vendors, start-ups, and schools all eager for a moment of time to discuss how they are working on the next big thing in mapping technology. I saw a drone equipped with a swivel camera that allows an engineer to view the a bridge substructure, 3-D VR cities that allow a user to “fly” through a city center complete with a fan to simulate wind movement, and light bulbs that broadcast location data to a user’s phone via camera and Bluetooth to allow indoor navigation down to the inch.
The phrase “drinking from a firehose” is used a lot, but aptly applied to the amount of knowledge being dispensed during the Esri UC. Thankfully, there is an abundance of reference material and UC recap information available on the Esri website to catchup and stay connected to the pulse of the Geo universe. In the meantime, I can’t wait for my next Esri experience!