Friday, May 13, 2016

Adam Meinerz - Ho-Chunk Nation

Name: Adam Meinerz
Major: Comprehensive Geography with an Environmental Emphasis
Year Graduated: 2010
Current Employer: Ho-Chunk Nation
Job Title: GIS Coordinator
Length of Employment: 1.5 years
Interests and hobbies: Hunting, fishing, kayaking, playing basketball and softball.

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)?
After graduation I was working a few odd jobs to make ends meets.  I was working as a clerk at a gas station, working part time at a flooring company, performing accounting and other office duties at a family’s small business, and helping my uncles out at their farm.  After working eight months after graduation, and working those low desired jobs, I was hired by AeroMetric.  I was hired on as a LiDAR Technician and edited LiDAR datasets and digitized breaklines. I later moved into a Quality Control/Quality Assurance position.  In this position, I analyzed LiDAR datasets/deliverables for AeroMetric and other geospatial companies as well.  After two years of working for AeroMetric, the company merged with two other geospatial companies and formed Quantum Spatial. A year later, our branch was closed and almost 70 people lost their jobs.  I received job offers from Tampa, FL and Cedar Falls, IA.  After rejecting the Tampa job, I accepted the job in Cedar Falls. I know, sounds like the weirdest thing ever.  As I was planning on moving to Cedar Falls, I received a job offer from the Ho-Chunk Nation in Black River Falls.  It was perfect because it was 45 minutes from my hometown and parents.  Also, it is 40 minutes from my wife’s hometown and parents.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? 
 I’m a visual communicator and I played that card during the interview.  With creating maps in the past, I had plenty to show off at the interview stage.  The maps were a great way to start a conversion and show the interviewers. Also, I had two different internships on my resume which is very important because experience is most vital aspect that employers are searching for.

Describe your typical day at work:
There is no typical day at work. That is what I love about my job! In a nutshell, I support the geospatial needs of a lot of people within various departments that include: forestry, wildlife, administration, IT, business, cultural resources, DNR, education, human health services, environmental health services, housing, labor, planning & development, register of deeds, BIA roads, president’s office, and the legislative office.  I’m the geospatial point of contact for county, state, federal agencies and etc. Some duties include: creating custom maps, restructuring data files, operating an interactive website, cartography, entering data in geodatabases, administer the geodatabase, digitizing features, GPS data collection, installing GIS software, post land boundaries, conduct prescribed fires, set up GPS hardware, and training employees.  With 400 different properties over the range of 26 counties in three different states, the tribe values GIS. GIS brings maps of all kinds to the hands of decision makers and an interactive intranet webpage is a highly valuable tool. I work 90% office time and 10% field time.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 
Still working for the Ho-Chunk Nation in Black River Falls, WI.  I have a job that I enjoy and live in a town that fits me well. I have a beautiful wife and live in an amazing home in country with ten acres of land. With the way that GIS is always advancing, I don’t think I would ever get bored with it!

What advice can you give to those who are still in school? 
Be tough because nothing is easy in the “Real World.” You’re living the dream right now, you know, the college lifestyle.  Be patient and when opportunities arise, you better excel on those opportunities!

Feel free to contact me at

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jon Bowen - Esri

Name: Jon Bowen
Major & Minor: Geography
Year Graduated: 2012
Current Employer: Esri
Length of Employment: about 9 months
Interests and hobbies: whitewater kayaking, traveling, biking, things that keep me moving

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? You sort of take what you know, what you enjoy doing and apply it to people who give you the opportunity to live off of it. I was fortunate to have a lot of experience from internships and guiding trips that gave me the idea of a person I wanted to be and once I found that I had made connections to apply what I know in the way’s I find fun and amusing.

What do you think gave you an edge to get your current position? The ability to say yes to anything and figure out the details later. My stoke level for the things I’m doing at the moment.  Extensive internship experience.

Describe your typical day at work:
My typical day at work…well I usually get in around 8 am to a workspace that consists of no offices but a collaborative space much like the lab at Eau Claire yet inspirationally overlooking DC.  Check some emails, check Github for updates/issues, manage all the new elements for the website, then start working on my more exciting projects that tend to be more cartographically focused in the am until about noon. From there on California is alive and at work so we start to do collaborative projects on future Story Maps templates and prototypes with the rest of our team from Redlands.  Intermixed in the afternoon I tend to do my less interesting projects which include server management and some other GIS problems solving. On a given day I do anywhere from an ongoing set of 3-4 different projects. These may consist of some of the following;
Building custom story maps for our bigger partners
Meetings with important gov bureaus or big non-profits
Researching new story ideas to take on as personal projects
Creating mock-ups for prototypes/whiteboard new ideas
Front end HTML/CSS and content website management
Wrestling server and GIS issues
Learning the latest and greatest in the industry and javascript
Slamming coffee

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Since my position is fun, creative, inspiring, educational etc I plan to stay at Esri until that changes.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school? Get off your arse and do something you enjoy. The world needs more people who enjoy their work. You’re at a perfect time in your life to try and do literally everything until you find something that you can jive with. Don’t waste your time on people or activities that don’t help you making your tomorrow better than your yesterday. If your lazy now you’ll be lazy forever so don’t expect a thing to be given to you if that be the case. Your 4 years in college shape the rest of your 90 year lifetime not just with your job outlook but with your social life, comfort levels, exercise habits, etc,. Put into motion the life you envision and not give two shits who disagrees with that, you’ll find your groove eventually and I guarantee you if you make yourself happy the folks around you will put up the stoke your putting down. 

Kyle Wells - : Colorado State University (CSU) – Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands at Fort McCoy, WI

Name: Kyle Wells
Family: My dog Mani
Major & Minor: Geography (Liberal Arts) & History (Liberal Arts)
Year Graduated: Fall 2011
Current Employer: Colorado State University (CSU) – Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands at Fort McCoy, WI
Length of Employment: 9 months
Interests and Hobbies: Traveling, Camping, Fishing, Sports

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation and/or in your career path (i.e. graduate school or type of job)?
I knew that I enjoyed Geographic Information Systems in school, so started applying for GIS/Cartography related jobs. Fortunately during my final semester, Garmin International representatives visited the UWEC Geography Department to mingle with students and see what projects students have been working on. During their visit, I presented them with a well put together resume and discussed what projects I had been working on. This led to an interview, and my first job out of school as a Cartography Technician with Garmin.
I was not sure if a career in the Cartography industry was what I ultimately wanted, but it was a start, and would hopefully help me decide. Over two years had passed working at Garmin, and I realized I wanted to use GIS with environmental projects, and perform analysis. I found that with Colorado State University as a GIS Technician.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position?
Certainly 2.5 years as a Cartography Technician at well respected company helped; however because my work with Garmin was so specific to Garmin, it was hard to translate all of those skills to my current position. This is where a strong GIS background from the university helped greatly. My understanding of geodatabases, collecting data with GPS equipment, analyzing datasets, and creating maps gave me the edge that CSU was looking for. Participating in additional research projects, like a field seminar course to Honduras, appealed to CSU as well.

Describe your typical day at work:
On a typical day I am entering data in geodatabases, digitizing features, collecting and uploading GPS files, maintaining and updating map collections, delivering data, creating specialized maps, and providing GIS support to many different departments on the installation. It changes every day so there is no getting bored!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Either with CSU or in another position that incorporates geospatial technology. I work with a lot of people that are unfamiliar with GIS and it has been fun showing them its capabilities. For example, teaching them that data can be used to perform analysis when planning and designing projects, rather than GIS just being used for reference maps. If I can continue to help others using GIS, then that is where I see myself for a while.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school?
Get involved and interact with classmates and professors. There are plenty of opportunities, whether it is reaching out to classmates in the lab, working with professors, participating in Geography and Anthropology Club activities, presenting projects outside of class, or attending conferences. These allow you to test your skills and knowledge, while also improving upon them. Plus you get to know people and have some fun.
Practice interviewing based on your experiences from school. There is a big difference between you understanding your work and explaining it to other people. These are more examples of why interacting with others and presenting your work will be beneficial.
Start looking at job requirements early to help you get an idea of what experience you may need. If you are unsure about whether to continue school or start working, talk to alumni or professors. They are great to talk to and are more than happy to help.

Hillary Johnson - ACTED

Name: Hillary Johnson

Major & Minor: International Geography
Year Graduated: May 2012
Current Employer: ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) – a French NGO
Job Title: GIS Officer based in Jordan
Length of Employment: 6 months
Interests and hobbies:
Travelling, running, horseback riding, spending time with family and friends, learning Arabic
What helped you decide what route to take after graduation?
I wasn’t exactly sure what I would want to study in graduate school so I thought it would be in my best interest to gain some professional experience straight after graduation. In the two and a half years since graduation, I have learned a lot about what I am looking for in a job and have found what I truly enjoy doing in my current position. Now if I go to graduate school in the next couple of years I have a much better idea of what I want to study and professional job experience that will help me in the classroom.
What do you think gave you an edge to get your current position?
I think having the GIS experience from UWEC geography department and a strong GPA from those courses really helped me. In addition, since my position is based overseas, having some international experience from studying abroad for a semester was also a plus.

Describe your typical day at work:
I work for a NGO that specializes in information management and research for humanitarian crises around the world. In Jordan, our team conducts needs assessments to better inform humanitarian aid programming for the Syrian Refugee Crisis both in refugee camps and in the surrounding villages and cities. I am based in Za’atari Refugee Camp, which is the second largest refugee camp in the world and is located just outside of the city of Mafraq in the north of the country. As a GIS officer, my job involves data analysis on the research done in the camp and creating maps based on that data. A typical day for me is to arrive in the camp around 8am and begin work on whatever project is going on at the time. This includes maintaining and updating the geospatial database for the camp, updating general infrastructure data to share with other agencies in the camp, creating new maps based on recently collected data, and responding to inquiries from other partners in the camp for information to help their programming. Our day in the camp ends at 5pm though on many days work continues from home depending on the urgency and scale of the current project.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It’s hard to say since I’m currently living from one 6 month contract to another, but I could see myself continuing in this line of work for the next few years. I am also considering graduate school now that I have a better idea of the kind of career path I am interested in – which has to include travel, field work and GIS. I’m just taking it one adventure at a time for now.
What advice can you give to those who are still in school?
My biggest piece of advice is to take advantage of opportunities available to you now, whether it’s is an internship, joining a club, studying abroad, student research or even just taking one class in something you’re interested in just because you want to. I think it’s important to be open-minded with your future because your dream job may be something you haven’t heard of yet. I dreamed of a way to live abroad, help people and use my GIS skills when at UWEC without knowing it was even possible – and here I am doing it. My point is to be open-minded and try new things because you never know where it might take you.

I’m more than willing to answer any questions about how I landed myself in Jordan so feel free to email me at

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tyler Schwartz - Ayres Associates

Name: Tyler Schwartz

Major & Minor: Geography / Political Science

Year Graduated: 2012

Current Employer: Ayres Associates, Geospatial Division, Madison
Length of Employment: 2 months
Interests and Hobbies: Skiing, Camping, Hiking, Kayaking, Live Music, Volleyball

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation and/or in your career path (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? I was very torn after school on whether to continue on for my Master's degree or enter into the work force. As an older student I ultimately decided to get a job after graduation.  I applied for a Lidar/Photogrammetry Technician position (and got it) after an extensive job search following graduation.  I didnt really have that much of a choice on where to work or what career path I wanted to pursue, as my main priority was to simply find a decent job.  I would encourage students who are younger however, to continue on to graduate school as I think it will ultimately open more doors and increase your ability to get a decent paying job.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? I got an edge in a number of ways. First, be an engaged and hard working student.  Forge relationships with your professors. Doing so will create solid references for prospective employers or graduate school. In addition, build those relationships with your professors through student faculty research, then present it at student research day, AAG or WLIA (among other organizations).  This will give you a big leg up on your competition.

Secondly, when you do get that interview, be engaged and come prepared.  Know what the company does, who they are and what some of their past projects have been.  Come prepared to answer questions about past projects that you have done and what your strengths (and weaknesses) are as a person.  Come with questions to ask about the company.  And above all, be enthusiastic, engaged and interested about the position.  Ask questions and dont be silent.

Describe your typical day at work: I spend most of my day either doing stereo compilation (digitizing in 3D) or Lidar processing (cleaning raw data, preparing for delivery to client)

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Hopefully still at Ayres or pursuing a Masters Degree
What advice can you give to those who are still in school? If you have the drive and motivation, go to graduate school. The job market right now is highly competitive especially for entry level jobs.  Having a masters will not only get you into a more specialized and higher-level position, but it will also hopefully allow you to make more money.  Its a wise investment if you enjoy doing research and are a focused student. 

Most of what you will do in the real world after you graduate will not be anything like what you did in school (especially capstone). So if you like research and analysis, the masters degree is the sure fire way to make sure you can get a good research/analysis type job after school (as opposed to something less interesting).

Bethany Bobek - Garmin International

Name: Bethany Bobek
Family: Clint (husband) and Ethan (son)
Major & Minor: Comprehensive Geography
Year Graduated: 2009
Current Employer: Garmin International
Length of Employment: almost 4 years
Interests and Hobbies: being a good mom, disc golf, volleyball, rock climbing, camping, hiking, ultimate frisbee, canoeing, board games, kubb

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? I felt like I didn't need to go to grad school in order to get a GIS related job so I decided to try to get a job, and I did.
What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? Having a good GPA and doing well in the interview. Also student research and an internship.

Describe your typical day at work: I work in the recreation group of cartography. We make maps that are used in Garmin's GPS units. I work on a variety of different projects so my day varies depending on what deadlines we have. Garmin does not use ESRI software. For the topographic map products, my group hosts data to the Garmin database and edits/cleans up data from different sources. We work with hydro data, roads and trails, DEMS, points of interest, park polygons etc... We do a lot of QA for each of the products we develop, including testing in the hand held GPS units. I also work with golf data that includes digitizing golf course features from imagery. Also, I work with aviation data that involves geo-referencing features from airport diagrams and charts and digitizing and performing quality assurance tests. If you get an interview at Garmin and they ask what group you prefer to be in between Marine, Automotive and Recreation, definitely say Recreation. The recreation group offers a lot more variety and challenge than the other two groups.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Unsure

What advice can you give to those who are still in school? Try to get as much experience with anything GIS related, whether it's an internship or student research or just more GIS classes. Although it's not necessary for working at Garmin, it would be helpful to have some programming knowledge too.

I am happy to answer questions about working at Garmin. I can be contacted at

Trevor Peterson - AmericCorps

Name: Trevor Peterson               
Family: Nothing’s legal
Major & Minor: Human Geography & English Literature

Year Graduated: 2010
Current Employer: University of Wisconsin – Stout / AmeriCorps VISTA
Length of Employment: 2 years 7 months
Interests and Hobbies: I am interested in food systems and the intersection between urban and rural population. I believe in the Charter of the New Urbanism, agrarian urbanism, and most of the writings of James Howard Kunstler. My hobbies include biking, fishing, KUBB, gardening, foraging, and rooting for the Green Bay Packers.
What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? I chose to serve as an AmeriCorps Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA) in Menomonie, WI because this program allowed me to follow my passion for food sovereignty in the already familiar setting of western Wisconsin. AmeriCorps is similar to Peace Corps, except we are tasked with fighting poverty domestically. My site in Dunn County was asking VISTA members to organize food security initiatives through the Involvement Office at UW – Stout. I read the application – which called for service through organizing community gardens, nutrition education, and outreach to local farmers – and decided this was my path. While the living stipend is 10% above the poverty line, all my student loans are deferred during my time of service and I receive an education award when I’m finished that will erase 1/3 of my college debt. Also, the experience I’ve gained as a community organizer has exceeded what I could have hoped to attain in graduate school. Overall, I’ve learned to live on very little while maintaining meaningful employment in a field relevant to my interests.
What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? My student engagement and research separated me from the other candidates for this AmeriCorps VISTA position. The narrative of my written application and stories I told during my phone interviews included anecdotes from my engagement on campus with the FOODLUMS. I recounted this engagement with such vividness and enthusiasm that my interviewers wanted me to duplicate my efforts at their site. Also, I had a research project on food access in the Twin Cities from my final semester fresh in my mind. This project, with research goals from my Advanced GIS and Geography of Race and Ethnicity courses, had methods and models that I could relate to my service as a VISTA. My interviewers recognized that I had the right combination of passion and discipline to meet their expectations of a VISTA member at their site. 
Describe your typical day at work: As a community organizer, it’s my role to listen to the needs of the partners at my site and connect them to the assets in our county. I’ve become adept at one-on-one interviews where I listen to the needs of a community member and help them realize their individual strengths. I’ll leave these interviews with a notepad full of ideas and projects they would like to see happen. My next task is plugging these ideas into existing programming in the county or gathering enough like-minded partners to launch a new program. To accomplish this task, I maintain a large asset map of community partners and their affiliations. This map allows another service member to follow my flow after my term ends. While some of my time is spent on building new relationships, a larger portion is spent on maintaining existing relationships at my site. My philosophy is to check-in with partners regularly with little or nothing to ask because it increases their likelihood of agreeing to support a large initiative when the time comes. Finally comes the direct service; which includes garden installations, nutrition education, film festivals, and local food summits. Any given workday could end with participating in one of these service events.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In five years, I hope to be mildly employed in a meaningful field with the opportunity to continue my development as a place maker in western Wisconsin. I look forward to years living in the Twin Cities learning from institutions, co-ops, and organizations there for the benefit of opening their ideas to rural Wisconsin farming populations. I’d like to slowly build a self-sustaining farm property in the town of Sherman or county of Pepin that uses the principles of agroforestry and renewable energy for the benefit of my family and neighboring community.
What advice can you give to those who are still in school? Find a meaningful service outlet that helps you develop your professional strengths. Draw from your service experience while developing your research interests or capstone project. Collaborate with the department faculty when you can and seek multiple faculty perspectives on your projects. Finally, don’t overschedule your semester. Too many course credits hamstrings your social and civic development.