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.