At this year's GIS in the Rockies, James Fee gave an enthralling keynote targeted at GIS professionals on the topic of how to remain relevant in the age of change (or What GIS Pros Can Do to Keep Their Skills in Demand).
He went through his own discovery of maps and technology beginning with atlases and continuing with a lot of the key technologies of the past decades most of which I can remember such as personal computers (Atari 800), the Logo programming language, Turbo Pascal, Hypercard, Freehand, Hamster dance (which I don't remember), the first releases of Arc/Info, Arc Macro Language (AML), spatial databases, the Internet, Sun, Sparcstations and Solaris, ArcView and the Avenue scripting language, mobile devices, big data, real-time, Perl, Python, spatial analytics, UAVs and 3D cities. His main point is that geospatial folks have always been at the forefront in adopting new technologies and that GIS has a history of pushing the envelope. His recommendation for GIS professionals is
- A always
- B be
- L learning
To answer the title question, what should a GIS professional do to stay relevant ? James asserted that if you
- Put points on a map and throw up a scale bar
- Perform geoprocessing without Python or Model Builder
- Have a job description of “Plotter Operator”
- Have no idea what “fuzzy tolerance” is
- Embrace Python as your GIS tool of choice.
- Use Model Builder to automate your work flows.
- Learn new tools such as TileMill/Mapnik/PostGIS
(all open source geospatial I would add) your future is bright.