What We Didn’t Learn In Geography Class

In 2011 was a year of wicked big changes for me. After twenty-nine straight years of working, I was laid-off and had to restart my career at age – well, that’s not relevant. I was fortunate to quickly find a new role selling geospatial software – mapping and navigation tools – but there was a period of anxiety; sleepless nights, and there were fantasies about potato plugging somebody’s SUV. After a while, the feelings subsided and morphed into excitement about new opportunities; bereft of any potato plugging. I baked the potatoes and focused on new ways to apply geospatial tools.

And more than work was changing for me. The year 2011 was characterized by many economic and political ups and downs. Closer to home, our two daughters, older now, are making their own life decisions (gulp!). We canceled cable TV in 2011, in favor of Internet streaming. Bye-bye constant Kardashians, hello on-line content from Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, and Amazon.

So, geospatial software ends up being the constant in my life. Who knew? Back in junior high, I had loved Miss Wagnis’ geography class. I was good at identifying geographic objects like countries, states or continents. I was fascinated by the rise and fall of empires against the timeline of human history. Later I would answer those geographic Trivial Pursuit questions correctly – What’s the largest state in area east of the Mississippi? (Leave your answer as a comment.) I thought geographically but I never envisioned a career selling geographic tools. “Geography for a living” was not listed on my high school year-book ambition list.

My limited geographic education was in no way preparatory for selling location based services for cell phones or instructive on how to compete with free Google Maps over the Internet. Wrestling with Internet business models has meant relearning how I think. As consumers, we’ve each seen the Internet changing almost everything we do – the way we view TV, the way we bank, the way we make or keep friends, and the way we get a job. My 80 year old dad, a life-long voracious reader, now adores his Kindle Fire.

Maps have been a major part of Internet services for a good twenty years now. Geographic Information System software (GIS) plays a major role in a variety of land-based industries like natural resource management, energy distribution, and local and state government. But mapping applications are still underutilized for a broad range of businesses. And I believe it is because geospatial tools remain somewhat intimidating to the average business manager. Who has an extra four hours in their day to learn how to geo-code their customer list? To date, it’s just not simple enough – although we’re getting there – see www.mapbusinessonline.com).

Data displayed on a map needs to be as easy as copy and paste. Data updates need to be as easy and fast to transact as buying a book on a Kindle or downloading a song from iTunes. And the benefit of viewing business data on a map needs to be obvious to the business manager.

A map is no longer just a map. According to dictionary.com a map is defined as:
“A representation, usually on a flat surface, of a whole or a part of an area.”
Seems like a light definition today. For modern businesses, a map is a much broader tool. It contains information about markets, resources, customers, populations, incomes, contaminations, efficient pathways, and hazards. A digital map is an information resource that should be a critical tool to any business.
Geospatial companies are working diligently to provide more meaningful geospatial representations of your businesses. But it’s critical that map makers learn as much as we can about your businesses so that we can create intelligence out of geography and apply it to what you do.

A geographic information system is both strategic and tactical. It can help manage today and plan for tomorrow. Call a geospatial sales person in to look at your business. You might be surprised at how little you know about where you are.

About Geoffrey Ives

Geoffrey Ives lives and works in southwestern Maine. He grew up in Rockport, MA and graduated from Colby College. Located in Maine since 1986, Geoff joined DeLorme Publishing in the late 1990's and has since logged twenty-five years in the geospatial software industry. In addition to business mapping, he enjoys playing classical & jazz piano, gardening, and taking walks in the Maine mountains with his Yorkshire Terrier named Skye.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What We Didn’t Learn In Geography Class

Leave a Reply