Both in their first year as full-time GIS professionals, Kristina Jacob and Marc Zuber attended their first ever Esri International User Conference this past June in San Diego, California. As Geography graduates from California State University, Northridge, both found positions as GIS technicians for two cities located in the Southern California area. Their proximity to San Diego provided them with the opportunity to take advantage of the biggest annual ESRI User Conference in the world.
This year, over 15,000 attendees descended on San Diego’s Convention Center to take in the week-long conference. Marc and Kristina were impressed by the large number of attendees. “I knew it was going to be big after seeing the number of people going into the Convention Center,” said Kristina.
Strategy for Attending the Esri User Conference
With a weeklong schedule that included talks, workshops and events, the main concern of Kristina and Marc was getting to take advantage of everything the conference offered, especially since they were only attending the conference for a few days each. Nevertheless, both got plenty of leverage out of their short time at the conference. “The technical sessions were valuable. I learned a lot from those,” Marc said. Kristina agreed explaining; “because I am so new to GIS, I absolutely loved the technical workshops. They were valuable to me because I got to learn new skills, as well as techniques to enhance skills I was already comfortable with.” Marc also particularly found the ESRI staff to be helpful after taking advantage of the Doctor’s Office. “I was impressed with level of knowledge of seemingly every ESRI staff member. I was able to ask about a couple of issues I’ve been experiencing with the software and get an answer right there on site.” Kristina visited the Map Gallery and remarked, “The Map Gallery was enlightening. To see the variety of cartographic skills as well as the variety of projects was absolutely awesome.”
The concept of the Vendor Hall was a new experience for Kristina and Marc. Both felt overwhelmed when they first stepped into the hall; the size of the room and the number of booths was impressive to them. “There were so many vendors with so many things to see, it was just amazing.” said Kristina, explaining how helpful it was “to actually see how these companies were using GIS and what they had to offer.”
Connecting with other GIS Professionals
Beyond the learning opportunities of the conference, both were able to make connections with other GIS professionals, networking in the map gallery and technical sessions. Both agreed that the main thing they didn’t like about the conference was the lack of time to do everything. “I didn’t feel that I got everything accomplished that I wanted to, but I think that’s true for everyone who attends…it can’t be long enough,” enthused Kristina. Marc aimed to attend the conference next year for the full week in order to take in more of the technical sessions.
For Marc and Kristina, this conference was a positive experience that left them with a new enthusiasm for their profession. “Sometimes I feel very focused working in local government, and this conference just broadened my GIS world,” said Kristina. Both agreed that the conference expanded their GIS knowledge and inspired new ways of thinking about GIS. Next year, the strategy for both will be to focus on specific areas and to continue to take advantage of the technical workshops. “I am really looking forward to next year!” Marc exclaimed.