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Saturday, January 24, 2009

  2:51 PM - Back to GIS
So, it has been two and a half years since I left my career in the GIS software industry to pursue something of broader scope in some ways, narrower in other ways, as the Enterprise Architect for a private, regulated, vertically integrated electrical utility.

It was a great experience for me - I was able to diversify my background, helping to guide application architecture and infrastructure platform choices not just for GIS - not even mainly for GIS - but for a broad range of applications throughout the enterprise. I also got exposure to IT operations, working closely with the manager of operations and sometimes backfilling for him, which gave me a new appreciation for what is required to keep thousands of computers (servers, desktops, and laptops) running well and all of their users satisfied.

Through the projects I was involved in (either as a manager or as a doer), I gained a broad apppreciation of what is involved in the business of running a utility - not just the one I worked for, but many others throughout North America (even a few in the West Indies, although I didn't get to visit them in person). So I gained a perspective that I never, ever would have gotten from the outside.

I worked with a number of system integrators during my tenure. When I did, I watched carefully and learned, because I knew it was always possible that I would return to the consulting field. So in some cases I saw examples of what not to do (e.g. things that really do not play well from the client perspective), and in other cases I saw things that I could adopt to elevate my own practice. Both are valuable insights.

The experience was not without its growing pains, mind you, but it was very rewarding and I will never regret doing it.

But now, I'm back in the GIS industry. I say back since it is a return, even to my old employer, but I don't see it as a step backward. I am coming to a position that leverages the experience I gained on the other side of the fence: I will be providing professional services almost exclusively to the utility sector. I hope it will afford me the opportunity to bring a new flavor to my work, bringing value not only through my previous background in GIS, but leveraging the things that I have learned since then.

Am I still a GIS Developer? Well, I don't code as much these days, but I still know how and I do so when required (or outside of work, when I feel like it). But the team that I joined has some really good people with excellent coding skills and detailed product knowledge which complementary to my own expertise, so between us we'll get the job done.

Why did I make this change, if working for a utility was such a positive experience - why not just stay where I was? The simple truth is I need to move across the country for personal reasons, and I saw this as a good way to maintain some continuity in my career as I move into a new phase in life. But, it's a no-compromise move and I am really looking forward to it.
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