As we enter 2018, I’ve been reflecting a lot about the impacts I am personally making each year and how I can improve to ensure I am making a difference in my area of study and my career. This reflection often leads me to think about words that resonate and push me to be successful and that also fit within the culture and mission of Towson University Center for GIS (CGIS).
One word that immediately comes to mind is empowerment. Miriam-Webster defines empowerment as “the act or action of empowering someone or something: the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties.”
Let’s apply this definition to how I see empowerment related to GIS—the act or action of empowering students, colleagues, and other related and non-related industry professionals to understand spatial concepts and use geospatial technology to be able to make better, more informed decisions. In other words, helping people to stand on their own two feet by training and nurturing along the way to ultimately assist them in realizing the value and potential in themselves to be a GIS user or consumer. CGIS takes on every project with this in mind—we empower our collaborators to be able to continue their projects on their own when we are no longer supporting them day to day.
I believe that having mentors and believers are key to being empowered. When someone takes the time to nurture a relationship and teach someone else, and not just direct them, it is amazing what downstream effects occur. A solid understanding of a key concept or way to use a tool for example, helps build the foundation of their confidence, awareness, and hopefully innovation to try to new things. And, when someone takes the time to believe in you, great things can happen. I am lucky to have had some wonderful mentors in my career who have helped me not only learn but also to grow and help others grow. It’s a great reflection to think of how others have empowered me.
Having professionally grown up here at CGIS, and reflecting back to the many teams and individuals we have supported throughout the years, we have empowered people, agencies, teams, and departments to not only understand the power of GIS and technology, but to then use GIS and technology to support them individually and collectively, their missions, and their projects. By empowering others, you enable them to grow. You give them confidence to obtain and reach new goals. Some thoughts on how to empower others: Be transparent with people around you; become more of a team player; celebrate successes; teach along the way; and always approach projects with sustainability and self-support in mind post-project. I have had opportunities this past year to do this, and to be able to mentor and share the knowledge and experience I have gained with others is rewarding and one that must be passed on. Again, it’s another great reflection of how I have empowered others.
I challenge you to take some time to consider empowering others in the world of GIS. To some, GIS can seem so specialized and focused that only certain skilled professionals can perform. But, I challenge this and believe the technology itself is evolving in such a way that anyone with a little guidance and support can begin to use in their own disciplines as a tool to support solving their problems and answering their questions.
GIS is a natural integrator, so let’s all take some time to start talking and supporting others this way too!