Esri Young Professionals Network (YPN) is proud to feature Faces of YPN, an article series highlighting professionals entering geospatial technology careers. In this series, we interview young pros from various sectors and work environments to learn the following:
- How they use geographic information system (GIS) technology in their careers
- What they love about GIS
- How they got their start in GIS
- What advice they’d like to give to other young professionals
The following Faces of YPN interview is with Amanda Hagan, a senior GIS specialist for the Delaware County Office of Sustainability, Pennsylvania. She uses her GIS skills to assist the public, local government and other agencies such as the chamber of commerce, tourism bureau and many more to support the local community.
Geography fascinates me – growing up, my dad had maps around the house that we would read together, which sparked my interest in maps. Now I am a senior GIS specialist for Delaware County, helping my local community using mapping and analysis.
Q: What do you love about GIS?
A: I love the power of telling a story through GIS. You can start out with a lot of data and intertwine that together to tell an empowering story. Additionally, I feel like GIS is being utilized to help many people—and that is truly what I enjoy doing, helping people.
Q: How did you get your start in GIS?
A: I have always loved maps, which was how I got started in GIS. Growing up, my dad had maps around the house that we would read together, which sparked my interest in Geography. I took a few geography courses in college [as well as] GIS courses. I majored in geography with a concentration in environmental planning. I originally thought I wanted to be a planner, then I experimented with GIS and realized the power of maps – and ultimately decided that was the path I wanted to take in my career.
Q: Did you do any GIS internships in college?
A: I worked for the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership [SGP], whose goal is to preserve open space and trails along the Susquehanna River community in Pennsylvania. I partnered with SGP to study existing conditions using GIS in flood-prone communities to analyze solutions for these towns. This internship and experience ultimately helped me get my first job out of college.
Q: How did you discover Esri YPN?
A: I recently discovered Esri YPN through the LinkedIn group. I really enjoy learning about what’s going on with other young professionals. It motivated me to become more involved and learn as much as I possibly can. I’m so excited to share my story with other young professionals!
Q: How are you using GIS in your current role?
A: Well, I truly want to use GIS and maps for everything I possibly can. I use GIS for some simple things, like creating a large wall map for a local fire station. We also use more advanced interactive applications like ArcGIS Web AppBuilder and ArcGIS Experience Builder for county projects in planning and sustainability. A noteworthy planning project was compiling GIS data for 49 municipalities, then creating an interactive countywide layer. I used Web AppBuilder to create an application so users can filter by their municipality and link to their zoning code.
Our GIS department often partners with other county agencies to brainstorm on how GIS can be used, such as the conservation district, human services, health department, and many more. For example, using ArcGIS Survey123 for the homeless count every year. This helps human services easily track this data so they can see trends throughout the years to target homelessness.
Q: What GIS projects have you worked on?
A: During the COVID-19 Pandemic, I created a Guide to Carry-Out Restaurants, where I used ArcGIS Experience Builder, ArcGIS Dashboards and ArcGIS Survey123 to create an interactive application that shows which restaurants are open and if the restaurant has no-contact delivery, pickup, or both. Businesses would submit their hours and services through ArcGIS Survey123. Through this, I truly feel like I was able to help local business owners during the pandemic.
Another project at work [was] using ArcGIS Experience Builder to create a Dashboard for business owners who applied for [coronavirus 2020 (COVID-19) pandemic] grant funding, called Delco Strong, that would track and show where the funding for small businesses went in 2020–2021.
Another notable project, that is actively updated pertains to subdivision and land development in Delaware County. Since the planning department receives [subdivision and land development] submissions throughout the year, we compile this data into both an interactive application and an annual report. The first application is viewing the applications from 10 years prior to current – the user can filter by year, type [residential vs. nonresidential], and by municipality. This provides transparency for the county. The next step we used is providing yearly subdivision and land development Annual Reports through ArcGIS Story Maps. This story map can show viewers that [for example] 120 residential dwellings were proposed this year, and we aim to summarize all data into an interactive [product made by using] ArcGIS Dashboards. This method is beneficial to recap—visually and interactively—the work we have been doing throughout the year, rather than writing a static PDF report. Since the annual report is interactive, users can zoom in to specific areas to see parcels with aerials and visualize exactly what is being proposed.
Q: What are some of your achievements in GIS?
A: My boss submitted the projects I worked on to the County GIS Professionals Association of Pennsylvania and I won the [association’s] Excellence in GIS Award! The award was for the work I did in the Delco Strong Grant Program Overview project and Delaware County Guide to Local Food Establishments dashboard.
The Delco Strong project was a collaboration between county GIS and the Delaware County Commerce Center, which tracks and shows where the COVID-19 grant money went to small businesses in 2020–2021. It was made by using GIS and geocoding services in the county to track grantee demographics and statistics alongside census data. A dashboard was created using ArcGIS Experience Builder to make the information accessible and provide government transparency.
The Delaware County Guide to Local Food Establishments project featured information on which local restaurants offered carry-out services in 2020. Over 200 restaurants in the county submitted their information, making it all available to the public to utilize their services during the pandemic.
Q: What training or resources do you recommend to other young pros?
A: I found that the Esri Community blog really helped me in learning what’s new in Esri products I use such as ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Survey123 or ArcGIS Experience Builder. The Esri Academy training courses were very helpful, like Migrating to ArcGIS Pro, because when I first started in GIS, I was using ArcMap.
Q: What advice do you have for students and young pros?
A: My best advice would be to network with similar professionals, such as neighboring government[s], in my case. Get to know the kind of work that they are doing so that you have a partner in your career. Their experience, troubles, and stories can help you succeed in the future. Attend conferences and gain as much knowledge as you possibly can. Don’t be afraid to try something different than anyone else, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Go to conferences while you’re still in college! If I would have gone to conferences in college, it would’ve been valuable in thinking about my career path while speaking and learning from others. Now, going to conferences really helps me to feel more confident in GIS. I see people from college and ask what they’re doing in GIS and bring ideas back to my work.
You can learn more about Esri Young Professionals Network on our web page.
Check out these additional resources for students in higher education or young professionals entering geospatial technology careers: