Each year Esri, the global leader in GIS technology and spatial analytics software, hosts the Esri User Conference. For the past several years Center for GIS staff members have attended. It is always a great experience. Not only does it take place in sunny San Diego, we are able to learn new best practices, hear fantastic presentations from inspirational speakers, and connect with other GIS pros from around the globe.

This year, two of my colleagues attended and presented on two projects, gaining so much exposure for the work we do at Towson University. I recently sat down with them to learn more about their experience.

Q&A with Phil Reese

Q: You presented on two CGIS projects. How did that go?
phil reese, gis programmer

Phil is a GIS programmer with the Center for GIS (CGIS)

On Tuesday morning, I co-presented with Julie Knight on our work on the Maryland Defense Network, a web application that allows users to explore the impact of Department of Defense spending in Maryland. My part was to cover some of the more technical aspects of the project—mainly the development of the application—and then demo the application for the audience. This went very well. We were the first of two presentations in this session and we had an entire 35 minutes to go through our slides and demo, which felt luxurious compared to the 20 minute slot that we had first prepared for.

Once that was finished, I had to run down the hall for the second project I was co-presenting, which was about a bus accidents mapping application that we (CGIS) created with the Maryland Transit Administration’s safety office. This was a shorter, 20 minute presentation. We were the last of four sessions and a few folks ahead of us didn’t use all of their time so we had a nice block of time and didn’t have to rush. My role was to present some of the more technical aspects of developing the application and then walk through the functionality of the app. We couldn’t do a live demo because it’s an internal application but we had some great screenshots that walked the audience through a sample scenario.

Both presentations were well received by the audience and moderators and I feel like I acquitted myself well.

Q: Besides presenting your work, how did you spend your time?

The rest of the week was spent attending other sessions concerning things specific to my job at CGIS (and investigating a few things that we need to know more about). I also was able to attend networking events. On Monday night, I attended a meetup for Maryland GIS professionals and made some new friends as well as met some familiar faces. Wednesday night was the GeoDev meetup where I met developers from across the country and even as far away as Japan and discussed how we use Esri products in our daily work lives.

Q: This was your first time attending the Esri User Conference. What was your experience like?
julie knight

Julie is director research at TU’s Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI)

I was impressed by the size of the conference, the largest gathering for a ESRI UC ever with 15,000 attendees from around the world.

From day one with the keynote speech by the president of ESRI to the presentations by ESRI users, the conference was very informative, even for someone who does not use the ESRI software. For example, the “Did you know” session after the keynote speech provided information on how non-ESRI users could quickly and easily become engaged with the software. It was a great segway into a presentation by a small business from the Pacific Northwest that, over the course of a year, has increasingly used ESRI services to support their business.

Q: Your work is primarily related to economics and policy research. What types of sessions did you attend?

Many of the sessions that I attended over the duration of the conference focused on ESRI products, economics-related topics, and how ESRI is trying to make their products easy to use for new consumers. I was particularly impressed by the improvements that ESRI is making to their mapping products which allows for advanced users to make custom maps while also allowing for new users, like me, to be able to hit the ground running. This ease-of-use, also trickled down to Business Analyst which could improve our day to day research services at RESI.

Q: You also presented with Phil on the defense industry supply chain mapping tool.

Yes. It was was a collaborative project between CGIS and RESI. CGIS developed the application, while RESI focused on research, surveys, data, and analysis. Although the research finished in March 2017, it was an exciting time to present the research especially as we plan to move forward with enhancements to the Maryland Defense Network over the next 18 months.

Learn more about our Esri UC experiences in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016