Takeaways from the ESRI Users Conference

Jul 24, 2018 | 4 minutes read
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It has been nine days since I returned from attending the ESRI User’s Conference (ESRI UC) and I am just recovering from it. It was definitely an experience! I recommend anyone who is interested in GIS to go. I’m all about making lists so here are five takeaways from the ESRI UC.

1.If you can, apply for the student assistant program!!!

I recommend anyone who is a student to apply for the student assistant program. The cost to go to ESRI UC is pretty hefty and being a student assistant allowed me to defray the registration costs. The student assistant program will not only pay for the conference registration but for the hotel as well. By being a student assistant, you not only work behind the scenes and learn how big events like this work but you are able to network with various ESRI staff and with other GIS related companies. Many former student assistants ended up doing well for themselves and the coordinators for our group who work for ESRI were also student asssistants back in the day! Dawn Wright, who is the chief scientist for ESRI came and talked to us during our orientation and lo and behold, she was a student assistant too!

The ESRI UC Student Assistants of 2018!

2. ArcGIS Pro: No or no go?

There was a big push for ArcGIS Pro. I heard that they were doing this in previous ESRI UCs as well. Personally, I’m going to not make the leap right now, especially given all the school computers still use ArcGIS 10.5. Once that changes, I will change to ArcGIS Pro. Also, I’ve heard that ArcGIS Pro does not have all the functionalities as the previous versions.

3. GISP, is it for me?

Another thing that I noticed was the push to get the GISP. I think it is good that there’s certification process for GIS professionals, but there are so many of them it’s hard to choose. Having worked for the government, they have their own certifications. Then there’s GIS certifications with other organizations too such as ASPRS. Also, let’s not forget that many universities have a GIS certificate program as well! I am interested in seeing how this develop, but I think that if the GIS Certification institute aka GISCI want more people to take it, they should plant those seeds at universities and better collaborate with educational institutions to make students aware of it. As with ArcGIS Pro, I will hold off on that as well. I need to just get finished with school first :).

4. Network network network!

I mentioned this earlier, but it is important to say again. This conference is a great opportunity to network. One valuable networking experience was finally being able to meet the other members of the Women in GIS (WiGIS) organization. I am a member of the outreach committee and I did some WiGIS related work there(stay tuned for updates!). It was so good to see so many women show up to the WiGIS Brown Bag lunch and the WiGIS social! ESRI UC definitely gives you exposure to the diversity of the field in various aspects compared to the other conferences I have gone to.

WiGIS brown bag lunch event. So many people attended that the room couldn't accomodate everyone! Next year we will get a bigger room!

5. ESRI UC is a good change of pace if you have only gone to academic conferences pertaining to GIS.

While this conference did have a lot of participants from universities, this conference was more of a professional conference. I think it’s very important for students to go to both professional and academic conferences to better understand the depth and breadth of the field and then choose accordingly after they get exposure to both. ESRI UC isn’t the only professional GIS conference around. ESRI has regional conferences, but there’s also other organizations that hold more local conferences such as URISA. I really do believe you should spend your time(and money) wisely when it comes to choosing conferences since both are limited and make sure that going to such conferences are aligned with your short-term and long-term goals among other things. This will have to merit a future post down the road!

To sum it up…

There are a LOT…and I mean a LOT of people who use GIS and ESRI UC gave me a taste of that. I had a very good time at ESRI UC and not only learned a lot and networked, but I was able to run into old friends and co-workers as well! That being said, the registration cost of this conference is high and there was no way I could pull it off if I didn’t have a student assistantship or snagged one of the free registration tickets my university gets. If you can pull it off, I highly recommend you go to ESRI UC at least once.

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