Member Profile: Hope Morgan of AECOM
First, tell us a bit about yourself – where’d you grow up? What do you consider you “hometown” to be? What do you like to do outside of work?
I grew up in Greensboro NC, went to High School in Madison near the VA border, went to UNCG. I think Madison is what I consider hometown. It is where my parents are so where my home is. I like being crafty, making things, building things, painting things you name it, I am in. The weirder the better. I am also obsessed with my garden. It is a flower garden and it just makes me happy.
What’s your current role? Describe some of your day-to-day work.
I am currently the GIS Service Delivery Manager for AECOM. Sometimes I feel like my Job is answering emails but…. we all live in that world. My favorite thing is coordination and efficiency. I want to know if we can streamline or make other people’s jobs easier. That is my constant goal so I deal with producing terrain surfaces, where and how are we going to survey in all of the areas that are being surveyed. Who is working on floodplain mapping production, what tools are they using and are we processing information differently? I try to make sure that we have as many brains at the table and I love to figure out what people are good at because if you enjoy what you are doing you will be more inclined to be joyful when you participate.
How did you get into the geospatial industry? What was your first job in the industry?
A little by accident. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted a degree in I looked at my transcript and geography or chemistry where my choices. I chose geography because they had a computer lab (showing my age), and they were a tighter knit group. I visited Earthdata with my remote sensing class and was excited by the big machines and the work they were doing so I applied when I graduated and haven’t looked back. First title was still the best: Photogrammetric Technician. Sounds cool.
What is your educational background?
I earned a bachelors from UNC-G and lots of certifications. I was never great at school and realized my brain works better when I break things and put them back together.
What have been some of your favorite projects and why?
My favorites are probably the weird ones. We did one where there was a magnetic anomaly in GA and the equipment didn’t work so we had to mathematically do one area so that it would match. We took a project from a Spanish company and provided it to Brazil so we had to translate from Spanish to English to Portuguese. Collecting a states worth of data with 28 contractors and a year. But every project has taught me something either about the job or people or how to do things more wisely which is sometimes slower so I appreciate every job even the smallest.
What is something you enjoy about your job?
I love lidar. It is beautiful, highly informative, and as scientific as it is, it seems rather magical that it can collect that much information in such a short amount of time with the level of precision. It is fascinating. I also enjoy people who enjoy their jobs. They don’t have to be happy all the time but I am energized by people who are fascinated by what they are doing and want to share.
How has ASPRS membership benefitted you?
There is so much knowledge is available in this group. They tackle hard topics that often have to be considered in many ways and from many perspectives. They are validating that the work we are doing is correct, will cause no harm, and will better any project that has that data included. Many time I feel like my brain is spinning to keep up but the value of standards and guidance is simply what drives the best answers we can provide.
If you've had a mentor that has influenced your career can you share how they helped you?
Every person I meet is my mentor. Every person knows something I don’t and I want to learn from them. I want to consider their perspective and make sure that I am doing my very best. There are special people who have taught me true ethics, strength and perseverance in situations that I did not think I could handle, and showed me the value of the work I was doing and to have patience to let things happen in their own time.
Can you talk about any significant changes you've witnessed in the industry during your career?
Constant changes and yet much is the same. The technology is ever changing and growing. We are in a field where the perpetual search of learning the new technologies is our job. But the fundamentals are the same. Math has not changed just how we apply it. We are expanding our capabilities constantly and it keeps us on our toes and ready to learn. ArcEditor 8, to ArcGis 9 to 10, and now to ArcGIS Pro...
Lidar - the point densities and uses are ever expanding...
Drones and their use in everything from agriculture to traffic review to dam breaks...
Collection from every surface and every angle. Lidar from the sky, rail, cars, now tablets. Imagery from angles and drones, and tops of buildings. Extraction of all that data to derive thousands of other things.
What do you see as challenges for the geospatial industry in the next decade?
Always working together. As all these tools grow they grow into one another and we have to learn to share the space and share the knowledge and use the right tools for the job at hand. Getting enough people in the field to do the work that is needed. We need to start as young as possible to show what the geospatial field can do and that you can do it anywhere.
What are the biggest advancements that you see on the horizon for the geospatial industry?
Same as the challenges. Our biggest successes are also our biggest points of failure.
We have to work together. We have to share our knowledge and make decisions for the larger world that will save us all.
What advice would you give undergraduates that are interested in the geospatial field?
Learn the fundamentals, learn to problem solve, tools you can learn it takes a change of perspective to learn to think. Listen to everyone and take something from what they say. Everyone has something to offer. If you go into every conversation looking to learn you will and you will realize we all need each other.
If you could give advice to your younger self early in your career what would you say?
Patience. Everything happens in its own time that that you have no control over.
Take every opportunity. And look at everything as an opportunity. Chances to do things are around every corner. Take care of yourself. Remember what is important to you (whatever that is) and make time for those things, you are worth it. You are important and even if you feel overwhelmed or not smart enough which you will often keep moving forward (everyone feels that way sometimes).