Category: inspiration

Interview with Silas Toms – the Python Expert who brought GIS to the Super Bowl


I wanted to interview Silas for quite some time because his Python books are well know in GIS community.

My main goal with this interview was to dig deep into Silas’s experience and mine his insights mainly about learning programming.

But, we’ve had such a good time that we went way beyond that!

There are a lot of valuable insights in this interview but I especially like:

  • The story about his career path and how he managed to “bridge” his interests in Geography with technology.
  • His practical insights about learning and teaching programming and what really works when it comes to both.
  • Ok, the story behind the Super Bowl GIS project and how it keeps a lot of people safe (plus how it all started with Taylor Swift:)

There’s much more inside, so I highly recommend the whole interview!

And don’t forget to leave me a comment down below and answer the question (actually there are two) of the week:

How do you describe your GIS work to others?

Where’s GIS tech in your everyday life?


Also available on youtube:

The Interview notes:

00:00 Starting with Super Bowl tease:)

00:21 About Silas’s latest book.What’s new in ArcPy and ArcGIS Second Edition?

01:43 What does the trickster god Loki has to do with GIS and Business?

03:41 How Silas’s personal experience inspired him to help others with programming,  what’s the most satisfying about teaching.

05:43 How the economy crisis took Silas’s career in the direction of the technology even though he wasn’t expected it.

08:11 How he then was able to “bride the gap” between his interests in geography and technology.

08:47 How Python improved the analysis process from week long “button pushing” to one hour in only one month.

09:29 Why automating yourself “out of doing the boring stuff” can be a good thing.

11:56 Why you don’t have to fear automation? Important “tasks” that you can’t actually automate.

13:42 How to convince someone to automate…

16:35 The “traps” of trying to teach yourself programming. The best way to learn when you’re beginner and why this “method” is particularly effective?

19:25 The most difficult thing to learn for beginners and the most difficult thing to teach for teachers.

20:14 The challenges and delights of teaching programming.

21:42 Silas’s reveals some details about his next book project.

24:50 What’s the best way to get started programming?

27:09 How Silas was the key person in bringing GIS to the Super Bowl and helped with security of 75k fans. (tip: it all started with Taylor Swift!)

33:03 Questions for you, dear GIS Professional: How do you describe your GIS work to others? Where’s GIS tech in your everyday life?

35:11 What’s good balance between technology skills and geography skills? Why geography matters?

Additional resources/informations:

Loki Intelligent Corporation:
ArcPy and ArcGIS Second Edition:
ArcPy and ArcGIS: Geospatial analysis with Python:
(Both are available through Amazon as well).
The new book will be out in late February/early March.
Connect with Silas:
And don’t forget to answer our key question below:

How do you describe your GIS work to others?

Where’s GIS tech in your everyday life?


The best programming advice ever!


When I started to build software I also started to look for an advice from more experienced programmers.

I wanted to learn how to build software faster and how to write robust and bug-free code.
So, over the years I came across lots of programming “wisdom” from different programming cultures. And there’s one principle in particular that stayed with me and really helped me over the years.

In this video you will learn what this principle is all about and how to apply it to both building software and learning programming.


How to find your unique path to learning programming?


I believe that pretty much everyone can learn programming. Unfortunately a lot of people get discouraged when their first experiences with learning programming is negative.

This is how I started doing programming years ago. And probably by accident I didn’t give up. Instead I found my own way of learning programming.

So, if you feel that programming is not for you, it’s more likely that the method that you’re using is not for, not programming itself.

In this video I share with you the story of how did I start with programming, discovered my own path to learning programming and how you can do the same.


How to make your New Year’s career resolution stick


It’s New Year soon. What do you plan to change in your career?

Getting a promotion, raise or even a new job. Whatever it is, it takes time effort to get it.

I used to think about my New Year’s resolution as one big goal. One big thing.

It’s not a quantum leap. There’s a lot of steps to take. A lot of decisions to make.

I found that the goal itself is not often enough to get you there. You need something more.Something that will keep you going. Something that will make you stick to it for longer time.

You have to create a habit out of it. Some ritual that will move you closer to your destination. If you don’t work it often it will get buried in everyday life.

It can be as simple as doing just one thing a week for your career. Just one. Not two or three. It’s important to start small because you don’t want to get overwhelmed by the process early on. When you build up the routine you can scale it up.

It requires effort at the beginning to build that regularity. But it’s worth it. It’s much easier to do that rather than working on your goal in spurts.

This is is powerful because it creates the mental space for focusing on specific subject. It gives you permission to stop thinking about everything else. All of your attention is focused on your career. And there’s great power and effectiveness in that.

There’s sense of continuity and progress. You don’t start from scratch every time you start working on your career. The work builds upon itself.

Remember to keep it small and simple at the beginning. It’s about steady progress, not big jumps.

Most people won’t stick to their New Year’s resolution because the want to jump too far too quickly. Been there, done that. So they get overwhelmed really quickly. And then get discouraged and quit.

They think that the goal was too big or they’re not good enough. Nothing further from truth. They just needed a different approach. The one that are more natural and is actually working.

If you have any New Year’s resolutions that didn’t stick, try this approach for a change.

Just remember to build the habit first. The base.The fundament. And keep it small until you’re sure your steady.

Thanks for reading!

Do you have any career goals you want achieve next year? Put them in the comments.

Share this article with someone that might like it (or maybe even need it).


5 reasons why it’s absolutely possible for you to get your dream job.


I used to think that only extremely talented or exceptional people are able to get dream jobs. The reality is that it’s not quite true.

I remember looking at people who have great jobs and keep asking myself – “What’s special about this person?” “Is he really that smart?” “What’s his secret?”

The first answer that comes to mind For a most people is that they’re just talented or got lucky. Sure, when you look at someone well know in your industry it precisely feels like it.

The aura of fame is mesmerizing. It seems that there’s a huge distance between you and this exceptional person. It’s seem that this person is special for some reason and you’re not.

But when you start looking really closely at those who have great jobs, you will discover that a vast majority of them are normal, hard working people. No different that you and me.

The only difference between them and other people is that they approach things differently. Their attitudes and behaviours are worth looking into if you want to figure out how to get your dream job. Here are five fundamental ones that I found most valuable:

1.You’re smarter than you think you are.

Most people are harder on themselves than on others. They are timid and they don’t believe in their own ability. They practice self-criticism to the point that it becomes an art.

If you’re constantly down on yourself it’s difficult to even start thinking about new possibilities. Let alone come up with a plan to get there.

It’s amazing how much people are doing it. And how much more powerful and confident they become when they stop doing it.

It’s interesting to watch this happening in front of your eyes. I once was talking with a guy at a conference. He was pretty shy and even awkward at first.

When we started to talk about our jobs, he became more alive. He started telling me that he likes what he was doing, but he really wants to do more challenging work. He wanted to work where tech industry is much bigger than where he currently lived. I could tell that he didn’t really believe that it’s possible for him. He was almost apologetic about the whole subject.

But I was pretty sure that he will made it. He just didn’t see his own potential. I started to tell him a little bit about how I managed to do a similar career transition. His eyes light up. It was subtle shift. He became more alive for a minute. At the time I had no idea that this was something significant for him. We just had a nice chat.

We met at the same conference next year. He was totally different. I was blown away. The way he talked and they way he behaved was a lot different than a year before. He was much more sure about himself. More confident and upfront.

He was eager to tell me that he now was working for a startup and he was excited about living in a big city. I was so happy for him when I realized how much changed for him within a year.

No, it was not my magical power that did that. He was making all those changes and shifts by himself. He was probably thinking about all of this for a long time. For some reason after our first chat he started to see more clearly what was possible for him.

He had all the resources he needed to make a choice, but they were dormant. He didn’t have access to them. It all started to change for him when he stopped to find all the reason why it was not possible for him. My experience helped because it looked like something he could and he did.

You’re smarter than you think if you’re thinking is too limited. It’s always true.

2.Your perfect career is calling you and won’t go away.

Personal choice is a powerful force.

We deeply care about our personal everyday choices. We think that we can’t live without a lot of them. They make our lives better in some way. They way we look.  Our hobbies. Things we eat. Or at least we think that they do.

If someone doesn’t respect those choices we get upset or even angry. I remember watching someone at a coffee shop ordering her favourite beverage. The day was pretty busy. Orders got mixed up and she got something she didn’t order. She was furious. It was almost like someone disrespected her. It was so strong.

Those preferences are so strong because we created them for a long time. Over the years we made thousands of small decisions that define what we like and who we are.

But when it comes to choosing a career we’re a lot more conservative. We don’t define them as freely as those smaller things. We use more outside rules to restrict ourselves.

But as with every personal preference, no matter if it’s clothes or food, if we choose something that we don’t want we sooner or later will resist it.

Are you good at something you don’t want to do? Sure, you can be trained to do that. You also can be paid to do that. Maybe even a lot. But are you really at your best when you’re doing that? And if you don’t want to do that how is it influencing the rest of your life?

If you think that you can be professional and “detach” yourself from your unhappy work and defy your natural freedom how does it working for you so far?

If you’re really honest with yourself you will discover what career path is the best for you. And when you start moving towards it you will become more energetic and alive.

Personal choice is so powerful because humans have a very strong need for freedom. It’s interesting to see that people who are passionate and good at what they do, have a very personal relationship with their work. It’s an important part of their lives, not something they only need to do pay the bills. And they usually don’t have to worry about that anyway.

  1. It’s not a rocket science and a lot of people like you did that before you.

At first when you look at your dream job it seems impossible to get. You don’t see yourself there because your mind doesn’t want you to go there. It’s not yet a reality that you can relate to.

There’s reason for that. Most of us were punished as kids for “making stuff up”.So we learned that it’s not allowed. Even if this “stuff” is possible and even pragmatic.

And if you start thinking more about it you will come up about with all those reasons why it won’t work for you. After all you never did anything like that. It looks complex. It looks like a lot of work.

It’s natural because we fear what we don’t know. And when fear comes into the picture  our thinking becomes limited.

I remember that the major breakthrough for me was just looking at someone that achieved pretty much what I wanted to do and tell myself that I’m not that different, if he can do it I can certainly learn how to do it. It was so liberating. It was like a breath of fresh air.

Then when I started to think about my dream job I started to figure out how it would be possible for me. I left all this mental baggage for a while. I just focused on how can I make it happen.

It wasn’t that I had the master plan straight away. It was very general at first,but still I started to take getting my dream job very seriously.

  1. There is a path that will bring you there and you can discover it.

It’s easy to look at someone enjoying a great job and get the impression that it was some lucky break or one big breakthrough that made it possible. The truth is that before this one breakthrough there were a lot of smaller ones. A lot of them were small subtle shifts.

Sometimes it’s difficult for us to see all the steps that produced results. But there’re there. Always. And if you don’t know all the ingredients the result looks like pure magic.

You can discover what worked for other people and follow their footsteps. There’s a series of steps to take to get you to your dream job.

I certainly followed proven path when I was trying to land my first dream job. I followed the steps that I knew will work. I followed them religiously. And lo and behold it worked.

Ok, it wasn’t a very smooth ride. But it wasn’t the paths fault.

In reality you discover your own path along the way. You will tweak it. You will mold it. You will make it your own.

But it’s always useful to start somewhere. And know how to move forward.

  1. You have ability to overcome obstacles.

If your dream job is challenging chances are you will hit some roadblocks. And we sometimes don’t realize that there’s nothing wrong with that.

Some people are so afraid of failure that they don’t even try to move in the right direction.They don’t realize that it’s just a learning process. It’s just like solving any other problem.

It’s because we treat anything related to rejection as very personal. It’s all on us.

But the truth is that it is all in our heads. Is there any real danger in job rejection or any kind of career “rejection”? Well, not really. You might think it is, but that’s again all in our heads.

You’re more resilient that you think. After you “fail” you can easily raise again. It’s easy If you think you can.

I think that a lot of us wants to be perfect. We want to make all just right. Especially when

it’s career. But that’s a trap.
Because if you’re paralyzed by the idea of failure you won’t have full power to succeed.


No one knows what career is within you…


It was long time ago and I was looking for my next job. I was pretty clear about what I wanted to do. I wanted to play more with technology. Bigger systems. More moving parts.And I wanted to experience something new, new culture, new environment. I got some pretty big dreams (at least from my perspective) and I wasn’t 100% sure that I could make it.

I got skills, that was not a problem. My challenge was that I wanted to work abroad. It was a stretch for me. I knew the language, but I was a typical introvert and this whole situation was out of my comfort zone. Plus I had to find a job as quickly as possible since my funds were tight. Thanks to my brother I didn’t have to pay any rent, I could use a couch in his kitchen.

It was awkward at times. My brother’s flatmate wasn’t really happy about the whole situation. Almost every morning he was showing his dissatisfaction by making his breakfast as noisy as possible.

I was determined to make it. Everyday I’ve spent endless hours looking for my ideal job.Sending my CV everywhere I could, talking to recruiters. scheduling interviews.

When first interviews came I was in heaven. I was on a roll…

But I’ve started to feel more and more pressure. After couple of weeks I still didn’t land anything. My brother’s flatmate was getting more obnoxious as well. The atmosphere in the flat was getting heavy.

The tipping point was close. I’ve started to second guess myself. “Am I really that good?” I felt like every failed interview was like a slap in my face.

To add insult to injury someone suggested that maybe I should take any job I could. Not the one I wanted. I felt even worse…I was angry.I felt like I was swimming against a tide. Almost no one believed in me and was starting to do the same to myself.

I believe that this was the crucial moment for me. I’ve started to ask myself “What do you really want?” Maybe the first time in my life I felt like it’s all up to me. If I choose my path and fail I would at least know that I was true to myself.

Choosing someone else’s path sometimes seem more secure. But it’s an illusion. They don’t know what you deep down know yourself. Your deepest aspirations. But you have to trust yourself first.Trust that you know what is best for you.

It’s a challenge to choose what you really want and fail. But is it really a failure? Maybe it’s just a stepping stone? A part of the process. You can’t blame anyone anymore. It’s your path.

The good news is that you’re in control. You will get there eventually. It is hard to describe the satisfaction that comes from landing THE JOB.

I needed couple more weeks to finally get there. I was proud. I felt fulfilled. It was all I wanted.If I had chosen differently, use someone else’s vision of my future to guide me, I would lost one of the most important thing that we all have: the feeling that I’m in control of my future.







How can you know that it is time to change your job (or not)?


How do you feel about your day at work when you’re waking up? It was long time ago,but I remember when going to work started gave me more pain than pleasure. I was grateful for the job.Some might even say that it was really good job and I certainly thought that when I was applying for it.

But now, after some time working there I was starring mindlessly through the window and phone was ringing for quite some time on my desk.I wasn’t there.”Are you gonna get that?” someone shouted, I woke up.

I have some vague ideas bouncing at the back of my mind about what to do next. But I kept saying to myself “That’s a great job. You can’t do that to them. They’ve invested a lot in you. They gave you a chance”. It was all true,but why was I feeling so bad about myself?

It wasn’t logical. It was a good job and I was good at it.I didn’t understand what’s going on,so I’ve buried my feelings under some extra work. But those feelings got worse.

I didn’t know that then,but I was feeling that this place is not for me and I didn’t want to admit it.

It usually works like that. We are so logical and practical that we don’t want to admit what we really want. Once I got clear about what I really wanted and I accepted it, I felt light. I felt relieved.

Then the decision to change the job was easy. I was clear that I don’t belong there and that I want to move to something more exciting.


Take your desires seriously. They will nag you. They will get more intensive. Take your time and listen to them. What do really want? Stay? Get a rise? Change? Listen carefully. If you try to bury them under more responsibilities they will come up even stronger.





Reason and remedy for the fear of programming


“He clearly must be very frustrated” I thought to myself reading one of his very long and bitter comments..

He was an expert in his field and he was upset about all the job offers that require, in his opinion, too much skills. One of this skills was programming.

I understood his frustration. I was in this kind of place many times. I wanted to do just one thing and keep getting better at it. It was simple and it was clean. I saw anything extra that I had to do as a threat.

I thought that writing long rants just doesn’t work for him. With each comment you could just feel how he’s getting more and more upset. He couldn’t accept the fact that his field is changing and if he wants to keep up he has to change too.

We’ve all been there. A new project or a new job. You’ve suddenly realize that you need to learn something new. It’s a necessity.

But you feel resistance. “I shouldn’t have to learn that” you think. It feels awful.

No matter if you’re an Analyst, Developer or Scientist. We resist the new and unknown. We want to stick to what we know and what we’re good at.

This becomes a problem when your field is changing, your job description is expanding or a new project require some new skill.

Why thought of learning programming seems to be almost offensive to some professionals?

First, it was because of fear. Fear of starting from scratch. Fear of being seen as beginner. After spending years doing your thing you suddenly have to get out of your comfort zone.

He saw programming as a distraction from his profession, not a tool that can help him doing his job better or a way to get him a new and an exiting job.

I’m not saying that every professional should learn programming, just that if you need to learn it you can learn it, it’s not magic.

Programming as a term that can be a bit misleading because it can have a lot of different meanings. Programming in it’s very basic form is very simple.

It gets more complex when you’re writing something big with a lot of moving parts or trying to solve a difficult problem which can be a lot of different things.

Most of the time you will write small scripts to automate things or process a lot of data. Not a big deal, really. You can do it (my inner Bob Ross is getting louder 😉

Before you write a long essay on why programming is not for you, please give it a go.




Doing vs. doing what matters


It breaks my heart when I see a talented person doing stupid work. It’s a shame, really.

A while ago I was visiting one my clients. We spend some time talking about what needs to be done next. Then we’ve got back to an office to get some spatial data, It was in the old version of some well known GIS software.

I was watching him go on a “click frenzy”. It was just like watching a competitive sport. His hand was precisely moving mouse from one place to another. He was trying to mark each item from a long list  He was exporting vector layers.

I was watching this spectacle for a few minutes. I finally asked: “Can you just get them all at once?” He was pretty surprised. “It’s impossible” he told me.

It took him like twenty minutes to finish. I know that he cares a lot about his job. You could see it from the way he speaks about it. He looked glad. Mission was accomplished.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about those twenty minutes. I know that he’s also a talented urban planner. Can he spend this time better?

I guess this problem is long gone in the newest version of the software. But we have a lot of those around.

Imagine what you can do instead of doing all those clicks,

Can we somehow make us more aware of those habits? I think we can. And the simplest way of doing it is simply taking short breaks. Often. Look out of the window. Take a deep breath.

Do you feel like that about some of the stuff you’re doing everyday? Tell me in your comment below.