Category: job

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?


How to make your resume really stand out from the rest


I have something really important to share with you today. It can be as important as the difference between getting your job or not.

The number one complaint that I hear a lot from people who are doing job interviewing and hiring is simply that they have just too much to do.

They are swamped with resumes piling up on their desks. Why should I care you might ask? Well,because most of the time those are the people that will read your resume. And even make some decisions about its future.

So you want to make sure that when they see your resume they want to immediately pick you instead of someone else.

But, how can you do that?

Most people try to create this impressive resume. So they write a long and detailed story about their work experience and all the projects they’ve done and skill they have.

Remember when I was talking about people who might read your resume?

They usually have lots of them to go through. So you can almost be sure that your detailed resume won’t be read. It will be “scanned”.

This kind of super detailed resume is important to have. But the version that you want send out is totally different.
So most people when they learn that they try to cut their resumes to one or two pages.

But this can be a mistake too, because length in itself is not that important.

You can have pretty short,but also pretty bad resume.It’s about something totally different.

Your resume has to match as much as possible the job position you’re going after. So when someone that knows what a position is about will look at it and there will be no doubt that you’re the one.

So it’s not about length of your resume, it’s about making it clear that you’re the best person for this position,no one else. It’s about demonstrating that you can do the job well. That you can get them result they want.

Making your resume strong requires quite a lot of work and research and most people are not willing to do that to get a job they really want. So if you do just that you’re well ahead of everyone else.


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).


Why landing your dream job can be easier that you think…


A lot of people assume that getting a really great job is very hard. They assume that you have to make some inhuman effort to get there. I found that the opposite is true if you don’t assume one more thing.

Most people when asked about their perfect job don’t know what to say. They haven’t thought about it because they think it’s unrealistic to do that. They assume that it has to be something that by others’ standard is remarkable. They don’t think about what they really would be enjoy doing. They don’t take into account what they really want.

It’s fine when your dream job fits into some predefined standards,but it doesn’t have to. It’s really up to you to make sure that your dream job is really yours. But, why is it that important? Let me give you an example.

Let’s take two students that are about to graduate – Stuart and Bob. To get a great web dev job they have to build on their own a web application within six months. They both never programmed before.

Stuart was always fascinated by the subject and always wanted to explore it. Bob needs to get a job because he wants to buy himself a full size waxwork of T-Rex, don’t judge him, it was always his dream. Who will complete the project and create a great web app?

Stuart has advantage to see the project as something he personally values. It’s easy for him. He was always into this kind of things. Sure the job will be great, but process to get there will be personally rewarding as well. It seems that Stuart is on the good track.

Bob on the other hand is really a mystery. It’s possible that his desire is so strong and so important that he will just immerse himself in work and build something magnificent. Maybe. Who knows.

It’s not important what gives each of them strength to move forward, The important thing is that they know what it is. If they are sure about why they want to get the job, it will keep them both going.

The difference that it makes is huge. When your dream job is really meaningful to you, everything gets easier. Every step on the way is. Every obstacle is just a mere bump on the road.

Most people don’t want to admit to themselves things that they care about the most in a job. Even in their own heads they try to be politicly correct. Bob doesn’t care. He wants his T-Rex and he will probably get it.

Maybe your motivation is peculiar. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need to announce it to the world. Discover it and own it.

But if you’re not really honest with yourself you will make things harder not easier. You will try to motivate yourself and fail. You will go into all sorts of bogus conclusions about your personal ability.

Landing a dream job is becomes a lot easier when you personally define what it is and define why it matters to you.


When you want to get a job so bad that it hurts…


It’s really frustrating. You want to find a better job, but it seems that there’s nothing out there. Or maybe you went to a few job interviews and they all went bad.

You even start to think that all those people that got a really good jobs are just lucky or have a good connections or are more talented…

After all it’s not your fault. You’re smart and educated, so why it is so hard?

It’s easy to feel defensive and even angry about the whole situation. It’s easy to start blaming yourself, job market or economy. If you keep going you can find endless reasons why things are not as they should be.

It’s normal to feel like that. A lot of people do. I remember feeling basically the same when I was looking for a job and couldn’t get one.

When you feel like that, it seems that the only solution is to actually get a job. So you push even harder. Doing more. Thinking about the problem all the time. It’s the default behaviour for most people.

This doesn’t work well for a few reasons. The main one is that you will be stressed out. This is guaranteed.

And when you’re stressed out you will be too narrowly focused. You won’t see possibilities that are in front of you or opportunities that are non-obvious.

And even if you get some interviews you won’t be at your best. You won’t show your true potential. You will accept jobs that otherwise you wouldn’t even consider as an option.

It’s just the way our minds works. Stress means danger. You body and mind will switch to the survival mode. And when you are in this mode it’s difficult to get optimal results and often it’s even hard to get any results.

For a long time this was my default approach. If I had a problem I would focus on solving it so strongly that I would burn out really quickly. When I found one it usually wasn’t the best one and often it backfired later on.

It’s interesting that after finding the solution, without the pressure, I usually come up with much easier ideas to solve the problem. But that’s counterintuitive, right?

Getting a job is a complex problem. There are a lot of changing variables to consider. So it pays off to be a little inventive about how you approach the problem. Especially when you see that current approach doesn’t work.

And the first step to get yourself in balance and get some fresh ideas is to get out of your head for a while. Clear your mind by focusing on something you enjoy doing. At the beginning it can be tricky.

Your mind will be active and it will be difficult to relax. But there’s one way, that always works for me, and it’s very effective.

I really like to spend time outdoors. When I’m physically active I’m so focused on the activity I can’t really think about anything else. I’m in the zone.

This clears my mind pretty quickly. Plus, endorphins kicks in and for a short moment you can feel a bit better. You’re no longer wrapped up in your job problem. A lot of good ideas came to me that way. It’s like a breath of fresh air for your mind.

If you don’t like physical activity you can try reading something good or going to movies. The point is to focus differently for a while. Put the pressure off the problem and off yourself. Then approach the problem from a different angle.

The point of all this is not to find one brilliant solution. It doesn’t work like that. It’s a gradual process. It’s more about keeping yourself in balance so that you are able to come up with brilliant solution.

It’s counterintuitive for many people. It was for me. I was convinced that to find a solution is to try harder. I see that most people think that this how they will find the solution. Instead they get tired, discouraged or worse.

When you can distance yourself from a problem you start to look at it differently. You can be more objective and look at it from more productive perspective.

If you’re struggling to find a job, take a break. Do something to keep your mind off the situation. I know it’s difficult right now. But just try it.

Leave your comment below and tell me what is your way to keep yourself in balance?


How does your job seeking habits work for you?


Habits are powerful. If you do something one way for a long time it becomes almost automatic. You don’t need to even think about it.

We all have a lot of habits that serve us. It’s nice that you don’t have to put too much effort into brushing your teeth every day. This habit helps you keep them clean without even thinking about it.

Habits form over time and we learn them from our environment. It’s just the way you learned to do things. It is your obvious way of approaching something.

A few years ago I read a story about a peculiar family tradition. And since it’s about a turkey and today is Thanksgiving (for all of you living in US),so it’s a perfect match.

At the Thanksgiving dinner, a husband asks his wife why she always cut off the end of a turkey. She wasn’t really sure about that. She was doing that for years and she learned that from her mother.

She decided to call her and ask the same question. Her mother didn’t know either. She was always preparing a turkey this way. They decided to call grandma.

“Grandma why are you always cutting off the end of a turkey?”

“Well, because my drip pan was always too small”

Most habits are created this way. We’re learning them by watching someone we consider an authority. When we’re young it’s usually a parent, later on it can be anyone that we look up to.

It’s all well and good if our habits help us live better lives. But because they work in a background we don’t usually verify if they’re helpful or not. They simply feel normal and it’s all we know.

There’s this one habit that a lot of people have that makes finding a better job very hard. Maybe they learned it from their parents. Maybe everyone around is doing the same.

Complaining people are everywhere. Big or small city. Rich or poor country. It maybe justified by the personal circumstances or the economic climate. But most of the time it’s just a habit, no matter how good or bad the actual situation is.

Unfortunately it won’t help them find the solution. If your mind is full of complaints there’s no space for anything else. The solution might be in front of you, but you won’t see it.

If you find something to complain about in one place you usually start finding it everywhere. It’s a habit.

Notice that people who complain about lack of opportunities don’t even try to find one. And if they do and there are still in complaining mode they will just try to prove to themselves that they were right all along. Complaining simply doesn’t work.

As kids, most of us learned that if we complain loud enough about not having something we want, our parents will notice that and react. But things doesn’t work that way in the real life.

If you are complaining and are waiting for someone to give you a better job you’re up for a disappointment. You’re an adult now. It’s your responsibility to get yourself what you want. No one else’s.

The good news is that you can unlearn habits that works against you. It’s easier to observe it in others rather than in ourselves.

Look at people who have complaining habit and ask yourself how is it working for them? Would you want to work with someone like that? Would you hire someone like that?

You can change a habit by replacing it with another one. A much more productive habit to develop is the habit of appreciation.

If you think that appreciation won’t change anything look at yourself when you’re in complaining mode. You’re heavy. Your can’t really think straight. If you practice it for a while you will probably be tired. You don’t really feel like doing anything that will get you closer to what you want.

Appreciation is the opposite. You feel light. You probably are eager to do something about a new job. Your are clear minded. You are full of energy.

There is probably a reason why all around the world there are traditions similar to Thanksgiving. It’s to remind us that there is always plenty to be thank for.

Maybe our ancestors knew something that we tend to forget. They knew what gives them strength and what makes them weak. And it can be something as simple as choice between complaining and appreciation.
The choice is yours. I have been on both sides. I see people on both sides. For me the choice is obvious. But don’t take my word for it. Test it and see what works better for you.


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.





The number one way to deal with frustrations in your job


No matter if it’s miscommunication with your boss, buggy software or bad data, problems can bring us down and keep us down. Bad week at work can even takes it toll on your family life and even on your health. Are we at the mercy of bad circumstances?

You need to use your well developed problem solving skills (hey Analysts!) and focus to figure what is the problem is all about and what would be the best solution.

But wait. We have one fundamental problem here…

It about subjectivity of human experience. It’s similar to maps. As you know we can present a data in all sorts of ways that will influence how our audience will interpret it.

We look at problems as untrained public read maps – superficially. We need to dig deeper to find how to handle it.

With our problems we’re our own audience and we could feel our own interpretation of a problem in our gut.

Is our first interpretation the best one? If you react with frustration to a situation you could probably find a different perspective that would work better for you.

“Hogwash! There’s just one way the right way,my way of looking at it” you might say.

Well, how’s that working for you? Are you feeling emotions boiling up when you think about it?

Those interpretations are complex creatures. They depend on our upbringing, origin and past life experience, our ideas of what’s right and wrong.

Sometimes those emotions are really strong. Maybe you feel that you can’t control them. Especially when you have them often.

If situation like that comes up ask yourself “Why I am reacting like that?” and you will discover an interpretation, then follow with “Is sticking to my interpretation worth the stress?”, and then “How can I see it differently and let go of the stress?”

Those three simple questions will work if you practice them.