Category: motivation

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 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.


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.


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.