I’ve just seen the question “What’s the BEST way to explain being a GIS person?” or some variant of it appear on one of the many GIS&T discussion boards on which I lurk come up again.It both saddens and frustrates me that people cannot seem to realise that there are so many ways to ‘be a GIS person’ that this question is simply either extremely naive or somewhat disingenuous.
I realise GIS&T can be somewhat specialised and, as a result, a little obscure, but there are straightforward answers that don’t require diminishing the professions that are within the GIS&T fraternity or mouthing out a bunch of acronyms that are confusing and meaningless to anyone not inside your particular tent.
If the person you are talking to actually wants to know what you do for a living, they are going to be working to meet you halfway. They will give you clues to let you know about their background if they want to know more details about what you do, to help you expand the ‘general public level’ description in a way meaningful to them. Those are the people you want to be having the longer conversations with. These people may have a child, niece, nephew who they think may be interested in what you do and be trying to find out more for them, or be looking to change careers themselves. They are usually open minded, curious, engaging, charming people to talk with on a range of topics.
If your interlocutor is not being a willing participant in creating a shared conversation space; if they are shutting you down, correcting you about your own expertise, talking over you when you try to address their points or answer their questions: They are not actually interested in what you have to say. Their goal, in my experience, is to tell you what they think you do. Usually followed by why what they do is superior 😉
My advice is to politely back away from that conversation. I find a statement along the lines of “Well, I understand that this is your opinion.” followed by “Oh, I’ve just seen someone I need to catch before I lose them. Sorry…” works reasonably well if you’re at a professional event.
Rudeness is unprofessional and, frankly, pointless – they weren’t listening to you anyway!
But, back to this “So… what is a GIS&T professional anyway?” question again.
As the migraine is still ‘a thing’ in my world, I’m thinking I may have a stab at providing a couple of different levels of descriptions for different types of GIS&T roles – just for sport. I’m not giving myself a timeline, life does tend to, well, happen
I shall just do them as the mood takes me.
This could be fun!