Tell us about yourself
I’ve worked in technology since my Junior year of college. I started out as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technician with a state planning agency, and never left the field. Well, never left for very long, anyway. Of the two times I’ve dipped out of GIS I ended up in database management and training, and in the other I was one of two people in the organization who knew GIS and could make a decent map, so guess who got assigned to more GIS projects?
I’ve loved maps ever since I was a little girl, and basically spent all of my naptime in kindergarten making maps of imaginary places. I don’t think I actually tricked my teacher into thinking that I was actually napping, but they let me do my thing, and I was happy. I was really into science and computers for most of my K-12 career. When I got to college, I thought I was going to be an environmental science major, but by the end of my sophomore year, I was deep into the Geography program and was really into cartography and cultural geography. My major advisor in the Geography department encouraged me to apply for an internship (the technician job I mentioned above), even though I wasn’t convinced that I had enough skills. I did end up getting the job, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Up until two days ago, I’ve been working as the project lead for the District of Columbia’s Enterprise Data Inventory, a program instituted by Mayoral Order in 2017. The data policy says that the District Government will:
- Maintain an inventory of its enterprise datasets;
- Classify enterprise datasets by level of sensitivity;
- Regularly publish the inventory, including the classifications, as an open dataset; and
- Strategically plan and manage its investment in data.
My job was to make sure that there was a tool available for agencies to do their part for the inventory and collect metadata, provide documentation and training for all participants, and manage a group of District staff who make sure the inventory is completed annually and published on time.
My other responsibilities with OCTO were:
- Coordinating and maintaining the District’s GIS Training Program,
- Teaching GIS classes,
- Providing project management for internal and agency projects,
- and customer support for any staff of District agencies who wanted to use GIS.
In addition to my job with OCTO, I have been running my own consulting business for about five years. Eva Reid Consulting is focused on helping women in technology to uplevel their careers. I offer a variety of programs and personal development opportunities that provide professional gains. My focus is on women in technology, but I work with women in many fields where we are underrepresented and men who are interested in the programs I have to offer. My flagship program is Mugs & Mornings, which is a monthly, hour-long conversation series that highlights different aspects of personal development. (More information is available on my website.)
How did you first get started in your career in tech?
I learned most of the skills that I started with on the job. As I mentioned, I took GIS and cartography classes in college, but particularly with the GIS, I didn’t really get to use what I’d learned in a practical way until I started my GIS technician job. The concepts and framework that I learned in class supported the tasks that I had to complete on the job, and everything else I learned through those tasks.
I found my first job through a job posting in the career center at the college I was attending. When I had worked at the technician job for about a year and a half, I graduated from college and decided to move to Phoenix, Arizona. The director of the program that I was working for in Minnesota encouraged me to connect with the Arizona State Cartographer to see if he had any jobs available for someone with my skills. He also wrote a letter to introduce me, and after I moved and had an interview with the Arizona State Cartographer, I started my new job as the Arizona Geographic Information Council intern.
I learned very early on that the GIS community, even though there are tens of thousands of people working in the field around the world, is a very small place, and once you meet someone and make a good impression, you are likely to benefit from that initial impression for years after. It is fairly common for someone to contact me via LinkedIn or email and tell me that they’d heard my name or been told by someone that they should meet me. I’m still connected to most of the people I’ve met in the field, and it has helped me to develop my career into a very rich and varied series of experiences.
What are the most important skills in your current position? How did you develop these skills?
The skill that is most important in my most recent position is communication. Whether it be a speaking event or presentation and speaking to people, a meeting speaking with people, or an email, communication is KEY. There is this idea that people in technology don’t need to know how to write or present, but I was hired for the position I just left after 14 years BECAUSE I can communicate.
Part of learning to communicate is just doing it, but there are a lot of nuances in communicating that you either have to learn from the people around you or by taking classes. Two of the best workshops that I have ever attended were a class on presenting (as in, facilitating workshops and creating presentation documents) and a class on professional writing. I can’t say enough about learning to communicate in a professional way, and learning how to tailor what you are writing for your audience.
I know that my communication skills are also what helped me to win the job that I will be starting in a few days. My ability to interact with people in different positions (up and down the ladder) and different levels of understanding of technology has and will be a great asset in this job.
Another important pair of skills that don’t get enough recognition are listening (sometimes called active listening) and asking questions. I’d really like to see more organizations focus on these two skills and make sure that their organizational culture emphasizes asking questions as a requirement or a norm. Too often I see projects and programs go wrong when people aren’t asking questions, either because they are embarrassed or they don’t feel like they have a safe space to ask. I’m both curious by nature and a strong believer in finding out what I need to know before I head down a wrong path. It doesn’t always work, but it has worked well enough for me that I am where I am today.
What are some resources that helped you in your journey in tech?
You can find my favorite personal/professional development books here: https://evareidconsulting.com/resources I love to hear from folks about what they’re reading. Please drop me a note if you have one to share.
What are some difficulties you faced in your career? How did you overcome them?
For the most part I’ve had a good career with only a few significant obstacles. One thing that has challenged me over the years is advocating for myself. I have had a few different experiences where I was not given credit for something that I’ve done or I’ve not received fair compensation (financial or otherwise) for my work.
Over the last several years I’ve made it a point to speak up when this happens, even when I’m not feeling strong or confident enough. I’ve been able to make changes for myself and for others so that we are recognized for our efforts and accomplishments.
I’ve spent many years working toward feeling confident enough to speak up when I feel something is wrong, and while I still have work to do on my own self-advocacy, but I’ve turned my experiences into a learning opportunity for others in the form of a presentation that I’ve given at a few different venues this year. The presentation has been very well received and I’m looking forward to developing the presentation into a workshop in the next few months.
Looking back on your career, what advice do you wish someone had given you that would have helped accelerate your career?
I wish that someone talked to me early on about opportunities. Specifically, that you have to ask for opportunities, even if you’re not accustomed to it or you are afraid. If you ask, you might receive access to something you didn’t even realize was possible. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. How can we support you?
I would love to have more people join my mailing list. It’s easy to sign up for! https://evareidconsulting.com/resources