During the early 1990's I spent 5 years working on seismic acquisition crews where I worked as the Field Geophysicist. Now there were times where the Field Geophysicist works as hard as anyone on the crew- generally at survey start up where my personal record was 4 hours of sleep in a 66 hour period- but there are also periods of time where there is very little to do. I always preferred being out of the office as much as possible and frequently found myself working as a labourer (typically a rod-man) on the survey crew. This was a fantastic introduction to real-world surveying, including some wonderful practical techniques that were significantly lower tech than the latest teaching but often resulted in noticeably better results than using the approved technique (and never worse quality than the recommended technique).

To me this was just fun, and a far more pleasant way to spend a day than sitting in an office. I guess that it must have planted some sort of seed, because I kept using the knowledge that I picked just from working with the surveyors. I guess that you could call this my spatial apprenticeship.

The Road to GIS

Towards the end of 2000 and the start of 2001 I was working at Chevron in Calgary and trying to understand how to use a product called OpenExplorer from Landmark Graphics. I was interested in it because it seemed to offer the possibility of federating databases and providing best of breed information without the overhead of maintaining a large and complex central database.

One of the key components of OpenExplorer was a GIS interface. At the time I was not particularly interested in the GIS nor did I place particular emphasis on the spatial content in the database: I was far more focussed on the traditional data management possibilities offered by OpenExplorer

Unfortunately, the OpenExplorer investigation was one of the last things I did whilst at Chevron. Thanks in large part to some good fortune and a bit of opportune marketing (not by me, I hasten to add) I landed a contract at a large, independent oil company to develop an integration management solution.

As we built the information management system it became apparent that the spatial component of the data was going to be crucial both to the management of the system and to allow users to find out what was in the system. And so began my introduction to spatial systems. I was by no means an expert- instead I felt rather like a teacher who is reading the same text book as the students and is only able to deliver the lessons by reading a few chapters in front. However, this seemed to be enough to keep me employed and as there was no-one to tell me what to do (or what not to do) I developed a series of personal best practices that were the result of the best teacher possible: the school of hard knocks and personal experience.