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The Oregon Surveyor


Vol. 40, No. 2


A Young Surveyor’s Testimonial

By Samantha Tanner, PLS

A Young Surveyor’s Testimonial

Part I:

A Turtle on a Fencepost

If you’ve never heard of the “turtle on a fencepost”

saying, it goes like this: If you’re walking and spot a

turtle on a fencepost, you know it didn’t get there

by itself. Which is to say, everyone receives help to

get where they are. Whether it’s your mentors who

offer you sage advice, a boss who advocates for your

promotion, a client who takes a chance on you, a

colleague who helps you get a project finished, or even

the doubter who motivates you to prove them wrong;

we are not self-made. We all need help to climb the


I started on this path in 2002 right out of high school.

I didn’t come from a family of surveyors and had

never heard of the profession. I discovered it in the

school’s counseling office when I found a scholarship

application for “Geomatics majors only.” Not one

person had any idea what it was. When I made it to

university, I was the only traditional student in the

program; it mainly consisted of early and mid-career

students. In fact, I remained the youngest student for

several years until the program began attracting more

students directly out of high school. It took me 7.5

years to get my degree, because of two very important

components of the degree program


Math, and


Many classes were not available every semester.

I also participated in the Geomatics Student

Association and was the president for two years.

While I had this role, I represented the students at the

local professional society meetings for Alaska Society

of Professional Land Surveyors, American Society of

Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and the Alaska

Surveying and Mapping Conference.

Throughout my career, I have worked in hydrography,

aerial mapping, GIS, conventional surveying, as well as

stream and rural road engineering design. It started

with the owner of the hydrographic company taking

a chance on me. When I told him during our phone

interview that I hadn’t even taken the hydro class yet,

he simply told me to ask lots of questions. Later, I was

hired to work in aerial mapping, another field that

I had very little knowledge of and was told basically

the same thing—you’re smart, you’ll figure it out, and

ask questions. Rather than stair-stepping my way up

through one company or in one line of surveying, I

stayed true to my adventurous nature by trying a little

bit of everything.

Part II:

Never Let Fear Decide Your Fate

At the very end of 2015, I was laid off. I applied for

jobs and networked with local companies. One of

these companies suggested that since they don’t have

enough work to bring me on full-time, perhaps I’d be

interested in contracting myself out part-time. It was

an interesting concept, and I thought it might work

with one or two other companies around. The idea to

become a business owner was not instantaneous. I

thought when I retire, becoming a consultant might be

something I’d like to do, but not right now. Thus, began

my journey into the great unknown. I started 45th

Parallel Geomatics, LLC in June 2016, though it was

another month before I was taking on projects.

After sharing this notion with a few other friends

who had started businesses, the top pieces of advice

were to get an accountant and a business attorney. I

met with an accountant who explained the types of

businesses, tax structure, liability, and the purpose

of various insurances, as well as the necessities of

accounting to avoid any major pitfalls. Most of this

felt like it was over my head at the time, but it was an

excellent crash course, and I wouldn’t have even known

enough to Google for it without her expertise. My

attorney did all the heavy lifting to set me up as a legal

entity here in Oregon.

When starting a business, you are the owner, adminis-

trator, human resources director, accountant,

marketer, business development manager, the IT

department, as well as the secretary and the technical

expert in your field (both in the office and in the field).

Sometimes these roles don’t take much effort, and

other times, everything is happening all at once.

I have been blessed with the opportunity during

previous employment to experience a wide range of

surveying in the field, as well as the office. I’ve had

to develop solutions to problems on the fly while I

was in the middle of the woods and there was no

cell signal to call someone for help. I’ve taken some

projects from start to finish, but nothing compares

to doing it all on your own. I now realize how much

footwork was done by someone in the office before

handing it off to someone in the field. When you don’t

play a role in each step of determining and setting