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The Oregon Surveyor


Vol. 40, No. 2


A Young Surveyor’s Testimonial,


control over or not. I spent a lot of energy needlessly

swimming upstream instead of turning around and

going with the flow.

Since I was originally not going to be a consultant

until retirement and now here I am, I want to reflect

on what it is like being a young surveyor. I imagine if

I had waited until I retired to start a business, I would

approach it as more of a hobby than career, but I

am not sure I would have the practical knowledge

necessary based on the narrow tasks involved with

my previous positions. It was common for me to be

pigeon-holed into doing just one or two tasks (editing

raw LiDAR data, for example), micromanaged, and

treated as if I am just a machine on the assembly line

with no freedom to learn new things because it would

eat into my billable hours. What this means is that

the surveyors of today and tomorrow are going to be

vastly unprepared for the needs of the community.

There are going to be a slew of surveyors who don’t

know how to provide a survey from start to finish. It is

very important for individuals to speak up about what

knowledge and experience they want to gain to meet

a desired goal, and it might not make a difference. This

is the dark side of how I envision my older, retired self

with not enough practical experience, diversity, and

responsibility to start a land surveying business. When

you are younger, you know enough to go out on your

own, but not enough to be too intimidated to try it.

Being put on a fencepost is an opportunity, but we

should view any such situation from a perspective of

humble gratitude- after all, we’re not the ones who

put ourselves there. This is true of the professional

land surveyor. Becoming a competent land surveyor

requires help. You need others to give you feedback

and advice so you can improve. There are plenty of

types of surveys where I have little to no experience.

I am okay with that. I am a great student because I

can focus and I am not afraid to ask lots of questions.

Therefore, finding mentors is crucial. This is true no

matter your age. You don’t know everything, and just

because you may be an excellent surveyor doesn’t

mean you will be an excellent business owner. Before

I took my PLS exam, I was asked by the former owner

of the company I was working for why I didn’t want

to get my professional license. I told him there are

already quite a few licensed surveyors here and they

are licensed in multiple states. I don’t think there is

a need for the company to have more. His response

was that every surveyor will have different strengths

and weakness. There’s a lot of “old surveyors” to help

mentor you on different types of surveying to business

questions. I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for

all these surveyors who have taken the time to hear

me out, offer advice and encouragement, and talk

me through any issues that came up that had me

stumped. Each of these mentors had their experiences

to draw from, and it’s to my benefit to reach out to

them. It is my hope that they take some pride and

encouragement from the opportunity to share their

knowledge with someone who genuinely wants to

learn. The world needs the best surveyors possible.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in your 20’s and 30’s,

especially nowadays. The two companies I worked for

in the last decade used to be companies who wouldn’t

fire you if you tried. There are people who have

worked there for decades. In recent years, however,

I’ve seen established employees of 5, 10, and 20 years

walk out the door. There are a variety of reasons such

as seasonality, economics, poor business decisions,

absorbing other companies, and how employees

are treated leading to layoffs, firings, and voluntary

separation, but both companies are now better

described as revolving doors. Surveying is already

a fairly seasonal career. You never know where the

work will be, what it will be, or who you’ll be working

with. We’ve had to wing it regularly throughout our

careers; this is not too different from that. Flexibility

and resiliency are critical to success. And in the end,

if it doesn’t work out you know you’re better for the

experience and likely will have an easier time finding


“Adventure comes with no guarantees or promises.

Risk and reward are conjoined twins- and that’s why

one of my favorite pieces of advice needs translation,

but no disclaimers: Forte fortuna juvat. Fortune favors

the brave. In other words, there are a lot of good

reasons not to toss your life up in the air and see how

it lands. Just don’t let fear be one of them.”


Never let

fear decide your fate.

Part III:

The Collective Pool of Wisdom

My advice to anyone thinking about going out on your

own has come from personal experience and countless

talks with colleagues.

1. It’s going to cost money.

Unfortunately, the adage about spending money to

make money is true. You absolutely must prioritize

your spending. Be diligent in budgeting and tracking

expenses. What I found to be most important was:

A reliable, powerful computer: You need to invest

in something that will have enough speed, graphics,

and space to handle the software you’re going to

need and all the data you’re going to collect.

Software: I started out with free trials of Civil 3D,

Quickbooks, etc. Don’t buy them until you need