It’s that time of year again. Now in its 21st year, Esri’s Federal GIS (FedGIS) Conference kicks off March 20-21. Open to all federal government agency workers, this event attracts 3,000 attendees and invites all to share their experience in collaborating, innovating, and connecting their work using spatial analytics technology.
There are many reasons to attend this event – obviously, or it wouldn’t have stuck around for 21 years! Today, I wanted to share my top ten.
- Old Friends: Though the GIS community supporting the U.S. government is not huge, we all work in different buildings around town and don’t get to see each other that often. I remember one friend that I only saw once a year at FedGIS. We called it our “annual meeting” and would take some time to catch up on the latest fun spatial analytics we were doing. This conference is always a terrific way to get up to speed with friends you haven’t seen for a while and learn about all their exciting new endeavors.
- New Friends: It’s super fun when you hear a new speaker explaining their use of GIS and are really impressed by their work. It’s even more fun to meet that person and hear about their work flow, successes, and ideas for the future. I’ve met many talented users at FedGIS and learn something new from them each time.
- New Software and Analysis Capabilities: Esri is constantly developing new software, apps, and web capabilities that I want to learn about throughout the year, but just don’t have the time to. FedGIS takes me out of the office and into a space where I can not only hear about new ideas, but meet with experts and have all my questions answered. The professional development workshops are especially good for targeted education opportunities.
- Ideas!: One of my favorite parts of FedGIS is coming across that idea or capability you didn’t know about, and being really impressed—whether it’s another government office that created a super easy-to-use web app, or a showcase of ArcGIS Online’s new capabilities. Inevitably I always come across some new idea that blows me away and gives me inspiration for improving how I approach my next GIS project.
- Receptions: Esri does a nice job of incorporating receptions into the conference so that attendees have an opportunity to be in casual places and talk. These events give attendees the time and space to meet each other and dig into issues that might be harder to discuss at technical sessions or during the average work week.
- Community of Interest Meetings: The Esri Federal GIS Conference is a nice place to learn about how other groups are addressing GIS operations too, especially in the community of interest meetings. Getting out of my environment and hearing how another working group have developed always gives me ideas for my office as well as GIS community growth.
- Hands-on Learning Lab: I’ve had new GIS personnel ask me how to learn more about GIS, or how to use a particular software like ArcGIS Desktop or Pro. The hands-on learning lab is the perfect place to send these people so that they have everything they need to execute effective training. They have solid laptops, updated software, in-place data, and the professional support are ready to help.
- The Science: Other geography conferences tend to talk about theory, and maybe filling in maps, but Esri FedGIS brings The Science of WhereTM front and center. The difference is in the math, data, algorithms, and conclusions that are determined using a scientific approach. I especially like attending a couple of sessions that are outside my scientific understanding to help me find new areas that I want to explore. For instance, last year I hung out with the EPA and this year it will be artificial intelligence!
- Government Solutions: Esri User Groups around the country address GIS for specific communities like a region or an industry. But FedGIS is all government all week, and that’s a refreshing way to find the solutions we need in order to advance GIS at a government office, department, or agency. There are many sessions where we learn how other government personnel have overcome challenges that we too are facing, and inevitably walk away with new ways to address our own government policy issues.
- IC Symposium: “Need to know” is an important rule for personnel working with classified information, but it certainly makes it hard to share technical methods and lessons. The Esri Intelligence Community Symposium gives personnel working on classified networks an opportunity to hear about each other’s projects, and meet people that might be working on similar initiatives. I always learn about a new analysis, and meet new people at this unique one-day engagement.
Hope some of these reasons have encouraged you to come on out to FedGIS this year!