In his own words:
Currently, I work for Mott MacDonald, which is a Global Engineering, Environmental Management, Consultancy and Development Firm. I am one of several Project Leads/GIS Specialists for the Asset & Information Solutions (AIS) Unit. My unit provides technology solutions to clients in the water, wastewater, tunnels, bridges, transit, rail, highway, municipal, and oil and gas markets. We provide Software Development and perform GIS and map maintenance, quality control, and as-built posting services. Our unit allows us to take field records and bring them into a digital platform so that analysis can be performed quickly without having to search through tons of paper files. By bringing historic data into a digital platform, it allows us to validate and verify Data in GIS for various Utilities Companies. We can provide instant access to data for workers in the field with the touch of button on a handheld device. Having access to this information is critical in preventing serious accidents such as gas main explosions among other things. I love my job and knowing that I am also helping to save lives is a bonus.
The funny thing is that I used to hate GIS. I hated it so much that I minored in it during my second stint at Monmouth University because I knew one day it would get me a job. I believed that something which caused me so much stress might look good on my resume. So, I stuck through it and it paid off. In college I had very little confidence in my abilities to perform GIS in the real world. I was always taught to have something to fall back on. I originally wanted to be a Marine Biologist and eventually I became one, but funding ran out and one thing led to another ending with me being unemployed. Having that minor in GIS is the reason why my job so satisfying because I enjoy going to work each day. Having confidence in your abilities is what will carry you. Mott MacDonald took a chance on an unemployed Marine Scientist and created a Project Lead/GIS Specialist, just by believing in me and my abilities. Gaining that confidence in GIS is what lead me to love GIS, but it never would have happened if I never decided to take a chance and acquire a minor in it.
Growing up as a kid in New Jersey, I was always fascinated by Jacques Cousteau’s marine underwater explorations. The idea of living out at sea for various periods of time and conducting research all while getting to enjoy marine life seemed like a dream job that was perfect for me. The only problem was when I initially enrolled into Monmouth College in 1994, only Biology and not Marine Biology were offered at the time. After being given this news I decided to not declare a major initially. Eventually I switched to Criminal Justice, thinking that my love for marine biology would have to wait. That lasted for about 2 years before I finally settled on a Biology Major. It wasn’t Marine Biology but, taking classes like Invertebrate/Vertebrate Zoology with Dr. Dorfman made me realized that this is the field where I wanted to be. During my first stint at Monmouth I was young and indecisive; I did not have the work ethic or dedication that I have today. I could not apply myself to the fullest of my capabilities. Although I was taking Biology courses, I was still unhappy with where I was going in my life. Although I was taking Biology courses, it was not the same as “out at sea” Marine Biology. To top it off I was no longer playing football, so school then suddenly became over whelming.
The decision to drop out of school was one of the hardest things I ever did. The second hardest thing I had to was enroll back into college after a 10-year layoff. During that 10-year span I held various jobs and even spent a year fighting a war in Iraq. Through it all I promised my mother I would always come back to finish my degree. I just never thought it would take 10 years. My first experience at Monmouth was a reality check. It showed me that you need to have a plan in life in order to be successful because you will face adversity. How you persevere through that adversity defines you. Nothing will be given to you; you must go out and earn it. It was a hard lesson, but I learned it. My second stint at Monmouth is where it all changed for me. Leaving college as a boy and returning as mature man made all the difference in the world. But the biggest thing that I did the second time around, is I volunteered.
Volunteering is what prepared me for all the things I have today. During my second stint at MU I volunteered at The Urban Coast Institute and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Northeast Fisheries Science Center at Sandy Hook Marine Laboratory. Volunteering gave me the experience I needed to get a job but, more importantly it reassured this is what I thought I wanted to do. How can you truly know what work in a particular field looks like if you have never experienced what the day-to-day activities consist of? Volunteering will either provide reassurance or force you to have reservations about working in a particular field. I experienced Marine Biology to its fullest. Through volunteering while at MU I was able to go out at sea and feel what a future career in that field could look like.
I remember going out to sea on a NOAA vessel with Jim Nickels, I was vomiting the entire boat ride but, I continued to work. This led to NOAA bringing me on as intern and eventually I became a contractor for them for 7 years. I worked on projects such as Post Sandy Habitat Assessments of Estuaries for Bluefish to locating suitable locations for offshore wind farms. I facilitated and executed the launching of a MU Glider (I got from the Urban Coast Institute) to collect microplastics for research aboard a NOAA ship. Sometimes I was away at sea for weeks at a time away from my wife and kids. I loved being out on the sea. It was everything I had always imagined and more. But when funding was cut, so was I. It was a blessing in disguise because it led to me to my current position, which I wouldn’t change for anything. I believe that everything happens for a reason. When it happens, we may not understand but, with time you will. I realized that you must have an open mind to things you are not familiar too or uncomfortable with because you may pass up a great opportunity. The career you think you want may not actually be what makes you happy. In order to find your what fulfills you, you must be open all things and willing to try something different.