Meet the BayGeo Board
In the early 1990s, I went on a field trip with my elementary school class to the Irvine headquarters of Thomas Bros. Maps. The highlight was the factory floor, where spiral-bound map books were manufactured. Thomas Bros. was transitioning to using computer software to generate its maps, and I was fascinated at how digital technology fit into the production of what was still a physical product. Fortunately for me, if I wanted to know more, I knew just whom to ask: my father, Bernard Catalinotto, who was a Vice President at Thomas Bros., and our field trip organizer.
Over the years, my father showed me some of the first handheld GPS units and commercial CD-ROM map products, and he introduced me to the term Geographic Information Systems. Although he left Thomas Bros. in 2000, he stayed in the industry, and I occasionally assisted with his projects, learning some very basic ArcGIS tasks. He also brought me along to several ESRI user conferences in San Diego. Even as I was getting deeper into GIS, though, nothing topped the feeling of discovery when cracking open a brand-new (or new to me) map book and flipping through the pages.
My first professional job was in the basement of the U.S. Department of Energy building in Washington, D.C. While I futzed around with MapInfo software on occasion (notably for the State Energy Profiles project), I spent most of my time calculating greenhouse gas emissions. When I left the basement, I shifted to commercial environmental compliance services and left behind even the minimal GIS work I had done.
However, I wasn’t meant to stay away from the geospatial community forever. In July 2016, I moved back to California to be near my parents and brother, who by that time had all relocated to Marin County. I still had my telecommuting environmental consulting job, but I longed for a fresh start with a different organization and an actual, physical office. That’s when I learned about BayGeo and immediately jumped at the opportunity to join the board as treasurer. I figured that by doing so, I would expand my network and make myself more desirable on the job market.
This February, I started a new job as the San Rafael Fire Department’s Environmental Management Coordinator. Fire departments have a slew of GIS needs, and San Rafael’s especially so. The city has all the issues of an urban fire department (homelessness, overcrowding, a high population of non-English speakers), plus several square miles of open space, and a complicated relationship with surrounding cities and unincorporated neighborhoods. Fire prevention is especially tricky in the city’s Wildlife-Urban Interface; without proper vegetation management, a wildfire can devastate the community. GIS enables us to find patterns in fire activity and anticipate future areas of concern.
Being BayGeo’s treasurer helped me stand out from the pack as a candidate who not only had environmental and GIS experience, but who also had budgeting experience. As it happened, I was called upon to use my rudimentary budgeting knowledge when our staff accountant went on medical leave. BayGeo gave me the confidence to say yes and take on additional responsibilities.
Of course, I didn’t join BayGeo just for my career ambitions. It’s fascinating learning about the many innovations and projects that our members are involved in, and it’s invigorating to be a part of the broader geospatial community. Whether you’re looking for career advancement, activism, or just want to talk maps and GIS, BayGeo – along with its Areas of Interest and user groups – is a valuable resource for anyone in the geospatial community.