A career that combines a love of geography and technology
Bill VanSickle became fascinated with computer-aided design (CAD) in high school in the 1980s. Little did he realize that his passion for, as he tells it, “drawing with computers” would lead to a career in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
“When I first got involved in GIS, it was at such a very early stage that they didn’t have classes in it,” says VanSickle, a district GIS analyst. “So, in college, I studied anything that I thought was related – computer science, drafting, graphics, whatever. Eventually the field matured to the point where I could put those things together and put them to work for somebody.”
VanSickle, who joined the district in 1992, was working for an environmental engineering firm in the early 1990s when some of his peers left to work for the district. After he completed his bachelor of science degree in geography at the University of Florida, he says, “They came to my graduation party and invited me to work with them at the district. I took that idea and ran with it.”
Today, VanSickle’s responsibilities include collecting, managing, analyzing and making maps of geographic data. He also works with data collection vendors to make sure their work meets district specifications. He is currently a project manager or point of contact on four LiDAR data collection projects. LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of laser pulses to measure ranges (variable distances) between the airborne sensor and the Earth’s surface.
His words of wisdom to students interested in STEM careers: “Your job is now and should always be to match up your gifts with the needs of the marketplace,” he says. “That way, you can do your part to make the world a little better, and you can do it in such a way that it feels like every day you’re waking up just to do this really cool thing that you were created to do.”