Intermediate of Many. Master of None.

So, my Masters program is complete.

It’s bit of a surreal, anticlimactic feeling as my final project finished in a very unfinished manner. Honestly, I am super proud of the work I was able to do with my capstone project (a prototype web viewer for the NatGeo Map Archive) in the time permitted (6 weeks). And I’d say that, overall, I am also very proud of the work done in this Masters of Cartography and GIS (don’t forget the Web Map Programming component, the degree title can be quite a mouthful!) I’ve accomplished most of the goals I had for myself with the program: created an online portfolio (which I now want to completely redesign), became more familiar (though not proficient) in many web mapping tools, and generally feel more comfortable in the digital mapping sphere.

As my time in the program wraps up, I wanted to reflect on the many technologies we worked with to remind myself down the line. I also wanted to gather my thoughts on some big picture take-aways, and of course, acknowledge all of the folks who have helped me along this journey!

I think the biggest thing I learned from this Masters program is to recognize my specialities and know when to ask others for assistance. I was overwhelmed at times at the shear number of coding languages and libraries that we were expected to use for each project. Looking back, I am glad to have learned a bit about so many things, but I can also recognize that there is no way I will ever master all of these (see the title of this post). But honestly, I think that was the purpose of this degree, to give a brief introduction to all of the tools that are out there and let you figure out what works best for you. And with the way online mapping is going, I realize that simply being aware of what is available is half the battle! The tools are only going to keep changing and innovating, and we have no choice but to keep up!

The list of folks who have helped and inspired me throughout this journey is really too long to mention but I’d be remiss to not mention a few. To my fellow Wisconsin-Madison cartographers, for providing a great blueprint of the program to follow. To my NACIS peers, for being a constant sounding board and source of encouragement and inspiration. To my classmates, for late night coding sessions and too many Slack convos. To my NatGeoMaps colleagues, for supporting some harebrained ideas and putting up with my sleep-deprived days in the office. To Brian, for your patient and ever chill manner and for finally teaching me how to use console.log(help). To Kennedy, for your ninja CSS styling skills, your unwavering support, and sympathetic ear. To my friends for being a much needed outlet to not think or talk about school! To my family, for keeping me humble, supporting me from afar. To my son, Levi Zealand, for arriving during the one semester over the last two years when I didn’t have a class available to take. And more importantly, for providing some much needed perspective and drive to complete this program! And to my wife for taking the lions-share of meal planning and prep, for listening to me spew techno garble in moments of frustration, for always having a keen design eye, for editing my application and so many other papers, and for always, always, always, having my back.


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